COVID-19 Pandemic Sparks 72% Increase in Ransomware Attacks, New Report Finds

Skybox Security report finds attacks also targeted critical infrastructure, including research labs and healthcare companies

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Ransomware attacks increased by some 72% over the first half of 2020 amid the COVID-19 pandemic, according to a new report by Skybox Security on Tuesday.

The company, an Israeli founded cybersecurity firm headquartered in San Jose, California released a mid-year update to its "2020 Vulnerability and Threat Trends Report," which analyzes the vulnerabilities, exploits and threats surrounding the coronavirus crisis.

The report found 20,000 new vulnerabilities expected in 2020, with over 9,000 already being reported in the first half of the year, marking a 22% increase over the same period in 2019.

The study also revealed that attacks on critical infrastructure, including healthcare companies and research labs have increased. The report found a 14% increase in new OT flaws in the first half of 2020 alone, saying it is a "reminder of how exposed OT environments have become."

"We observed 77 ransomware campaigns during the first few months of the pandemic – including several on mission-critical research labs and healthcare companies," said  Sivan Nir, Threat Intelligence Team Leader for Skybox Security. "The focus and the capability of attackers is clear: they have the means to impart serious financial and reputational harm on organizations. The need for focused remediation strategies that are informed by full network visibility and contextual, data-rich intelligence has never been more pressing."

The findings also indicated that there was a 50% increase in mobile vulnerabilities, which the report attributed wholly to Android deficiencies which increased by 110 percent over the past year. The report stated this comes at a time when "a mass remote workforce blurs the line between personal and corporate devices."

"The global COVID-19 pandemic has completely reshaped the way that organizations and their employees work," said Ron Davidson, VP of R&D and CTO for Skybox Security. "With the majority of the workforce now working remotely, the network perimeter has significantly widened – securing this perimeter now needs to be a top strategic priority."

"Organizations need to be able to identify the flaws that sit within both personal and professional devices. They also need to be able to model their expanded network so that they can understand all potential attack vectors. If they do not have these capabilities, then they will not be able to manage the mass of 20,000 new vulnerabilities, leaving them vulnerable to attack; something that they cannot afford at a time of global financial uncertainty," he added.  

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