IT disaster recovery, cloud computing and information security news

Fortinet has published its latest Global Threat Landscape Report. A key finding is that cyber criminals are building ‘an army of things’ that has the potential to impact the future of the digital economy. The ability to cheaply replicate attacks at incredible speed and scale is a core pillar of the modern cybercrime ecosystem.

The latest Global Threat Landscape report covers Q4 2016 with research data offering global, regional, sector, and organizational perspectives. It focuses on three central and complementary aspects of the threat landscape: application exploits, malicious software (malware) and botnets.

Key findings include:

Infrastructure trends and how they relate to threats

  • Considering infrastructure trends and how they relate to the threat landscape is important. Exploits, malware, and botnets do not happen in a vacuum and finding or preventing threats gets increasingly complicated as network infrastructure evolves.
  • Data shows encrypted traffic using SSL stayed steady at about 50 percent and accounted for roughly half of overall web traffic traversing within an organization. HTTPS traffic usage is an important trend to monitor, because while it is good for privacy, it presents challenges to detecting threats that are able to hide in encrypted communications. Often SSL traffic goes uninspected because of the huge processing overhead required to open, inspect, and re-encrypt traffic, forcing teams to choose between protection and performance.
  • In terms of total applications detected per organization, the number of cloud applications trended up at 63, which is roughly a third of all applications detected. This trend has significant implications for security since IT teams have less visibility into the data residing in cloud applications, how that data is being used, and who has access to it. Social media, streaming audio and video, and P2P applications did not trend up sharply.

An army of things powered by the digital underground

  • IoT devices are sought-after commodities for cybercriminals around the world. Adversaries are building their own armies of ‘things’ and the ability to cheaply replicate attacks at incredible speed and scale is a core pillar of the modern cybercrime ecosystem.
  • In Q4 2016, the industry was reeling from the Yahoo! data breach and Dyn DDoS attack. Before the quarter was halfway done, the records set by both events were not only broken, but doubled.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) devices compromised by the Mirai botnet initiated multiple record-setting DDoS attacks. The release of Mirai’s source code increased botnet activity by 25 times within a week, with activity increasing by 125 times by year’s end.
  • IoT-related exploit activity for several device categories showed scans for vulnerable home routers and printers topped the list, but DVRs/NVRs briefly eclipsed routers as the thing of choice with a massive jump spanning 6+ orders of magnitude.
  • Mobile malware become a larger problem than before. Though it accounted for only 1.7 percent of the total malware volume, one in five organizations reporting malware encountered a mobile variant, nearly all was on Android. Substantive regional differences were found in mobile malware attacks, with 36 percent coming from African organizations, 23 percent from Asia, 16 percent from North America, compared to only 8 percent in Europe. This data has implications for the trusted devices on corporate networks today.

Automated and high-volume attacks are prevalent

  • The correlation between exploit volume and prevalence implies growing attack automation and lowering costs for malware and distribution tools available on the dark web. This is making it cheaper and easier than ever for cybercriminals to initiate attacks.
  • SQL Slammer ranked at the top of the exploit detection list with a high or critical severity ranking, mainly affecting educational institutions.
  • An exploit indicating attempted brute force attacks on Microsoft Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) ranked second in prevalence. It launched RDP requests at a rate of 200 times every 10 seconds, explaining the high volume detected across global enterprises.
  • Ranking third in prevalence is a signature tied to a Memory Corruption vulnerability in Windows File Manager that allows a remote attacker to execute arbitrary code within vulnerable applications with a jpg file.
  • H-Worm and ZeroAccess had the highest prevalence and volume for botnet families. Both give cybercriminals control of affected systems to siphon data or perform click fraud and bitcoin mining. The technology and government sectors faced the highest numbers of attempted attacks by these two families of botnets.

Ransomware isn’t going anywhere

  • Ransomware warrants attention regardless of industry and this high-value attack method will likely continue with the growth of ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS), where potential criminals with no training or skills can simply download tools and point them at a victim.
  • 36 percent of organizations detected botnet activity related to ransomware. TorrentLocker was the winner and Locky placed third.
  • Two malware families, Nemucod and Agent, went on a crime spree. 81.4 percent of all malware samples captured belonged to just these two families. The Nemucod family is infamously affiliated with ransomware.
  • Ransomware was present in all regions and sectors, but particularly widespread in healthcare institutions. This remains significant because when patient data is compromised the ramifications can be much more severe, as it has greater longevity and personal value than other types of data.

Daring exploits, but old is new

  • Adversaries took a ‘leave no vuln behind’ policy. Unfortunately, attention focused on security patches and flaws in old devices or software, means less time and attention to focus on the growing attack surface accelerated by the digital devices of today.
  • A full 86 percent of firms registered attacks attempting to exploit vulnerabilities that were over a decade old. Almost 40 percent of them saw exploits against even older CVEs.
  • An average of 10.7 unique application exploits were tracked per organization. About 9 in 10 firms detected critical or high-severity exploits.
  • Overall, Africa, Middle East, and Latin America exhibited a higher number and variety of encounters for each threat category when comparing the average number of unique exploit, malware, and botnet families detected by organizations in each world region. These differences appeared most pronounced for botnets.
More details.

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