2016 cyber threats reach all-time high

Sibahle Malinga
By Sibahle Malinga, ITWeb senior news journalist.
Johannesburg, 01 Mar 2017
Cyber criminals have moved on from primarily targeting individuals to focusing on where the money is: enterprises, says Trend Micro.
Cyber criminals have moved on from primarily targeting individuals to focusing on where the money is: enterprises, says Trend Micro.

Cyber threats reached an all-time high in 2016, with a 748% increase in new ransomware families, ultimately resulting in $1 billion in losses for enterprises worldwide.

This is according to Trend Micro's annual security roundup report titled: "2016 Security Roundup: A Record Year for Enterprise Threats," which notes 2016 was truly the year of online extortion.

Last year, ransomware and business e-mail compromise (BEC) scams gained increased popularity among cyber criminals looking to extort enterprises, resulting in an average of $140 000 in losses for companies around the globe. These scams also highlighted the effectiveness of social engineering techniques for threat actors targeting enterprises, reveals the report.

"As threats have diversified and grown in sophistication, cyber criminals have moved on from primarily targeting individuals to focusing on where the money is: enterprises," says Ed Cabrera, chief cybersecurity officer for Trend Micro. "Throughout 2016 we witnessed threat actors extort companies and organisations for the sake of profitability and we don't anticipate this trend slowing down. This research aims to educate enterprises on the threat tactics actively being used to compromise their data, and help companies adopt strategies to stay one step ahead and protect against potential attacks."

Throughout the course of 12 months, the cyber security firm says the number of ransomware families grew from 29 to 246. One leading factor to explain this increase is the profitability of ransomware. Although individuals and organisations are encouraged not to pay the ransom, cyber criminals still managed to rake in roughly $1 billion last year.

Additionally, cyber criminals have been using ATM malware, skimming cards and banking Trojans for a while now. However, the attacks have diversified in recent years, giving threat actors access to personally identifiable information and credentials, which can also be used to gain a foothold in enterprise networks.

Israeli-based security solutions vendor Check Point Software Technologies in its H2 2016 Global Threat Intelligence Trends report revealed that global ransomware attacks doubled during the second half of 2016, with the top malware categories being ransomware, banking and mobile. The company's ThreatCloud database identified millions of malware types daily, and contains more than 250 million addresses analysed for bot discovery, as well as over 11 million malware signatures and 5.5 million infected Web sites.

The report demonstrates the nature of today's cyber environment, with ransomware attacks growing rapidly," says Doros Hadjizenonos, Check Point SA's country manager. "This is simply because they work, and generate significant revenues for attackers. Organisations are struggling to effectively counteract the threat - many don't have the right defences in place and may not have educated their staff on how to recognise the signs of a potential ransomware attack in incoming e-mails."

According to a report by Kaspersky Lab, in the fourth quarter of 2016, the number of users that encountered malware capable of stealing money or valuable financial information reached 319 000, 22.49% more than in the same period in 2015. "Financial malware attacks are on the rise again and all their targets - from owners and clients of e-shops, to credit cardholders and banks - should be aware of the dangers and take adequate steps to stay safe," says Oleg Kupreev, security expert at Kaspersky Lab.