2018 Cyber Security Overview

Christmas time is behind us and we are heading towards New Year, so we decided to take a moment, look back at 2018 and remember the major security trends:


From .exe Files to Package and Deploy Malware

One of the most significant trends we saw early 2018 is the ongoing shift away from using malicious .exe files to package and deploy malware. This changed the way in which attacks were carried out, and it posed a severe problem for traditional security solutions such as antivirus, which rely heavily on analyzing executable files in order to make detections.

Attacks that avoid the use of malicious executables started being classified as fileless. New, improved tools and strategies make it much easier for criminals to use fileless attack techniques even if they have little or no technical expertise.

Fileless attacks techniques are actively bypassing security solutions much more efficiently than traditional, file-based attacks.

Decrease in Ransomware Attacks

During the first half of 2017, there was almost nothing more common than a ransomware attack. If your company suffered a malware infection it was more likely to be ransomware than anything else.

Then, suddenly in 2018, things changed. Ransomware made room for cryptocurrency-mining malware! This provided a stealthier, more effective alternative to ransomware. Therefore, more and more attackers switched over to crypto-mining malware as a result.

Hacking Tools for Sale

One of the biggest trends in 2018 was the use of black market for purchasing numerous hacking tools and packages. Even lower skilled cyber criminals were able to utilize resources and skills which can be purchased in the black market to increase their capabilities and skills.

Ransomware-as-a-service variants have fallen in 2017, but they are more customizable, so they can be adapted to targets and thus more a threat to organizations.



The EU General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) came into force on May 25, 2018. This regulation presents a major step in protecting personal data of European citizens. GDPR affects not only EU companies but extends to any company offering goods or services (even for free) to EU citizens or any monitoring of EU citizens.

Important new obligations under GDPR include notification of breaches within 72 hours, increased requirements in relation to consent for sharing data, storing data, processing data and transferring data as well as the ability to revoke consent. The goal was to standardize data protection laws across Europe.


Worst Cyber Security Breaches in 2018



In March 2018 reports which emerged showed that a political data firm called Cambridge Analytica collected the personal information of 50 million Facebook users via an app. Despite Cambridge Analytica’s claim that it only had information on 30 million users, Facebook determined the original estimate was in fact low. In April, the company notified 87 million members of its platform that their data had been shared.

US Universities

In March, the Department of Justice indicted nine Iranian hackers over an alleged spree of attacks on more than 300 universities in the United States and abroad. The suspects are charged with infiltrating 144 US universities, 176 universities in 21 other countries, 47 private companies, and other targets like the United Nations, the US Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, and the states of Hawaii and Indiana.

The Department of Justice says the hackers stole 31 terabytes of data, estimated to be worth $3 billion in intellectual property. The attacks used carefully crafted spear phishing emails to trick professors and other university affiliates into clicking on malicious links and entering their network login credentials. Of 100,000 accounts hackers targeted, they were able to gain credentials for about 8,000, with 3,768 of those at US institutions.


In June, a security researcher Vinny Troia discovered that Exactis, a marketing and data aggregation firm based in Florida, had left a database exposed on a publicly accessible server. The database contained two terabytes of information that included the personal details of hundreds of millions of Americans and businesses.

Exactis has not confirmed the exact number of people affected by the breach, but Troia reported that he was able to find close to 340 million individual records. He also confirmed that the incident exposed affected consumers’ email addresses, physical addresses, phone numbers, and other personal information, in some cases including extremely sensitive details like the names and genders of their children. 

Under Armour

In March, Under Armour learned that someone had gained unauthorized access to MyFitnessPal, a platform which tracks users’ diet and exercise. The criminals responsible for the breach accessed individuals’ usernames, email addresses, and hashed passwords.

150 million MyFitnessPal users are believed to have had their information compromised in the data breach.


Some Facts


  • In 2018, 4 out of 5 organizations replaced or augmented their existing antivirus solution
  • The total cost of a successful cyber-attack is over $5 million, or $301 per employee
  • 69% of organizations don’t believe their antivirus can stop the threats they’re seeing
  • In July 2018, the ratio of ransomware dropped to less than 30 percent of all malware payloads. By December, the ratio had fallen below 5 percent
  • In 2018, 54% of companies experienced one or more successful attacks that compromised data and/or IT infrastructure
  • In 2018, 77% of attacks that successfully compromised organizations in 2018 utilized fileless techniques
  • By 2020, the estimated number of passwords used by humans and machines worldwide will grow to 300 billion
  • In 2018, 150 million user accounts were compromised
  • 1n 2018, 6 million Instagram accounts were hacked
  • 35% of people use weak passwords


Stay Positive!

While risks and threats continue to grow, we shouldn’t despair! Keep in mind that the challenges cyber criminals pose, are not too great to overcome. A key part of managing them effectively is staying up-to-date on most current threats, but also stepping back to understand the big-picture trends that are driving them.

Let’s make a promise to be smarter in the following year to keep our personal information far away from criminals’ prying eyes by educating ourselves even more and protecting our devices on time!



Posted by Emre

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