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Attacks/Breaches

12/12/2019
04:45 PM
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Cyberattacks on Retailers Could Increase 20% this Holiday Season

Commodity malware and ransomware continue to be the biggest threats, says VMWare Carbon Black.

A new analysis of threat data suggests retailers will experience a 20% increase in attempted cyberattacks this holiday shopping season, according to VMWare Carbon Black.

Commodity malware and ransomware will continue to account for a major portion of attack volumes. But often these attacks will be just a means to attain other broader objectives, the security vendor says in a report out this week.

"Retailers should be most concerned that their websites or mobile apps will be hijacked via watering-hole attacks," says Tom Kellermann, head cybersecurity strategist at VMware Carbon Black.

The other major concern is lateral movement, where attackers gain an initial foothold in a network and then expand their presence to other systems, he says. Sometimes, threat actors can attack the network of a retailer's business partner or vendor and use that access to break into the retailer's system.

VMWare Carbon Black's analysis combined data gathered from its retail customers during the 2018 holiday season, from this year, and from a recent survey of 20 CISOs and major retail organizations

The analysis shows a surprisingly high proportion of retailers already have been impacted by recent cyberattacks. More than seven in 10 organizations (73%) reported an increase in online attacks over the past year, and 40% said they had lost revenue in 2019 as the result of one.

One-third of the CISOs VMWare Carbon Black surveyed described their organizations as having experienced an attack where threat actors got into their networks by moving laterally from the network of a partner or vendor. Troublingly, one in five organizations experienced a destructive attack, such as one involving ransomware or disk-wiping malware.

"The macro-level takeaway is that attempted cyberattacks against retailers tend to spike right now – during the holiday shopping season," Kellermann says. "Attacker sophistication continues to evolve across verticals," he notes.

New Trickbot Campaign Another Threat
A separate report from Cybereason, also released this week, shows another threat many retailers are going to have to deal with this holiday season: targeted attacks involving the Trickbot malware.

According to Cybereason, its researchers have observed a new campaign where attackers are using TrickBot to infect POS and other systems at retailers, financial companies, and manufacturing businesses in the US and Europe. On some high-value systems the attackers have been deploying a new version of a previously known backdoor for stealing data. The attackers also have been using a previously unknown piece of malware, dubbed "Anchor," for stealing sensitive data from systems that are determined to contain information of value to the attacker.

"These attacks start with a TrickBot infection and, with high-profile targets, can escalate to a hacking operation leveraging a new malware, Anchor," the security vendor says. Unlike many previous Trickbot attacks that results in mass ransomware infections, "these new attacks focus on stealing sensitive information from POS systems and other sensitive resources in the victims' network by compromising critical assets," Cybereason warns.

Retail CISOs are responding to the worsening threat environment. According to Carbon Black, more than half (53%) of the retail CISOs it surveyed plan on increasing cybersecurity staff next year. Four in 10 expect their security budgets will increase at least 10% compared to 2019. Carbon Black's survey also shows that one-third of organizations have implemented a threat-hunting capability for proactively looking for and mitigating security issues before they develop into a full-blown attack.

"The number was not as high as I would have liked," Kellermann says. "In other verticals, like finance and healthcare, we're seeing some more active threat hunting occurring.”

Related Content:

Check out The Edge, Dark Reading's new section for features, threat data, and in-depth perspectives. Today's top story: "The Next Security Silicon Valley: Coming to a City Near You?"

Jai Vijayan is a seasoned technology reporter with over 20 years of experience in IT trade journalism. He was most recently a Senior Editor at Computerworld, where he covered information security and data privacy issues for the publication. Over the course of his 20-year ... View Full Bio

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