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Avast thwarts 10 billion cyber attacks, reveals new threats
Fri, 23rd Feb 2024

Avast, a frontrunner in the realm of digital security and privacy, reported that it successfully blocked a record-breaking 10 billion cyber attacks in 2023. This indicates an alarming rise of nearly 50% compared to the previous year. The latest quarterly Avast Threat Report, spanning threats from October to December 2023, reveals that scams, phishing and malvertising account for over 75% of all cyber threats.

In addition to conventional methods, cyber criminals have been exploiting other digital mediums such as PDF files and artificial intelligent entities including deepfakes. The trend clearly indicates that cyber criminals are perpetually evolving their methods of execution, necessitating that users remain vigilant in verifying their online encounters and updates. Jakub Koustek, Malware Research Director for Avast, cautions, “In the past three months, we have seen cybercriminals move from relying only on social engineering to further exploiting trusted digital mediums...”

The report reveals that during the last quarter of 2023, Avast successfully blocked in excess of 10 million PDF-related cyber attacks, thus shielding over 4 million users globally. Cyber criminals have been increasingly turning towards PDF files, particularly towards the close of the year, resulting in a complicated web of attacks. Avast researchers have noticed threats and scams ranging from basic lottery and dating schemes to deceptively legitimate documents containing phishing links masked as well-known brands like Netflix or Amazon.

This increasing use of PDF files by cyber criminals highlights a shift in their tactics. The universal nature of PDF files, allowing them to be opened on any device, makes them an ideal delivery mechanism. Additionally, spam gateways often permit PDF attachments by default, further increasing vulnerability.

Web threats continue to be a major concern, with scams, phishing, and malvertising rating as the primary threat types. Malicious browser push notifications have shown a marked increase, becoming a favoured tool for scammers in various domains. The disturbing rise of deepfakes, particularly in endorsing investment scams, indicates the use of artificial intelligence to create highly sophisticated scams, challenging our ability to differentiate between real and fabricated content.

The final quarter of 2023 also saw the use of a new method to steal information, with cybercriminals exploiting the Google OAuth endpoint to recover authentication cookies. These cookies hold unique identifiers that are used to verify a user’s identity when accessing websites. The use of this method enables threat actors to access login data and other sensitive information. Lumma, a swiftly rising malware-as-a-service stealer, was one of the first to adapt this technique, with others following soon after.

As cyber threats continue to persist and evolve, Avast's detailed analysis underscores the importance of users remaining vigilant in verifying online content and employing secure practices.