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Pandemic sparks 72% ransomware growth

23 July 2020

Global leader in cybersecurity management, Skybox Security, has published the mid-year update to its 2020 Vulnerability and Threat Trends Report.

The report analyses the vulnerabilities, exploits and threats in play over the first half of a year dominated by the chaos surrounding the COVID-19 pandemic. The report, compiled by Skybox Research Lab, aims to help organisations align their security strategy with the reality of the current threat landscape.

Key findings from the report include:

  • 20,000+ new vulnerability reports predicted for 2020, shattering previous records
  • 50% increase in mobile vulnerabilities highlights dangers of blurring line between corporate and personal networks
  • Ransomware thrives during COVID-19 pandemic, with new samples increasing by 72%
  • Attacks on critical infrastructure, including healthcare companies and research labs, have added to chaos.

“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. Organisations 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.”

Also notable in the report is the increase of ransomware’s popularity, with the number of new samples rising by 72% over the first half of the year.

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

The report further reveals that the volume of mobile vulnerabilities has increased by 50 percent. This increase is wholly driven by new Android deficiencies (which increased by 110 percent from 230 last year to 484 this year), after the number of new iOS vulnerabilities dropped by 23 percent from 152 to 117. In previous years such an increase may not have concerned security leaders, but after COVID-19 pandemic blurred the line between corporate and domestic spaces it underlines the importance of securing all possible access points.

In order to weather the COVID-19 pandemic and the resulting new threat landscape, organizations need to incorporate accurate, up-to-date threat intelligence into their vulnerability management strategy. Skybox’s approach offers a systematic process where vulnerabilities are discovered on a continual basis; prioritized in the context of the network, assets and threats; and remediated or mitigated in accordance with the risk they pose. Such an approach is vital to being proactive against today’s threats and adaptive to the volume of new threats yet to come.