The most recent Global Threat Landscape Report from Fortinet says that automated and sophisticated swarm attacks are accelerating, making it increasingly difficult for organisations to protect users, applications and devices.
The Fortinet Q4 Global Threat Landscape Report notes that the sophistication of attacks targeting organisations is accelerating at an unprecedented rate. While digital transformation is reshaping business on the one hand, on the other it is opening up the attack surface for cybercriminals to take advantage of new, disruptive opportunities to attack.
Anton Jacobsz, managing director at value-added distributor, Networks Unlimited, which distributes Fortinet throughout Africa, says, “Cyber attackers are making use of newer swarm-like capabilities, while simultaneously targeting multiple vulnerabilities, devices, and access points. This combination creates rapid threat development that is becoming increasingly difficult for many organisations to defend against. Organisations need to adopt strategies based on automation and integration to address these problems of adversarial speed and scale.”
The threat data in the Fortinet Q4 Global Threat Landscape Report reinforces many of the predictions unveiled by the Fortinet FortiGuard Labs global research team for 2018, which had previously predicted the rise of self-learning hivenets and swarmbots, as clarified in a blog entry which noted that: “…cybercriminals will eventually replace botnets built with mindless zombie devices with intelligent clusters of compromised devices to create more effective attacks. This would be a hivenet instead of a botnet. It would be able to use millions of interconnected devices, or swarmbots, to simultaneously identify and tackle different attack vectors, enabling attacks at an unprecedented scale…
“…unlike individual zombies, individual swarmbots are smart. They are able to talk to each other, take action based on shared local intelligence, use swarm intelligence to act on commands without the botnet herder instructing them to do so, and recruit and train new members of the hive. As a result, as a hivenet identifies and compromises more devices it will be able to grow exponentially, and thereby widen its ability to simultaneously attack multiple victims.”
Deeper analysis into the Fortinet Q4 Global Threat Landscape reinforces this earlier insight. The report detected an average of 274 attacks per surveyed firm, which was a significant increase of 82 percent over the previous quarter. The number of malware families also increased by 25 percent (to 3,317) and unique variants grew 19 percent (to 17,671). This indicates a dramatic growth in volume as well as a significant evolution in the malware itself. Organisations must safeguard their networks and data from this onslaught of attacks coming from both corporate and employee devices.
Other notable findings from the report included the following:
· Encrypted traffic using HTTPS and SSL grew as a percentage of total network traffic to an average high of nearly 60 percent. Encryption can help protect data in motion as it moves between core, cloud, and endpoint environments, but it also represents a challenge for traditional security solutions. This is because this additional layer of security for sensitive data can also disguise more malicious content, such as malware. Some conventional network security tools cannot inspect SSL encrypted traffic, enabling malware hidden within that traffic to bypass security controls.
· Three of the top twenty attacks identified targeted Internet of Things (IoT) devices, and exploit activity quadrupled against devices like Wi-Fi cameras. In addition, unlike previous attacks, which focused on exploiting a single vulnerability, new IoT botnets such as Reaper and Hajime can target multiple vulnerabilities simultaneously. This multi-vector approach is much harder to combat. Reaper’s flexible framework means that its code is easily updated to swarm faster by running new and more malicious attacks as they become available. For example, exploit volume associated with Reaper exhibited a jump from 50,000 to 2.7 million over a few days before dropping back to normal.
· The Q4 2017 report noted that several strains of ransomware topped the list of malware variants, with Locky being the most widespread malware variant, followed by GlobeImposter. A new strain of Locky emerged, tricking recipients with spam before requesting a ransom. There was also a shift by cybercriminals from only accepting Bitcoin for payment to other forms of digital currency such as Monero.
· Cryptomining malware also increased globally – cybercriminals are recognising the growth in digital currencies and are now ‘cryptojacking’ to mine cryptocurrencies on computers using CPU resources in the background without a user knowing. Cryptojacking involves loading a script into a web browser – nothing is installed or stored on the computer.
The final word goes to John Maddison, senior vice president: products and solutions at Fortinet, who notes in a blog published by Fortinet: “2017 was another landmark year for cybersecurity. In reviewing our quarterly Threat Landscape reports, it is clear that 2017 has been notable primarily for three things: the rapid digital transformation and expansion of the potential attack surface, the increasing sophistication of cyber attacks, and a lapse in basic cybersecurity hygiene, largely being driven by digital transformation coupled with the growing cybersecurity skills gap.”