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As businesses the world over adapted to unprecedented numbers of employees working from home, cybercriminals worked feverishly to launch Covid-19-themed attacks on a workforce coping with pandemic restrictions and the potential vulnerabilities of remote device and bandwidth security. As the pandemic began to surge around the world, IT security firm McAfee saw a 605% increase in Q2 2020. These attacks again increased by 240% in Q3 and 114% in Q4.
Recently, McAfee released its Threats Report: April 2021, examining cybercriminal activity related to malware and the evolution of cyber threats in the third and fourth quarters of 2020. In Q4, McAfee Labs observed an average of 648 threats per minute, an increase of 60 threats per minute (10%) over Q3. The two quarters also saw Covid-19-related cyber-attack detections increase by 240% in Q3 and 114% in Q4, while Powershell threats again surged 208% due to continued increases in Donoff malware activity.
“The world— and enterprises— adjusted amidst pandemic restrictions and sustained remote work challenges, while security threats continued to evolve in complexity and increase in volume,” said Raj Samani, McAfee fellow and chief scientist. “Though a large percentage of employees grew more proficient and productive in working remotely, enterprises endured more opportunistic Covid-19 related campaigns among a new cast of bad-actor schemes. Furthermore, ransomware and malware targeting vulnerabilities in work-related apps and processes were active and remain dangerous threats capable of taking over networks and data, while costing millions in assets and recovery costs.”
McAfee tracked a 100% increase in publicly reported cyber incidents targeting the technology sector during the fourth quarter of 2020. Reported incidents in the public sector grew by 93% over the same period. Malware was the most reported cause of security incidents in Q4 followed by account hijackings, targeted attacks and vulnerabilities. Incidents related to new vulnerabilities surged 100% in Q4, malware and targeted attacks each rose 43%, and account hijackings increased 30%.
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