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Year of ransomware continues with unprecedented surge

By Ryan Morris-Reade
Fri 29 Oct 2021

SonicWall, the publisher of the world's most quoted ransomware threat intelligence, recorded a 148% increase in global ransomware attacks through the third quarter of 2021.

With 495 million ransomware attacks logged by the company to date this year, 2021 is set to be the most costly and dangerous year on record.

The current U.S. administration hosted a global ransomware summit to pledge all national tools to stop cyberattacks on critical sectors this month. Leading governments, including the UK, India, Australia, Germany and France, and the European Union, attended. 

According to SonicWall, its latest research now confirms leaders have cause for concern.

"As we see it, ransomware is on a nearly unimaginable upward trend, which poses a major risk to businesses, service providers, governments and everyday citizens," says SonicWall president and chief executive, Bill Conner. 

"The real-world damage caused by these attacks is beyond anecdotal at this point. It's a serious national and global problem that has already taken a toll on businesses and governments everywhere," he says.

"I am hopeful that the recent global ransomware summit is the next step toward a greater response at global, national and state levels."

Ransomware rise not slowing

2021 has been the most active year for ransomware on record and is showing no sign of slowing. After posting a groundbreaking high in June (78.4 million), these malicious attacks continue to see aggressive growth in Q3.

"The techniques deployed by ransomware actors have evolved well beyond the smash-and-grab attacks from just a few years ago," says SonicWall VP of Platform Architecture, Dmitriy Ayrapetov. 

"Today's cybercriminals demonstrate deliberate reconnaissance, planning and execution to surgically deploy toolchains targeting enterprise and government infrastructure. This results in larger victims and leads to higher ransoms."

With 190.4 million ransomware attempts in Q3 alone, this makes it the highest quarter ever recorded by SonicWall, nearly eclipsing the 195.7 million total ransomware attempts logged during the first three quarters of 2020.

"While the world has been attempting to return to normal in a stop-and-go fashion, cybercriminals have never let up, driving ransomware campaigns to record numbers through the first three quarters of 2021," says Conner. 

"These criminal organisations will continue to launch highly sophisticated cyberattacks designed to target organisations and businesses with weak or lax security controls."

Despite movements to secure cyberinfrastructures from respective national governments, the U.K. has seen a 233% surge in the number of ransomware attacks, and the U.S. has witnessed a 127% year-to-date increase.

All told, SonicWall logged 1,748 ransomware attempts per customer through Q3, equivalent to 9.7 ransomware attempts per customer each business day. SonicWall predicts that year-end 2021 ransomware totals will be near 714 million, a staggering 134% year-over-year increase.

"As long as organisations continue to overlook or fail to implement cybersecurity best practices to reduce their attack surface, ransomware groups will only increase investments in time, resources and money for launching campaigns that result in massive payouts," says Ayrapetov.

Patented RTDMI technology finding more new variants than ever

SonicWall's patented Real-Time Deep Memory InspectionTM (RTDMI) technology discovered 307,516 never-before-seen malware variants (+73%) during the first three quarters of 2021, with an average of 1,126 discoveries per day. If there is still a consistent number of attacks, alongside rapid diversification, nations will need to start addressing malignant cybercrime sooner rather than later.

Included as part of SonicWall's cloud-based Capture Advanced Threat Protection sandbox service, RTDMITM leverages proprietary memory inspection and CPU instruction-tracking with machine-learning capabilities. This allows Capture ATP with RTDMI to become increasingly efficient at recognising and mitigating cyberattacks never seen by anyone in the cybersecurity industry, including threats that do not exhibit any malicious behaviour and hide their weaponry via encryption.

ICSA Labs issues SonicWall third straight perfect score

As secured previously, SonicWall ATP has earned its third consecutive perfect score in the ICSA Labs Advanced Threat Defense (ATD) testing for Q3 2021.

During 28 days of testing, ICSA Labs subjected Capture ATP to 653 malicious samples and 695 innocuous apps. As a result, Capture ATP detected 100% of malicious files sent through the system while ignoring harmless apps, thus generating zero false positives. SonicWall has now received seven consecutive ICSA Labs ATD certifications.

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