New research from Kaspersky has revealed that malware variety grew by 13.7 percent in 2019 and the cybersecurity firm attributes this growth to a rise in web skimmers.
According to the Kaspersky Security Bulletin 2019, the number of unique malicious objects detected by the company's web antivirus solution increased by an eighth compared to last year to reach over 24m due a 187 percent increase in web skimmer files.
Kaspersky also found that other threats such as backdoors and banking Trojans grew while the presence of cryptocurrency miners dropped by more than half.
These trends demonstrate a shift in the type of threats employed by cybercriminals who are constantly searching for more effective ways to target users online.
Online skimmers, which are sometimes referred to as sniffers, are scripts that are embedded by attackers in online stores and used to steal users' credit card data from websites.
The growth of online skimmers' unique files (scripts and HTML) detected by Kaspersky web antivirus rose by 187 percent to reach 510k. Web skimmers have also entered the firm's list of the top 20 malicious objects detected online and they took 10th place in the overall ranking.
Head of anti-malware research at Kaspersky, Vyacheslav Zakorzhevsky explained why cybercriminals have begun to favor certain attack types while retiring others in a press release, saying:
“The volume of online attacks has been growing for years, but in 2019 we saw a clear shift from certain types of attacks that are becoming ineffective, to the ones focused on gaining clear profit from users. This is partly due to users becoming more aware of the threats and how to avoid them, and organisations steadily becoming more responsible. A good example is miners, which have lost their popularity due to lower profitability and cryptocurrencies’ fight against covert mining. This year we also witnessed growth in zero-day exploits, showing products remain vulnerable and are used by attackers for sophisticated attacks, and this trend is likely to continue in the future.”
To prevent falling victim to a cyberattack, Kaspersky recommends not opening suspicious files or attachments, not downloading or installing applications from untrusted sources, not clicking on links from unknown sources, using strong passwords, installing the latest updates and ignoring messages asking to disable security solutions for office or antivirus software.