Somewhat unexpectedly, the overall volume of malware attacks leading up to and through this year's Thanksgiving holiday weekend was actually substantially lower than for the same days last year.
Security vendor SonicWall, which tracks threat data on a continuous basis, says its customers encountered a total of 91 million attacks overall in the days preceding Thanksgiving and those immediately after: Black Friday, Small Business Saturday, and Cyber Monday.
The number represented a 34% decrease, or a third fewer attacks, compared with the same period in 2017. The decline was especially sharp on Cyber Monday, which by all early accounts was record-breaking both in terms of the number of online shoppers and sales.
Compared with the 22.6 million attacks that SonicWall shoppers encountered on Cyber Monday 2017, this year the number of malware attacks was 47% lower, at just under 12 million.
Each of the other days starting from Black Friday through Cyber Monday recorded smaller but still significant declines in malware attack volume. Malware attacks on Black Friday — when online purchases topped a record-breaking $6 billion — were 40% lower than in 2017.
SonicWall says one reason could simply be that cybercrooks are becoming more focused in their attacks. Instead of hitting consumers with an overly broad range of malware, they are narrowing their focus to the most profitable types of attacks.
One data point to support this theory was the sharp increase in ransomware attacks overthe online holiday shopping days. SonicWall says it recorded over 889,900 ransomware attacks on customers in the period between Nov. 19 and Nov. 27, a 432% increase over the 167,380 it recorded in 2017. The increase was especially dramatic on Black Friday (about 4,100 in 2017 versus over 113,300 this year) and Small Business Saturday (10,170 versus 103,600).
Phishing and cryptojacking attacks also increased this year compared with a year ago, SonicWall says.
Significantly, despite the decline in malware attacks during the Thanksgiving shopping season, malware attacks for 2018 as a whole are substantially higher than in 2017. Through the end of October 2018, SonicWall says, the total number of malware attacks was 44% percent higher than 2017 at the same point.
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