Hacking attacks up 300% - report
Hackers are taking advantage of global destabilisation by targeting essential industries and common vulnerabilities from the shift to remote working, according to new research.
The NTT 2021 Global Threat Intelligence Report reveals healthcare, manufacturing, and finance industries all saw an increase in attacks (200%, 300%, and 53% respectively), with these top three sectors accounting for a combined total of 62% of all attacks in 2020, up 11% from 2019.
As organisations race to offer more virtual, remote access through the use of client portals, application-specific and web-application attacks spiked, accounting for 67% of all attacks, which has more than doubled in the past two years. Healthcare bore the brunt of these attacks from its shift to telehealth and remote care, with 97% of all hostile activity targeted at the industry being web-application or application-specific attacks.
The report provides insights from NTT's Cybersecurity Advisory that applies a maturity score of an industry's security program, with a higher number indicating a more mature plan of action.
Healthcare and manufacturing have relatively low maturity scores of only 1.02 and 1.21, respectively. These have decreased from 2019's baseline of 1.12 and 1.32, while attack rates have significantly risen.
Manufacturing has experienced a three-year decline in scores, most likely due to changes in the operating environment and the evolution of attacks.
On the other hand, finance continued to demonstrate the highest maturity benchmark score for the third consecutive year, of 1.84, a 0.02 decrease on last year, however.
"Last year we predicted a surge in targeted, opportunistic attacks and unfortunately, this has proven all-too-true," says Kazu Yozawa, CEO of NTT's Security division.
"While these industries have done their best to maintain essential services throughout disruptive times, the fall in security standards when companies need them most is alarming," he says..
"As services continue to move online and become increasingly digital to account for the new normal, organisations must be extra vigilant in upholding and maintaining best practices in their security."
According to the report, while malware is becoming more commoditised in features and functionality, it also became more diverse over the last year with the growth of multi-function malware.
Cryptominers have replaced spyware as the most common malware in the world, but the use of certain variants of malware against specific industries continues to evolve.
Worms appeared most frequently in the finance and manufacturing sectors. Healthcare was impacted by remote access trojans, while the technology industry was targeted by ransomware. The education sector was hit by cryptominers due to the popularisation of mining among students who exploit unprotected infrastructures.
The crypto-currency market is a prime example, with cryptominers accounting for a staggering 41% of all detected malware in 2020. XMRig coinminer was the most common variant, representing nearly 82% of all coinminer activity and nearly 99% in EMEA specifically.
"On one hand you have threat actors taking advantage of a global disaster, and on the other, cybercriminals capitalising on unprecedented market booms," says Mark Thomas, who leads NTT's Global Threat Intelligence Center.
"The common thread throughout both of these situations is unpredictability and risk.
"Changes in operating models or adoption of new technologies present opportunities for malicious actors and with a surging crypto-currency market popular among inexperienced students; attacks were bound to happen," he says.
"Now, as we enter a more stable phase of the pandemic, organisations and individuals alike must prioritise cybersecurity hygiene across all industries, including the supply chain."
Further 2021 GTIR highlights:
- Attacks against manufacturing increased from 7% last year to 22%; healthcare increased from 7% to 17%; and finance is up from 15% to 23%.
- Organisations in multiple industries saw attacks related to the COVID-19 vaccine and associated supply chains.
- COVID-19 cybercriminal opportunism intensified, with groups such as the Ozie Team, Agent Tesla and TA505, along with nation-state actors like Vicious Panda, Mustang Panda and Cozy Bear very active in 2020.
- The most commonly occurring forms of malware in 2020 were Miners: 41%; Trojans: 26%; Worms: 10%, Ransomware 6%.
- Cryptominers dominated activity in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and the Americas but were relatively rare in Asia Pacific (APAC).
- OpenSSL was the most targeted technology in the Americas but was not even on the top 10 list in APAC.
- Ongoing fallout following the Schrems II decision invalidated the EU-US Privacy Shield and placed additional obligations on organisations transferring personal data from the EU to third countries.
- NTT's research shows that 50% of organisations globally are prioritising securing their cloud services - making it the top cybersecurity focus over the next 18 months.