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Acronis cyberthreats report predicts widespread extortion in 2021

In “Acronis Cyberthreats Report 2020,” the cyber protection firm warns 2021 will bring aggressive cybercrime activity as criminals pivot their attacks from data encryption to data exfiltration.

The report is based on an in-depth review of the current threat landscape and projections for the coming year and its analysis of the protection and security challenges that were amplified by the shift to remote work during the COVID-19 pandemic.

Ransomware continues to be the leading threat, with Maze ransomware accounting for nearly half of all known cases in 2020. Yet the Acronis Cyberthreats Report points to a growing trend of cybercriminals trying to maximize their financial gain. Not content to collect ransoms to decrypt infected data, they steal proprietary (and sometimes embarrassing) data before encrypting it.

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Acronis’ analysts found evidence that more than 1,000 companies globally had their data leaked following a ransomware attack in 2020, a trend that is expected to accelerate in the coming year, overtaking encryption as the criminals’ primary tactic.

“More than any year in recent memory, 2020 posed a tremendous number of challenges to IT professionals, organizations, and the service providers who support them,” said Stas Protassov, co-founder and technology president, Acronis. “What we’ve seen is how quickly bad actors are adjusting their attacks to the new IT landscape. By analyzing the activity, attacks, and trends we’ve detected and clearly presenting our findings, we hope to empower our partners and help the IT community at large prepare for the threats on the horizon.”

Remote work

The report also predicts that attacks against remote workers will increase. While 31% of global companies reported daily cyberattacks in 2020, the frequency of attacks targeting their remote workers is projected to increase in 2021, since the defenses for systems outside of the corporate network are more easily compromised, giving bad actors access to that organization’s data.

Ransomware will look for new victims, become more automated. Rather than continuing to cast a wide net, ransomware attackers will focus on targets that provide a bigger return on their efforts. Breaking into one network to steal data from several companies is more profitable than attacking individual organizations. So, while small businesses will still be targeted, cloud environments and organizations like managed service providers will become more valued targets because their systems can provide access to the data of multiple clients.

Legacy solutions struggle to keep up. Blocking the new malware has rendered traditional antimalware solutions obsolete, as they cannot keep pace with the increased sophistication and frequency of new threats. The average lifespan of a malware sample in 2020 was just 3.4 days. As attackers continue to utilize automation, the number of malware samples will continue to climb. Organizations will need to find new approaches to the protection that are agile and designed to stay ahead of new threats. Simple standalone security and backup solutions will no longer be enough.

Traditional cybersecurity

“When it comes to existing solutions and strategies, the current trends in cyberattacks all show that traditional cybersecurity is failing, usually because of weak technologies and human error, which are both avoidable,” said Candid Wüest. VP of Cyber Protection Research at Acronis and co-author of the report. “Just as cyber criminals are evolving their attacks, organizations need to advance their protection and security. Comprehensive cyber protection solutions offer the integration and automation that eliminate complexity, optimize performance, and streamline recovery when a successful attack inevitably occurs.”

The Acronis Cyberthreats Report 2020 is based on examining attack and threat data collected by the company’s global network of Acronis Cyber Protection Operations Centers (CPOCs), which monitor and research cyber threats 24/7. Malware data was collected by more than 100,000 unique endpoints around the world running Acronis Cyber Protect, which launched in May 2020, and covers attacks targeting endpoints detected between June and October.

The full report provides in-depth insights into the top security/threat trends the CPOCs observed in 2020, a review of malware families and related statistics, a deep dive into ransomware’s most dangerous groups, the vulnerabilities that contribute to successful attacks, and Acronis’ complete security forecast and recommendations for 2021.