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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.

Go deeper

Feb 16, 2021 - Health

Fauci: Timeline for widespread COVID-19 vaccine availability slightly delayed

Photo: Oliver Contreras/Sipa/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Most Americans will be able to get their coronavirus vaccines between the middle of May and early June, President Biden's chief medical adviser Anthony Fauci told CNN on Tuesday.

Why it matters: That timeframe is slightly delayed from Fauci's previous projection of late March to early April, and it comes after Johnson & Johnson failed to meet its promised supply timetable due to lags in production.

Feb 17, 2021 - Health

Biden and Fauci mark White House Snapchat return with pandemic message

A screenshot of President Biden's Snapchat video. Photo: White House

The White House marked a return to Snapchat with President Biden and his chief medical adviser, Anthony Fauci, appearing in public health video messages on the COVID-19 pandemic.

Details: In the White House Snapchat story, which appears on the "Discover" page of curated content, a masked Biden urges users to wear face coverings because "you're going to save lives."

Feb 17, 2021 - Health

Testing and tracing "win" sees New Zealand city lockdown end despite COVID cases

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern arrives at a news conference at Parliament in Wellington, New Zealand, New Zealand, on Wednesday. Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern announced Wednesday Auckland's snap lockdown will end at midnight.

Why it matters: Officials confirmed two new COVID-19 community cases Wednesday. Ardern told reporters test results show "we don't have a widespread outbreak, but rather a small chain of transmission," centering around an Auckland high school, "which is manageable."