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2020 in review: Latest cyber threats that emerged and how to stay protected

Amid all the horrible news that arose during the COVID-19 pandemic, cybercriminals saw opportunity. New cyber threats emerged throughout the global lockdown, exploiting desperate people looking for news and assistance and attacking employees as they adjusted to remote work.

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Expanding on the sophistication of cyber threats in previous years, these latest cyber threats leveraged the chaos of 2020 to compromise data and extort millions from organizations already struggling to overcome the challenges of COVID. What’s worse, these new cyber threats proved highly successful for the criminals employing them. 

As organizations made the urgent shift to remote work environments, nearly half of all IT managers struggled to account for new policy and technology requirements – especially when it came to threats of network security in these newly expanded IT environments. At the same time, cyber attacks became an ever-present reality for organizations and employees: 31% of global companies faced cyber attacks and cyber threats at least once per day. And, since these new cyber threats were largely targeting home networks, which are inherently less secure than corporate networks, many were successful: meaning that they will continue to pose a threat to IT systems in the months and years to come.

But, before we take a look back at the new cyber threats that emerged in the longest year in recent memory, here’s a quick refresher on what cyber threats are and the risk they pose to businesses around the world. 

What is a cyber threat?

A cyber threat is anything that has the potential to harm any piece of a computer system or network: everything from individual files to entire environments. Examples of cyber threats include malware, ransomware, DDoS attacks, and phishing attacks.


These threats can come from a wide variety of different sources and be used to achieve a number of different goals. That said, almost all threats to network security targeting businesses are designed to extort money from the victim, sell the stolen data on the dark web, or steal confidential information to use against or in competition with the victim.


Importantly, the vulnerabilities that cyberthreats exploit and attack are constantly changing, appearing, and being patched. As a result, there’s currently no way to completely stop 100% of cyber threats. Instead, individuals and organizations use cyber security solutions and cyber threat detection to close vulnerabilities and defend against as many cyber threats as possible. Unfortunately, many of the new cyber threats that emerged or grew in prominence in 2020 are engineered to bypass traditional cyber security solutions. 

2020’s latest cyber threats

Top 10 malware families

The independent malware testing lab AV-Test saw more than 400,000 new malware samples per day in 2020, indicating that cybercriminals are using automation to create a surge of new cyberthreats. This means that the latest cyberthreats endangering data are created, distributed, and enhanced all in a very short time. In fact, the average lifetime of a malicious sample was just 3.4 days in 2020. After that time, the specific sample was made obsolete and was never seen again.

The top ten malware families that the Acronis Cyber Protection Operations Center team observed and tracked in 2020 were:

"Latest Cyber Threats of 2020"

  1. Emotet
  2. Agent Tesla
  3. xMRig
  4. Formbook
  5. Trickbot
  6. LokiBot
  7. Remcos
  8. Qbot
  9. Nanocore
  10. Azorult

Top 10 ransomware families

With that in mind, ransomware remained the top cyber threat facing organizations throughout 2020 and the entirety of the COVID pandemic – with no sign of this risk decreasing in the year to come. For ransomware families, the latest cyber threats vary in scope: some focusing on infecting as many end users as possible, while others specifically pursuing high value targets. In both cases, however, cybercriminals are increasingly relying on data exfiltration and extortion to increase their chance for a payday.


The top ten ransomware families that the Acronis Cyber Protection Operations Center team observed and tracked in 2020 were:


"Latest ransomware threats"

  1. Maze
  2. REvil/Sodinokibi
  3. SNAKE (EKANS)
  4. Nemty
  5. NetWalker (aka Mailto)
  6. Ragnar Locker
  7. MegaCortex
  8. CLOP
  9. DoppelPaymer
  10. Thanos

Defending against new cyberthreats

The latest cyber threats observed in 2020 exploit weak, outdated technologies, improperly secured networks, and inevitable human error to threaten organizations of all sizes, verticals, and geographies.

To overcome these new cyber threats, organizations need an integrated cyber protection solution like Acronis Cyber Protect: a technology that combines anti-malware, vulnerability assessment, patch management, RMM, and backup capabilities into a single agent for a variety of Windows operating systems. Learn how Acronis Cyber Protect and Acronis Cyber Protect Cloud can help your organization overcome new cyberthreats in the Acronis Cyberthreat Report 2020.