According to the Verizon report, ransomware continues to dominate cyberattacks

Ransomware continued to dominate cyberattacks in 2021 as attackers focused on making a quick buck by locking data rather than stealing it.

Ransomware attacks, in which malicious code encrypts data on a victim’s computer, increased 13% over the year, matching the increase in the previous five years, according to Verizon’s 2022 Data Breach Investigations Report.

As part of Verizon’s 15th annual report, researchers analyzed data from 5,212 security breaches and 23,896 security incidents. In comparison, Verizon’s first report from 2008 examined 500 incidents spread over a three-year period.

“It’s been a very wild journey,” said Alex Pinto, one of the study’s lead authors, in an interview. He added that in 2008 nobody really thought about quantifying and measuring cyber attacks.

Ransomware made headlines in 2021 as high-profile attacks hit companies, including Colonial Pipeline and JBS USA. Both the pipeline operator and the meat processor paid the equivalent of millions of dollars to have their data decrypted, but the closure of their businesses caused panic buying and a spike in gas and meat prices.

15 years ago, ransomware hardly played a role, the report notes. While researchers discovered it in 2008, ransomware attacks didn’t generate enough data to write about it until 2013.

Today, many cybercriminals have found they can make more money with less work by locking down a company’s data rather than stealing it for financial fraud or identity theft, Pinto said. Although cases of data theft still exist, selling stolen information increases the time and risk for cyber attackers, he said.

“The only safe consumer of a company’s data is the company itself,” Pinto said. “It is much easier.”

Meanwhile, humans continue to be the weak link in attacks, whether they’re ransomware attacks or data breaches. Over the past 15 years, the use of social engineering, where a cybercriminal tricks a person into downloading malware or providing credentials, has grown from 10% of total security breaches to 25%.

Along with human error and misuse of technology, the human factor was responsible for 82% of breaches in the last year. While that’s a slight decrease from 85% a year earlier, it still accounts for the vast majority of violations, the report said. According to the Verizon report, ransomware continues to dominate cyberattacks

Chris Barrese

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