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10/2/2017
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Cyber Criminals Focused on Credential Theft: Report

28 September 2017 – Criminal tactics used to access user credentials are growing in prevalence and sophistication, according to the findings of WatchGuard’s latest quarterly Internet Security Report, which explores computer and network security threats affecting SMBs and distributed enterprises. The findings also show that a record 47 percent of all malware is now new or zero day and able to evade signature-based antivirus solutions.

“The global Firebox Feed data from Q2 shows that threat actors are more focused on credential theft than ever before,” said Corey Nachreiner, chief technology officer at WatchGuard Technologies. “From JavaScript-enabled phishing attacks and attempts to steal Linux passwords, to brute force attacks against web servers, the common theme here is that login access is a top priority for criminals. Knowing this, businesses must harden exposed servers, seriously consider multi-factor authentication, train users to identify phishing attacks and implement advanced threat prevention solutions to protect their valuable data.”

Mimikatz, a popular open source tool used for credential theft, accounted for 36 percent of the top 10 malware in Q2, earning it the number one position. Often used to steal and replace Windows credentials, this is the first time Mimikatz has appeared in the familiar group of top malware variants, showing that attackers are constantly adjusting tactics.

The report also shows that phishing attacks are increasingly using malicious JavaScript to fool users. For several quarters attackers have leveraged JavaScript code and downloaders to deliver malware in web and email-based attacks. But in Q2, attackers were seen to use JavaScript in HTML attachments to phishing emails that mimic login pages for popular legitimate sites like Google, Microsoft and others to trick users into willingly giving up their credentials.

Other key findings from the Q2 2017 report include:

  • Attackers target Linux passwords in Northern Europe. Cyber criminals used an old Linux application vulnerability to target several Nordic countries and the Netherlands with attacks designed to steal password hash files. More than 75 percent of attacks leveraging a remote file inclusion vulnerability to access /etc/passwd were aimed at Norway (62.7 percent) and Finland (14.4 percent). With such a high volume of incoming attacks, users should update Linux servers and devices as a basic precaution.
  • Brute force attacks against web servers climb. This summer, attackers used automated tools against web servers to crack user credentials. With the heightened prevalence of web-based attacks against authentication in Q2, brute force login attempts against web servers were present among the top 10 network attacks. Web servers without protections that monitor failed logins leave automated attacks unchecked to guess thousands of passwords each second.
  • Nearly half of all malware is able to circumvent legacy AV solutions. At 47 percent, more new or zero day malware is making it past legacy AV than ever before. The data shows that older, signature-based AV is increasingly unreliable when it comes to catching new threats, illustrating the need for behavioral detection solutions in order to catch advanced persistent threats.

WatchGuard’s Internet Security Report provides threat intelligence, research and security best practices in order to inform and educate readers about online adversaries so they can better protect themselves and their organizations. It is based on anonymised Firebox Feed data from more than 33,500 active WatchGuard UTM appliances worldwide. In total, these appliances blocked more than 16 million malware variants in Q2, with an average of 488 samples blocked by each individual device. Over the course of the quarter, WatchGuard’s Gateway AV solution stopped nearly 11 million malware variants (a 35 percent increase over Q1), while APT Blocker caught an additional 5,484,320 malware variants (a 53 percent spike compared to Q1). Additionally, WatchGuard Firebox appliances stopped nearly three million network attacks in Q2, at a rate of 86 attacks blocked per device.

The complete report details the top malware and attack trends from Q2 2017, a comprehensive breakdown of the notorious WannaCry ransomware attacks, and key information security best practices for readers. In this report, the latest research project from WatchGuard’s Threat Lab focuses on threat trends from SSH and Telnet honeypots that are constantly targeted by automated attacks. The key take-aways from this project highlight the dangers associated with default credentials and the importance of IoT device protection.

For more information, download the full report here: https://www.watchguard.com/wgrd-resource-center/security-report

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