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Cyberattacks Double Since the Pandemic

The most recent Data Breach Investigations Report from Verizon (2021 DBIR) has seen more breaches this year than any previous

This year and last year the coronavirus pandemic hit hard, affecting thousands of businesses around the globe, many of which had to make a swift move towards providing their services digitally due to their doors closing rapidly to keep in line with restrictions and lockdowns. As this was an operation that was pushed rather than being able to take time to work out issues and bugs, this left security as a complete afterthought, meaning that companies were vulnerable to malware and holes in critical infrastructure. Cyber criminals had more than enough time to explore these vulnerabilities and certainly exploited them. The breaches and hacks are generally either centred around criminals acquiring personal data, or for financial gain, and has been prevalent in a number of different industries such as retail trade, healthcare, small businesses and higher education facilities.

The most recent Data Breach Investigations Report from Verizon (2021 DBIR) has seen more breaches this year than any previous: 5,258 from 83 contributors around the globe, which is a third more than last year. With more people working from home during the pandemic, without suitable security measures, common forms of cyber-attacks are on the rise. The number of phishing scams have increased by 11%, the number of ransomware attacks have increased by 6% and instances of misrepresentation have risen by 15 times since last year. Breach data also showed that 61 percent of breaches involved credential data (95 percent of organizations suffering credential stuffing attacks had between 637 and 3.3 billion malicious login attempts through the year). Credential stuffing is a common form of cyberattack, of which unauthorised access to user accounts through large scale automated login requests are made by stealing account credential such as lists of usernames and or email addresses and the passwords with the accounts.

There were many ransomware attacks on large companies this year, in February CD Projekt Red was hit with an attack by hacker gang “HelloKitty”, which boldly posted on twitter the ransom note which claimed they had accessed the source code for popular games including Cyberpunk 2077. The company did not give in to the demands. In May there was a high-profile attack on Colonial Pipeline, the largest fuel pipeline in the US. The ransomware gang who calls themselves “DarkSide” used malware across computer equipment to wreak havoc throughout several states, which caused a huge shortage of gas which led to disruptions for airlines and skyrocketing gas prices. Colonial Pipeline did pay around $5 million ransom money so their services could be returned to normal. FBI investigators this week have been able to recover a portion of the money paid out to the ransomware group, and Cyber-security firm Elliptic, which assists the FBI in such traces, said the short time that Darkside had the money meant it was unable to adequately cyber-launder the funds, so the route was easy to discover.

"At the moment, criminals want to cash out in euros or whatever in order to benefit from their criminal activity," said Tom Robinson, chief scientist at Elliptic.

This meant the crypto currency was usually sent to a financial exchange in the real world, to be turned into real-world cash, he said.

British security software and hardware company Sophos had businesses take a survey recently, and with that data have concluded the median cost of a ransomware attack has doubled from the previous year. The results estimated the cost of attacks at $761,106 in 2020, but this year the figures have jumped to around $1.85 million, a modest increase. This total includes the costs of business lost, cleanup of the attack and ransomware payments. John Shier, senior advisor at Sophos said “The rising cost reflects the greater complexity of some attacks. It looks like they are trying to be more purposeful," Shier said. "So, they're breaching companies, understanding exactly what company they breached and trying to penetrate as fully as possible, so that they can then extract as much money as possible."

The rising number of cyberware attacks and scams throughout even the general public is troubling, especially as the groups carrying out the attacks are constantly working towards making their software easier to infiltrate companies with high-end security. Though cyber security companies are doing their all to combat this, it’s a long running battle of getting security to the highest level, and as previously mentioned, with more and more companies moving their businesses to the cloud, and attacks on web applications representing around 39% of all breaches, basic security is soon not going to be enough to protect data and information.

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