Due to remote-work, employees started using Microsoft’s client software called remote desktop protocol (RDP), which is used to access corporate resources remotely.
Cybercriminals immediately saw this as an opportunity to hack into the company’s systems. Since the work-from-home shift happened almost overnight, it exposed many improperly configured and, in turn, unsafe RDP servers.
According to data presented by the Atlas VPN research team, RDP attacks rocketed by 241% in 2020. In 2019, RDP attacks stood at 969 million, but in the year 2020, threat actors carried out a staggering 3.3 billion attacks.
Data reveals that RDP attacks have been steadily increasing since the start of 2019, but the pandemic accelerated the growth dramatically, which led to 3.3 billion cyber attacks from January to November 2020.
A deeper dive into the data reveals that in 2019, hackers carried out an average of 88,180,802 attacks per month. However, in 2020, the average number of RDP attacks per month soared to 302,020,526.
Moreover, in 2019, threat actors executed most attacks in September, at 160,234,416. Yet, in November 2020, hackers pulled off 409,155,016 RDP cyber attacks, representing a 155% increase when comparing the maximum number of attacks per month in 2019 and 2020.
Analysis of the RDP attack landscape
Most of the RDP cyber attacks are brute-force attacks. Cybercriminals attempt to find the correct credential combination that will allow the attacker to access the company’s target computer.
Worth noting that they are not using random username and password combinations. Hackers have millions of username and password combinations that were leaked from other businesses.
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