Ransomware was the most observed threat in 2020, according to a global corporate investigations and risk consulting firm based in New York City.


Kroll‘s proprietary data on cyber incident response cases shows that ransomware attacks accounted for over one-third of all cases as of September 1, 2020. 


While this particular form of malware has struck organizations of all sizes across every sector this year, Kroll has observed that the three industries most targeted with ransomware were professional services, healthcare, and technology.


Over a third of cyber-attacks observed by Kroll in 2020 can be attributed to three main ransomware gangs.


Ryuk and Sodinokibi, perennially the most observed form of ransomware attack in Kroll’s cases, have been joined by Maze as the top three ransomwares so far in 2020, comprising 35% of all cyber-attacks,” said a spokesperson for Kroll.


Business email compromise was almost as prevalent as ransomware, accounting for 32% of cyber-attacks observed by Kroll.


A new tactic of ransomware gangs observed this year by Kroll was the exfiltration and publication of the victim’s data.


“Many ransomware variants have added exfiltration and publication to their bag of tricks over the course of the year, and over two-fifths (42%) of Kroll’s cases with a known ransomware variant are connected to a ransomware group actively exfiltrating and publishing victim data,” said Kroll’s spokesperson.


In nearly half (47%) of the ransomware cases observed by Kroll, threat actors leveraged open remote desktop protocol (RDP) and Microsoft’s proprietary network communications protocol to begin their attacks.


Just over a quarter (26%) of cases were traced back to a phishing email, while 17% were linked to vulnerability exploits, including but not limited to Citrix NetScaler CVE-2019-19781 and Pulse VPN CVE-2019-11510.


“We have seen a predictable surge in cyber-attacks so far in 2020 as the COVID-19 pandemic has given malign actors increased opportunities to cause havoc,” said Devon Ackerman, managing director and head of incident response at Kroll North America. 


“The ongoing evolution of ransomware creators is constantly shifting the goalposts for those trying to defend data and systems, so vigilance must remain at the top of CIO’s to do list.”