The US Suffered 538% More Attacks in 2020 Than in 2005: Here’s Why…
It’s no surprise that the internet is full of threats and dangers around every corner, but there isn’t much public knowledge on the history of malware and how it has evolved. For instance, how does the malware of today fare against the strains in 2005? Has the number of attacks increased or decreased since then?
Well, as it turns out, we do have the numbers. The US suffered 538% more attacks in 2020 than in 2005, so something definitely happened in those 16 years. But what happened, exactly? Why are there more attacks now than in 2005, and what kind of attacks are popular now?
What Kind of Attacks Happened in 2020?
Before we explore the rise of attacks and why they happened, it’s important to analyze what kind of attacks hackers used in 2020. Just saying that there were 538% more “attacks” doesn’t give us a lot to work with, as there are plenty of ways that a hacker can “attack” someone online.
It’s akin to saying that a city experienced 538% more “crime” in one year. “Crime” is a huge blanket term for all kinds of activity, so it’s not a meaningful statistic until you break down the statistic into the most highly committed crimes.
In this case, the source of the 538% statistic, The Fintech Times, does go into detail as to which attacks were the most popular in 2020. And honestly, some of the numbers are a little surprising.
For instance, out of all the different kinds of cyberattacks, hackers could send to the US, phishing and pharming took 32.96% of the total share in 2020’s reports. As you might expect from this huge share, phishing topped the chart for the most popular cyberattack method against the US in 2020.
It’s easy to see why scammers flocked to this attack in particular. Phishing is when a malicious agent tries to trick you into surrendering your personal or account information, and pharming is when a hacker tries to hijack your browsing session to send you to a phony login website.
Both of these tactics aim to harvest as much information from you as possible. Information harvesting can be a lucrative business, whether it’s using your information to fake your identity, hack your accounts, or even sell your data on the dark web.
After phishing and pharming, the second most-used tactic against the US was sales fraud. This includes both not sending an item after someone paid for it and not sending money after the goods were sent. 14.87% of attacks in 2020 were sales-based.
Extortion comes in third at 10.48%, which includes ransomware attacks. Personal data breaches were fourth at 6.19%, and identity theft was fifth at 5.92%.
Why Did Cyberattack Rates Grow So Much in 15 Years?
So now we know what, exactly, these attacks consisted of. Now we can answer the question: why did these attacks grow so much in the space of 15 years?
1. The Internet Proliferated Our Daily Lives a Lot More
First up, the internet in 2005 was very different from what we saw in 2020. Remember, Twitter was founded back in March 2006, so 2005’s internet was still a little way off until we’d be microblogging on the famous social media website.
As we progressed from 2005 to 2020, more and more of our entertainment, business, and financial services moved onto the internet. Now you can watch a show on Netflix while working a remote job and manage your finances via internet banking. And with these services come user accounts that scammers want to steal from you.
2. Stealing Accounts Became Much More Lucrative
Because so many of our sensitive and personal services moved onto the internet, it meant that snagging an account was far more lucrative for the attacker than ever before. No longer will a username and password leak get you into someone’s forum account at best. Now, someone who uses the same username and password for all their accounts can have their entertainment and finances stolen from them by a single breach.
And scammers will find a way to sell all kinds of accounts on the dark web. From Paypal to Netflix to even videogame accounts, if it has some value to it, scammers can sell it for a pretty penny. And the best way to get user accounts is through phishing.
3. COVID-19 Caused Chaos in the Cybersecurity Front, Too
COVID-19 had a devastating effect on the world, to the point where even the cybersecurity world saw a change in trends. To capitalize on the panic that COVID-19 created, scammers sent phishing emails related to the pandemic to trick people into surrendering personal information.
For instance, a scam email may claim that a victim’s package is at the post office and that they need to hand over their details quickly before lockdown delays its release for months. This tricked people into handing over their personal information in fear that the package they were waiting on wouldn’t come for a long time after lockdown.
Of course, this point only covers 2020 in terms of cybersecurity. However, the wave of COVID-related phishing scams may have been a good portion of the total number of emails sent, if not a majority.
4. Ransomware Became a Lot Easier for Scammers to Use
The above points explain why phishing became so popular, but how come extortion became the third-most used way of performing a cyberattack? The answer lies in ransomware-as-a-service.
This is a black market product where a developer codes and publishes a fully-functioning ransomware program, then allows eager customers to purchase the rights to use it. Essentially, this allows anyone to start a ransomware siege on a target without having to code it all first.
Related: What Is Ransomware as a Service?
2005: A Safer Time on the Internet
While 2005 was by no means a haven from viruses and hackers, it was a lot safer than it is today. With the rise of online accounts, pandemics, and viruses as a product, the net is more dangerous now than it ever has been before.
Getting malware on your computer is a huge risk to your security. Here’s what you can do to limit the damage if this happens.
About The Author
(717 Articles Published)
A Computer Science BSc graduate with a deep passion for all things security. After working for an indie game studio, he found his passion for writing and decided to use his skill set to write about all things tech.
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November 22, 2021 at 10:50AM