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Threat landscape report reveals that cyber attacks per company increased by 82 percent in Q4 2017

Fortinet has published the findings of its latest Global Threat Landscape Report: the research reveals that attacks per company increased significantly over the previous quarter. In addition, automated and sophisticated swarm attacks are accelerating making it increasingly difficult for organizations to protect users, applications, and devices.

Highlights of the report include:

Swarm cyber attacks increase in volume, variety, and velocity
The sophistication of attacks targeting organizations is accelerating at an unprecedented rate. Digital transformation isn’t just reshaping business, cyber criminals are leveraging the expanding attack surface it creates for new disruptive opportunities to attack. They are implementing newer swarm-like capabilities while simultaneously targeting multiple vulnerabilities, devices, and access points. The combination of rapid threat development combined with the increased propagation of new variants is increasingly difficult for many organizations to combat.

Unprecedented volume
An average of 274 exploit detections per company were detected, which is a significant increase of 82 percent over the previous quarter. The number of malware families also increased by 25 percent and unique variants grew by 19 percent. The data not only indicates growth in volume, but also an evolution of the malware as well. In addition, encrypted traffic using HTTPS and SSL grew as a percentage of total network traffic to a high of nearly 60 percent on average. While encryption can certainly help protect data in motion as it moves between core, cloud, and endpoint environments, it also represents a real challenge for traditional security solutions.

IoT Attack Intensity
Three of the top twenty attacks identified targeted IoT devices and exploit activity quadrupled against devices like WiFi cameras. None of these detections were associated with a known or named CVE, which is one of the troubling aspects of vulnerable IoT devices. In addition, unlike previous attacks, which focused on exploiting a single vulnerability, new IoT botnets such as Reaper and Hajime can target multiple vulnerabilities simultaneously. This multi-vector approach is much harder to combat. Reaper’s flexible framework means that, rather than the static, pre-programmed attacks of previous IoT exploits, Reaper’s code is easily updated to swarm faster by running new and more malicious attacks as they become available. Demonstrating its swarm abilities, exploit volume associated with Reaper exhibited a jump from 50K to 2.7 million over a few days before dropping back to normal.

Ransomware still prevalent
Several strains of ransomware topped the list of malware variants. Locky was the most widespread malware variant and GlobeImposter followed as the second. A new strain of Locky emerged, tricking recipients with spam before requesting a ransom. In addition, there was a shift on the darknet from only accepting Bitcoin for payment to other forms of digital currency such as Monero.

Cryptocurrency Mining on the rise
Cryptomining malware increased, which seems to be intertwined with the changing price of Bitcoin. Cyber criminals recognize the growth in digital currencies and are using a trick called cryptojacking to mine cryptocurrencies on computers using CPU resources in the background without a user knowing. Cryptojacking involves loading a script into a web browser, nothing is installed or stored on the computer.

Sophisticated industrial malware
An uptick in exploit activity against industrial control systems (ICS) and safety instrumental systems (SIS) suggests these under-the-radar attacks might be climbing higher on attackers’ radar.  An example is an attack codenamed Triton. It is sophisticated in nature and has the ability to cover its tracks by overwriting the malware itself with garbage data to thwart forensic analysis. Because these platforms affect vital critical infrastructures, they are enticing for threat actors. Successful attacks can cause significant damage with far-reaching impact.

Attack variety
Steganography is an attack that embeds malicious code in images. It’s an attack vector that has not had much visibility over the past several years, but it appears to be on the resurgence. The Sundown exploit kit uses steganography to steal information, and while it has been around for some time, it was reported by more organizations than any other exploit kit. It was found dropping multiple ransomware variants.

Fighting swarm attacks requires integrated security
The threat data in this quarter’s report reinforces many of the predictions unveiled by the Fortinet FortiGuard Labs global research team for 2018, which predicted the rise of self-learning hivenets and swarmbots on the horizon. Over the next couple of years, the attack surface will continue to expand while visibility and control over today’s infrastructures diminish. To address the problems of speed and scale by adversaries, organizations need to adopt strategies based on automation and integration. Security should operate at digital speeds by automating responses as well as applying intelligence and self-learning so that networks can make effective and autonomous decisions.

Report methodology

The Fortinet Global Threat Landscape Report is a quarterly view that represents the collective intelligence of FortiGuard Labs drawn from Fortinet’s vast array of sensors during Q4 2017.  Research data covers global, regional, industry sector, and organizational perspectives. It focuses on three central and complementary aspects of that landscape, namely application exploits, malicious software, and botnets. It also examines important zero-day vulnerabilities and infrastructure trends to add context about the trajectory of cyber attacks affecting organizations over time.

Read the report (PDF)



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