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Number of new malicious files grew 5.2% a day in 2020

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In 2020, Kaspersky detected a global average of 360 000 new malicious files each day, an increase of 5.2%, or 18 000 more, compared to the year before.

According to the security giant, this was influenced largely by a significant growth in the number of Trojans and backdoors, with a 40.5% and 23% increase respectively.

These were the findings of the Kaspersky Security Bulletin: Statistics of the Year Report.

There was also a noticeable increase of worms written on the VisualBasicScript language that usually belonged to the Dinihou malware family, which is used by bad actors to collect data about the software and hardware configuration of infected computers and send it to their servers for analysis.

Adware declines

On the plus side, adware is on the decline globally, and this scourge experienced a 35% decrease when compared to the previous year. However, not all regions were so lucky, with some noting an increase. In SA, for example, by the end of October last year, the average adware notifications per user increased slightly to over 33 in comparison to 32 for the whole of 2019.

It was also expected that for the duration of 2020, more than 256 000 South Africans would have been hit with adware.

The vast majority of malware detected, nearly 90%, occurred via Windows PE files - a file format specific to Windows operating systems. Concurrently, the number of new malware related to Android operating systems dropped by 13.7%.

Capitalising on remote workers

Given that remote working and studying were the order of the day during the pandemic, most likely on computers and laptops, threat actors seem to have shifted their focus to these devices.

Kaspersky saw a 27% increase in the number of different scripts – sent via malicious e-mail campaigns or encountered on infected Web sites, which could, once again, reflect the fact that people spent more time on the Internet and cyber criminals hoped to capitalise on that.

Denis Staforkin, a security expert at Kaspersky, said the rise in the number of malicious objects detected during 2020 can be attributed to the pandemic, as users across the globe were forced to spend more time on their devices and online.

“It’s hard to know whether or not attackers were more active or our solutions detected more malicious files simply because of greater activity. It could be a combination of both. Either way, we have registered a noticeable increase in the number of new malicious files in 2020, and this will most likely continue in 2021 as employees continue to work from home and countries implement different restrictions. However, if users take basic security precautions, they can significantly lower their risk of encountering them,” he says.

Better than cure

In order to stay protected, Kaspersky recommends that users pay close attention to and don’t open any suspicious files or attachments received from unknown sources. Also, the company advises to double-check the URL format and company name spelling before you download anything, to not download and install applications from untrusted sources, or click on any links received from unknown sources and suspicious online advertisements.

“Create strong and unique passwords, including a mix of lower-case and upper-case letters, numbers and punctuation, and activate two-factor authentication. Also, always install updates. Some of them may contain critical security issues fixes.”

Finally, Kaspersky counsels to ignore messages asking to disable security systems for office software or antivirus software, and to always use a robust security solution appropriate to the system type and devices.

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