Cyberattacks on US companies skyrocketed by 93% in the last 12 months

Ruth C. | August 17, 2020

Cybersecurity remains a hot topic for organizations today as cyberattacks directed at business organizations are on the rise. According to the Atlas VPN investigation, companies across North America reported a 93% increase in cyberattacks in the past 12 months.

Cyberattack is a malicious assault by an individual or organization aimed at gaining unauthorized access to the victim's device. Such attacks are frequently employed to steal sensitive data, take over computers, or disrupt a company's internal network infrastructure.

The data is based on a survey by VMware Carbon Black, which canvassed representatives from 250 North American companies operating across different industries including but not limited to finance, healthcare, and government. The research takes into account data from March 2019 up to March 2020.

Among companies surveyed, 93% reported an increase in cyberattacks in the past 12 months. As many as 88% of respondents believe that the rise in cyberattacks was a result of employees working from home during the COVID-19 pandemic.

In particular, 23% of the respondents saw an uptick in attack volumes between 1-25%. Moreover, 42% reported a more significant increase between 26-50%.

Nearly a quarter of the surveyed companies saw a more than 50% growth in the attacks' volume, while 4% reported that the attack volume surged by more than 2 to 4 times.

Some business sectors were targeted more than the others. The financial services sector saw the highest average rise in cyberattacks experienced at 56%—11% above the norm. What is more, 43% of the companies in this sector reported an over 50% increase in the volume of the attacks.

The financial sector is closely followed by the healthcare sector, which saw an average increase of 49% in cyberattacks. Nearly half of the respondents within the industry reported upward jumps in attack volume between 26-50%.

Malware most favored by cybercriminals

Cybercriminals are increasingly targeting businesses, and they are doing so by employing a wide range of tactics and techniques.

According to the research, custom malware was the most common cyberattack threat named by nearly the third of the surveyed companies at 29%. It was especially prevalent in the financial sector, with 62% of the companies reporting it as the most frequent type of attack.

Custom malware is a type of fileless malware developed to breach a specific company. It leverages existing and legitimate software that is already installed on a user's computer to carry out malicious activities.

Commodity malware is another prolific cybersecurity attack type reported by 1 in 10 of the surveyed companies. It is especially common among companies in the financial and healthcare sectors, with 12% of financial companies and 14% of healthcare organizations having experienced it in12 months preceding the survey. Unlike customized malware, commodity malware is not custom-built and is typically widely available for purchase or download.

Supply chain attacks were another common security threat reported by 9% of the companies. Such attacks attempt to exploit the cyber-vulnerabilities within the supply chain of a targeted company.

Supply chain attacks were closely followed by ransomware, with 7% of companies citing it as the most frequent cyberattack. As suggested by its name, ransomware is a malicious software designed to prevent a person or an organization from accessing their computer or files unless a ransom is paid.

Completing the top five list of the most often encountered cyberattacks is process hollowing. It was named by 5% of the organizations. Process hollowing is a code injection technique that is commonly initiated through malicious links in phishing emails. During the injection, a legitimate code of a certain process is overwritten with malicious code, this way blending in the malware to bypass security checks.

While less frequent than its counterparts, island hopping was reported by 2% of the companies. Island hopping is a rather new cyberattack method that involves infiltrating small organizations to ultimately get to their large partners.

This cyberattack method was named after the US strategy against Japan in World Word Two, which involved conquering smaller islands first in order to take the mainland.

Ruth C.

Ruth C.

Cybersecurity Researcher and Publisher at Atlas VPN. Interested in cybercrime, online security, and privacy-related topics.



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