Over 16 million Covid-related cyber attacks recorded in 2020

Brooklyn, NY

The year 2020 will be forever remembered for the Covid-19 pandemic, which swiftly overtook the world and altered our lives forever. The pandemic has also affected the cyber security landscape — a new wave of cyber threats emerged where criminals leveraged Covid-19 to launch attacks.

According to the data analysed by the Atlas VPN team, 16.4 million Covid-19 related cyber threats were detected online in 2020.

Rachel Welch, COO of Atlas VPN, explains her thoughts on the situation: “The pandemic has created the perfect storm for cyber criminals. First of all, many companies were forced to shift to remote work, and less prepared ones became a quick gain for online attackers. Secondly, the general panic and fear of the pandemic made people more susceptible to such threats.”

The company suggests that out of all the Covid-19 related cyber threats found last year, nearly 89% or around 14.5 million attacks were malicious spam. Next up are harmful URLs — they made up a little over 11%, or 1.85 million of all Covid-19 themed cyber threats in 2020.

Finally, less than 1% or close to 33 thousand of last year’s online threats that leveraged the pandemic were malware. While effective, this cyber attack method requires more advanced technical know-how, which could have been the reason why it was the least employed among the three.

US actors behind more than a third of Covid-19 related cyber threats

The Covid-19 pandemic affected the whole world leaving no stone unturned, however, some countries suffered more than others. Generally, highly affected countries were also the ones behind most of the Covid-themed online threats.

The majority of such threats originated in the United States — so far the country most affected by the pandemic. Atlas VPN figures show it was behind 38% or 6.3 million of Covid-related cyber attacks.

In total, 28% or 4.6 million of Covid-19 online threats came from the three biggest European countries in terms of their population: Germany, France, and the United Kingdom. They also belong to the top ten countries with the most Covid-19 cases.

Cyber criminals in Australia were also active last year and commenced over 770 thousand Covid-19 themed attacks, which account for 5% of all pandemic-related cyber threats of 2020. The origin of the remaining 29% of pandemic-related cyber attacks is unknown.


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