“The Year of the Outbreak” – How Ransomware is Defining 2021

2021 has been a year filled with ransomware attacks as businesses small and large are targeted by online hacking groups. While big-name companies like Colonial Pipeline, JBS Foods, and more have fallen victim, small businesses remain the #1 target for criminals, representing 43% of all data breaches. A new report from FortiGuard Labs is digging deeper into this year’s statistics, revealing that ransomware activity has risen dramatically over the last year as employees have relied heavily on the internet to connect with colleagues and clients. Let’s check out some of the biggest stats that business leaders should know. 

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Ransomware activity is up 10x year-over-year.

FortiGuard found that ransomware attacks are continually increasing, with average weekly ransomware activity up 10.7x as compared to one year ago. While IT is certainly a big target for ransomware and other malware attacks, it’s Operational Technology that has taken the spotlight in 2021.

Attacks on OT infrastructures crippled operations at Colonial Pipeline and JBS Foods earlier this year, causing massive shortages of gas and processed meat while forcing the companies to pay a combined $15.4 million to hacking groups in an effort to resume operations. 

Hackers are branching out from the basics.

Healthcare and education have traditionally been the biggest targets for ransomware attacks, but new findings have shown that telecommunications companies, MSSPs, and manufacturing industries are now above government offices for ransomware detections across sectors. The major takeaway for business leaders is that ransomware is no longer only targeting a select handful of industries – it’s a significant and prevalent threat for companies across a wide variety of industries. 

More employees are falling for “malvertising” or “scareware.”

Ransomware comes through a wide variety of sources, with phishing emails and social engineering are the most prevalent routes that hackers take. However, 1 in 4 organizations detected malvertising or scareware in the first half of 2021. These are threatening popups claiming to notify users of a new threat to their data, providing users with an ultimatum to connect with a specialist, submit a report, or install new software to combat the issues. In reality, these are clever routes that hackers take to trick users into providing admin-level privileges on their machines or accounts.

Botnets are becoming a larger threat.

A “botnet” is defined by Paloalto Networks as “a network of computers infected by malware that are under the control of a single attacking party, known as the ‘bot-herder.'” For large-scale organizations, this type of attack effectively lets one hacker control an entire collection of devices through an infected network. Once traditional malware is installed, it’s relatively static in its attack by following pre-coded commands. When a botnet attack is implemented, each connected computer – a bot – is directly getting updates from the bot-herder to stay agile and responsive in an attempt to stop the attack. While 35% of companies identified botnet activity earlier this year, that figure has now risen to 51% in the latter half of 2021.

The Big Takeaway: Ransomware is continuing to rise, impacting more companies on a larger scale.

As a leading MSP, SeedSpark provides clients with industry-leading cybersecurity solutions that keep their data protected each day. Our AI-powered software delivers dynamic protection that doesn’t rely on a predetermined set of identifiers to find and eliminate threats. Instead, it learns how these threats are evolving to create smart responses that eliminate threats in their tracks. Combined with advanced email security, our team delivers an entire suite of solutions that not only help support our clients, but also keep them protected as they work each day.

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