COVID-19 responsible for the majority 2020 cyberattacks

A lot has changed in the past six months, from the way we live, and work has changed beyond comprehension. To best understand- life around us has gone online. The change was not subtle but somehow happened overnight. Almost everything is different now, from the way we work, form relationships, and even do our grocery shopping. Changes of a similar magnitude can be found in the cyber world. 

The new normal has brought challenges alongside opportunities. Infrastructure changes made by organizations to allow remote access have also required cyber threat actors to adjust to a hybrid world that amalgamates cloud technologies. Also, the rapid spread of COVID-19 and the global efforts to develop a vaccine have created new phishing options and made several institutions and organizations a sought-after target for cyberattacks.

As per the latest reports, the pandemic has served as a stimulant for a majority of the hacking expansion during the first of 2020, with weekly Coronavirus-related phishing attacks jumping from below 5,000 in February to over 200,000 in April. The reports also found various types of cyberattacks were up 34 percent from March to late April. The cyberattacks included everything from deranging rivals’ handling of COVID-19 or nation-states collecting intelligence about potential vaccines to consumers boosting their online purchases and not to miss the work from home.

According to the security experts, THE World Health Organization too experienced a 500 percent jump in attacks.

Some of the key highlights of the findings:

  • 80 percent of the observed attacks used vulnerabilities reported and registered back in 2017 or earlier.
  • Email attacks dominate web attacks by 78 percent compared to 22 per cent of web attacks.
  • Over 20 percent of the attacks leveraged vulnerabilities that are a minimum 7 years old.
  • Exe files dominate the top malicious files list across the web with 42 percent, followed by email at 26 percent.
  • Of all cyberattacks, crypto miners led the cyberattack categories worldwide with 20 percent.

According to the findings, a new form of ransomware was found, known as ‘double extortion’ where attackers disengage huge quantities of data before encrypting it. Victims who refuse to abide to pay the ransom are generally threatened with their data/ information being leaked online, pressuring them to meet the demands.

The reports also found few other mention-worthy trends in the last few months including:

Cloud- Huge push towards reliance on public cloud storage owing to the pandemic led to an increase in cyberattacks targeting sensitive cloud data and workloads.

Mobile- Threat actors have been finding new infection vectors in the smartphone world, changing, and upgrading their techniques to avoid any kind of detection in places such as official app stores.

The researchers also found that since January, over 4300 domains related to COVID-19 or relief packages have been registered across the world to create scam websites that benefit from the virus news, providing financial help, and preying on fears, pushing people into using the fake websites or clicking on links.

The reports also suggested that 94 percent of the COVID-19-related attacks were phishing attacks, while the remaining 3 percent were mobile attacks either through malicious activity carried on a mobile device or via dedicated mobile malware.

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