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Cyber attacks up nearly 20% in 2017

Research by SonicWall shows there were 9.32 billion malware attacks globally last year, but ransomware attacks fell by 71%

The number of cyber attacks across the world increased by 18% year on year in 2017, according to research from security firm SonicWall

After gathering data from one million security sensors in 200 countries and territories, the company reported that there were 9.32 billion malware attacks globally last year.   

However, despite such high-profile incidents as NotPetya and WannaCry, the number of ransomware attacks fell by 71% to 184 million during the year, the report said.

But ransomware continues to be a significant threat to organisations, with the number of ransomware variants more than doubling in 2017. SonicWall’s research team created 2,855 new signatures for ransomware, compared with 1,419 in 2016. The US was the biggest target for these attacks (46%), followed by Europe (38%) and Latin America (7%).

SonicWall CEO Bill Conner said cyber attacks now present the biggest threat to organisations. “The risks to business, privacy and related data grow by the day – so much so that cyber security is outranking some of the more traditional business risks and concerns,” he said.

Last year also saw a 13% increase in the number of cyber attacks on the Microsoft Edge platform that underlies the Microsoft Edge browser. Meanwhile, there was a 4% drop in attacks on Adobe applications such as Acrobat DC or Reader DC, but the likes of Microsoft Office and Apple TV became new targets.

SonicWall also reported that efforts by law enforcement had forced some hackers to change their approach, such as using different cryptocurrencies.

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Michael Chertoff, chairman of security consultancy the Chertoff Group, said collaboration between governments and enforcement agencies would be key for tackling cyber crime. “Like we witnessed in 2017, joint efforts deliver a hard-hitting impact to cyber criminals and threat actors,” he said.  

“This diligence helps disrupt the development and deployment of advanced exploits and payloads, and also deters future criminals from engaging in malicious activity against well-meaning organisations, governments, businesses and individuals.”  

SonicWall recorded 56 million unique malware samples in 2017, a 6.7% increase from 2016, which suggests hackers are combining each other’s code to create new malware.

Hackers are also increasingly relying on encryption, and the report said a company without an SSL decryption tool could face as many as 900 file-based encrypted attacks a year.

SonicWall said encryption and other tactics such as obfuscation are making cyber attacks more difficult to identify, and organisations must employ more advanced threat detection methods.

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