The year 2018 was another record-breaking year for cyberattacks, and organizations should expect more of the same in 2019. Attackers, who continue to prioritize email as the primary attack vector, are increasingly deploying more sophisticated phishing techniques to bypass traditional email security safeguards, thereby complicating cybersecurity initiatives for many government agencies and private sector businesses. Thus, it's a safe bet that advanced phishing threats, such as business email compromise (BEC), spearphishing, ransomware, and brand impersonation attacks, will continue to ascend in the year ahead.
The 2019 Threat Landscape
Attackers have steadily increased their attacks on both business and government entities, while financial gain continues as the primary motivator. In 2018, ransomware and spoofing attacks grew by 350% and 250% respectively, according to IndustryWeek. The Securities and Exchange Commission (SEC) reports that the average cost of a cyber breach hit $7.5 million in 2018, up from $4.9 million in 2017. Those are alarming statistics by any measure, but what's even more concerning are the number of municipalities, large corporations, and small businesses impacted by cyberattacks in 2018.
In March, a ransomware attack shut down online systems at the City of Atlanta, forcing the government of the sixth largest metro to go without digital services for a week. While attribution remains inconsistent, most security officials believe that nation-state actors continued to target US elections and government entities, with several high-profile attacks against US senators and critical infrastructure, according to Gov Tech. Meanwhile, major companies such as Under Armour, Panera, Facebook, Strava, and Orbitz all suffered notable data breaches this year while there was a massive spike in attacks targeting small and midsized companies across industries.
Attackers no longer discriminate their targets with such frequency as in year's past. Today, launching an automated phishing campaign requires very little work for potentially very high ROI. So with no decline to email-driven cybercrime in sight, here are some trends we can expect to see:
Automation Pluses & Minuses
One of the biggest challenges to mitigating the risk of phishing is keeping up with the sheer volume of attacks. Fidelis Cybersecurity surveyed security practitioners from companies in multiple industries and found 60% of analysts could only handle up to eight investigations per day.
To keep pace with the threats, some modern email security solutions have introduced automation — which, in theory, is of great benefit to SOC and security teams — as automated technology could alleviate the burden of manual phishing investigation and response.
Yet, despite the introduction of automation, automated email security tools in some cases offer only partial automated functionality. For example, fractional automation — like the preset of very basic processes, standardized playbooks, and linear technology built on YARA rules — doesn't actually save security teams time because so much manual input is still required.
Having basic awareness of trending attacks and an understanding of modern attacker preferences is often the first step in measurable risk reduction. However, awareness is not enough; instead, automation that can help security teams expedite the time from threat identification to attack remediation is what will move the needle the most.
Eyal Benishti has spent more than a decade in the information security industry, with a focus on software R&D for startups and enterprises. Before establishing IRONSCALES, he served as security researcher and malware analyst at Radware, where he filed two patents in the ... View Full Bio