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Encrypted Threats, IoT Malware Surge Past 2018 Levels: Report

The first half of 2019 was dominated by an increase in malware using encryption, and in malware targeting Internet of Things (IoT) devices, a recent SonicWall report reveals. 

The first half of 2019 was dominated by an increase in malware using encryption, and in malware targeting Internet of Things (IoT) devices, a recent SonicWall report reveals. 

During the first six months of this year, SonicWall has detected 2.4 million encrypted attacks, which nearly surpass the 2.8 million encrypted threats discovered throughout all of 2018 (already a 27% jump over the previous year), which represent a 76% year-to-date increase. 

The frequency at which IoT devices are being compromised is also alarmingly increasing, SonicWall’s Cyber Threat Report reveals (PDF). The security firm observed 13.5 million IoT attacks in the first half of 2019, which represents a 55% increase compared to the first six months of last year. 

In 2018, the firm logged 32.7 million such attacks, which represented a 215.7% increase compared to the 10.3 million IoT attacks observed in 2017. Thus, 2019 could prove another record year for IoT abuse, should the final six months of the year match the surge of 2018, SonicWall notes. 

Despite these trends, the overall number of malware attacks has dropped by 20% in the first half of 2019, to reach 4.78 billion, down from 5.99 billion in the first six months of last year, the report reveals. There were 10.52 billion attacks registered throughout 2018. Global phishing volumes are also down. 

“These findings trended across major regions except a few countries: India (25%), Switzerland (72%) and the Netherlands (3%) were the top countries that suffered increased malware activity,” the report reveals. 

Global ransomware volume reached 110.9 million for the first half of 2019, marking a 15% year-to-date increase, mainly fueled by an escalation in ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) and open-source malware kits. The UK has been hit the most this year, seeing a 195% year-to-date increase in ransomware attacks. 

Malicious documents, including PDFs and Office files, remain a major concern for businesses, as threat actors continue to leverage employee trust to deliver payloads to enterprise environments. Although the attack volume remains low, the tactic allows the bypass of traditional firewalls and single-engine sandboxes.

Following a steady decline in the second half of 2018, cryptojacking is on the rise again, fueled by an increase in Bitcoin price. Cryptojacking volume hit 52.7 million in the first two quarters of 2019, marking a 9% increase over the last six months of 2018.

“Interestingly, Coinhive remains the top cryptojacking signature despite the service closing in March 2019. One reason for the high detection is that compromised websites have not been cleaned since the infection, even though the Coinhive service is non-existent and the URL has been abandoned,” SonicWall notes. 

Related: Website Infections Holding Steady at 1%, But Attacks Becoming Stealthier

Related: Malware Attacks on Business Grow as Threats Become More Sophisticated

Written By

Ionut Arghire is an international correspondent for SecurityWeek.

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