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2021's Most Wanted: Emotet continues reign as top malware threat

By Shannon Williams
Wed 17 Feb 2021
FYI, this story is more than a year old

The Emotet trojan continues to reign as top malware in January, despite international law enforcement taking control of its infrastructure resulting in 14% decrease in global impact, says Check Point Research.

CPR, the threat intelligence arm of Check Point Software Technologies, published its latest Global Threat Index for January 2021. Researchers reported that the Emotet trojan has remained in first place in the top malware list for the second month running, impacting 6% of organisations globally despite an international police operation which took control of the botnet on 27th January.

The police takedown caused a 14% decrease in the number of organisations that were impacted by Emotet activity, and law enforcement agencies plan to mass-uninstall Emotet from infected hosts on April 25th. 

Even so, Emotet maintained the top position in the Global Threat Index, highlighting the vast global impact this botnet has had. Emotets malicious spam campaign uses different delivery techniques to spread Emotet, including embedded links, document attachments, or password-protected Zip files.

First identified in 2014, Emotet has been regularly updated by its developers to maintain its effectiveness for malicious activity. The Department of Homeland Security has estimated that each incident involving Emotet costs organisations upwards of $1 million dollars to rectify.

"Emotet is one of the most costly and destructive malware variants ever seen, so the joint effort made by law enforcement agencies to take it down was essential, and a huge achievement," says Maya Horowitz, director, threat intelligence & research, products at Check Point. 

"However, new threats will inevitably emerge to replace it, so organisations still need to ensure robust security systems in place to prevent their networks being compromised," she says. 

"As always, comprehensive training for employees is crucial, so they are able to identify the types of malicious emails which spread stealthy trojans and bots."

Check Point Research also warns that MVPower DVR Remote Code Execution is the most common exploited vulnerability, impacting 43% of organisations globally, followed by HTTP Headers Remote Code Execution (CVE-2020-13756) which impact 42% of organisations worldwide. Dasan GPON Router Authentication Bypass (CVE-2018-10561) is third place in the top exploited vulnerabilities list, with a global impact of 41%.

Top malware families

This Month, Emotet remains the most popular malware with a global impact of 6% of organisations, closely followed by Phorpiex and Trickbot – which impacted 4% of organisations worldwide, each.

1. Emotet – Emotet is an advanced, self-propagating and modular Trojan. Emotet was once a banking Trojan, and recently has been used as a distributor of other malware or malicious campaigns. It uses multiple methods for maintaining persistence and evasion techniques to avoid detection. In addition, it can be spread through phishing spam emails containing malicious attachments or links.

2. Phorpiex - Phorpiex is a botnet known for distributing other malware families via spam campaigns as well as fueling large scale Sextortion campaigns.

3. Trickbot - Trickbot is a dominant banking Trojan constantly being updated with new capabilities, features and distribution vectors. This enables Trickbot to be a flexible and customisable malware that can be distributed as part of multi purposed campaigns.

Top exploited vulnerabilities

This month MVPower DVR Remote Code Execution is the most common exploited vulnerability, impacting 43% of organisations globally, followed by HTTP Headers Remote Code Execution (CVE-2020-13756), which impact 42% of organisations worldwide. Dasan GPON Router Authentication Bypass (CVE-2018-10561) is third place in the top exploited vulnerabilities list, with a global impact of 41%.

1. MVPower DVR Remote Code Execution – a remote code execution vulnerability which exists in MVPower DVR devices. A remote attacker can exploit this weakness to execute arbitrary code in the affected router via a crafted request.

2. HTTP Headers Remote Code Execution (CVE-2020-13756) - HTTP headers let the client and the server pass additional information with an HTTP request. A remote attacker may use a vulnerable HTTP Header to run arbitrary code on the victim machine.

3. Dasan GPON Router Authentication Bypass (CVE-2018-10561) – An authentication bypass vulnerability that exists in Dasan GPON routers. Successful exploitation of this vulnerability allows remote attackers to obtain sensitive information and gain unauthorised access into the affected system.

Top mobile malwares

This month, Hiddad holds 1st place in the most prevalent mobile malware, followed by xHelper and Triada.

1. Hiddad - Hiddad is an Android malware which repackages legitimate apps and then releases them to a third-party store. Its main function is to display ads, but it can also gain access to key security details built into the OS.

2. xHelper - A malicious application seen in the wild since March 2019, used for downloading other malicious apps and display advertisement. The application is capable of hiding itself from the user and reinstall itself in case it was uninstalled.

3. Triada - Modular Backdoor for Android which grants superuser privileges to downloaded malware.

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