Trustwave SpiderLabs Exposes Unique Cybersecurity Threats in the Public Sector. Learn More

Trustwave SpiderLabs Exposes Unique Cybersecurity Threats in the Public Sector. Learn More

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SpiderLabs Blog

Announcing the 2019 Trustwave Global Security Report

Today we released our 2019 Global Security Report. The report is based on the analysis of billions of logged security and compromise events worldwide, hundreds of hands-on data-breach and forensic investigations, manual penetration tests, network vulnerability scans and internal research over the course of 2018. Our findings illustrate cybercriminals deviating towards a more focused approach against targets by using better obfuscation techniques and improved social engineering skills as organizations improve in areas such as time to detection and response to threats.

Some key findings from the Report include:

  • Malware is becoming harder to detect -- Sixty-seven percent of malware analyzed used obfuscation to help avoid detection, an astounding leap from 30% the previous year. Among these techniques, String Manipulation was the most common technique where scripts (typically Powershell or Javascript) is obfuscated to prevent detection. The next two most popular techniques were using Crypters and String to Binary. Crypters encrypt or encode the malware (often with simple ciphers like XOR), while String to Binary will encode a binary as a string, e.g. Base64 in order to bypass detection.

    We also noticed a spike in the use of encryption during exfiltration. While a majority of malware doesn’t use any automated exfiltration, the malware that does typically uses HTTP to move stolen data to an attacker-controlled server. While this has been an ongoing trend for quite some time, this year we saw a huge spike in the use of HTTPS for exfiltration, with the encrypted channel being used by 10% of all malware we inspected.

    This increased usage of encryption and obfuscation during the delivery of the malware and exfiltration of stolen data makes the malware much harder to detect and prevent.
  • Social engineering: cybercrime’s favored method of compromise -- Social engineering was the top method of compromise in 2018 in every environment analyzed other than e-commerce. In both cloud and POS environments, 60% of our breach investigations attributed successful social engineering as the initial point of entry. Corporate and internal environments were slightly less yet significant at 46%.

    Analysis of business email compromise (BEC) phishing scams targeting those with authority to transfer company funds revealed interesting results: 84% of BEC messages used free webmail services for distribution, 12% used spoofed company domains and 4% elected to employ misspelled or lookalike domain names to deceive recipients.

  • Email threats are becoming more targeted -- Speaking of phishing, spam messages analyzed containing malware significantly diminished in 2018, to 6% from 26% in 2017. This drop can be attributed to a shift in tactics to shorter, more regional campaigns from Necurs, the largest malicious spamming botnet. For example, in August last year, Necurs was used for two smaller campaigns that specifically targeted banking employees with malicious documents that delivered the FlawedAmmyy Remote Access Toolkit.

    A spike in more targeted phishing attacks was also represented by sextortion email campaigns. These phishing emails are designed to dupe victims into paying large ransoms by playing on fears that compromising videos exist. This trend was practically non-existent in 2017 yet rose toward the end of 2018 to account for 10% of all spam analyzed.  
  • Cryptojacking dominates web-based attacks – Web-based cryptomining via JavaScript was initially introduced as a legitimate alternative to annoying web ads in order to earn revenue. However, it didn’t take long for criminals to begin to covertly place those JavaScript coin miners on compromised websites. Our researchers even identified a campaign where carrier-grade routers were compromised to inject these coin mining scripts into all web traffic passing through them. In 97% of the 2,585 websites observed that were known to be compromised, the now-defunct Coinhive miner was preferred.

  • Corporate and internal networks at most risk -- Fifty-seven percent of the incidents investigated involved corporate and internal networks (up from 50% in 2017), followed by e-commerce environments at 27%. Incidents impacting POS systems decreased by more than half to just 9% of the total occurrences reflecting EMV use as a successful technology.

Data Sources

Trustwave SpiderLabs experts and researchers gathered and analyzed real-world data from hundreds of breach investigations that the company conducted in 2018 across 19 countries. This data was added to billions of security events logged each day across a global network of Trustwave Advanced Security Operations Centers, along with deep analysis of tens of billions of email messages; tens of millions of web transactions; thousands of penetration tests across databases, networks and applications; and telemetry from both native and partner technologies distributed across the globe.

To download a complimentary copy of the 2019 Trustwave Global Security Report, visit: 

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