Cybersecurity

Report on 2023 threats finds ransomware jumped 84%, industrials primary target

“Without looking into my crystal ball, I think we can continue to see ransomware [attacks] being as high as they were last year,” one expert tells IT Brew.
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Francis Scialabba

· 3 min read

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A new report shows how ransomware thrashed IT departments last year—and the industrial sector was hardest hit.

On Feb. 8, cyber threat assessment firm NCC Group released its annual Threat Monitor report, a look at how 2023 stacked up for cyberattacks.

“It helps inform some of the trends that might come forward in the year to come,” Matt Hull, NCC Group global head of Threat Intelligence, told IT Brew. “We spend a lot of time in the report looking at cyber criminality, particularly around ransomware activity, because that’s one of the main metrics that we monitor—and also it’s something that’s of great interest to a lot of people.”

Stats. The report found that global ransomware attacks increased 84% year over year, and half of all attacks targeted North America. A rise in the use of third party groups like initial access brokers is further complicating the threat landscape.

Threat actors primarily targeted the industrial sector in 2023, accounting for 32% of attacks. Due to the rise in total hacks, that 32% was roughly the same share as in 2022, even though total attacks jumped from 804 to 1,484. Hull told IT Brew that “industrial” encompasses a number of subsectors and is connected to all manner of related tech concerns.

“It covers a lot of manufacturing, but it also includes a lot of professional service type organizations—managed service providers, security firms, IT security—and also consulting firms and legal firms and things like that,” Hull said.

Consumer cyclicals, technology, healthcare, and education rounded out the top five most targeted sectors.

Enterprising criminals. Hull cautioned that defenders need to treat threat actors as “organized crime” because the “whole criminal economy operates and runs like a business.”

“They’ve got a financial team, they’ve got a marketing team, they have holidays—they talk about their targets and budgets,” he said.

It all makes for a more dangerous threat outlook for defenders and organizations alike, and the trend is for more of the same in 2024. Add to that a close election in the US, ongoing conflicts across the globe, and evolving AI technology, and you have another challenging year ahead. Ransomware is certain to continue to play a major role.

“Without looking into my crystal ball, I think we can continue to see ransomware [attacks] being as high as they were last year,” Hull told IT Brew. “If they go up, I wouldn’t be surprised.”

Top insights for IT pros

From cybersecurity and big data to cloud computing, IT Brew covers the latest trends shaping business tech in our 4x weekly newsletter, virtual events with industry experts, and digital guides.