SonicWall has released a mid-year update to its 2022 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report. This shows an 11 percent increase in global malware, a 77 percent spike in IoT malware, a 132 percent rise in encrypted threats and a geographically-driven shift in ransomware volume as geopolitical strife impacts cybercriminal activity.
Ransomware attacks in Europe increase as threat landscape shifts
After a record-breaking 2021, overall ransomware attacks have trended down in the first half of 2022, decreasing globally for the fourth consecutive quarter. Government sanctions, supply chain deficiencies, dropping cryptocurrency prices and limited availability of needed infrastructure are all making it more difficult for cybercriminals. Proprietary SonicWall threat intelligence reinforces that analysis, as June 2022 saw the lowest monthly ransomware volume in two years, which helped drive down overall global volume.
While global ransomware dipped to start the year, Europe saw significant increases in malware attacks (+29 percent year-over-year) and ransomware attempts (+63 percent). In terms of volume, seven of the top 11 countries targeted by ransomware were in Europe (United Kingdom, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Poland and Ukraine), suggesting a cyber threat climate shift for the region.
Malware rebounds with 11 percent global spike
In 2021, malware volume was slightly down, marking a third-straight year of decrease as well as a seven-year low. However, as predicted in the 2022 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report, a rebound was anticipated, due to a significant uptick in attacks during the second half of 2021. That rebound was felt as more than 2.8 billion malware attacks occurred within the first six months of 2022. In North America, encrypted threats increased 284 percent and IoT malware soared 228 percent within that same time frame.
Similar to shifting ransomware numbers, malware volume was level or dropped in typical hot spots like the United States (-1 percent), United Kingdom (-9 percent) and Germany (-13 percent), while rising collectively in Europe (29 percent) and Asia (32 percent).
“The international threat landscape is now seeing an active migration that is profoundly changing the challenges not only in Europe, but the United States as well,” said SonicWall expert on emerging threats Immanuel Chavoya. “Cybercriminals are working harder than ever to be ahead of the cyber security industry, and unlike many of the businesses they target, threat actors often have no shortage of skills, motivation, expertise and funding within their organizations.”
The financial sector combatted a 100 percent increase in malware attacks, a 243 percent hike in ransomware attempts and a 269 percent increase in cryptojacking attempts.
Record number of ‘never-before-seen’ malware variants discovered
SonicWall’s patented Real-Time Deep Memory Inspection (RTDMI) technology identified 270,228 never-before-seen malware variants during the first half of 2022 — a 45 percent increase year-to-date. The first quarter of 2022 marked a record-high in never-before-seen malware discoveries (147,851), with March 2022 being the most ever on record (59,259).
Since the introduction of RTDMI in early 2018, new variants discovered have skyrocketed 21x through June 2022. These are new and previously unknown cyber attacks that are going undetected by traditional sandbox approaches.