Feb 17, 2021 - Health

How COVID transformed the world of malware

Animated illustration of a health cross with 0s and 1s running across, some sequences are highlighted as malware.

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

The COVID-19 pandemic transformed the world — and the afflictions of malware evolved with it, writes the security company Malwarebytes in its 2021 State of Malware report.

Why it matters: “The story of malware in 2020 … is a story of how the tools and tactics of cybercrime and cybersecurity changed against a backdrop of enormous changes to ordinary life,” says the report.

One big trend was the “staggering rise” in the use of stalkerware, writes Malwarebytes, with the company detecting a 1,677% increase in spyware on its Android product from January through June 2020.

  • The use of other monitoring apps rose 780% over the same period on Android, says the report.
  • “As the world locked down in April 2020, a tool that was once the preserve of nation states and cybercriminals became something otherwise ordinary people used on each other,” writes Malwarebytes about the spyware epidemic.

Some industries saw a sharp increase in malware detections in 2020, while others saw significant decreases.

  • For instance, the agriculture industry saw a 607% increase in detections, while detections in the food and beverage industry rose by 67%.
  • Meanwhile, detections in the education field fell by 17%, in the health care field by 22%, and the automotive industry by 18%.

Of note: 2020 saw the advent of a new ransomware named Egregor, which was used in “attacks against Ubisoft, K-Mart, Crytek, and Barnes & Noble,” says the report.

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