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Acronis says that 2021 is looking to be another bumper year for cyberattacks

By Ken Wong - on 1 Jan 2021, 9:44am

Acronis says that 2021 is looking to be another bumper year for cyberattacks

Note: This article was first published on 3 Dec 2020.

2020 saw ransomware continue to threaten. Image courtesy of Acronis.

Acronis has released its Acronis Cyberthreats Report 2020, where they warned that 2020 saw security challenges amplified by the shift to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, 2021 will bring aggressive cybercrime activity as criminals pivot their attacks from data encryption to data exfiltration.

The report is based on examining attack and threat data collected by the company’s network of Acronis Cyber Protection Operations Centres (CPOCs) based in the United States, Asia and Europe, which monitor and research cyberthreats 24/7. Malware data was collected from 100,000 endpoints around the world and covers attacks targeting endpoints detected between June and October.


Continuing the ransomware payoff in 2020

Essential top 5 reading. Image courtesy of Acronis.

While ransomware continues to be the leading threat, with Maze ransomware accounting for nearly half of all known cases in 2020, cybercriminals are trying to maximise their financial gain.

Not content to collect ransoms to decrypt infected data, cybercriminals are stealing proprietary – and sometimes embarrassing – data before encrypting it. They then threaten to publicly release the stolen files if the victim doesn’t pay up.

Do you have the funds to stay safe? Image courtesy of Acronis.

Acronis’ analysts found evidence that more than 1,000 companies globally had their data leaked following a ransomware attack in 2020 – a trend that is expected to accelerate in the coming year, overtaking encryption as the criminals’ primary tactic.


Looking forward to 2021

What you can expect in 2021. Image courtesy of Acronis.

Unfortunately, Acronis predicts that there will be little let-up in the number or type of cyberattacks in 2021:

  • Attacks against remote workers will increase: While 31% of global companies reported daily cyberattacks in 2020, the frequency of attacks targeting their remote workers is projected to increase in 2021, since the defences for systems outside of the corporate network are more easily compromised, giving bad actors access to that organisation’s data.
  • Ransomware will look for new victims, become more automated: Rather than continuing to cast a wide net, ransomware attackers will focus on targets that provide a bigger return on their efforts. Breaking into one network to steal data from several companies is more profitable than attacking individual organisations. So, while small businesses will still be targeted, cloud environments and organisations like managed service providers will become more valued targets because their systems can provide access to the data of multiple clients. 
  • Legacy solutions struggle to keep up: Blocking the new malware has rendered traditional anti-malware solutions obsolete, as they cannot keep pace with the increased sophistication and frequency of new threats. The average lifespan of a malware sample in 2020 was just 3.4 days. As attackers continue to utilise automation, the number of malware samples will continue to climb. Organisations will need to find new approaches to protection that are agile and designed to stay ahead of new threats. Simple standalone security and backup solutions will no longer be enough.


Keep the attackers at bay

Keep an eye on these apps. Image courtesy of Acronis.

Candid Wüest, the VP of Cyber Protection Research at Acronis and co-author of the report said:

Just as cybercriminals are evolving their attacks, organisations need to advance their protection and security. Comprehensive cyber protection solutions offer the integration and automation that eliminate complexity, optimise performance, and streamline recovery when a successful attack inevitably occurs.

He went to recommend the following remedies:

  1. Patch your OS and apps, never ignore the latest updates – one day it might save your business
  2. Never click on suspicious links, never open attachments from unverified sources
  3. Always use a VPN when working with corporate data – encrypt your traffic to protect it
  4. Never share your passwords with anyone, never reuse the old passwords. Better yet – use a secure password manager
  5. Have an anti-malware or a cybersecurity solution which is regularly updated – cyberthreats evolve, cybersecurity solutions must evolve too
  6. Stay alert in times of crisis – remember that both global and local cataclysms provide great cover for various scammers. Don’t fall for it – stay vigilant, only use official websites and keep an eye out for "momentum" scams