Neuways’ weekly cyber security bulletin, Neu Cyber Threats, has found that ransomware is largest threat to businesses according to weekly newsletter: Cyber Threats.

Ransomware and phishing attacks made up 45% of the total news stories featured throughout the year, while attacks on Microsoft systems were second with 20%. Other regular topics featured throughout 2021 included problems with the Google Play Store affecting Android users (14%), Apple flaws (10%), as well as a number of issues around social engineering, web browser and email vulnerabilities and COVID-19 spoofing threats.

There were a total of 219 cyber threats covered in 2021’s blog posts, which aim to highlight the dangers of the online world to businesses. This awareness could help to curb the threat of many of the threats before it is too late.

Cyber criminals have really taken the level of ransomware attacks to the next level over the last two years, taking advantage of businesses that remain remote working, due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The pandemic has seen more and more successful cyber attacks, due to the phishing campaigns that criminals are operating attracting more opens and downloads.

But, as the statistics show, it isn’t just ransomware that businesses have to fear. No, Microsoft’s various applications were used in nefarious ways by criminals to try and gain access to corporate networks. If criminals could successfully acquire an employee’s credentials, they would then attempt to move laterally through the network, as they tried to exfiltrate confidential data and gain monetarily from their malicious activity.

Software flaws too, were another big threat to organisations in 2021. The positive to this kind of threat, though, are that the software providers are usually one step ahead of the criminals, and quickly issue installable updates, to solve the problem, often before the flaws become common knowledge. However, this places a level of responsibility on businesses to ensure that they are installing any updates issued as promptly as possible. This means that their business would then be fully protected from any possible flaws cyber criminals could try and exploit.

An alarming trend was the rise in threats seen hidden away in applications. While unofficial app stores were where many of these threats began causing havoc, the Google Play Store, used by many Android devices and users, was one of the more common sources of malware-ridden applications.

A common theme was a seemingly innocuous app, such a children’s game, being laced with malware that, once downloaded, could steal user data, as well as banking information and access to photos and text messages. Again, many of the applications were removed once the problem had been identified, but the issue raises alarm bells regarding the safety of many of the applications downloaded on said app stores.

And, as the COVID-19 pandemic moves onto its next stage, so do the threats that cyber criminals have been orchestrating. In 2020, COVID communications were sent to victims telling them about tests they could register and receive (not the malware that came with them!), while this year, it was more vaccination focused threats that were distributed by cyber criminals. It shows the ability of the cyber criminals to change and adapt their messaging as and when the world shifts, to try and take advantage of unfortunate victims.

Of course, these are just the most common threats that have been encountered in 2021, and there were many hundreds of thousands more that arose throughout the year. As ever, we encourage users to remain vigilant when encountering suspicious communications, whether it be email, phone or SMS texts. Usually, if things are too good to be true, that is because they are! An email that encourages immediate action to be taken ‘or else’, will more than likely be the work of a cyber criminal who wants your money or your credentials.

The unfortunate thing is that the level of threats remains on the rise – however, there is a positive on the horizon. The recent update to the UK’s National Cyber Security Strategy has brought with it a commitment to increasing the level of cyber intelligence within the country, as well as tackling more of the cyber threats to the nation. With more investment, will come the technology to help fight off the tougher threats being aimed at the general public and companies around the UK and the world.

But for now, it is good to be as well informed as possible.

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