Security Market Segment LS
Monday, 20 April 2020 11:35

Cybercriminals capitalise on shift to remote work amid COVID-19 Featured


There has been a spike in ransomware attacks as cybercriminals capitalise on the COVID 19 pandemic, according to a new report which found that ransomware attacks can be correlated to key days in the COVID-19 news cycle - suggesting attackers are being “nefariously opportunistic” and leverage breaking news to take advantage of vulnerable populations. 

According to research from VMware Carbon Black, in March 2020 ransomware attacks increased 148% over baseline levels from February 2020.

“The finance sector has been increasingly targeted during the COVID-19 surge. Between February and March, we saw a 38% increase in cyberattacks against financial institutions,” say VMware Carbon Black research authors Patrick Upatham and Jim Treinen.

“Of note, February shows that the retail sector led the majority of observed threats with just over 31%, but shrank to 1.6% in March, suggesting that as retail organizations shifted to remote business models, attacks actually went down and attackers shifted to target financial organizations,” the researchers said.

“In March, financial-related attacks accounted for 52% of all attacks seen across the VMware Carbon Black dataset, an unprecedented anomaly in our data tracking. Healthcare, normally a top-three vertical for targeting, finished March as the seventh most frequently targeted industry, according to our findings. 

“Of the 52% of attacks targeting the financial services sector in March 2020, 70.9% of those came from the Kryptik trojan, which attempts to target victim machines via nefarious installers. It then attempts to acquire admin rights to make registry modifications, allowing it to execute each time a Windows machine boots. 

“The Kryptik trojan can be very persistent and, without the appropriate visibility, can be difficult to detect as it often deletes its executable file after running.” 

The VMWare researchers point to a threat profile from the New Jersey Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Cell (NJCCIC) which reported: “[The Kryptik trojan] queries the Windows registry for the .ini or .dat file paths. It also queries registry subkeys for the actual host, username, and password related to the specific FTP client application. 

“Kryptik searches the registry, querying for both ftpIniName and InstallDir that hold the wcx_ftp.ini file. The trojan can recover many common FTP clients, email clients, file browsers, and file manager programs. Kryptik also can update itself and remotely download new versions.” 

“As the COVID-19 battle continues globally, it’s clear attackers will continue to target vulnerable populations and organizations,” say Upatham and Jim Treinen.

“As the VMware Carbon Black Threat Analysis Unit (TAU) has found, attackers have been using COVID-19 to launch phishing attacks, fake apps/maps, trojans, backdoors, crypto miners, botnets and ransomware. 

“Increased vigilance and visibility into enterprise wide endpoint activity are more paramount than ever. 

“We believe comprehensive visibility starts with collecting and then analyzing key data that can uncover cyberattacker behaviors. Modern cybersecurity is all about keeping pace and staying ahead of attackers. And one of the only ways to do so is through comprehensive insights that can be derived from big data analytics.

“Without big data analytics, companies can only focus on finding and stopping known methods and attacks, which leaves them vulnerable to new and emerging attacks.

“Security teams must be able to predict and prevent not only known attacks, but future and unknown ones too. Innovative processes like big data analytics take advantage of all available data – unfiltered endpoint data, event streams, attackers’ tactics and techniques, global threat intelligence, and more – to provide the most comprehensive protection possible.

“With the power of big data analytics, security teams can uncover the most disruptive and damaging hidden tactics, identify root causes, and stop malicious threats before they are fully developed,” Upatham and Treinen conclude.

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