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Stolen Credentials & Vulnerabilities Weaponized Against Businesses in 2019: IBM

IBM Security has released the IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence Index 2020, which puts spotlight on how techniques adopted by cybercriminals have evolved after decades of access to tens of billions of corporate and personal records and hundreds of thousands of software flaws.

The report stated that 60% of initial entries into victims’ networks that were observed leveraged either previously stolen credentials or known software vulnerabilities, allowing attackers to rely less on deception to gain access.

IBM’s X-Force Threat Intelligence Index highlights contributing factors to this evolution, including the top three initial attack vectors

· Phishing was a successful initial infection vector in less than one-third of incidents (31%) observed, compared to half in 2018.
·Scanning and exploitation of vulnerabilities resulted in 30% of observed incidents, compared to just 8% in 2018. In fact, older, known vulnerabilities in Microsoft Office and Windows Server Message Block were still finding high rates of exploitation in 2019.
· The use of previously stolen credentials is also gaining ground as a preferred point-of-entry 29% of the time in observed incidents. Just in 2019, the report states more than 8.5 billion records were compromised— resulting in a 200% increase in exposed data reported year over year, adding to the growing number of stolen credentials that cybercriminals can use as their source material.

“The amount of exposed records that we’re seeing today means that cybercriminals are getting their hands on more keys to our homes and businesses. Attackers won’t need to invest time to devise sophisticated ways into a business; they can deploy their attacks simply by using known entities, such as logging in with stolen credentials,” said Wendi Whitmore, Vice President, IBM X-Force Threat Intelligence. “Protection measures, such as multi-factor authentication and single sign-on, are important for the cyber resilience of organizations and the protection and privacy of user data.”

IBM X-Force conducted its analysis based on insights and observations from monitoring 70 billion security events per day in more than 130 countries.

Key highlights of report include:
Configure it Out IBM’s analysis found that of the more than 8.5 billion breached records reported in 2019, seven billion of those, or over 85%, were due to misconfigured cloud servers and other improperly configured systems.
Banking on Ransomware TrickBot an active banking trojans found in this year’s report,were increasingly observed to set the stage for full-on ransomware attacks.
Tech Trust Takeover for Phishing The IBM X-Force report found that tech, social media and content streaming household brands make up the “Top 10” spoofed brands that cyber attackers are impersonating in phishing attempts. This shift could demonstrate the increasing trust put in technology providers over historically trusted retail and financial brands.

Ransomware Attacks Evolve
The report revealed trends in ransomware attacks worldwide, targeting both the public and private sectors. The report shows an uptick in ransomware activity in 2019 with IBM X-Force deploying its incident response team to ransomware incidents in 13 different industries worldwide, reaffirming that these attacks are industry agnostic.

In fact, in 80% of observed ransomware attempts, attackers were exploiting Windows Server Message Block vulnerabilities, the same tactic used to propagate WannaCry, an attack that crippled businesses across 150 countries in 2017.

With ransomware attacks costing organizations over $7.5 billion in 2019, adversaries are reaping the rewards and have no incentive to slow down in 2020. A new malware code was observed in 45% of banking trojans and 36% of ransomware. This suggests that by creating new code attackers are continuing to invest in efforts to avoid detection and with banking trojans being used to open the door for targeted, high-stakes ransomware attacks, diversifying how ransomware is being deployed.

The report observed a strong relationship between ransomware and banking trojans with the latter being used to open the door for targeted, high-stakes ransomware attacks, diversifying how ransomware is being deployed.

Adversaries Spoof Tech & Social Media Companies in Phishing Schemes
IBM observed a squatting trend in phishing campaigns, wherein attackers are impersonating consumer tech brands with tempting links – using tech, social media and content streaming companies to trick users into clicking malicious links in phishing attempts. Nearly 60% of the top 10 spoofed brands identified were Google and YouTube domains, while Apple (15%) and Amazon (12%) domains were also spoofed by attackers looking to steal users’ monetizable data. IBM X-Force assesses that these brands were targeted primarily due to the monetizable data they hold. Facebook, Instagram and Netflix also made the list of top 10 spoofed brands observed but at a significantly lower use rate.

IBM X-Force suggests that frequent password reuse may be what potentially made these brands targets. In fact, IBM’s Future of Identity Study found that 41% of millennials surveyed reuse the same password multiple times and Generation Z averages use of only five passwords, indicating a heavier reuse rate.

Discerning spoofed domains can be extremely difficult, which is exactly what attackers bet on. With nearly 10 billion accounts combined ,the top 10 spoofed brands listed in the report offer attackers a wide target pool, increasing the likelihood that an unsuspecting user clicks an innocent-seeming link from a spoofed brand.

Additional key findings in the report include:

·Retail Rebounds in Targeted Industry Rankings: Retail has jumped to the second most attacked industry in this year’s report. Cybercriminals seem to have set their sights on consumers’ PII, payment card data and even valuable loyalty program information. Retailers also experienced a large amount of ransomware attacks based on insights from IBM’s incident response engagements.
Industrial Control Systems (ICS) and Operational Technology (OT) Attacks Soar:In 2019, OT targeting increased 2000% year over year with more attacks on ICS and OT infrastructure than any of the prior three years. Most observed attacks involved a combination of known vulnerabilities within SCADA and ICS hardware as well as password-spraying.

North America and Asia Most Targeted Regions: These regions experienced the highest number of observed attacks as well as suffered the largest reported data losses over the past year, over 5 billion and 2 billion records exposed respectively.

(Image Courtesy: www.analyticsinsight.net)

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