67% of Malware Attacks Come by Way of Phishing in Second Quarter

67% of Malware Attacks Come by Way of Phishing in Second Quarter

During the second quarter, cyberattacks soared 24% worldwide with phishing attacks playing a large role and Adobe Flash one of the favorite attack targets, according to a report released today by NTT Security.

Organizations hit with malware during the second quarter had it delivered via phishing attacks in 67% of the cases, according to a Global Threat Intelligence Center (GTIC) report released today by NTT Security.

GTIC’s 2017 Q2 Threat Intelligence Report, which gleans data from both successful and unsuccessful attempts on its customers, found phishing emails were by far the most heavy used delivery method for malware.

Yet, CISOs and other IT security executives may not be giving phishing and its mitigation as much focus as other attacks.

“I have not seen any studies where CISCOs are saying their No. 1 concern is phishing attacks. If you went around a room, it would likely be ransomware and DDoS as the No. 1 and No. 2 things on their mind, in my view,” says Jon Heimerl, manager of the Threat Intelligence communications team. “I would be amazed if phishing was on their top 5 or even top 10 list.”

He added it usually takes a CISO getting hit with a malware attack that was delivered via a phishing email for a focus to be placed on developing ways to mitigate phishing attacks. And ways to address this form of attack typically comes by way of using technology to filter out nefarious emails, as well as putting together policies and employee education to tackle this increasing form of attacks, he noted.

“Over the last few years, there has been an explosion in attacks aimed at the end user, including phishing attacks,” Heimerl says.

He attributes that to cybercriminals going for the low-hanging fruit where it takes as little as 10 minutes to craft an effective email to entice a user to click on a link or download an attachment that will ultimately provide access to the core of the network, rather than spending days creating exploits.

NTT Security found malicious attachments accompanying phishing emails often come with embedded VBA macros that frequently hold obscure PowerShell commands that download the malware. NTT Security expects cyberattackers continue to use embedded VBA macros that rely on a various Windows tools that range from PowerShell to Windows Management Instrumentation Command-Line to PsExec for malware payload downloads.

Industries Capturing the Eyes of Cybercriminals

Manufacturing captured the top ranking of targeted industries in the second quarter, accounting for 34% of all malicious attacks in the three-month period. That was followed by finance at 25% and healthcare at 13%, the report found.

The type of attacks the manufacturing industry endured during the quarter was predominately reconnaissance attacks, which accounted for 33% of the activity against the sector that involved scanning for vulnerabilities in applications and systems, according to the report. Brute-force attacks, meanwhile, accounted for 22% of attacks on the manufacturing industry and malware 9%, the report noted. Some of the scanning tools used by cybercriminals against the manufacturing industry included ZmEu, Muieblackcat and Metasploit to peer into public-facing systems, according to the report.

Top Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures

An Adobe Flash remote code execution bug (CVE-2016-4116) patched last spring took the title of most-targeted vulnerability in the second quarter, accounting for 57% of targeted campaigns, the report stated. Flash, overall, accounted for a whopping 98% of all Adobe flaws, the report found.

Last month, Adobe announced it will end support for Flash in 2020.

“If you’re a CISO and you don’t need to run Flash, then you should uninstall it,” advised Heimerl, adding that CISOs will have to ask themselves what their risk tolerance level is like.

The other top common vulnerabilities and exposures in the second quarter included the Apache Struts remote code execution vuln discovered in March (CVE-2017-5638), which accounted for 24% of attack target campaigns, and ShellShock (CVE-2014-6271), which continues to represent 10%, the report stated.

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Dawn Kawamoto is an Associate Editor for Dark Reading, where she covers cybersecurity news and trends. She is an award-winning journalist who has written and edited technology, management, leadership, career, finance, and innovation stories for such publications as CNET’s … View Full Bio

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