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Check Point report reveals magnitude of global cyber pandemic and supply chain attack ‘frenzy’

by Reporter
21 January 2022 | 1 minute read

According to the Cyber Attack Trends: 2022 Security Report by Check Point Research, the education and research sectors have been the most targeted sectors, after analysing data that uncovered the key cyber security trends from 2021, which included the supply chain attack “frenzy” that is increasing disruption to everyday life.

From the SolarWinds attack at the beginning of the year, which presented a whole new level of sophistication and spread, all the way through to December and the influx of Apache Log4j vulnerability exploitations, the 2022 Security Report reveals the key attack vectors and techniques witnessed by CPR during 2021.

Check Point Research (CPR), the threat intelligence arm of Check Point Software Technologies Ltd, found that overall, in 2021, organisations experienced 50 per cent more weekly cyber attacks than in 2020. With the education and research sectors' 1,605 weekly attacks taking the lead (75 per cent increase). This was followed by government and military with 1,136 weekly attacks (47 per cent increase) and communications with 1,079 weekly attacks (51 per cent increase).

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Software vendors experienced the largest year-on-year growth (146 per cent) which goes hand-in-hand with the ever-increasing trend of software supply chain attacks observed in 2021.

Last year also saw evolving attacks on mobile devices, increase in major cloud services vulnerabilities, and the return of the notorious Emotet botnet.

ISCOVER

According to Maya Horowitz, VP Research at Check Point Software, in a year that began with the fallout from one of the most devastating supply chain attacks in history, it has been seen that threat actors grow in confidence and sophistication.

"This culminated in the Log4j vulnerability exploit which, yet again, caught the security community off guard and brought to the fore the sheer level of risk inherent in software supply chains."

"In the months between, we saw cloud services under attack, threat actors increasing their focus on mobile devices, the Colonial Pipeline held to ransom, and the resurgence of one of the most dangerous botnets in history," Horowitz said.

 

The Cyber Attack Trends: 2022 Security Report 2022 uncovered and analysed data related to:

  •  Supply chain attacks: The infamous SolarWinds attack laid the foundations for a supply chain attack frenzy. The year 2021 saw numerous sophisticated attacks such as Codecov in April and Kaseya in July, concluding with the Log4j vulnerability that was exposed in December. The striking impact achieved by this one vulnerability in an open-source library demonstrates the immense inherent risk in software supply chains.

 

  • Cyber attacks disrupting everyday life: The year 2021 saw a large of number attacks targeting critical infrastructure which led to huge disruption to individuals’ day-to-day lives, and in some cases, even threatened their sense of physical security.

 

  • Cloud services under attack: Cloud provider vulnerabilities became much more alarming in 2021 than they were previously. The vulnerabilities exposed throughout the year have allowed attackers, for varying timeframes, to execute arbitrary code, escalate to root privileges, access mass amounts of private content and even cross between different environments. 

 

  • Developments in the mobile landscape: Throughout the year, threat actors have increasingly used smishing (SMS phishing) for malware distribution and have invested substantial efforts in hacking social media accounts to obtain access to mobile devices. The continued digitisation of the banking sector in 2021 led to the introduction of various apps designed to limit face-to-face interactions, and those in turn have led to the distribution of new threats.

 

  • Cracks in the ransomware ecosystem: Governments and law enforcement agencies changed their stance on organised ransomware groups in 2021, turning from preemptive and reactive measures to proactive offensive operations against the ransomware operators, their funds and supporting infrastructure. The major shift happened following the Colonial Pipeline incident in May which made US President Joe Biden's administration realise they had to step up efforts to combat this threat.

 

  • Return of Emotet: One of the most dangerous and infamous botnets in history, is back. Since Emotet’s November return, CPR found the malware’s activity to be at least 50 per cent of the level seen in January 2021, shortly before its initial takedown. This rising trend continued throughout December with several end-of-year campaigns, and is expected to continue well into 2022, at least until the next takedown attempt.

 

According to Horowitz, despite the report findings, it’s not all doom and gloom. Instead of relying on reactive and remedial action, some shocking events woke governments up to the fact that they needed to take a more proactive approach to dealing with cyber risk.

"We also saw cracks in the ransomware ecosystem widen in 2021, as governments and law enforcement agencies around the world resolved to take a tougher stance on ransomware groups in particular."

"That same philosophy extends to businesses too, who can no longer afford to take a disjointed, siloed, reactionary approach to dealing with threats."

"They need 360-degree visibility, real-time threat intelligence, and a security infrastructure that can be mobilised in an effective, joined-up manner," Horowitz concluded.

[Related: UAE bolsters cyber defences to keep hackers at bay]

 

Check Point report reveals magnitude of global cyber pandemic and supply chain attack ‘frenzy’
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