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Ransomware was Still One of the Top Security Threats in 2016

March 10, 2017 | From Virtual Forge GmbH

From increased instances of ransomware to a bump in phishing attacks targeted to financial services customers, we're seeing more spam than we've ever seen before.

If you thought that spam emails seemed to be getting worse, you might be right as a recent report from Kaspersky Labs on "Spam and Phishing in 2016" found that spam continues to be a global issue facing companies of all sizes. In particular, ransomware is on the rise and was a growing problem for many enterprise companies in 2016.

Ransomware relies on a user accidentally downloading software that effectively blocks their access to computer systems and applications until a financial ransom is paid and the computer access is unlocked. Many people have attributed the rise of ransomware to the increased use of cryptocurrency like Bitcoin, which allows hackers to stay completely anonymous when demanding cash payouts from companies and individuals. Kaspersky's study found a number of interesting facts about the current state of spam and ransomware, and what we can expect to see through 2017. Here are some of the highlights:

58% of All Email is Spam

According to Kaspersky's report, a full 58.31% of all email worldwide is spam mail. That represents an increase of 3.03% year over year from 2015 to 2016. There will likely be a global increase this year, as well, as countries like China continue to develop and grow their base of small and medium sized businesses, which hackers often target for spam and phishing scams.

Phishing Attacks on Banking and Financial Customers are Rising

In 2016, 47.48% of phishing attacks were taken out against the customers of banks and financial institutions. Compare this to 34.33% in 2015 and 28.74% in 2014, and it's obvious how attractive financial institutions are to hackers and scammers. We've mentioned before how many big banks are continuing to be major targets for phishing schemes and cyber attacks, and this trend is likely to continue with an increase in online banking and financial apps that allow customers to carry out financial transactions remotely on mobile devices.

Sports Events and Terrorism are Helping Drive Phishing Attacks

Cyber criminals are increasingly turning to world events to help bring a level of familiarity and legitimacy to their phishing attacks, and one major way they did this in 2016 was to reference sports events like the Olympic Games in Brazil. Phishing emails centered around fake contests and events surrounding The Olympics were used as bait for phishing schemes, to increase the likelihood that a user would click on a link and download malware or share personal information. Cyber criminals have also turned to news of terrorism as a content focus to spread spam and ransomware, and use as bait for phishing attacks.

It looks like spam, phishing, and ransomware attacks are very likely to continue through 2017. And as phishing attacks become more sophisticated and spam and ransomware kick up their efforts, companies are going to have to fight back with increased IT security and preventative measures or risk becoming more vulnerable to the increasingly advanced methods of cyber criminals.


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