Everyday users are facing more cyberattacks than ever

data privacy
(Image credit: Shutterstock / Zeeker2526)

The pandemic has made people afraid and uncertain about the future, and cybercriminals are happy to capitalize on that, new research has found.

A report from Bitdefender is saying everyday consumers have never been this bombarded by malware and ransomware, with smart home devices, Android applications, and network-attached storage being among the most popular distribution mechanisms.

Cybercriminals have been using the pandemic as a theme to deliver malicious code to targeted end-users over the past year, evolving their delivery mechanisms, social engineering skills, and building new exploits.

Breaking down the report’s key findings, Bitdefender said ransomware attacks grew 485% in 2020, compared to the year before. Almost two-thirds of those attacks happened in the first half of the year. 

Cybercriminals were also interested in IoT devices with proprietary operating systems - as while these devices made up hardly a third of all gadgets owned (34%), they are responsible for almost all (96%) detected vulnerabilities. Exploited flaws in smart TVs spiked by 335% year-on-year.

Abusing Android

Criminals were also abusing the spike in Zoom’s popularity, as well as the overall popularity of Android, Bitdefender further stated. Most of the Android malware detected came from the Android.TrojanAgent, Android.Trojan.Downloader and Android.Trojan.Banker. 

Network-attached storage (NAS) was a leader in the number of vulnerabilities, spiking by 189% year-on-year. It owes its popularity among criminals, not to the mass use (it’s not the most prevalent device in a home), but rather to the number of unpatched vulnerabilities at criminals’ disposal.

Finally, potentially unwanted applications (PUA) are apparently on the rise, and while these aren’t inherently malicious, they can be abused for that purpose. Bitdefender claims there had been a 320% increase in reported PUA last year, compared to 2019.

Sead is a seasoned freelance journalist based in Sarajevo, Bosnia and Herzegovina. He writes about IT (cloud, IoT, 5G, VPN) and cybersecurity (ransomware, data breaches, laws and regulations). In his career, spanning more than a decade, he’s written for numerous media outlets, including Al Jazeera Balkans. He’s also held several modules on content writing for Represent Communications.