SonicWall has released the 2023 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report. The bi-annual report details an increasingly diversified cyberattack landscape amid shifting threat actor strategies. SonicWall recorded the second-highest year on record for global ransomware attempts, as well as an 87% increase in Internet of Things (IoT) malware and a record number of crypto-jacking attacks (139.3 million) in 2022.a
“The past year reinforced the need for cybersecurity in every industry and every facet of the business, as threat actors targeted anything and everything, from education to retail to finance,” said SonicWall President and CEO Bob VanKirk. “While organizations face an increasing number of real-world obstacles with macroeconomic pressures and continued geopolitical strife, threat actors are shifting attack strategies at an alarming rate.”
Global malware volume increased 2% year-over-year, but it jumped in IoT malware (+87%) and crypto-jacking (+43%) which offset the decline of overall global ransomware volume (-21%), signifying a strategic shift. Threat actors have embraced slower and more stealthy approaches to achieve financially-motivated cyberattacks.
“Cyberattacks are an ever-present danger for companies of all sizes, putting their operations and reputation on the line,” said SonicWall Threat Detection and Response Strategist, Immanuel Chavoya. “It is crucial for organizations to understand attackers’ tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs), and commit to threat-informed cybersecurity strategies to defend and recover successfully from business-disrupting events. This includes stopping sophisticated ransomware attacks as well as defending emerging threat vectors, including IoT and crypto-jacking.”
The UAE recorded a 14% drop in total malware attacks in 2022, against a 2% year-on-year rise in cyberattacks globally. Still, the number of attacks in 2022 in the UAE (71 million) was more than the combined total in 2019 and 2020 (37.3 million and 19 million, respectively). “Organizations today face an evolving threat landscape where threat actors are finding new and creative ways to stay ahead of the enterprise,” said Mohamed Abdallah, Regional Director META at SonicWall. “Cyber risks and their impacts on organizations globally continue to dominate headlines and boardrooms. The 2023 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report helps elevate us as a credible source and strengthens our ability to provide sound security measures to our customers.”
In addition to cyberattacks becoming more sophisticated and covert, threat actors are showing clear preferences for certain techniques, with notable shifts toward weak IoT devices, crypto-jacking, and potentially soft targets like schools and hospitals. Prominent ransomware attacks impacted enterprises, governments, airlines, hospitals, hotels, and even individuals causing widespread system downtime, economic loss, and reputational damage. Following global trends, several industries faced large year-over-year increases in ransomware volume, including education (+275%), finance (+41%), and healthcare (+8%).
Cybercriminals are using increasingly advanced tools and tactics to exploit and extort victims, with state-sponsored activity growing as a concern. While ransomware continues to be a threat, SonicWall Capture Labs threat researchers expect more state-sponsored activity targeting a broader set of victims in 2023, including SMBs and enterprises. The 2023 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report provides insight into a range of cyber threats, including:
- Malware – Total volume was up 2% in 2022 after three straight years of decline — just as SonicWall predicted in the 2022 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report. Following that trend, Europe as a whole saw increased levels of malware (+10%) as did Ukraine, which had a record 25.6 million attempts, suggesting malware was used heavily in regions impacted by geopolitical strife. Interestingly, the malware was down year-over-year in key countries like the U.S. (-9%), U.K. (-13%), and Germany (-28%).
- Ransomware – Although overall ransomware numbers saw a 21% decline globally, the total volume in 2022 was higher than in 2017, 2018, 2019, and 2020. In particular, total ransomware in Q4 (154.9 million) was the highest since Q3 2021.
- IoT Malware – Global volume rose 87% in 2022, totaling 112 million hits by year’s end. With no corresponding slowdown in the proliferation of connected devices, bad actors are likely probing soft targets to leverage as potential attack vectors into larger organizations.
- Apache Log4j –Intrusion attempts against the industry’s Apache Log4j ‘Log4Shell’ vulnerability eclipsed 1 billion in 2022. The vulnerability was first discovered in December 2021 and has been actively exploited since.
- Cryptojacking – The use of crypto-jacking as a ‘low and slow’ approach continued to surge, rising 43% globally, which is the most SonicWall Capture Labs threat researchers have recorded in a single year. The retail and financial industry felt the sting of crypto-jacking attacks, seeing 2810% and 352% increases, respectively, year-over-year.
“Cyberattacks of all varieties continue to hinder organizations worldwide,” said Logically’s Chief Operating Officer, Keith Johnson. “SonicWall’s annual intelligence report gives us a deeper understanding of the current threat landscape and helps break down why cyberattacks continue to be successful, as well as the drivers and trends behind them. By making this report available to partners, SonicWall helps elevate us as trusted advisors and strengthens our ability to provide sound security measures to our customers.”