Locky Ransomware Attackers Take Christmas Vacation, Shows Check Point Research

Significant decrease in Locky infections in December 2016 causes the ransomware to drop out of the top 10 malware families globally, for the first time since June 2016.

SAN CARLOS, Calif., Jan. 16, 2017 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Check Point® Software Technologies Ltd. (NASDAQ:CHKP) has revealed that Locky ransomware attacks dramatically decreased during December 2016. These findings are part of Check Point’s monthly Global Threat Index, a ranking of the most prevalent malware families attacking organizations’ networks.

Locky, which uses massive spam campaigns as a major distribution vector, only surfaced in 2016 but has rapidly become one of the most popular tools for cybercriminals, part of a growing trend for ransomware cyberattacks that encrypt data on the target machine and demand payment in return for decrypting it. In December, Check Point recorded an 81% drop in the average number of Locky infections per week, compared with the weekly averages of October and November causing it to drop out of the top 10 global malware families for the first time since June 2016.

Overall, Check Point tracked an 8% decrease in the number of recognized malware attacks on organizations in December, which could be attributed to a Christmas holiday slowdown. A similar decrease was witnessed last December with 9% fewer attacks than the previous months – with numbers returning to normal levels in January.

Globally, Conficker remained the most prevalent malware type, accounting for 10% of all known attacks during the period. It was followed by Nemucod in second place with 5%, and Slammer with 4% of the recognized attacks. Overall, the top ten malware families were responsible for 42% of all known attacks.

  1. ↔ Conficker - Worm that allows remote operations and malware download. The infected machine is controlled by a botnet, which contacts its Command & Control server to receive instructions.
  2. ↑ Nemucod - JavaScript or VBScript downloader which is commonly used to download ransomware variants or other malicious payloads.
  3. ↑ Slammer - Memory resident worm targeted to attack Microsoft SQL 2000. By propagating rapidly, the worm can cause a denial of service condition on affected targets.

Check Point’s research also revealed the most prevalent mobile malware during December 2016, and once again attacks against Android devices were significantly more common than iOS. The top three mobile malware were:

  1.  ↔ Hummingbad - Android malware that establishes a persistent rootkit on the device, installs fraudulent applications, and with slight modifications could enable additional malicious activity such as installing a key-logger, stealing credentials and bypassing encrypted email containers used by enterprises.
  2. ↔ Triada – Modular Backdoor for Android which grants superuser privileges to downloaded malware, as it helps it to get embedded into system processes. Triada has also been seen spoofing URLs loaded in the browser.
  3. ↔ Ztorg - Trojan that uses root privileges to download and install applications on the mobile phone without the user’s knowledge.

Nathan Shuchami, Head of Threat Prevention at Check Point said: “The massive decrease in Locky attacks during December is part of a wider trend which saw malware attacks decrease by around 8% compared to the previous months. Organizations should be under no illusions - this is not a reason to rest on their laurels. The most likely cause genuinely is that cybercriminals have opted to take a Christmas holiday too – perhaps to spend some of the fruits of their labours. Ransomware remains a threat that businesses need to take seriously into 2017.”

The ThreatCloud Map is powered by Check Point’s ThreatCloudTM intelligence, the largest collaborative network to fight cybercrime which delivers threat data and attack trends from a global network of threat sensors.  The ThreatCloud database holds over 250 million addresses analyzed for bot discovery, over 11 million malware signatures and over 5.5 million infected websites, and identifies millions of malware types daily. 

* The complete list of the top 10 malware families in December can be found on the Check Point Blog.

Check Point’s Threat Prevention Resources are available at:  http://www.checkpoint.com/threat-prevention-resources/index.html.

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About Check Point Software Technologies Ltd.
Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. (www.checkpoint.com) is the largest pure-play security vendor globally, provides industry-leading solutions, and protects customers from cyberattacks with an unmatched catch rate of malware and other types of attacks. Check Point offers a complete security architecture defending enterprises’ networks to mobile devices, in addition to the most comprehensive and intuitive security management. Check Point protects over 100,000 organizations of all sizes. At Check Point, we secure the future.


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