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Blog | Sep 01, 2017

New cyber threat intelligence suggests a rise in phishing-based attacks

We’ve recently released the 2017 Q2 Threat Summary Report, which analyzes threat types, volume, and preferred attack methods based on data gathered by our security operations center from April to July.

Among its key findings are an interesting shift in attack methods – from web exploitation to phishing – and an increase in industry-based attacks, specifically targeting industries that house large amounts of lucrative data.

Read on for a brief summary of the report and recommendations for protecting your network against the threats that we’ve observed over the last quarter.

“Phishing techniques have long been considered a reliable means of compromise. Costly development of exploits is not required when adversaries can simply lure a victim into clicking on a link or executing a malicious file.”


Attack Methods are Shifting

Interestingly, our researchers have seen a decrease in web exploitations. Cost-conscious attackers who have traditionally focused on website breaches are likely shifting away from this attack method because of the infrastructure and cost required to execute them. It’s simply not scalable. Instead, attackers are shifting back to social engineering as a more cost-effective, reliable method.

Phishing attacks are not new. In fact, earlier this year, our threat intelligence team saw a drop in phishing related attacks, and a rise in malware-based attacks, which correlates with 2017’s ransomware outbreaks. However, this quarter, the threat intelligence team has reported a shift over the spring months, with cybercriminals moving away from exploit kits and favoring phishing instead.

Using this popular social engineering tactic, attackers target an organization’s end users and trick them into downloading malicious attachments or exposing their credentials.

Industry Attacks on the Rise

We also saw an increase in opportunistic crime targeting industries, rather than organizations in Q2. We saw examples of industry-targeting in 2014 when Target and other major retailers were breached. Our data suggests that criminals are strategically launching coordinated attacks against lucrative industries like healthcare and hospitality (e.g. hotel chains) because they house a wealth of information that when breached, provide the attacker with a gateway to a much larger surface.

According to the report, the biotechnology and technology industries experienced the largest volume per active internet device in Q2, thanks in part to a high degree of brute force attempts via SSH.

Threat Trends

The threat intelligence team detected a spike in Information Gathering events in mid-May, around the same time that the WannaCry ransomware strain spread worldwide using a disclosed SMB vulnerability. This continued rise in Information Gathering events also supports evidence of increased phishing activity. We expect a continued rise in information gathering through the next quarter.

Protect Your Network

Organizations can greatly reduce their threat surface by following three simple steps:

  1. Patch: Apply current patching to all internet facing assets.
  2. Configure: Configure IPS and firewall policies to reject information gathering events.
  3. Enforce: Enforce acceptable use policies, coupled with continuous user education.

Learn More

Read the Report: Q2 Midmarket Threat Summary Report

The Q2 Midmarket Threat Summary Report, produced by the eSentire Threat Intelligence team, provides a quarterly snapshot of threat events investigated by the eSentire Security Operations Center (SOC). The report includes a written and visual analysis of threat types, threat volume and attack types, and offers practical recommendations for the midsized enterprise in protecting against attacks.

Mandy Bachus

Mandy Bachus

Director of Corporate Communications

Mandy leads a team of savvy communicators who continually strive to interpret to share thought provoking news and resources with the InfoSec community.