Don’t Have a Risk(y) Defense Against Malware, Ransomware


Playing board games, no matter your age, can be a lot of fun. ‘Risk’ was always a favorite growing up. My friends and I would argue with each other over which country to attack … or not attack.

The modern-day cyber threat landscape is similar in some ways. As outlined in the new 2019 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report, certain countries are subjected to more malware and ransomware attacks than others. And, like Risk, there are definitely ramifications for not investing in proper defenses or leaving valuable assets unguarded.

For example, for the third consecutive year, global malware attacks increased in 2018. While the number attacks briefly decreased in 2016, volume has grown 33 percent since. Last year, SonicWall recorded the largest number of malware attacks the company has ever seen — more than 10.52 billion.

Interestingly, the number of unique malware samples decreased in 2018 compared to 2017. This likely indicates a rise in malware variants, an increase in the number of cybercriminals launching attacks or both.

U.S., China Top Malware Targets in 2018

Back to the original question I posed: which countries face the most malware attacks? In 2018, the U.S. saw nearly 5.1 billion malware attacks, almost half of the overall 10.5 billion mentioned earlier. In comparison, the next four were China (601.6 million), the U.K. (584 million), Canada (432 million) and India (412 million).

Ransomware Attacks Up in U.S.; Volume Down in India, U.K.

Like malware, ransomware volume also spiked in 2018 with an 11 percent increase in the number of attacks globally over 2017. The total number of attacks topped 206 million with familiar names such as WannaCry, Cerber and Nemucod at the top of the list.

So, who were the top targets for ransomware attacks in 2018? Following the malware trend, the U.S. was the most targeted country with 90 million ransomware attacks, followed by Canada (24 million. Germany and Brazil were next with 9.9 and 8.6 million ransomware attacks, respectively. Interestingly, the U.K. and India both saw decreases in ransomware last year.

Among victims who chose to pay the ransom, the price tag to get the decryption key was just over $6,700 (USD) per incident in the fourth quarter of 2018, according to a report by BankInfoSecurity. Linking ransomware to financial impact is difficult, however. Many organizations, particularly larger enterprises, fear damage to their business relationships, reputation or brand.

Bitcoins, which were highly valued in 2017 but dropped in price in 2018, were still the cryptocurrency preferred by cybercriminals last year. With bitcoin prices dropping substantially over the past 15 months, however, cybercriminals started demanding a specific dollar amount in bitcoin instead of a fixed number of the cryptocurrency. In other words, “I want $6,000 in bitcoin, not five bitcoins.”

Other popular ransomware attacks included ransomware-as-a-service which is a form of software-as-a-service for cybercriminals, ransomware construction kits and fake ransomware.

Effective Malware & Ransomware Protection

With the number of malware and ransomware attacks continuing to rise, it’s imperative you have a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy in place, including sound ransomware protection.

SonicWall recommends a layered approach to network defense, which should include next-generation firewalls, the multi-engine Capture Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) sandbox service, secure email and cloud application security for SaaS applications like Office 365 and G Suite.

SonicWall Staff