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

Ransomware not slowing: Relentless and more destructive

By Shannon Williams
Mon 28 Feb 2022

Ransomware is not slowing down and continues to be relentless and more destructive, a new report has revealed.

Fortinet released announced the latest semiannual FortiGuard Labs Global Threat Landscape Report. Threat intelligence from the second half of 2021 reveals an increase in the automation and speed of attacks demonstrating more advanced persistent cybercrime strategies that are more destructive and unpredictable. In addition, the expanding attack surface of hybrid workers and hybrid IT is a focal point that cyber adversaries are attempting to exploit. 

“Cybersecurity is a fast-moving and dynamic industry, but recent threat events show unparalleled speeds at which cyber adversaries are developing and executing attacks today," says Derek Manky, chief, security insights and global threat alliances, FortiGuard Labs.

"New and evolving attack techniques span the entire kill chain but especially in the weaponisation phase, showing an evolution to a more advanced persistent cybercrime strategy that is more destructive and unpredictable," he says.

"To protect against this broad scope of threats, organisations need to implement artificial intelligence (AI)-powered prevention, detection, and response strategies based on a cybersecurity mesh architecture allowing for much tighter integration, increased automation, as well as a more rapid, coordinated, and effective response to threats across the extended network.”

Log4j demonstrates dramatic speed of exploit organisations face: 
The Log4j vulnerabilities that occurred in late 2021 demonstrate the rapidly increasing speed of exploit that cybercriminals are attempting to leverage to their advantage. Despite emerging in the second week of December, exploitation activity escalated quickly enough, in less than a month, to make it the most prevalent IPS detection of the entire second half of 2021. 

In addition, Log4j had nearly 50x the activity volume in comparison to the well-known outbreak, ProxyLogon, that happened earlier in 2021. The reality is that organisations have very little time to react or patch today given the speeds that cyber adversaries are employing to maximise fresh opportunities. Organisations need AI and machine learning (ML)-powered intrusion prevention systems (IPS), aggressive patch management strategies, and the threat intelligence visibility to prioritise those threats propagating most quickly in the wild to reduce overall risk.

Adversaries rapidly targeting new vectors across the attack surface: 
Some lesser or low-lying threats have the potential to cause bigger problems in the future and are worthy of watching. An example is newly crafted malware designed to exploit Linux systems, often in the form of executable and linkable format (ELF) binaries. Linux runs the back-end systems of many networks and container-based solutions for Internet of Things (IoT) devices and mission-critical applications, and it is becoming a more popular target for attackers.

In fact, the rate of new Linux malware signatures in Q4 quadrupled that of Q1 2021 with ELF variant Muhstik, RedXOR malware, and even Log4j being examples of threats targeting Linux. The prevalence of ELF and other Linux malware detections doubled during 2021. This growth in variants and volume suggests that Linux malware is increasingly part of adversaries’ arsenal. Linux needs to be secured, monitored, and managed as any other endpoint in the network with advanced and automated endpoint protection, detection, and response. In addition, security hygiene should be prioritised to provide active threat protection for systems that may be affected by low-lying threats.

Botnet trends show a more sophisticated evolution of attack methods: 
Threat trends demonstrate that botnets are evolving to adopt newer and more evolved cybercriminal attack techniques. Instead of being primarily monolithic and focused mostly on distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks, botnets are now multipurpose attack vehicles leveraging a variety of more sophisticated attack techniques, including ransomware. For example, threat actors, including operators of botnets like Mirai, integrated exploits for the Log4j vulnerability into their attack kits. Also, botnet activity was tracked associated with a new variant of the RedXOR malware, which targets Linux systems for data exfiltration. 

Detections of botnets delivering a variant of RedLine Stealer malware also surged in early October morphing to find new targets using a COVID-19-themed file. To protect networks and applications, organisations must implement zero trust access solutions to provide least access privileges especially to secure IoT endpoints and devices entering the network as well as automated detection and response capabilities to monitor anomalous behaviour.

Malware trends show cybercriminals maximising “remote everything”: 
Evaluating the prevalence of malware variants by region reveals a sustained interest by cyber adversaries in maximising the remote work and learning attack vector. In particular, various forms of browser-based malware were prevalent. This often takes the form of phishing lures or scripts that inject code or redirect users to malicious sites. 

Specific detections vary across global regions, but can be largely grouped into leveraging three broad distribution mechanisms: Microsoft Office executables (MSExcel/, MSOffice/), PDF files, and browser scripts (HTML/, JS/). Such techniques continue to be a popular way for cybercriminals to exploit people’s desire for the latest news about the pandemic, politics, sports, or other headlines, and to then find entryways back to corporate networks. 

With hybrid work and learning remaining a reality, there are fewer layers of protection between malware and would-be victims. Organisations must take a “work-from-anywhere” approach to their security by deploying solutions capable of following, enabling, and protecting users no matter where they are located. They need advanced security on the endpoint (EDR) combined with zero trust access solutions, including ZTNA. Secure SD-WAN is also critical to ensure secure WAN connectivity for the extended network.

Ransomware activity still high and continues to get more destructive: 
FortiGuard Labs' data reveals that ransomware has not subsided from peak levels over the last year and instead, the sophistication, aggressiveness, and impact of ransomware is increasing. Threat actors continue to attack organisations with a variety of new as well as previously seen ransomware strains, often leaving a trail of destruction. Old ransomware is being actively updated and enhanced, sometimes with wiper malware included, while other ransomware is evolving to adopt Ransomware-as-as-Service (RaaS) business models. 

RaaS enables more threat actors to leverage and distribute the malware without having to create the ransomware themselves. FortiGuard Labs observed a consistent level of malicious activity involving multiple ransomware strains, including new versions of Phobos, Yanluowang, and BlackMatter. The operators of BlackMatter professed they would not attack target organisations in the healthcare sector and other critical infrastructure sectors but did so anyway. 

Ransomware attacks remain a reality for all organisations regardless of industry or size. Organisations need to take a proactive approach with real-time visibility, analysis, protection, and remediation coupled with zero trust access solutions, segmentation, and regular backing up of data.

Deeper understanding of attack techniques can help stop criminals faster: 
Analysing the attack goals of adversaries is important to be able to better align defences against the speed of changing attack techniques. To observe the malicious outcomes of various attacks, FortiGuard Labs analysed the functionality of detected malware by detonating the malware samples collected throughout the year. The result was a list of the individual tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) the malware would have accomplished if the attack payloads had been executed. 

This high-resolution intelligence shows that stopping an adversary earlier is more critical than ever, and that by focusing on a handful of those identified techniques, in some situations an organisation could effectively shut down a malware’s methods for attack. For example, the top three techniques for the “execution” phase account for 82 per cent of the activity. The top two techniques for obtaining a foothold in the “persistence” phase represent nearly 95 per cent of the observed functionality. Leveraging this analysis can have a dramatic effect in how organisations prioritise their security strategies to maximise their defense.

Protecting against fast-moving and sophisticated cyber adversaries

As attacks continue to develop in sophistication and span the entire attack surface at increased speeds, organisations need solutions designed to interoperate rather than function in isolation. 

Securing against evolving attack techniques will require smarter solutions that know how to ingest real-time threat intelligence, detect threat patterns and fingerprints, correlate massive amounts of data to detect anomalies, and automatically initiate a coordinated response. 

Point products need to be replaced with a cybersecurity mesh platform that provides centralised management, automation, and integrated solutions that work in concert.  

Related stories
Top stories
Story image
InternetNZ
How well do rangatahi understand cyber safety in Aotearoa?
Do rangatahi in Aotearoa understand the importance of being safe online, or has lifelong exposure to the internet resulted in widespread complacency?
Story image
Data Protection
Zero Trust, but verify - finding the OT in ZerO Trust
The move to remote and cloud-based technologies has shifted the goalposts for cybersecurity. It now needs to cover multiple people, devices, platforms, and networks.
Story image
Cloud Security
Tenable makes additions to Cloud Security portfolio
Tenable has announced additions to Tenable Cloud Security that represent the next step in assessing threats related to cloud vulnerabilities.
Story image
Microsoft
Avast reveals zero-day exploits targeting Chrome and Microsoft
Avast, released its Q2/2022 Threat Report today, revealing a significant increase in global ransomware attacks, up 24% from Q1/2022.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Education sector seeing highest volumes of cyber attacks
When breaking down the numbers to education attacks by region in July 2022, A/NZ was the most heavily attacked.
Story image
SaaS
Cloud and data protection big challenges for NZ businesses
"This surge towards a cloud-first approach meant security and safety became afterthoughts - there's no point being the fastest car on the racetrack if you crash.”
Story image
VMware
Latest VMware threat report reveals truth about deepfakes
"Cyber criminals have evolved. Their new goal is to use deepfake technology to compromise organisations and gain access to their environment."
Story image
Cybersecurity
Datacom research explores reality of zero trust in A/NZ
Zero trust is fast emerging as global best practice in cybersecurity and local leaders are on board, with 83% considering it essential to security.
Story image
Google Cloud
Google Cloud to open first cloud region in NZ - among others
Google Cloud has announced plans to bring three new cloud regions, one each in New Zealand, Malaysia and Thailand.
Story image
Gartner Magic Quadrant
Gartner positions Commvault as Leader in 2022 Magic Quadrant
Gartner has named Commvault a Leader in its 2022 Gartner Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Backup and Recovery Software Solutions report.
Story image
Gaming
Attacks on gaming companies more than double over past year
The State of the Internet report shows gaming companies and gamer accounts are at risk, following a surge in web application attacks post pandemic.
Story image
Artificial Intelligence
Exclusive: NZ-based DEFEND offers global cyber protection
DEFEND supports customers in 66 countries across the globe with a relentless focus on ensuring that every dollar spent on security provides a meaningful return on investment and reduces cyber risk.
Story image
Machine learning
Sysdig releases CDR offering to combat cryptojacking
Sysdig has unveiled a cloud detection and response (CDR) offering powered by machine learning to combat cryptojacking.
Story image
IDC
High level of Customer Identity & Access Management adoption
The study from Okta revealed that the pandemic has either accelerated or highlighted the need for digital-first strategies.
Story image
Privileged Access Management / PAM
The importance of stopping identity sprawl for cybersecurity
The 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) shows that 61% of all breaches involve malicious actors gaining unauthorised, privileged access to data by using a compromised credential. Unfortunately, it is often too late when the misuse of a credential is detected.
Story image
Data Protection
CyberRes partners with Google Cloud in lead up to BigQuery release
CyberRes, a Micro Focus line of business, has announced a partnership with Google Cloud to support the upcoming release of BigQuery remote functions.
Story image
Neat
Workplace design a crucial factor for better employee experience - report
The key to a successful workplace could be its design, according to research from Ecosystm and Neat.
Story image
Indusface
Why enhancing bot protection for web and API endpoints matters
The trouble with bots is that they aren’t all bad. Unfortunately, this can make it challenging to detect malicious bots that find their way into your system and threaten your business.
AWS Marketplace
Learn how security orchestration, automation, and response (SOAR) enhances your security strategy.
Link image
Story image
Data Protection
Video: 10 Minute IT Jams - An update from SearchInform
Alexey Pinchuk joins us today to discuss the role the company plays in helping organisations manage risk and provide better security outcomes.
Story image
Phishing
Norton research finds NZ threat landscape diversifying on social media
Norton's quarterly report has highlighted the seriousness of the threat landscape in New Zealand.
Story image
Cybersecurity
Palo Alto Networks responds to rise in threats with MDR service
Unit 42 Managed Detection and Response is a new service that can offer continuous 24/7 threat detection, investigation and response.
Story image
Web application firewall
Radware recognised in KuppingerCole’s 2022 Leadership Compass report
Radware has been named a Product, Innovation, Market and Overall Leader in the 2022 KuppingerCole Leadership Compass report for Web Application Firewalls.
Story image
Government
Mandiant researchers uncover significant new disinformation campaign
Researchers from Mandiant say they have uncovered a significant disinformation campaign from the Chinese Government in the wake of U.S. Speaker Nancy Pelosi's visit to Taiwan.
Story image
Firewall
Fortinet unveils compact firewall for hyperscale data centres, 5G networks
"Fortinet’s dedication to pushing the boundaries of what is possible in security performance has yielded the most powerful compact firewall yet."
Story image
Compliance
Why security needs to shape your journey to the cloud
It's estimated that 80% of workloads could be in the cloud in the next few years. How can you make all that data secure?
Story image
Gartner
Veeam named Leader in enterprise backup and recovery
"We believe our innovation and ability to execute validates our solid standing as the #1 trusted provider of modern data protection."
Story image
Malware
Avast One extends protection with Online Safety Score
Avast One has extended its cross-platform support by adding its Online Safety Score feature to both the Mac and iOS platforms of Avast One.
Story image
Dark web
Beware the darkverse and its cyber-physical threats
A darkverse of criminality hidden from law enforcement could quickly evolve to fuel a new industry of metaverse-related cybercrime.
Story image
Data Protection
VMware introduces advanced workload protection for AWS
VMware Carbon Black Workload for AWS delivers comprehensive visibility and security across on-premises and cloud environments for AWS customers.
Story image
Mergers and Acquisitions
Netskope acquires Infiot, delivers integrated SASE platform
Converged SASE platform provides AI-driven zero trust security and simplified, optimised connectivity to any network location or device, including IoT.
Story image
SaaS
Claroty launches new cloud-based industrial cybersecurity platform
The company says Claroty xDome is the industry's first solution to deliver the ease and scalability of SaaS without compromising on visibility, protection, and monitoring controls.
Story image
Rubrik
Gartner names Rubrik Leader in 2022 Magic Quadrant
Rubrik has been positioned by Gartner as a Leader in the 2022 Magic Quadrant for Enterprise Backup and Recovery Software Solutions.
Story image
Open source
Flashpoint acquires Echosec Systems, elevates OSINT capabilities
Flashpoint has acquired Echosec Systems, a provider of open-source intelligence and publicly available information.
Story image
Gartner Magic Quadrant
Gartner names Lookout a Visionary in 2022 Magic Quadrant
Gartner has recognised Lookout as a Visionary in the 2022 Magic Quadrant for Security Service Edge (SSE) and one of the top three offerings in the 2022 Gartner Critical Capabilities for SSE report.
Story image
Malware
Research shows attacks on the gaming industry are getting worse
Web application attacks in the gaming sector have grown by 167% from Q1 2021 to Q1 2022, according to new research from Akamai.
Story image
Ransomware
Ivanti and SentinelOne partner on patch management solution
Ivanti and SentinelOne will integrate their technologies Ivanti Neurons for Patch Management and SentinelOne's Singularity XDR platform.
Story image
Sustainability
NZ program recovers and recycles more than 177 tonnes of e-waste
The TechCollect NZ pilot program says its milestone of recovering and recycling more than 177 tonnes of ICT e-waste recognises the efforts of many.
Story image
Dicker Data
Dicker Data brought on as Acronis partner for A/NZ
The news about the partnership comes in as cyber criminals continue to exploit gaps in traditional solutions and strategies in NZ and across the APAC region.
Story image
Surveillance
Ministry will no longer accept equipment from Chinese firm Hikvision
The Ministry of Business, Innovation and Employment (MBIE) says it will no longer accept equipment from a major Chinese surveillance camera maker.
Story image
ExtraHop
Organisations exposing highly sensitive protocols to public internet
More than 60% of organisations expose remote control protocol SSH to the public internet, while 36% of organisations expose the insecure FTP protocol.