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Stay-at-Home Orders Have Contributed to Spike in Ransomware Attacks

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The coronavirus pandemic has been a major watershed event that the world has witnessed in 2020. Just about every country in the world has been affected in one way or the other, and both individuals and companies are trying to adapt to the new way of doing things.

However, this adaptation has come with some growing pains of its own. One of them has been the apparent increase in ransomware attacks.

Good Times for Cybercriminals

Recently, cybersecurity firm Proofpoint published a report confirming that the use of Email-based phishing attacks that deliver ransomware has increased markedly over the past few months. According to the report, several top economies have seen targeted deployments, with countries like France, the United States, and Germany all acutely vulnerable.

Proofpoint’s research further hypothesizes that the attacks capitalize on the fact that more people are working from home. Having to do so could essentially leave people with less sophisticated security and anti-phishing features – as opposed to the enterprise security services that most companies use to protect their systems. Thus, people working at home are much more at risk. 

Interestingly, Proofpoint’s research also confirmed that most of the popular ransom demands of this period are asking for much less in ransom amounts. 

For instance, a ransomware application known as “Mr. Robot” has wreaked havoc in the United States, targeting both individuals and companies. However, Proofpoint explains that the ransomware has switched its focus recently and is now attacking home-based users.

However, ransom amounts have now shifted and are now as low as $100 in Bitcoin. Another famous ransomware, known as Avaddon, has implemented over a million attack attempts in a week. The ransomware has also targeted individuals and companies in the U.S. the hackers behind it ask for about $800.

An Expansive Trend

As stated earlier, ransomware attacks have surged across the world – not just in the United States. Earlier this month, Internet security company Kaspersky noted that Singapore had seen a staggering 300 percent increase in ransomware attacks year-on-year in the first quarter of 2020.

Speaking with Straits Times, Yeo Siang Tiong, Kaspersky’s General Manager for the South-East Asia region, explained that Singapore saw about 11,700 attacks on devices within its borders from January till March 2020 – up from 2,900 in the same period last year.

Tiong confirmed that Singapore’s rise is the highest amongst all countries in the South-East Asia region, adding that hackers appear to have been drawn to the country’s high-performance Internet infrastructure.

The trend also appears to have affected the cybercrime space as a whole. This month, Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D-MO), the Chairperson of the U.S. House Subcommittee on National Security, International Development, and Monetary Policy, said at a meeting that the United States had seen a 75 percent increase in the number of daily cybercrime occurrences during the pandemic.

Hackers and cybercriminals have been one of the primary beneficiaries of the recent shift to remote work. Now, there’s talk of several prominent tech companies making this trend permanent and removing the requirement for workers to carry out their operations on-site – even after the pandemic blows over. If this trend becomes permanent, companies will need to invest in means to protect their workers.

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