Malware and ransomware attack volume down due to more targeted attacks

Cybercriminals are leveraging more evasive methods to target businesses and consumers, a SonicWall report reveals.

ransomware attack volume down

“Cybercriminals are honing their ability to design, author and deploy stealth-like attacks with increasing precision, while growing their capabilities to evade detection by sandbox technology,” said SonicWall President and CEO Bill Conner.

“Now more than ever, it’s imperative that organizations detect and respond quickly, or run the risk of having to negotiate what’s being held at ransom from criminals so embolden they’re now negotiating the terms.”

The 2020 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report is the result of threat intelligence collected over the course of 2019 by over 1.1 million sensors placed in over 215 countries and territories.

Cybercriminals change approach to malware

Spray-and-pray tactics that once had malware attack numbers soaring have since been abandoned for more targeted and evasive methods aimed at weaker victims. SonicWall recorded 9.9 billion malware attacks, a slight 6% year-over-year decrease.

Targeted ransomware attacks cripple victims

While total ransomware volume (187.9 million) dipped 9% for the year, highly targeted attacks left many state, provincial and local governments paralyzed and took down email communications, websites, telephone lines and even dispatch services.

The IoT is a treasure trove for cybercriminals

Bad actors continue to deploy ransomware on ordinary devices, such as smart TVs, electric scooters and smart speakers, to daily necessities like toothbrushes, refrigerators and doorbells.

Researchers discovered a moderate 5% increase in IoT malware, with a total volume of 34.3 million attacks in 2019.

Cryptojacking continues to crumble

The volatile shifts and swings of the cryptocurrency market had a direct impact on threat actors’ interest to author cryptojacking malware. The dissolution of Coinhive in March 2019 played a major role in the threat vector’s decline, plunging the volume of cryptojacking hits to 78% in the second half of the year.

Fileless malware targets Microsoft Office/Office 365, PDF documents

Cybercriminals used new code obfuscation, sandbox detection and bypass techniques, resulting in a multitude of variants and the development of newer and more sophisticated exploit kits using fileless attacks instead of traditional payloads to a disk.

While malware decreased 6% globally, most new threats masked their exploits within today’s most trusted files. In fact, Office (20.3%) and PDFs (17.4%) represent 38% of new threats detected by Capture ATP.

Encrypted threats are still everywhere

Cybercriminals have become reliant upon encrypted threats that evade traditional security control standards, such as firewall appliances that do not have the capability or processing power to detect, inspect and mitigate attacks sent via HTTPs traffic.

Researchers recorded 3.7 million malware attacks sent over TLS/SSL traffic, a 27% year-over-year increase that is trending up and expected to climb through the year.

ransomware attack volume down

Side-channel attacks are evolving

These vulnerabilities could impact unpatched devices in the future, including everything from security appliances to end-user laptops. Threat actors could potentially issue digital signatures to bypass authentication or digitally sign malicious software.

The recent introduction of TPM-FAIL, the next variation of Meltdown/Spectre, Foreshadow, PortSmash, MDS and more, signals criminals’ intent to weaponize this method of attack.

Attacks over non-standard ports cannot be ignored

This year’s research indicated that more than 19% of malware attacks leveraged non-standard ports, but found the volume dropping to 15% by year’s end with a total of 64 million detected threats. This type of tactic is utilized to deliver payloads undetected against targeted businesses.

“The application layer is the biggest target right now. The average commercial web application, like the one that we all use for our shopping or banking, has 26.7 vulnerabilities. That’s a shocking number. Imagine if your airline averaged 26.7 safety problems! Fortunately, it is now possible to give software a sort of digital immune system. Web applications and APIs can be provided with defences that enable them to identify their own vulnerabilities and prevent them from being exploited. Once teams see exactly where they are weak and how attackers are targeting them, they can quickly clean up their house. Ensuring that they (and those using their software) are protected,” Jeff Williams, at Contrast Security, told Help Net Security.

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Malware and ransomware attack volume down due to more targeted attacks