Consumer threats jumped by 83% in 2020, recent findings reveal

Edward G. | June 2, 2021

According to Atlas VPN analysis, consumer threats jumped by 82.84% in 2020. The most concerning fact is that a few extremely dangerous and multi-purpose malware types sky-rocketed to never-before-seen heights. 

For example, malicious software detections called Dridex soared by 1,890%. It is a form of malware that specializes in stealing bank credentials via macros from Microsoft Word.  

The Atlas VPN research team extracted data from the Malwarebytes State of Malware 2021 report. The company shares information on how many malware detections their cybersecurity software detected on their users’ devices globally. 

The most commonly detected threat in 2020 was HackTool, with 11.35 million warnings, representing a 2,118% increase from 2019. HackTool is categorized as riskware because it is not strictly malicious but still poses a risk for the user. 

HackTool allows users to use Microsoft software illegally. The jump was caused by the fact that the COVID-19 pandemic forced people to WFH, and many employees started using cracked versions of Windows or Microsoft Office. 

Next up are Screenlockers, a type of malware that locks the user out of his computer. This malware family grew in popularity by 312%, from 210 thousand detections in 2019 to 867 thousand in 2020. 

Here, users either encounter a Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) or a warning that they have been using illegal software and need to enter a registration key to unlock their computer. 

Somewhere on the screen, the victims see a phone number or a link that they can follow to contact the support team that will supposedly help them solve the problem. In fact, they usually solve the issue, but they hide the fact that their malware caused the problem. Of course, the solution is paid and overpriced.

Glupteba, a malware type first detected in 2019, exploded in popularity from 406 detections in 2019 to 840,754 in 2020, amounting to a 206,982% increase.

Glupteba is one of those dangerous, multi-purpose malware families that we mentioned earlier. In short, Glupteba is a software bot that can be controlled from afar by the hackers who wrote it. 

Analyzing this type of malware is beyond the scope of this report. Still, in short, this malware is not only a remote control tool, but it also includes such components as a rootkit, security suppressor, virus, router attack tool, browser stealer, and even a cryptojacker. 

Finally, InfoStealer is another type of malware that saw a significant increase from 50,941 detections in 2019 to 759,754 in 2020, constituting a 1,391% growth.

InfoStealer is otherwise known as spyware that can collect keystrokes, screenshots, internet browsing activity, and other information. This software could be bundled with free online software or disguised as a harmless program and distributed by email.

To round things up, we urge consumers to become aware of the variety of new types of malware that became popular in 2020. Next up, we will provide a few quick tips that will help you to protect yourself from nearly all types of malware. 

Main tips to protect against malware

Patch frequently and early. This includes your operating system, programs, and any devices on your network, such as routers and file storage servers.

Use an anti-virus program that includes web filtering. The majority of malware, including bot malware, comes in the form of a series of downloads. So even if you download the first stage of malware, you can still protect yourself if the final component of the malicious software gets blocked.

Stay away from cracked software. Keep in mind that the type of individual who is willing to steal software like Adobe Illustrator or Microsoft Office and give away tools to crack it "for free" is also willing to take money from criminals to install malware in their phony downloads.

Edward G.

Edward G.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. My mission is to scan the ever-evolving cybercrime landscape to inform the public about the latest threats.

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