SonicWall’s global detection network picked up a total of 226.3 million attempted ransomware attacks during May 2021, a 116% increase on the same period in 2020, highlighting the rapid ascent of ransomware as the most profitable weapon in the cyber criminal arsenal.
SonicWall said it saw dramatic increases in almost every market, even in those such as the US and UK, where ransomware attacks were already fairly common. The US saw a 149% spike, and the UK 69%.
“The bombardment of ransomware attacks is forcing organisations into a constant state of defence rather than an offensive stance,” said SonicWall CEO Bill Conner. “And as the tidal wave of ransomware attacks continues to crush company after company, there is a lot of speculation on how to keep individual organisations safe, but no real consensus on how to move forward when it comes to combating ransomware as a whole.
“Law enforcement agencies and political figures continue to voice opinions that constantly contradict each other on how best to fight adversaries that know no boundaries, do not adhere to international laws and are far from the charitable operators they claim to be.
“Cyber perpetrators that suspiciously operate just shy of government oversight are pushing the private and public sector into a defensive mode that both will have to work hard to counter.”
Conner joined in calls for a joint effort between the private and public sector, which he said was needed now more than ever as ransomware attacks become more targeted, impactful, and diverse in terms of their victims. He noted the elevation of ransomware to a national security issue in heavily victimised countries such as the US.
SonicWall suggested that the current “perfect storm” of ransomware owed much to more readily available tools and platforms that are attracting a rising number of potential cyber criminals happy to work on the ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) model, whereby the ransomware operator takes a cut of the affiliate’s haul.
Such an affiliate was probably behind the extortion of Colonial Pipeline in an attack on fossil fuel delivery infrastructure that has done more to put ransomware gangs under the mainstream spotlight than hundreds of other attacks on schools and hospitals.
SonicWall added that the strength and increased value of bitcoin in the opening months of 2021 may also have been a powerful motivational factor for people to turn to cyber crime as an easy way to obtain the cryptocurrency that they believed would make their fortunes.
Much of this value has now been lost, due to a number of factors including a Chinese-led crackdown on polluting cryptominers, but also, with a certain irony, because of crypto’s association with cyber criminality and ransomware.