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

Cybercriminals increase attacks on vulnerable retailers as global supply chain crisis worsens

By Shannon Williams
Thu 4 Nov 2021

Cybercriminals are increasing attacks on vulnerable retailers as the global supply chain crisis continues, according to Imperva.

The cybersecurity firm has released the State of Security Within eCommerce report, a 12-month analysis on cybersecurity risks in the retail industry that suggests that the 2021 holiday shopping season will be further disrupted by cybercriminals looking to create chaos and take advantage of an unprecedented global supply chain crisis.

Last year cybersecurity incidents in the New Zealand retail sector peaked in April when the country was in lockdown Alert Level 4 for the first wave of COVID-19. At that time, there was a sharp increase in online retail sales.

After normalising, incidents spiked again in November, coinciding with the Singles Day and Black Friday/Cyber Monday. There was a spike again in January due to a sharp rise in Data Leakage incidents.

Increased levels of cybersecurity activity are a fundamental business risk for retailers. From website outages to online fraud, security incidents lead to loss of sales and unhappy customers. 

Given the widespread impact of the global supply chain crisis, the impact of a single cyber-attack on a retailer in Q4 could be devastating. Any disruption will delay shipments and could keep physical and digital store shelves empty throughout the holiday season. The unprecedented situation has reached such a fever pitch that some retailers might find themselves out of business altogether. 

“The 2021 holiday shopping season is shaping up to be a nightmare for both retailers and consumers,” says Peter Klimek, Director of Technology, Office of the CTO, Imperva. 

“With the global supply chain conditions worsening, retailers will not only struggle to get products to sell in Q4, but will face increased attacks from motivated cybercriminals who want to benefit from the chaos," he says.

"Imperva Research Labs’ data underscores the need for retailers to invest in security that spans from edge to applications and APIs all the way to the data. Only by protecting all paths to data can retailers truly defend their critical systems and the consumers who rely on them. ”

Retailers Experiencing Higher Levels of Security Incidents

Malicious Bots
Online retail remains a prime target for automated bot activity in 2021. Bots carry out an array of disruptive, and even malicious, activities on retail sites including: price and content scraping, scalping, denial of inventory and other types of online fraud.

In 2021, the volume of monthly bot attacks on retail websites rose 13%, compared to the same months of the previous year. This underscores the growing threat retailers and consumers face from bad bot activity. 

Research Labs finds that a majority (57%) of attacks recorded on eCommerce websites this year were carried out by bots. In comparison, bad bots made up just 33% of the total attacks on websites in all other industries in 2021. In NZ, bots were the top type of security incident in the retail industry in the past 12 months.

One specific type of fraud, account takeover, is a risk for consumers who have login accounts that store their credit card or payment information on eCommerce sites. Compared to other industries, online retailers experienced a higher volume of account takeover logins (32.8%) in 2021, compared to the average logins (25.5%) across all other industries.

More worrisome, the proportion of sophisticated bad bots on retail websites reached 23.4% in 2021. This breed of bot is the hardest to stop because they’re capable of producing mouse movements and clicks that closely resemble human behaviour. Sophisticated bots evade simple defences and are responsible for account takeover, fraud or denial of inventory that makes it harder for legitimate shoppers to get the goods they want. 

In particular, Imperva Research Labs has monitored elevated levels of denial of inventory bot traffic around the time of pre-order and launch sales for popular gaming systems. Most recently, it was evidenced in the 88% rise in bad bot traffic to global retail sites days before the launch of the Nintendo Switch OLED.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) Attacks
As the holiday shopping season commences, Imperva Research Labs is already seeing an uptick in DDoS attacks -- spiking 200% in September 2021, compared to the month prior. Part of this uptick in activity is tied to the enormous Meris botnet that has impacted organisations globally. 

Throughout the past 12 months, the retail industry experienced the highest volume of application layer (layer 7) DDoS incidents per month of all industries. Layer 7 attacks are highly effective because they consume both network and server resources. Defending against application layer attacks is difficult because it requires the ability to distinguish between attack traffic and normal traffic. 

The intensity of the attacks in 2021 -- measured in requests per second (RPS) -- was low, averaging a maximum of 35,000 RPS. However, the frequency of attacks suggests that cybercriminals are taking an approach that is disruptive without being detectable. 

While the United States was the target of the significant majority (61.6%) of application layer DDoS attacks in 2021, New Zealand is ranked fifth in the world 3.2%

Website Attacks
Attacks on retail industry websites from Q4 2020 through the first half of 2021 were notably higher than all other industries, and were characterised by more sporadic peaks in attacks. Retail sites experienced slightly higher volumes of Data Leakage attacks (31.3%) in 2021 compared to all industries (26.9%) as eCommerce sites are prime targets because they host shoppers’ payment information or loyalty reward points. 

The top three web application attack attempts in the NZ retail sector in the past 12 months (Oct 2020 - Sep 2021) were Data Leakage (29%), Remote Code Execution (RCE) / Remote File Inclusion (RFI) (20%) and Path Traversal / LFI (17%). 

In January 2021, the NZ retail industry saw a spike in data leakage incidents, which coincides with the Boxing Day sales. Data leakage occurs when data is transmitted from an organisation’s corporate network to an external destination, whether accidentally or deliberately, without authorisation. 

Another web application attack being used against NZ retailers is Injection. New Zealand retailers experienced an increase in Injection attacks In March (40% above the monthly average).

According to NZ Post, online spending in quarter one 2021 (Q1 21) saw online spending up 27% on the same quarter in 2020, as the popularity of online shopping continued following the COVID-19 lockdowns of 2020. Q1 21 also saw a couple of short lockdowns for Auckland which would have contributed to this increase.

Injection style attacks have been around for decades, but injection vulnerabilities are still one of the widest classes of potential threats to an application. This is because app developers continue to leave holes to be exploited. To protect themselves, retailers need to ensure their app developers are conducting comprehensive input validation.

Retailers Beware: More Threats Are Ahead as Attack Surface Grows
Common website functionality like chatbots, payment services and web analytics are enabled by third-party JavaScript that executes on the client side. The functionality is a necessity for eCommerce, but is increasingly vulnerable to attack. Since many of the services operate outside of the security team’s control, it’s a blindspot for organisations and a potential fraud risk for consumers. If not properly secured, the compromise of third-party JavaScript code can lead to cross-site scripting (XSS), formjacking, cryptojacking, malicious ad injection, data skimming and more -- risks that impact retailers and consumers. These highly effective evasion tactics are difficult for organisations to monitor, even when using advanced network threat inspection tools. 

Application Programming Interfaces (APIs) are essential for retailers as they improve the eCommerce experience for shoppers. APIs connect consumers to data and information they need -- like inventory availability, product search, order fulfilment tracking and more. However, APIs, like JavaScript services, are difficult to monitor and highly vulnerable to attack. In 2021, the top three types of API attacks targeting retailers are data leakage (25.7%), remote code execution (RCE) (17.2%) and cross-site scripting (XSS) (16.8%) -- all of which can generate costly breaches.

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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
Cyber attacks
Devastating cyber attacks expected to hit energy sector
Energy executives anticipate life, property, and environment-compromising cyber attacks on the sector within the next two years.
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
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
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
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
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
Malware
Fortinet introduces self-learning AI in latest offering
Fortinet is introducing self-learning AI capabilities in its new network detection and response offering, FortiNDR.
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
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
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
Managed service provider
Barracuda MSP Day 2022 highlights MSP opportunities
Barracuda Networks has released a report showing global services-related MSP revenue is set to increase by more than a third in 2022 compared to 2021.
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
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
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
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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.
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
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.
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
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
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
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
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
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.