In 2021, organisations experienced 50% more weekly cyber-attacks than in 2020.
The education/research sector led with 1,605 weekly attacks (75% increase), followed by government/military with 1,136 weekly attacks (47%), and communications with 1,079 weekly attacks (51% increase).
The research revealed that software vendors experienced the biggest year-on-year-growth (146%), complementing the ever-increasing trend of software supply chain attacks observed in 2021.
Last year, Check Point Research saw evolving attacks on mobile devices, increase in cloud services vulnerabilities, and the return of the Emotet botnet.
Highlights from the 2022 Security Report include:
• Supply chain attacks: the infamous SolarWinds attack laid the foundations for a supply chain attack frenzy. Last year saw numerous sophisticated attacks such as Codecov in April and Kaseya in July, concluding with the Log4j vulnerability that was exposed in December. The striking impact achieved by this one vulnerability in an open-source library demonstrates the immense inherent risk in software supply chains.
• Cyberattacks disrupting everyday life: Last year saw a large of number attacks targeting critical infrastructure which led to huge disruption to individuals’ day-to-day lives, and in some cases even threatened their sense of physical security.
• Cloud services under attack: Cloud provider vulnerabilities became much more alarming in 2021. The vulnerabilities exposed have allowed attackers, for varying timeframes, to execute arbitrary code, escalate to root privileges, access mass amounts of private content, and even cross between different environments.
• Developments in the mobile landscape: Throughout the year, threat actors have increasingly used smishing (SMS phishing) for malware distribution and have invested substantial efforts in hacking social media accounts to obtain access to mobile devices. The continued digitisation of the banking sector in 2021 led to the introduction of various apps designed to limit face-to-face interactions, and those in turn have led to the distribution of new threats.
• Cracks in the ransomware ecosystem: Governments and law enforcement agencies changed their stance on organised ransomware groups in 2021, making proactive offensive operations against the ransomware operators, their funds, and supporting infrastructure. The major shift happened following the Colonial Pipeline incident in May which made the Biden administration realise they had to step up efforts to combat this threat.
• Return of Emotet: One of the most dangerous and infamous botnets in history, is back. Since Emotet’s November return, CPR found the malware’s activity to be at least 50% of the level seen in January 2021, shortly before its initial takedown. This rising trend continued throughout December with several end-of-year campaigns, and is expected to continue in 2022, at least until the next takedown attempt.
“In a year that began with the fallout from one of the most devastating supply chain attacks in history, we’ve seen threat actors grow in confidence and sophistication,” comments Check Point Software vice president research Maya Horowitz.
“This culminated in the Log4j vulnerability exploit which, yet again, caught the security community off-guard and brought to the fore the sheer level of risk inherent in software supply chains. In the months between, we saw cloud services under attack, threat actors increasing their focus on mobile devices, the Colonial Pipeline held to ransom, and the resurgence of one of the most dangerous botnets in history.”
“But it’s not all doom and gloom. We also saw cracks in the ransomware ecosystem widen in 2021, as governments and law enforcement agencies around the world resolved to take a tougher stance on ransomware groups in particular,” Horowitz says.
“Instead of relying on reactive and remedial action, some shocking events woke governments up to the fact that they needed to take a more proactive approach to dealing with cyber risk. That same philosophy extends to businesses too, who can no longer afford to take a disjointed, siloed, reactionary approach to dealing with threats. They need 360-degree visibility, real-time threat intelligence, and a security infrastructure that can be mobilised in an effective, joined-up manner,” Horowitz concludes.