UK ransomware attacks surged 80% in latest quarter

Check Point's findings show that hackers continue to take advantage of mass remote working

Ransomware attacks in the UK increased by 80% in the last three months as hackers continue to take advantage of mass remote working, according to security researchers at Check Point.

The findings show that the daily global average of ransomware attacks jumped 50% in last 3 months, compared to first half of 2020.

Countries with the most notable increase in ransomware attacks were the US (98.1%), where the most often targeted sector was healthcare, as well as Germany (145%), Spain (160%), and Sri Lanka, which saw attacks skyrocketed by 436%.

The most often used ransomware strains in the last three months were found to be Maze and Ryuk. According to Check Point, the latter now attacks an average of 20 organisations a week. 

Check Point’s head of Threat Intelligence Lotem Finkelsteen said that ransomware is “breaking records in 2020”. 

“The increase in ransomware attacks began with the advent of the coronavirus pandemic, as organizations scrambled to enact remote workforces, leaving significant gaps in their IT systems.

"However, the last three months alone have shown alarming surges in ransomware attacks, and I suspect the ransomware threat to get far more worse as we approach the new year,” he said, urging organisations “to be extra vigilant”.

According to Finkelsteen, the most significant drivers behind the recent surge in attacks are the victims’ willingness to pay, as well as the rise in increasingly sophisticated attacks, such as Double Extortion and the Emotet malware, which recently made a comeback after five month of absence.

Last week, the US Treasury warned that companies that agree to hand over cash to hackers to free their systems from ransomware may face prosecution or penalties.

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The advisory cited cyber attacks that were linked to hacking groups from North Korea and Russia, which are both nations sanctioned by the US. The US government often imposes economic and trade sanctions on countries that it deems sponsors terrorism or that violate human rights.

In order to ensure an organisations safety, Check Point’s security researchers recommended taking additional precautions, such as educating employees on how to identify and avoid potential ransomware attacks, ensuring that all systems have the latest patches applied, and maintaining regular backups of data.

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