Cyber Threat Alert: Ransomware Breaks Another Record


As the ‘Year of Ransomware’ roars on, SonicWall observes 3rd Quarter with another unprecedented, record-breaking surge in attacks.

In July 2021, SonicWall released its widely quoted Mid-Year Update to the 2021 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report with alarming news of the sharp rise in ransomware and other malicious attacks. We’re back again with more data and a message: ransomware’s rise has not slowed.

This year was already proving to be the most active year for cyberattacks on record. After posting a groundbreaking 188.9 million ransomware attacks in the second quarter of 2021, SonicWall Capture Labs threat researchers have found that ransomware attacks broke another record of 190.4 million in the third quarter. The total 495.1 million ransomware attacks represent a 148% year-to-date increase over 2020, making 2021 the most costly and dangerous year on record.

A Nearly Unimaginable Upward Trend

The 190.4 million ransomware attacks in the third quarter is the highest ever recorded by SonicWall. Additionally, the statistic nearly eclipses the 195.7 million total ransomware attacks recorded during the first three quarters of 2020.

“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,” SonicWall President and CEO Bill Conner said in the official release.

Despite movements to secure cyber infrastructures 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.

Cyberattacks: A Severe Global Crisis

The sheer volume of attacks illicit words like “global crisis,” “ruthless,” and “a significant national security threat.” Yet, many people appear to be determined to restore a sense of normalcy while this severe global crisis roils on.

“Cybercriminals have never let up, driving ransomware campaigns to record numbers through the first three quarters of 2021,” said Conner. “These criminal organizations will continue to launch highly sophisticated cyberattacks that are designed to target organizations and business with weak or lax security controls.”

A summary of SonicWall Q3 2021 findings:

  • 148% surge in global ransomware attacks in 2021, the worst year SonicWall has ever recorded
  • 714 million ransomware attacks predicted by the close of 2021
  • 1,748 ransomware attempts per customer through the third quarter
  • 33% rise in IoT malware globally; upticks in North America and Europe
  • 21% increase in cryptojacking with massive 461% growth across Europe

Another Growing Concern: Increases in Unique Malware Variants

Amid the stats, there is another reason for concern: SonicWall Real-Time Deep Memory InspectionTM discovered 307,516 never-before-seen malware variants during the first three quarters of 2021 — a 73% year-to-date increase. That’s an average of 1,126 new malware variants discovered each day in 2021.

The rise in variants points to maturation in cybercriminals ability to rapidly diversify the tactics they use to attack organizations, their networks and their users. Coupled with a constant flood of cyberattacks, businesses and individuals will find it increasingly difficult to protect themselves with old or expired cybersecurity technology.

Patented RTDMI™ technology is part of the cloud-based Capture Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) sandbox service. Among several patented innovations, RTDMI leverages memory inspection and CPU instruction-tracking with machine-learning capabilities. As a result, the system efficiently recognizes and mitigates cyberattacks, including threats that do not initially show malicious behavior.

The Grace Period Has Come to an End

All told, SonicWall logged 1,748 ransomware attempts per customer through the third quarter. From another perspective, this is the equivalent of 9.7 ransomware attempts per customer per business day. With the increased ability to diversify their means of attack, criminals have a growth business on their hands.

“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,” said Conner.

With a predicted 714 million ransomware attacks by the end of the year, the grace period for companies and individuals to increase their protections and change their behavior has come to an abrupt end.

“The techniques deployed by ransomware actors have evolved well beyond the smash-and-grab attacks from just a few years ago,” said SonicWall Vice President 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.”

SonicWall Staff