SecurityBrief New Zealand logo
New Zealand's leading source of cybersecurity and cyber-attack news
Story image

Check Point Research reveals botnets on the rise, software vendors hit hard by cyber attacks

By Catherine Knowles
Wed 26 Jan 2022

Software vendors saw the largest year-on-year growth in 2021 at 146%, according to the 2022 Security Report from Check Point Research (CPR), the threat intelligence arm of the organisation.

The report highlights the education and research sector as the most attacked industry, marking a 75% increase to an average of 1605 weekly attacks, the return of Emotet, cracks in the ransomware ecosystem and vulnerabilities in cloud services.

Concerningly, botnets were the leading attack category worldwide, followed by infostealers and cryptominers, the research shows.

Cyberattacks against the top 16 industries increase by an average of 55% in 2021, and overall organisations experienced 50% more weekly cyber attacks than in 2020.

Education/research sectors saw 1,605 weekly attacks taking the lead (75% increase), government/military saw an average of 1,136 weekly attacks (47% increase), communications saw an average of 1,079 weekly attacks (51% increase), and software vendors experienced the largest year-on-year growth (146%).

Key highlights from the report are as follows.

Supply chain attacks: The infamous SolarWinds attack laid the foundations for a supply chain attack frenzy. 2021 saw numerous sophisticated attacks such as Codecov in April and Kaseya in July, concluding with the Log4j vulnerability that was exposed in December.

The striking impact achieved by this one vulnerability in an open-source library demonstrates the immense inherent risk in software supply chains, the research finds.

Cyber attacks disrupting everyday life: 2021 saw an increase in attacks targeting critical infrastructure which led to huge disruption to individuals’ day-to-day lives, and in some cases even threatened their sense of physical security.

Cloud services under attack: Cloud provider vulnerabilities became much more alarming in 2021 than they were previously.

The vulnerabilities exposed throughout the year have allowed attackers, for varying timeframes, to execute arbitrary code, escalate to root privileges, access mass amounts of private content and even cross between different environments.

Developments in the mobile landscape: Throughout the year, threat actors have increasingly used smishing (SMS phishing) for malware distribution and have invested substantial efforts in hacking social media accounts to obtain access to mobile devices.

The continued digitisation of the banking sector in 2021 led to the introduction of various apps designed to limit face-to-face interactions, and those in turn have led to the distribution of new threats.

Cracks in the ransomware ecosystem: Governments and law enforcement agencies changed their stance on organised ransomware groups in 2021, turning from preemptive and reactive measures to proactive offensive operations against the ransomware operators, their funds and supporting infrastructure.

The major shift happened following the Colonial Pipeline incident in May which made the Biden administration realise they had to step up efforts to combat this threat.

Return of Emotet: One of the most dangerous and infamous botnets in history, is back. Since Emotet’s November return, CPR found the malware’s activity to be at least 50% of the level seen in January 2021, shortly before its initial takedown.

This rising trend continued throughout December with several end-of-year campaigns, and is expected to continue well into 2022, at least until the next takedown attempt.

Check Point Software VP research Maya Horowitz says, “In a year that began with the fallout from one of the most devastating supply chain attacks in history, we’ve seen threat actors grow in confidence and sophistication.

"This culminated in the Log4j vulnerability exploit which, yet again, caught the security community off-guard and brought to the fore the sheer level of risk inherent in software supply chains.

"In the months between, we saw cloud services under attack, threat actors increasing their focus on mobile devices, the Colonial Pipeline held to ransom, and the resurgence of one of the most dangerous botnets in history."

She continues, "But it’s not all doom and gloom. We also saw cracks in the ransomware ecosystem widen in 2021, as governments and law enforcement agencies around the world resolved to take a tougher stance on ransomware groups in particular.

"Instead of relying on reactive and remedial action, some shocking events woke governments up to the fact that they needed to take a more proactive approach to dealing with cyber risk.

"That same philosophy extends to businesses too, who can no longer afford to take a disjointed, siloed, reactionary approach to dealing with threats. They need 360-degree visibility, real-time threat intelligence, and a security infrastructure that can be mobilised in an effective, joined-up manner.”

Check Point Software head of threat intelligence Lotem Finkelstein says, “The recent arrests made in Russia of the REvil ransomware gang is a unique event in the history of cyber as it is the first time that the US Administration has collaborated with the Russian authorities to track down and arrest members of a ransomware group.

"Coming about one year after the Emotet group was taken down there are some key differences and one worrying similarity.

"First, on this occasion, actual arrests of the ringleaders have been made and assets have been seized like high performance cars large amounts of cash and crypto currency.

"However, you cannot arrest code. It only takes one or two members or affiliates of the gang to escape with the key attack tools for REvil to re-merge at a later date, possibly in another country. We can only hope this is not the case.

"The main positive take from this situation is that any ransomware gang that thought Russia was a ‘safe haven’ for them to practice their malicious trade will have to think again.

"This comes on the back of Ukraine closing down similar ransomware gangs in that country. It’s certainly not the end of ransomware, but every measure that governments can take, by sharing intelligence, to restrict such criminal activity is to be welcomed. “

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
Tech job moves
Tech job moves - Adatree, Brother, Databricks, Nutanix & Rubrik
We round up all job appointments from May 20-26, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Could New Zealanders initiate a cyber attack from within?
The threat landscape is significantly increasing worldwide, and the opportunities it presents are a growing concern in Aotearoa.
Story image
PIJF
The path to bolstering supply chain security in New Zealand
A significant amount of today's business and leisure activity relies on IT supply chains. From complex international freight trades to local small business distribution channels, any supply chain that involves IT infrastructure serves as a crucial tool in our daily lives. 
Story image
Microsoft
Microsoft NZ and TupuToa to boost diversity in cybersecurity sector
Microsoft NZ has teamed up with TupuToa to co-develop a cyber security employment programme specifically aimed at creating more diversity in Aotearoa's cybersecurity sector.
Story image
Ransomware
Alarming surge in Conti Ransomware Group activity - report
A new report has identified a 7.6 per cent increase in the number of vulnerabilities tied to ransomware in Q1 2022.
Story image
Cybersecurity
More than 40% of banks worried about cloud security - report
Publicis Sapient's new report finds security and the lack of cloud skills and internal understanding of business benefits are big obstacles for banks moving to the cloud.
Story image
Microsoft
Global cybersecurity insurance market worth $11.5b this year
Future Market Insights finds the cybersecurity insurance market is expected to reach USD$11.5 billion in 2022, growing to $61.2 billion in 10 years.
Story image
Kubernetes
Sysdig unveils new Kubernetes troubleshooting and cloud innovations
Sysdig has introduced two new innovations that look to help bolster cloud services and simplify Kubernetes troubleshooting.
Story image
ChildFund
ChildFund launches new campaign to protect children online
ChildFund says WEB Safe & Wise aims to protect children from sexual exploitation and abuse online while also empowering them to become digitally savvy. 
Story image
Remote Working
Successful digital transformation in the hybrid work era is about embracing shifting goalposts
As organisations embraced remote working, many discovered they lacked the infrastructure needed to support history’s first global load test of remote work capabilities.
Story image
Migration
Let’s clear the cloud visibility haze with app awareness
Increasingly, organisations are heading for the cloud, initiating new born-in-the-cloud architectures and migrating existing applications via ‘lift and shift’ or refactoring.
Story image
Employment
Tech job moves - Forcepoint, Malwarebytes, SolarWinds & VMware
We round up all job appointments from May 13-20, 2022, in one place to keep you updated with the latest from across the tech industries.
Story image
Ransomware
APAC ranks third-highest region targeted by ransomware
Asia Pacific has ranked the third-highest region globally to be targeted by ransomware, according to cybersecurity firm Group-IB.
Story image
BYOD / Bring Your Own Device
How zero trust can lead the battle against ransomware
SecOps teams champion a zero trust strategy to support the fight against the escalating risk of cybercrime and help monitor threat actors across a network.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Accenture - a collective security approach a driving factor for cyber resilience
With the approaching Davos World Economic Forum upon us, it is even more imperative to discuss the impact of cybersecurity on business operations leading into the future.
Story image
Cybersecurity
What every CISO must answer to enable a best-in-class security operations program
It has been widely reported recently that South Australian government employees have been the victims of a cyberattack.
Darktrace
Threat actors are exploiting weaknesses in interconnected IT/OT ecosystems. Darktrace illuminates your entire business and takes targeted action to stop emerging attacks.
Link image
Story image
Amazon Web Services / AWS
RedShield leverages AWS to scale cybersecurity services
"Working with AWS gives RedShield the ability to mitigate significant application layer DDoS attacks, helping leaders adopt best practices and security architectures."
Story image
Phishing
WhatsApp and QR codes the next scam threat - report
KnowBe4 has warned it expects to see an increase in QR Codes and the WhatsApp chat platform being used for phishing and other scams. 
Story image
Customer experience
Gartner recognises Okta for abilities in Access Management
Okta has announced it has been recognised as a Customers' Choice for the fourth time in a row in the Gartner Peer Insights "Voice of the Customer" report.
Story image
Surveillance
i-PRO releases smallest AI-based surveillance camera on the market
The new i-PRO mini network camera is now available, with a pocket-sized form factor and full AI analytics functionality.
Story image
Data Protection
Information management capabilities to meet privacy requirements
Organisations with customers or operations across more than one country face a spate of new and proposed privacy and data protection laws.
Story image
SaaS
Maintaining secure systems with expectations of flexible work
Most office workers feel they've proved they can work successfully from home, and as much as employers try, things aren't going back to the way they were anytime soon.
Story image
Ponemon Institute
Email revealed to be riskiest channel for data loss
More than half (60%) of organisations experienced data loss or exfiltration caused by an employee mistake on email in the last 12 months.
Story image
Ransomware
CERT NZ releases first Cyber Security Insights for 2022
CERT NZ has released Quarter One: Cyber Security Insights 2022, which offers an overview of reports about cybersecurity incidents affecting New Zealanders.
Story image
Data Protection
Barracuda launches new capabilities for API Protection
"Every business needs this type of critical protection against API vulnerabilities and automated bot attacks," Barracuda says.
Story image
Identity and Access Management
The post-pandemic workforce requires secure IAM capabilities
HID Global discusses what identity and access management means for organisations in today's convoluted digital world.
Story image
Phishing
Vishing attacks reach all time high - Agari and PhishLabs
"Hybrid vishing campaigns continue to generate stunning numbers, representing 26.1% of total share in volume so far in 2022."
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Gartner reveals top three tech trends for banks this year
Gartner says generative artificial intelligence, autonomic systems and privacy-enhancing computation are gaining traction in banking and investment services.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Comcast to use ThreatQuotient for cybersecurity operations
Comcast, the parent company of NBC Universal and SKY Group, has chosen ThreatQ Platform and ThreatQ Investigations to meet their cybersecurity needs.
Story image
Silver Peak
The path to an adaptive, modern network
Managing and securing the network looks different than it did just two years ago—especially given that most of these networks are made up of multi-generations of infrastructure stitched together over time.
Story image
Malware
'Alarming' rise in ransomware threats - Verizon report
As criminals look to leverage increasingly sophisticated forms of malware, it is ransomware that continues to prove particularly successful.
Story image
Check Point
Check Point and CCTV expert join forces to boost protection
The partnership will involve Check Point Quantum IoT Protect Nano Agent being embedded in Provision-ISR’s CCTV cameras for on-device runtime protection.
Story image
Training
Trojan cyber attacks hitting SMBs harder than ever - Kaspersky
In 2022 the number of Trojan-PSW detections increased by almost a quarter compared to the same period in 2021 to reach 4,003,323.
Story image
Training
Infosec unveils role-guided cybersecurity training roadmaps
Infosec Skills Roles maps hands-on training and certifications to the 12 most in-demand cybersecurity roles to maximise training efficiency.
Story image
Microsoft
Elevation of Privilege the top 2021 Microsoft vulnerability
BeyondTrust has released its 2022 Microsoft Vulnerabilities Report, finding that Elevation of Privilege is the top vulnerability category for the second consecutive year.
Story image
Transport
Third-party automotive apps bear significant privacy risks
Mobile applications for connected cars provide various features to make life easier for motorists, but they can also be a source of risk.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Asia Pacific plagued by sophisticated bad bots - report
The three most common bot attacks were account takeover, content or price scraping, and scalping to obtain limited-availability items.
Story image
Cybercrime
The ups and downs and runarounds of catching cybercriminals in NZ
We're becoming more and more aware of cybercrimes but how many criminals actually get caught? The New Zealand police explain why the answer is complicated.
Story image
New Relic
New Relic launches vulnerability management platform
New Relic has introduced New Relic Vulnerability Management to help organisations find and address security risks faster and with greater precision.
Story image
Ransomware
APAC organisations fail to disclose ransomware breaches
85% of organisations in APAC were breached by ransomware at least once in the past five years, but only 28% publicly disclosed the incident.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Cybersecurity prompts upgrade for 1.3 billion electricity meters
ABI Research finds Advanced Metering Infrastructure (AMI) and cybersecurity concerns are prompting the upgrade of 1.3 billion electricity meters by 2027.
Story image
Ransomware
Employees on the frontline of cyber defense - report
In the first quarter of 2022, employees found themselves more than ever at the frontline of cyber defense, according to a new report from Kroll. 
Story image
Vectra AI
Understanding the weight on security leader’s shoulders, and how to shift it
Millions of dollars of government funding and internal budgets are being funnelled into cybersecurity to build resilience against sophisticated threats, indicating how serious this issue has become.