BlackBerry Cylance highlights the scope of global attack surface expansion

BlackBerry has today released its annual 2020 threat report, which examines the scope of global attack surface expansion, including the latest adversarial techniques and tactics analysed by BlackBerry Cylance threat researchers. It also provides guidance organisations can leverage to mitigate risk.

The report found the continued evolution of nation-state backed threat actor groups, the increased availability of sophisticated attack toolsets, as well as analysis on which targets are becoming more appealing to attackers and why.

It also details more select threats focused on targets, like embedded technologies in connected vehicles, manufacturing and mobile devices, and those taking advantage of misconfigurations in cloud computing deployments.

Threat actors are weaponising hyper-connectivity with new adversarial strategies and tactics

“New techniques to obscure malicious payloads and distribute attacks across multiple organisations paid off for threat actors in 2019,” said Eric Cornelius, chief technology officer at BlackBerry Cylance.

“With the increasing ease of access to attack toolkits combined with the explosion of endpoints connected to organisations’ networks, the global threat landscape for emerging threats will only continue to escalate in 2020.”

Automotive and retail industries should be on alert

The research suggests there has been a shift in the industries targeted by malicious actors. The automotive sectors is particularly at risk with the advent of connected vehicles.

For example, BlackBerry Cylance researchers discovered new backdoors being deployed by APT group OceanLotus (APT 32) in a 2019 campaign targeting multinational automotive manufacturers.

As more vehicles become connected — and the attention given to potential outcomes of cyber attacks on vehicles increases — attacks against this sector are anticipated to grow. As such, the industry must continue investing in cyber security processes and secure connected software to ensure public trust in the transportation technologies of the future.

Cylance researchers also found that retail and wholesale remained the most targeted sectors, where almost a quarter (23%) of all retailers suffered a compromise of sensitive financial information. Three of the most prevalent threats of 2019 — Emotet, Ramnit and Upatre — all focused on retail organisations, and 47% of coinmining operations focused attacks on the sector.

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The report identified four other industry verticals that are facing unique threats:

1. Technology/Software: Where attacks typically have a focus on stealing intellectual property, over a quarter (26%) were victims of ransomware specifically.

2. Service providers: This industry’s customer base was leveraged by threat actors to increase malicious distributions using remote management tools like Go2Assist and NinjaRMM.

However, it should be noted that NinjaRMM has taken extensive steps towards securing its platform.
3. Healthcare: Healthcare organisations were more likely to pay ransoms than other industries due to the critical nature of the targeted data.

4. Government: Attacks against government entities can have cascading effects that not only impact critical national infrastructure, but impact individuals as well given the significant quantities of personally identifiable information they store.

“Threat intelligence on APT groups can help organisations understand who is attacking their enterprise, and the actor’s mode of operations and motives, in order to be more proactive in protecting vulnerable systems against advanced threats,” said Brian Robison, chief evangelist at BlackBerry Cylance. “In 2020, AI and machine learning will continue to prove critical for threat prevention and remediation strategies because of the advantage they offer through continuous learning and proactive threat modelling of attacks that continue to become more complex.”

 The other findings

The other findings from BlackBerry Cylance’s 2020 annual threat report included:

• Coinmining attacks becoming more commonplace as cryptocurrency prevails: criminals recognised an opportunity to passively generate revenue by infecting cryptocurrency machines.

• MSSPs becoming high-value targets for threat actors: new ransomware called Sodinokibi caused mass disruption by infiltrating hosted environments.

• Data loss increasing because of cloud misconfiguration: misconfigured cloud resources led to a total of over seven billion records being publicly exposed in 2019. This number is only expected to increase with cloud investments estimated to reach $49.1 billion in 2020.

• Continued evolution of ransomware tactics: an increased availability of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) offerings, and instances where ransomware developers have collaborated with banking trojan developers to exfiltrate data prior to encryption, are being used to further extort victims.

• Increased use of host-encrypted malware: static analysis of host-encrypted malware is almost impossible in a lab, decreasing defenders’ understanding of the malicious code and the ability for security solutions to block it.

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Nick Ismail

Nick Ismail is a former editor for Information Age (from 2018 to 2022) before moving on to become Global Head of Brand Journalism at HCLTech. He has a particular interest in smart technologies, AI and...

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