Ransomware attacks on UK businesses soar 195%

Graphic of a user engaging in a ransomware exchange
(Image credit: Bigstock)

The UK has been the biggest target for ransomware attacks for the first half of 2019 with the number rising 195%, as compared to the 59% reduction in attacks of the same kind in 2018, it has been claimed.

SonicWall, which authored the report, said the number of recorded attacks sits at 6.4 million for the first half of the year and has been largely attributed to the growing preference of criminals for ransomware as a service (RaaS), as well as open-source malware kits becoming cheaper and more readily available online.

"Globally, cybercriminals continue to pivot toward new tactics and that's bad news because ransomware-as-a-service allows less programming-skilled actors into the malware game, and some targets are twice-victimised," said Bill Conner, SonicWall CEO.

Conversely, the US experienced a 21% reduction in ransomware attacks, despite major incidents hitting the headlines in recent weeks.

The Cerber family of RaaS has remained the most effective method of targeting businesses year-on-year, according to SonicWall. 39.5 million recorded cases have been detected already this year, almost 10 times the number of detections of Gandcrab, the second most prolific ransomware strain listed in the report.

While ransomware soared in the UK, overall malware detections dropped in 2019, following a record-breaking 2018 which saw 10.52 billion attacks across the globe. The US and the UK are still the most attacked nations, positioned first and second respectively, but both saw sizable drops in the number of attacks directed towards them.

This can be accounted for by the overall 20% global slowdown of malware attacks compared to last year. 4.78 billion attacks have been detected so far in 2019 while in the same period last year the figure came in at 5.99 billion.

In addition to RaaS, another growing threat this year is encrypted malware attacks, which have already seen a 27% jump from 2018.

So far in 2019, researchers detected 2.4 million encrypted malware attacks which is almost the same number detected for the entire year of 2018 (2.8 million) a 76% year-to-date increase.

In other areas, researchers indicated that office files with malicious code embedded within them still remain a consistent threat to businesses, but attacks tend to "ebb and flow" and average out in terms of year-on-year detection.

Connor Jones

Connor Jones has been at the forefront of global cyber security news coverage for the past few years, breaking developments on major stories such as LockBit’s ransomware attack on Royal Mail International, and many others. He has also made sporadic appearances on the ITPro Podcast discussing topics from home desk setups all the way to hacking systems using prosthetic limbs. He has a master’s degree in Magazine Journalism from the University of Sheffield, and has previously written for the likes of Red Bull Esports and UNILAD tech during his career that started in 2015.