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New SonicWall Research Finds Aggressive Growth in Ransomware, Rise in IoT Attacks

Ryuk Ransomware Responsible for One Third of All Ransomware Attacks in 2020

SonicWall Capture Labs threat researchers unveiled third-quarter threat intelligence collected by the company’s more than 1 million global security sensors. Year-to-date findings through September 2020 highlight cyber criminals’ growing use of ransomware, encrypted threats and attacks leveraging non-standard ports, while overall malware volume declined for the third consecutive quarter.

“For most of us, 2020 has been the year where we’ve seen economies almost stop, morning commutes end and traditional offices disappear,” said SonicWall President and CEO Bill Conner. “However, the overnight emergence of remote workforces and virtual offices has given cybercriminals new and attractive vectors to exploit. These findings show their relentless pursuit to obtain what is not rightfully theirs for monetary gain, economic dominance and global recognition.”

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Malware Volume Dipping as Attacks More Targeted, Diversified

While malware authors and cybercriminals are still busy working to launch sophisticated cyberattacks, SonicWall research concludes that overall global malware volume continues steadily decline in 2020. In a year-over-year comparison through the third quarter, SonicWall researchers recorded 4.4 billion malware attacks — a 39% drop worldwide.

Regional comparisons show India (-68%) and Germany (-64%) have once again seen a considerable drop-rate percentage, as well as the United States (-33%) and the United Kingdom (-44%). Lower numbers of malware do not mean it is going away entirely. Rather, this is part of a cyclical downturn that can very easily right itself in a short amount of time.

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Ransomware Erupts, Ryuk Responsible for Third of All Attacks

Ransomware attacks are making daily headlines as they wreak havoc on enterprises, municipalities, healthcare organizations and educational institutions. SonicWall researchers tracked aggressive growth during each month of Q3, including a massive spike in September. While sensors in India (-29%), the U.K. (-32%) and Germany (-86%) recorded decreases, the U.S. saw a staggering 145.2 million ransomware hits — a 139% YoY increase.

Notably, SonicWall researchers observed a significant increase in Ryuk ransomware detections in 2020. Through Q3 2019, SonicWall detected just 5,123 Ryuk attacks. Through Q3 2020, SonicWall detected 67.3 million Ryuk attacks — a third (33.7%) of all ransomware attacks this year.

“What’s interesting is that Ryuk is a relatively young ransomware family that was discovered in August 2018 and has made significant gains in popularity in 2020,” said SonicWall Vice President, Platform Architecture, Dmitriy Ayrapetov. “The increase of remote and mobile workforces appears to have increased its prevalence, resulting not only in financial losses, but also impacting healthcare services with attacks on hospitals.

“Ryuk is especially dangerous because it is targeted, manual and often leveraged via a multi-stage attack preceded by Emotet and TrickBot malware. Therefore, if an organization has Ryuk, it’s a pretty good indication that its infested with several types of malware.”

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