Adam Adler: 2021 Emerging trends in cyber threats
Adam Adler: “During the next
risks will become
harder to assess and
interpret due to the
growing complexity of
the threat landscape,
and expansion of the
01_Malware is getting an upgrade.
Malware family strains are being upgraded into new versions with additional features, distribution, and propagation mechanisms. Emotet for example, a malware originally designed as a banking Trojan back in 2014, has become one of the most
effective malware distributors of 2019.
02_Threats will become fully mobile.
Users are increasingly dependent on mobile devices to secure their most sensitive accounts. The use of 2fa tied to an app authenticator or via a text message is one of the examples. With more malware going fully mobile, fraudulent apps,
SIMJacking and operating systems exploits make these devices the weakest
link and therefore, extremely vulnerable to attacks.
03_Attackers are using new file types such as disc image files (ISO and IMG) for spreading malware.
DOC, PDF, ZIP, and XLS files are still the most commonly used attachment type for
spreading malware but other types are getting popular. A few campaigns
distributing AgentTesla InfoStealer and NanoCore RAT were found using
image file type in 2019.
04_Increase in targeted and coordinated ransomware attacks.
In 2020, we saw an escalation of sophisticated and targeted
ransomware exploits with the public sector, health care organizations and
specific industries at the top of the list. Attackers are spending more time
gathering intelligence about their victims, knowing exactly what to encrypt,
achieving maximum disruption and higher ransoms.
05_Credential-stuffing attacks will widespread.
Credential stuffing - the automated injection of stolen username and
password combinations through large-scale automated login requests
directed against a web application - will proliferate as a result of a decade
of an abnormal number of data breaches and trillions of personal data
records were stolen.
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Ten emerging trends in attack vectors
01_Attacks will be massively distributed with a short duration and a wider impact
These attacks are meant to affect the highest number of devices possible to
steal personal information or block access to data by encrypting the
02_Finely targeted and persistent attacks will be meticulously planned with well-defined and long-term objectives
Malicious actors plan this type of attacks to reach high-value data such as
financial information, intellectual and industrial property, trade secrets,
classified information, etc.
03_Malicious actors will use digital platforms in targeted attacks
Malicious actors will explore the potential of digital platforms to support
targeted attacks (e.g. social media, gaming, messaging, streaming, etc.).
From personal data theft for spear-phishing attacks to broad malware
distribution, digital platforms with a high number of subscribers are
efficient attack vectors increasingly popular among malicious actors.
04_ The exploitation of business processes will increase
With more automation and less human intervention, business processes
can be maliciously altered to generate profit for an attacker. Commonly
known as Business Process Compromise (BPC) this technique is often
undervalued by process engineering specialists due to the lack of a proper
05_ The attack surface will continue expanding
E-mail is no longer the prime and only tool and top attack vector for
phishing. Malicious actors are now using other platforms to communicate
and attract victims to open compromised web pages. A new trend is
emerging with the use of SMS, WhatsApp, Snapchat, and social media
06_Teleworking will be exploited through home devices
With more people teleworking and connecting their devices to corporate
networks, the risk of opening new entry points for attackers will increase.
With the COVID-19 pandemic, this trend will urge IT Managers to tighten
security policies and make urgent changes in the IT infrastructure.
07_Attackers will come better prepared
Attackers choose their targets carefully, perform reconnaissance against
specific employees, and target those with spear-phishing attacks to obtain
usable credentials to target the organization. Once the attackers gain
access to a single machine, they may employ penetration-testing tools
such as Mimikatz to gather and exploit credentials with elevated privileges.
08_Obfuscation techniques will sophisticate
Threat actors are continuously innovating to make threats more effective
and less susceptible to detections. The Anibus, an Android banking Trojan
and bot has been distributed by masquerading as an innocuous app,
primarily through Google Play Store.
09_ The automated exploitation of unpatched systems and discontinued applications will increase
The abnormal increase in Telnet traffic to port 445 observed in 2019
unveiled the expansion of worms and exploits such as Eternal Blue. Telnet,
which is no longer used except in the realm of IoT devices, saw the
greatest volumes during the period.
10_ Cyber threats are moving to the edge
Edge devices are deployed at the boundaries between interconnected
networks. We have seen a growing trend with attacks targeting these
devices — such as routers, switches, and firewalls — having a significant
impact to an enterprise and on the connected digital ecosystem.