2020 the busiest year on record for cyber attacks against UK firms

Hacking attempts surged by 20% as hackers took advantage of factors such as COVID-19 and remote working

Unknown hacker on a computer in a dark room

Businesses faced a 20% rise in cyber security threats last year versus 2019, with the first COVID-19 lockdown in March serving as the catalyst for a year of increased efforts to infiltrate corporate networks.

Businesses in the UK each faced 686,961 attempts on average to breach their systems online in 2020, according to specialist internet service provider Beaming. This equates to an attempted attack every 46 seconds, with 2020 proving to be the busiest year on record for cyber attacks. 

Last year’s threat landscape represents a 20% rise against comparable figures from 2019, when businesses each faced 576,575 attacks on average. This significant rise in attempted cyber attacks can be chiefly attributed to COVID-19, as well as the massive shift to remote working. 

“The threat to UK businesses from hackers and other malicious elements online was magnified in 2020, as the volume of attacks continued to grow and the Internet became increasingly important to many more parts of the economy,” said the managing director of Beaming, Sonia Blizzard. 

“We saw the best of the Internet in 2020 as businesses adapted to survive. Businesses need to do everything they can to increase their resilience to the growing threat posed by the very worst elements online.”

On several fronts, 2020 represented a much more perilous year for businesses based on various pieces of research. 

SonicWall analysis published in July, for example, showed that ransomware attacks had increased by 20% in the first half of 2020. This was complemented with research from Check Point that showed attacks in the UK surged by 80% in the third quarter of the year, with Ryuk and Maze the two most common strains hitting UK organisations.

Another report, published in November, found that web application attacks were up a staggering 800% in the first half of 2020 compared to 2019.

In all cases, there was a consensus that the worsening threat landscape was attributable to COVID-19 - in particular, the shift to mass remote working necessitated as a result. Employees across the UK, at short notice, were being asked to work from home where they may be using their own devices, and where IT teams had little oversight

One in ten cyber attacks received by UK companies in 2020 sought to gain control of devices connected to the internet of things, according to Beaming. Company file-sharing services, databases and web applications were also targeted more than 10,000 times each.

Related Resource

Email security threat report 2020

Four key trends from spear fishing to credentials theft

Download now

Whether working from home represents an inherent cyber security risk, however, has come under debate. While the mass shift deteriorated cyber resilience in the short term, many argue that principles such as Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) and hot-desking have been long-established in some businesses, which have worked to threat-proof these practices.

Nevertheless, Beaming’s research shows the volume of cyber attacks exploded in March, when COVID-19 forced companies to close their offices and ask employees to work remotely. This higher level was then sustained throughout the remainder of the year.

In terms of the origin of the cyber attacks, Beaming researchers found that the greatest threat came from China, with 189,695 unique IP addresses identified. This was followed by Taiwan, 88,221, Vietnam, 81,570, the USA, 79,019, and Brazil, 73,183.

Featured Resources

Managing security risk and compliance in a challenging landscape

How key technology partners grow with your organisation

Download now

Evaluate your order-to-cash process

15 recommended metrics to benchmark your O2C operations

Download now

AI 360: Hold, fold, or double down?

How AI can benefit your business

Download now

Getting started with Azure Red Hat OpenShift

A developer’s guide to improving application building and deployment capabilities

Download now

Recommended

Global ransom DDoS extortionists are retargeting companies
distributed denial of service (DDOS)

Global ransom DDoS extortionists are retargeting companies

22 Jan 2021
Best ransomware removal tools
ransomware

Best ransomware removal tools

22 Jan 2021
Hackers publish over 4,000 files stolen from SEPA in ransomware attack
Security

Hackers publish over 4,000 files stolen from SEPA in ransomware attack

22 Jan 2021
BEC scammers are using Google Forms to identify easy victims
phishing

BEC scammers are using Google Forms to identify easy victims

21 Jan 2021

Most Popular

School laptops sent by government arrive loaded with malware
malware

School laptops sent by government arrive loaded with malware

21 Jan 2021
How to move Windows 10 from your old hard drive to SSD
operating systems

How to move Windows 10 from your old hard drive to SSD

21 Jan 2021
What is the Raspberry Pi Pico?
Hardware

What is the Raspberry Pi Pico?

21 Jan 2021