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ICO Struck by 2650% Rise in Email Attacks in 2021

Spam emails represented the majority of the attacks, with cases surging by 2775% from January to December.

 

The UK's Information Commissioner's Office (ICO) reported a whopping 2650% spike in email attacks in 2021, as per official numbers acquired by the Parliament Street think tank following a Freedom of Information request, 

Email attacks on the UK's privacy and data protection regulator increased from 150,317 in January to 4,135,075 in December, according to the findings. For each month last year, the data refers to the volume of phishing emails discovered, malware detected and prevented, and spam detected and blocked by the ICO. 

The majority of the attacks were caused by spam emails, which increased by 2775 % from January to December. During this time, the number of phishing emails climbed by 20%, while malware increased by 423 percent. 

In December, the statistics revealed a significant increase in email attacks, with 4,125,992 spam messages, 7886 phishing emails, and 1197 malware cases. This increase is likely to be linked to the Omicron variant's rapid spread in the UK at the end of the year, with threat actors able to use issues like testing and immunizations as bait. This is in addition to the Christmas scams that proliferate in the build-up to the holidays. 

Edward Blake, area vice president EMEA of Absolute Software, commented: “Cyber-attacks are targeting organizations across the globe at an alarming rate, once again reminding businesses of the need to re-evaluate and revamp their security protection if it is not up to scratch. Cybersecurity is not just about protecting endpoints via anti-malware or email cybersecurity solutions. While these are important, there are now a variety of access points for cyber-criminals to capitalize on that IT leaders need to be aware of. These include vulnerable unpatched applications and network vulnerabilities, stolen or illegally purchased log-in credentials or even by hacking unprotected smart devices.” 

Barracuda Networks' manager, Steven Peake, expressed similar concerns, saying: “The pandemic continues to be a catalyst for opportunistic cyber-criminals to try and prey on unsuspecting, vulnerable people. Our recent research showed a 521% surge in COVID-19 test-related phishing attacks, so it is hardly surprising to see major organizations, such as the ICO, hit by such a high volume of threats as they represent lucrative targets. Phishing emails, malware, and spam, in particular, account for a large proportion of the threats these organizations face, so they need to implement measures to protect themselves. These cyber-attackers aren’t going anywhere anytime soon.” 

As part of its plans to reform the country's data sector, the UK government announced plans to revamp the ICO's structure last year.
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