Ransomware attacks on the UK ‘more than halved’

By Jamie Harris, Press Association Science Technology Reporter

The number of ransomware attacks targeting the UK has dropped significantly in the last year, according to research by a global cyber security firm.

Ransomware is a hugely disruptive and business-crippling form of software, which makes it near-impossible to regain control of data stored on affected devices unless a ransom is paid. One of the most notorious cases to hit the UK was the WannaCry attack in May 2017, impacting parts of the NHS.

In the UK, attacks fell by 59% in 2018 compared to the year before, SonicWall data suggests, with London experiencing a sharp 99% drop, from just over four million in 2017 to only 27,630 in 2018, putting the capital’s numbers below that of Manchester, where 168,201 cases were detected.

“Cyber criminals look for easy targets with rich pickings and they like to focus on future gains,” said Bill Conner, SonicWall chief executive.

“For the UK, there is some rare good news in the world of cyber security.

“This would suggest recent attacks, like the one which cost the NHS £100 million, have woken up the nation’s IT pros.”

The reduction puts London as the sixth most ransomware-attacked city in Europe, a fall from number two in 2017.

Malware, the wider type of malicious software designed to damage PCs and IT systems, has grown across the world by more than a fifth, with 10 billion recorded attacks last year.

More ransomware cases were detected in Manchester than London in 2018 (Dave Thompson/PA)

Incidents of malware remain high in London, with more than 23 million attacks identified, but the number has decreased by 45 million year on year, moving London from the second most malware-ridden city in Europe to the fourth.

However, malware in the UK overall is up and the company also found a 27% increase in encrypted threats hitting UK businesses in 2018 compared to 2017.

“This is a cyber war, not a battle, and it’s essential we don’t get ahead of ourselves,” Mr Conner warned.

“Overall, malware is up in the UK by 57%, which proves as soon as you solve one issue, nation states and criminals have powerful incentives to launch a different attack. This is no time for complacency.”