Ransomware, one of the most encountered threats of 2020, targeted individuals and organizations alike. The pandemic has given cybercriminals more opportunities to conduct such attacks, and many targeted hospitals or healthcare providers. Beyond the financial costs, these attacks showed that ransomware could put lives in danger. Several hospitals in the United States, including St. Lawrence Health System in New York and Sonoma Valley Hospital in California, were hit by ransomware. In Germany, the ransomware attack at the University Hospital in Düsseldorf resulted in one death, after a woman who needed urgent medical care was transferred to another hospital for treatment.
Ransomware attacks also targeted many universities and research centers in the United States, Canada, UK, Germany, and Switzerland. In the United States, attackers extorted $1.14 million from the University of California San Francisco and almost half a million from the Univeristy of Utah. In addition to ransomware attacks, hackers deployed mining malware in multiple European data centers where supercomputers were used for critical research on COVID-19. Learn more about ransomware attacks on universities in our blog article.
Numerous malicious apps made their way to the app stores in 2020. From photography and gaming apps to personalization apps, Google removed thousands of apps containing adware, trojans, and other types of malware from its PlayStore.
Cybercriminals also took advantage of the fear and uncertainty caused by the pandemic to spread fake contact-tracing apps. Promising to alert users when they cross paths with an infected person, these apps are misusing Android’s accessibility service to steal passwords, login credentials, and other sensitive data. In the beginning of the year, a variant of the Android banking Trojan “Cerberus” was distributed under the name “Corona-Apps.apk,” tricking users into installing it on their smartphones.
The release of official contact-tracing apps started a heated debate on digital privacy. Americans questioned the legitimacy of COVID-19 contact-tracing apps. A study commissioned by Avira and conducted by research firm Opinion Matters in June 2020 found that 71% of Americans were not planning on downloading a contact-tracing app due to concerns over digital privacy. Some countries adopted a centralized model – uploading anonymized user data to a central server – others have opted for a decentralized model – using Bluetooth beaconing and proximity identifiers. However, adoption rates remain relatively low for both app types. You can learn more about the differences between centralized and decentralized contact tracing apps on our blog and read our survey report here.
2020 ended on a grim note: the FireEye and SolarWinds breaches compromised a wide range of governmental institutions, as well as technology and telecom companies. Approximately 300 of FireEye’s proprietary cybersecurity tools were stolen, and within one week the stolen tools had been used in various countries worldwide.
The threat landscape is rapidly changing, and an antivirus software is absolutely necessary to stay safe online and protect your data. Avira Free Security provides free protection for all platforms, plus a free VPN for enhanced privacy online. Find out more about Avira’s award-winning antivirus.