March 13, 2018 By Shane Schick 2 min read

The number of new cybersecurity threats doubled from four to eight per second in the fourth quarter of last year, amounting to an all-time high of 63.4 million new malware samples, according to a recent research report.

The proliferation of attacks using PowerShell and ransomware was among the key trends contributing to the unprecedented volume of new malware, the March 2018 edition of the “McAfee Labs Threat Report” revealed. Other threats covered in the report include an increase in cryptocurrency mining and attempts to steal from bitcoin and Monero wallets, as well as the ongoing use of botnets targeting the Internet of Things (IoT).

New Cybersecurity Threats Emerge as Fraudsters Shift Tactics

The report singled out the healthcare sector, noting that while the volume of publicly disclosed breaches increased by 210 percent between 2016 and 2017, the number of security incidents actually decreased by 78 percent in the fourth quarter of 2017.

Beyond the sheer volume of cybersecurity threats, the report also reflected the increasing sophistication with which fraudsters commit data theft. Cybercriminals are turning to fileless malware, for instance, writing malicious code directly to random-access memory (RAM) and distributing it via online advertising.

Meanwhile, Android developers are creating apps to mine cryptocurrencies such as bitcoin and Monero by exploiting computing resources. Discussions in underground forums revealed that some cybercriminals are now looking at Litecoin as a safer, less exposed model than bitcoin, the McAfee researchers noted.

The 267 percent spike in PowerShell attacks suggests that fraudsters are leaning on the scripting language during the first stage of development. The report pointed to Operation Golden Dragon, a malware campaign that targeted organizations at a recent global sporting event, as an example of how cybercriminals are making PowerShell a key part of their toolbox.

An Increasing Challenge for the Security Industry

The key takeaway from the report is that these threats are expanding as cybercriminals pivot to new and innovative tactics. As a result, the researchers suggested, the security industry faces an increasing challenge to “adequately defend against such attacks as they increase in bandwidth and frequency.”

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