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Report: Number of Ransomware Attacks Grew Nearly 17 Times Larger in 2016

Ransomware surged 16,700 percent from 2015 to 2016, though unique malware samples declined over the same period, according to a new report from network security firm SonicWall. That growth of nearly 17 times represents a swell from about 4 million ransomware attacks in 2015 to approximately 638 million last year.

Internet of Things (IoT) devices were also "compromised on a massive scale," according to SonicWall, owing to poor security design.

"2016 could be considered a highly successful year from the perspective of both security professionals and cyber criminals," according to information released by the company. "Unlike in years past, SonicWall saw the volume of unique malware samples collected fall to 60 million compared with 64 million in 2015, a 6.25 percent decrease. Total malware attack attempts dropped for the first time in years to 7.87 billion from 8.19 billion in 2015. However, cyber criminals garnered quick payoffs from ransomware, fueled partly by the rise in ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS)."

Ransomware began to surge in 2016, according to the findings of the report, ballooning from 282,000 attack attempts to 30 million over the course of the first quarter and continued to rise throughout the year, with 266.5 million attacks in the fourth quarter of 2016.

Factors that contributed to the rise of ransomware included the use of exploit kits for delivery, the ability to more easily obtain and deploy ransomware as a result of RaaS, easier access to the underground market, the low costs of ransomware attacks and the low risk of being caught.

Other key findings of the report include:

  • Ransomware was the most common payload for malicious e-mail attacks, at a rate of 90 percent for Nemucod attacks;
  • Ransomware attacks were widely distributed across industries, with the most commonly attacked industry, mechanical and industrial engineering, garnering only 15 percent of attempts;
  • Hackers developed overlays to trick Android users into divulging login credentials by posing as legitimate apps, leading Android to respond with security features designed to combat overlays. Attackers then coaxed users into providing permissions to continue the use of overlays; and
  • The number of compromised apps targeted to adults on Google's Play store declined, but criminals continued to attack third-party app stores with ransomware and self-installing apps as common payloads.

For the full report, visit

About the Author

Joshua Bolkan is contributing editor for Campus Technology, THE Journal and STEAM Universe. He can be reached at [email protected].

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