Connect with our team of offensive security, AI security and pen testing experts at Black Hat Europe 2023. Learn More

Connect with our team of offensive security, AI security and pen testing experts at Black Hat Europe 2023. Learn More

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2023 Financial Services Sector Threat Landscape: Trustwave Threat Intelligence Briefing and Mitigation Strategies

Cyberattacks striking the financial services industry are more prevalent, dangerous, and hitting faster than ever.


To provide much needed guidance and recommended mitigation measures the Trustwave SpiderLabs team conducted a multi-month investigation into the cyber threats facing this sector. The team examined how adversaries attack flow, the methodologies used, and offers recommendations to stay safe and detailed its findings in the the report "2023 Financial Services Sector Threat Landscape: Trustwave Threat Intelligence Briefing and Mitigation Strategies.”


The report identifies the key threat groups that significantly impact this sector. Notably, Clop and Lockbit emerged as the primary threat actors. The report also highlighted that email-based attacks remain the preferred avenue for gaining initial access in these targeted attacks.


This comprehensive research uncovers the strategies employed by adversaries, their attack methodologies, and the actionable measures that organizations can adopt to safeguard themselves against these distinctive forms of threats.


“In a highly competitive B2B and B2C financial services industry, cybersecurity’s role earning and sustaining consumer trust is paramount as a competitive differentiator,” said Trustwave CISO Kory Daniels. “For financial institutions, it isn’t just about protecting data, it's about safeguarding the financial well-being and peace of mind of customers, partners, and investors.”




The financial services sector is not the only vertical attackers target heavily; after all, threat actors spread their nets quite wide in their illegal attempts for financial opportunity. Over the past several months SpiderLabs has released reports on the healthcare and hospitality sectors detailing cybersecurity issues and mitigations.


“Our latest threat briefing is a valuable resource for business leaders and cyber defenders within the financial services sector, providing a comprehensive view of the threats observed by our SpiderLabs team, along with specific mitigation strategies to help organizations protect extremely sensitive data and assets,” Daniels said.


Naming the Threat Actors


Trustwave SpiderLabs' multi-month investigation found a dozen threat groups at the forefront or recent attacks, including:

  • Clop
  • LockBit
  • Alphv/BlackCat
  • Black Basta


The adversaries' preferred attack vectors cover a wide spectrum. However, the preferred method is using email-centric techniques such as phishing emails with malicious attachments and business email compromise. Other popular methods Trustwave SpiderLabs uncovered were exploiting vulnerabilities, illegally gaining access to legitimate credentials, and spreading malware like ransomware and infostealers.


The researchers noted that HTML attachments comprise 78% of all malicious attachments seen and are mainly used for credential phishing, redirectors, and HTML smuggling.


To gain their victim's trust, attackers used a bevy of familiar brands to encourage the email recipients to open the emails. American Express was the most commonly used brand, at 24% of the emails investigated, followed by DHL at 21%, and Microsoft at 15%.


The 2023 Financial Services Threat Landscape: Trustwave Threat Intelligence Briefing and Mitigation Strategies report’s expansive scope details the exact methodology attackers use to gain access, deliver an initial payload, expand within the target system, the type of malware used, and how adversaries go about extracting and compromising the stolen data.


More importantly, SpiderLabs offers mitigations to reduce risk for each type of attack, steps that most organizations can quickly implement to immediately boost their level of security.

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