Cyber criminals across the globe launched as many as 9.32 billion malware attacks last year, taking advantage of over 12,500 exposures and vulnerabilities in software and systems, network security firm SonicWall has revealed.
While malware attacks rose by nearly 20 percent last year, the total number of ransomware attacks fell from an alarming 638 million in 2016 to 184 million last year.
In its latest Cyber Threat Report for 2018, network security firm SonicWall has laid bare the true nature of cyber threats faced by enterprises, nations and individuals alike. The regularity in which cyber criminals are now launching malware, ransomware, spyware and service denial attacks all over the world has made it obligatory for firms, nations and citizens to arm themselves with the latest cyber security tools and technologies to ensure their security and privacy of their data.
Massive rise in malware attacks
According to SonicWall, cyber criminals across the globe launched a total of 9.32 billion malware attacks last year, thereby making it clear that such attacks continue to be the weapon of choice for hackers. It also revealed that while the number of malware attacks grew by 18.4 percent year-on-year, the total number of ransomware attacks fell from 638 million in 2016 to 184 million last year.
The firm added that despite a massive rise in the number of malware attacks in 2017, the total number of unique malware samples it observed decreased by 6.7 percent year-on-year.
Despite a stark fall in the total number of ransomware attacks, researchers at SonicWall noted that hackers used more ransomware variants in 2017 compared to the previous year. They also observed an average of 500 new previously unknown malicious files employed by hackers last year.
What this implies is that even though enterprises suffered fewer ransomware attacks last year, they continued to face newer forms of attacks that forced them to change their cyber security strategies and to continually invest in security solutions.
“The cyber arms race affects every government, business, organization and individual. It cannot be won by any one of us. Our latest proprietary data and findings show a series of strategic attacks and countermeasures as the cyber arms race continues to escalate,” said Bill Conner, CEO of SonicWall.
“The risks to business, privacy and related data grow by the day — so much so that cybersecurity is outranking some of the more traditional business risks and concerns,” he added.
In its Cyber Threat report for the current year, SonicWall added that while ransomware attacks had shrunk by 71.2 percent, the Americas continued to face up to 46 percent of all ransomware attacks acrosd the globe, with Europe suffering 37 percent of such attacks, thereby making it clear that the two regions continue to remain the most attractive targets for cyber criminals dealing in ransomware.
At the same time, unique ransomware signatures identified by SonicWall increased from a mere 1,419 in 2016 to 2,855 in 2017, suggesting that hackers are trying out newer and more powerful variants of existing ransomware to earn more money and to inflict more damage to enterprises.
A rise in malware obfuscation
The firm also noted that hackers used obfuscation techniques like encrypting their malware payloads to circumvent traditional security controls to great effect last year. Using this technique, they enjoyed a great advantage over organisations that did not have SSL decryption capabilities in place. The firm predicted that in 2018, firms lacking SSL decryption capabilities could face up to 900 file-based attacks per year hidden by TLS/SSL encryption.
“Sandbox techniques are often ineffective when analyzing the most modern malware. Real-time deep memory inspection is very fast and very precise, and can mitigate sophisticated attacks where the malware’s most protected weaponry is exposed for less than 100 nanoseconds,” said SonicWall CTO John Gmuender.