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Malware Attacks Topped 10 Billion Worldwide in 2018

In the past two years, the volume of malware attacks worldwide has spiked by 34 percent to 10.5 billion, the most ever recorded, according to the SonicWall 2019 Cyber Threat Report. This is how the attack landscape looked in 2018:

  • Malware attacks up 22% to 10.5 billion
  • Ransomware attacks up 11% to 206.5 million
  • Intrusion attempts up 38% to 3.9 trillion
  • Web app attacks up 56% to 26.8 million

It's the third year in a row that global malware has risen, climbing 28 percent since 2015. In 2016, defenders had some hope that the upward trendline had peaked when the total volume of malware slid 4% from the prior year but no such luck.

A closer look at ransomware shows its rise in every geographic region but the U.K. and India at the same time as North America, Europe and Asia all experienced noticeable increases in the number of attacks:

  • Germany up 205%
  • U.S. up 62%
  • India down 49%
  • U.K. down 59%

Here are SonicWall’s additional findings:

On Spectre.
Spectre side channel attacks that exploit critical vulnerabilities in processors aren’t going away. That various hardware and software vulnerabilities in processors can’t be patched is of serious concern, the security provider said. “As such, side-channel attacks will be a continued risk to the computing landscape, which will make technology that can mitigate these attacks a necessary requirement.”

On encrypted attacks.
More than 2.8 million attacks were encrypted in 2018, a 27% increase from 2017. Growth in encrypted traffic coincides with more attacks being cloaked by TLS/SSL encryption.

On malicious PDFs and Office files.
Hackers are re-configuring trusted PDFs and Office files to enable malware to skirt traditional firewalls. SonicWall’s sandbox service found malware hidden in 47,073 PDFs and 50,817 Office files in 2018. Most security controls can’t identify and mitigate malware hidden in these files, which makes them all the more dangerous to successfully deliver malicious payloads.

On exploiting non-standard ports.
Cyber criminals are targeting non-standard ports (rather than standard ports 80 and 443 for web traffic) to ensure their payloads can be deployed undetected in a target environment. Of some 700 million malware attacks sampled, SonicWall found that 19% came across non-standard ports in 2018.

On IoT attacks.
SonicWall recorded nearly 33 million IoT attacks in 2018, a 217% increase over the 10.3 million IoT attacks logged in 2017.

On cryptojacking.
Cryptojacking rose quickly and slipped rapidly in 2018. Nonetheless, cryptocurrencies remains a valuable target to cyber robbers despite falling prices. Last year, SonicWall recorded 57.5 million cryptojacking attacks globally between April and December. The volume peaked in September with 13 million recorded attacks, but has since tumbled steadily.

On phishing.
Business are getting better at blocking email attacks, which means employees are getting better at not clicking on suspicious emails. But that hasn’t deterred hackers, who have turned to more targeted attack methods. In 2018, SonicWall recorded 26 million phishing attacks worldwide, a 4% percent drop from 2017. The average SonicWall customer faced 5,488 phishing attacks in 2018.

D. Howard Kass

D. Howard Kass is a contributing editor to MSSP Alert. He brings a career in journalism and market research to the role. He has served as CRN News Editor, Dataquest Channel Analyst, and West Coast Senior Contributing Editor at Channelnomics. As the CEO of The Viewpoint Group, he led groundbreaking market research.