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New Report Finds 485% Growth in Ransomware Attacks in 2020

Michael Behr

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ransomware attacks

The new report found that threat actors were quick to leverage the Covid-19 pandemic as a way to target their attacks.

Global ransomware attacks saw a massive increase in 2020, growing 485% compared to 2019.

The first and second quarter of 2020 saw the majority of the attacks, 64%, an increase of 19% than the first two quarters of 2019.

Cybersecurity company Bitdefender revealed the data in its newly released 2020 Consumer Threat Landscape Report. The company analysed data from its Global Protective Network (GPN) to identify various threats and attack patterns.

In its report, the company warned that ransomware attacks have focused on maximising profits by going after big targets. Threat actors have also added an extortion component to their attacks, threatening to openly publish the stolen data if the ransom note is not paid.

This is meant to incentivise companies to pay the ransom, rather than simply restoring operations from a protected backup. Even if the victim restores their systems, they may be willing to pay to avoid reputational damages or even financial damages from data breach fines.

“Our 2020 findings depict consumers under constant assault from cybercriminals looking to capitalise on fear and societal uncertainty accompanying the global pandemic,” said director of threat research and reporting at Bitdefender, Bogdan Botezatu.

“Cybercriminals will stop at nothing to use outlier events and human empathy to line their pockets. As the pandemic continues we are constantly seeing attacks evolve through malware delivery mechanisms, inventive social engineering and new exploits.”


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In addition, the report warned that the Internet of Things is being put at risk from proprietary operating systems. Devices with proprietary operating systems make up 34% of what consumers own yet are responsible for 96% of all detected vulnerabilities.

Bitdefender warned that it had found a 338% increase in smart TV vulnerabilities when compared to 2019.

The report also found that Android is frequently being used to spread malware and malicious apps. Criminals took advantage of uncertainties around the Covid-19 pandemic and the subsequent digital transformation by hosting fake Zoom download sites and distributing malware-laden apps to spy on users and steal personal data.

Bitdefender found that 35% of all Android malware detected came from the Android.Trojan.Agent family followed by Android.Trojan.Downloader at 10% and Android.Trojan.Banker at 7%.

The number of vulnerabilities found in network-attached storage (NAS) devices increased by 198% year on year from 2019 to 2020. While NAS devices may not be amongst the most prevalent devices in homes, they potentially pack the most number of unpatched vulnerabilities.

In addition, the company warned that potentially unwanted applications (PUA) are on the rise. While PUA might not be malicious per se, they can impact the user experience by slowing down systems, display unexpected ads or even install additional software.

Bitdefender saw a 320% increase in reported PUA in 2020 when compared to the previous year however, quarterly distribution patterns remained similar suggesting consistent growth.

Michael Behr

Senior Staff Writer

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