Ransomware was the attack of choice for cyber criminals in 2017, with incidents against businesses rising by 90 per cent and those against consumers increasing by 93 per cent.

This is according to the Malwarebytes’ ‘Cybercrime Tactics and Techniques: 2017 State of Malware’ report.

The company said the research shows a “significant shift” in attack methodology, a distinct evolution in the predominant attack tools and a significant divergence between the types of attacks against businesses and those against consumers.

In addition, it illustrates sharp increases in malware-based cyber crime, including ransomware, banking Trojans, spyware, adware and cryptocurrency miners.

The monthly rate of ransomware attacks rose by up to ten times the rate seen in 2016, with September 2017 recording the largest volume of ransomware attacks against businesses ever documented, according to Malwarebytes.

Between July and September, there was a 700 per cent increase in ransomware, according to the research, with two specific attacks making up most of that statistic. GlobeImposter caused a rise of 341 per cent from July to August, while WannaCry resulted in a 375 per cent increase from August to September.

Marcin Kleczynski, Malwarebytes chief executive, said: “Ransomware continued to dominate in 2017, with this tool of choice for hackers increasing 90 per cent from the previous year. What cyber criminals could not hold for ransom, they stole from businesses. For example, spyware is up 30 per cent and hijackers are up 40 per cent.”

He added that the last year has “thrown us a few curveballs, with massive ransomware attacks, changes in malware distribution and the significant increase in cryptocurrency miners”.

Mr Kleczynski went on to say that with 2018 just beginning, his company’s findings can help drive increased awareness, C-level participation and enhanced technologies to better protect both consumers and businesses.

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