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Mandiant Announces the new M-Trends 2022 Report That Takes a Look at the Evolving Cyber Threat Landscape

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Mandiant has announced the findings of Mandiant M-Trends 2022, an annual report that provides timely data and insights based on Mandiant frontline investigations and remediations of high-impact cyber attacks worldwide. The 2022 report––which tracks investigation metrics between October 1, 2020, and December 31, 2021—reveals that while significant progress has been made in threat detection and response, Mandiant continues to see adversaries innovate and adapt to achieve their mission in targeted environments.

According to the M-Trends 2022 report, the global median dwell time––which is calculated as the median number of days an attacker is present in a target’s environment before being detected––decreased from 24 days in 2020 to 21 days in 2021. Digging deeper, the report notes that the APAC region saw the biggest decline in median dwell time, dropping to just 21 days in 2021 compared to 76 days in 2020. Median dwell time also fell in EMEA, down to 48 days in 2021 compared to 66 days the year before. In the Americas, median dwell time stayed steady at 17 days.

When comparing how threats were detected across different regions, the report found that in EMEA and APAC, the majority of intrusions in 2021 were identified by external third parties (62% and 76%, respectively), a reversal of what was observed in 2020. In the Americas, the detection by source remained constant with most intrusions detected internally by organizations themselves (60%).

Organizations’ improved threat visibility and response as well as the pervasiveness of ransomware––which has a significantly lower median dwell time than non-ransomware intrusions––are likely driving factors behind reduced median dwell time, per the report.

New Threats Emerge as China Ramps Up Espionage Activity
Mandiant continues to expand its extensive threat knowledge base through frontline investigations, access to the criminal marketplace, security telemetry and the use of proprietary research methods and datasets, analyzed by more than 300 intelligence professionals across 26 countries. As a result of relentless information gathering and analysis, Mandiant experts began tracking 1,100+ new threat groups during this M-Trends reporting period. Mandiant also began tracking 733 new malware families, of which 86% were not publicly available, continuing the trend of availability of new malware families being restricted or likely privately developed, according to the report.

M-Trends 2022 also notes a realignment and retooling of China cyber espionage operations to align with the implementation of China’s 14th Five-Year Plan in 2021. The report warns that the national-level priorities included in the plan “signal an upcoming increase in China-nexus actors conducting intrusion attempts against intellectual property or other strategically important economic concerns, as well as defense industry products and other dual-use technologies over the next few years.” 

Strengthening Security Posture
Mandiant remains committed to helping organizations remain secure from cyber threats and build confidence in their cyber defense readiness. To support this mission, Mandiant provides risk reduction tips throughout the M-Trends report, including mitigating common misconfigurations when using on-premises Active Directory, certificate services, virtualization platforms and cloud-based infrastructure. The report also reinforces considerations to support proactive security programs, reiterating the importance of long-standing security initiatives such as asset management, log retention policies and vulnerability and patching management.

To further support community and industry efforts, Mandiant continuously maps its findings to the MITRE ATT&CK framework, mapping an additional 300+ Mandiant techniques to the framework in 2021. The M-Trends report notes that organizations should prioritize which security measures to implement based on the likelihood of specific techniques being used during an intrusion. According to the report, by examining the prevalence of technique usage during recent intrusions, organizations are better equipped to make intelligent security decisions.

Additional takeaways from M-Trends 2022 Report include:

  • Infection Vector: For the second year in a row, exploits remained the most frequently identified initial infection vector. In fact, of the incidents that Mandiant responded to during the reporting period, 37% started with the exploitation of a security vulnerability, as opposed to phishing, which accounted for only 11%. Supply chain compromises increased dramatically, from less than 1% in 2020 to 17% in 2021.
  • Target industries impacted: Business and professional services and financial were the top two industries targeted by adversaries (14%, respectively), followed by healthcare (11%), retail and hospitality (10%) and tech and government (both at 9%).
  • New Multifaceted Extortion and Ransomware TTPs: Mandiant observed multifaceted extortion and ransomware attackers using new tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs) to deploy ransomware rapidly and efficiently throughout business environments, noting that the pervasive usage of virtualization infrastructure in corporate environments has made it a prime target for ransomware attackers. 

“This year’s M-Trends report reveals fresh insight into how threat actors are evolving and using new techniques to gain access into target environments. While exploits continue to gain traction and remain the most frequently identified infection vector, the report notes a significant increase in supply chain attacks. Conversely, there was a noticeable drop in phishing this year, reflecting organizations’ improved awareness and ability to better detect and block these attempts. In light of the continued increased use of exploits as an initial compromise vector, organizations need to maintain focus on executing on security fundamentals––such as asset, risk and patch management,” said Jurgen Kutscher, Executive Vice President, Service Delivery, Mandiant.  

The metrics reported in M-Trends 2022 are based on Mandiant investigations of targeted attack activity conducted between October 1, 2020 and December 31, 2021. The information gleaned has been sanitized to protect the identities of targets and their data.

Cyber Security

New Hacktivism Model Trends Worldwide

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Check Point Research (CPR) outlines a new model of hacktivism now trending worldwide. Five characteristics mark today’s form of hacktivism, according to researchers: political ideology, leadership hierarchy, formal recruiting, advanced tools, and public relations. CPR gives the hacktivist group Killnet an example of the latest model, detailing its attacks by country and attack timeline. CPR warns that hacktivism that originates in conflict-related geographies has the potential to scale worldwide.

  • Before, hacktivism was mostly focused on a few individuals carrying small-scale DDoS and defacement attacks
  • Now, hacktivism is better organized, structured, and sophisticated
  • CPR believes the new model of hacktivism began in conflict areas in the Middle East and Eastern Europe and proliferated to other areas during 2022

Check Point Research outlines a new model of hacktivism now trending worldwide. The hacktivism of the new model is better organized, structured and sophisticated, compared to the past. Hacktivist groups no longer consist of a few random individuals who carry out small DDoS or defacement attacks on low-tier websites. These are coordinated organizations with distinct characteristics previously unseen.

Key Characteristics:

  • Consistent political ideology (manifestos and/or sets of rules)
  • Hierarchy of leadership (Smaller groups relay attack orders to “commanders)
  • Formal recruitment process (Based on minimum requirements)
  • Tools that the groups provide to their members (Advanced tools for notoriety)
  • Robust public relations functions (Presences on major websites)

Why now?
CPR suspects the shift in the hacktivism model began roughly two years ago, with several hacktivist groups like Hackers of Savior, Black Shadow, and Moses Staff that focused exclusively on attacking Israel. CPR believes the Russian-Ukrainian war has proliferated the new model of hacktivism significantly. For example, The IT Army of Ukraine was publicly mobilized by the Ukrainian government to attack Russia. The new hacktivism also saw groups that supported the Russian geopolitical narrative, with groups like Killnet, Xaknet, From Russia with Love (FRwL), NoName057(16), and more.


Case Study: Killnet, from East to West
In April of this year, the group completely shifted its focus to support Russian geopolitical interests all over the world. The group claimed to have executed more than 550 attacks, between late February and September. Only 45 of them were against Ukraine, less than 10% of the total number of attacks.

  1. March: the group executed a DDoS attack on Bradley International Airport in Connecticut (US)
  2. April: websites belonging to the Romanian Government, such as the Ministry of Defense, Border Police, National Railway Transport Company and a commercial bank, were rendered unreachable for several hours.
  3. May: massive DDOS attacks were executed against two major EU countries, Germany and Italy
  4. June: Two very significant waves of attacks were executed against Lithuania and Norway in response to severe geopolitical developments between those countries and Russia
  5. July: Killnet focused their efforts on Poland and caused several government websites to be unavailable.
  6. August: Cyber-attacks were deployed on Latvia, Estonia and USA institutions
  7. September: the group targeted Asia for the first time and focused its efforts on Japan, due to Japan’s support for Ukraine

Sergey Shykevich, Threat Intelligence Group Manager at Check Point Software, said, “Hacktivism now has a whole new meaning. Before, the term meant a few random folks launching small DDoS attacks. Hacktivism is no longer just about social groups with fluid agendas. Now, hacktivism is better organized, structured and more sophisticated. I believe everything changed within the past year, especially with the start of the Ukraine-Russia war.”

“There are some key characteristics that mark the new model of hacktivism, including a consistent political ideology, a clear hierarchy of leadership, formal recruiting processes, sophisticated tool set, and robust PR capabilities. Though the change began in specific conflict-related geographical regions, it has now spread west and even further. Major corporations and governments in Europe and the US are being heavily targeted by this emerging type of hacktivism. All this allows the new hacktivism groups to be mobilized to governmental narratives and achieve strategic and broad-based goals with higher success levels – and much wider public impact – than ever before,” he said.

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Cyber Security

Global Cyber Security Revenue to Reach $334 Billion in 2026: GlobalData

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Cyber security has emerged as a top priority for organizations and consumers alike, especially following the spread of the COVID-19 pandemic, which led to new ways of living and working with a huge reliance on digital infrastructure that remains vulnerable to cyberattacks. Against this backdrop, the global cyber security revenue is expected to register a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8.7% from $220 billion in 2021 to $334 billion in 2026, forecasts GlobalData, a leading data, and analytics company.

The surge in the volume and sophistication of cyber-attacks across organizations is expected to favor the enterprise cyber security market revenue growth over the forecast period. Madhumita Chaudhary, Practice Head at GlobalData, comments: “Despite the continued investments and growth in the cyber security space, the frequency of attacks and breaches have shown no signs of abatement. More than billions of records containing critical information were compromised since the pandemic. As such, enterprise cyber security will continue to dominate the overall cyber security demand in terms of market share, capturing a sizeable revenue share exceeding 90% in 2021.”

GlobalData’s latest report, “Cyber Security Market Size, Share and Trends Analysis Report by Type (Enterprise, Consumer), Product (Security Consulting, Managed Service Providers, Identity and Access Management), Vertical, Enterprise Size, Region, and Segment Forecasts, 2021-2026,” reveals that the consumer cyber security market too will register a healthy CAGR, exceeding 10% during 2021-2026. Chaudhary explains: “The rapid emergence of connected devices and associated security risks with no baseline security upgrades will favor the segment growth over the forecast period.”

In addition to the rising frequency of attacks, ransomware is also gaining prominence, and has been used in several high-profile attacks. It is the most concerning type of cyberattack for business leaders. Chaudhary continues: “Cyber security should be at the forefront of all digital transformation strategies. A lapse in focus could mean hefty repercussions in form of accelerated ransomware attacks.”

Asia-Pacific (APAC) is more vulnerable to cyber threats owing to the critical infrastructure and growing financial sector in the region. Furthermore, an increase in digital transformation initiatives, penetration of internet connectivity, and susceptibility stemming from IoT connectivity is likely to increase the adoption of cyber security solutions.

Chaudhary concludes: “Emerging countries in the APAC region like India, Singapore, Japan, Australia, the Philippines, Thailand, and Taiwan are facing increasing cyber-crimes in terms of ransomware, phishing, and network attacks, and are projected to witness strong demand for cyber security products & services.”

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Cyber Security

Trellix Study Claims 53% of UAE Cybersecurity Professionals Are Fighting a Losing Battle Against Cybercriminals

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The majority of UAE-based cybersecurity professionals are feeling overwhelmed by the rapid escalation of cyber threats despite increased commitments from senior management and access to bigger budgets. This was one of the key findings in a global study commissioned by Trellix, the cybersecurity company at the forefront of extended detection and response (XDR).

The study polled 9,000 cybersecurity professionals across 15 countries, including the UAE, in organizations with 500 or more employees. Some 70% of UAE respondents said their organization’s cybersecurity investments had increased in the past 12 months and two-thirds (67%) reported regular meetings on cybersecurity and compliance with senior executives. But most (56%) also admitted that threats evolve so rapidly they still struggle to keep up.

There was widespread acknowledgment among UAE respondents of the need for change. Some 57% said their current security model needed to be updated to successfully predict, detect, and respond to attacks as they happened. Among those expressing such concerns, 13% described the necessary updates as “major”.

Amid these capability gaps, 53% of UAE cybersecurity specialists say they are “fighting a losing battle against cybercriminals”. Beyond taking a toll on the cybersecurity professionals — 54% of respondents cited being held back by the limitations of their cybersecurity infrastructure as one of their biggest work frustrations — this gap in cybersecurity is impacting UAE organizations’ bottom lines, with 80% of respondents acknowledging that their organization lost up to 10% of revenue in the previous year because of security breaches.

According to the findings, 60% of UAE SecOps teams are hampered by the patchwork of security solutions that have few, if any, integration options. Only one in nine (11%) have managed to eliminate silos and little more than a fifth (22%) are working towards this end. Some 59% are working with more than 10 separate security solutions and 60% decried the lack of efficiency this causes. To make matters worse, one-third (67%) of organizations have no plans to rid themselves of silos.

“Siloed security systems hand easy victories to threat actors and make life harder for SecOps teams everywhere,” said Vibin Shaju, General Manager, UAE at Trellix. “And yet many businesses seem prepared to accept siloed security rather than updating their security architecture to connect the dots and enable adaptive security. Nothing changes if nothing changes. Organizations that do not move purposefully towards a more integrated security model are painting a target on their back as an open invitation to cybercriminals.”

In the UAE, 69% of cybersecurity professionals reported dealing with up to 50 cybersecurity incidents per day and 42% characterize their daily routine as being “inundated by a never-ending stream of cyberattacks”. Respondents are plagued by blind spots within their infrastructure, with 27% citing such visibility gaps. Moreover, just over a third (36%) say their security ecosystem does meet their current needs but expressed concerns about their future capabilities if they continue to use the same security suite.

Against this backdrop, one technology that has come to the fore is Extended Detection & Response (XDR). In particular, an open, cloud-native XDR architecture that constantly learns from and adapts to the ever-changing threat landscape, can help organizations eliminate silos and identify threats before they can do harm. More than a fifth (22%) of UAE respondents said they had already implemented XDR, with an additional 41% saying they were exploring the technology for likely implementation in the next 12 to 18 months.

Among XDR implementors in the UAE, 78% ranked the ability to automate processes and prioritize critical concerns among the most important benefits of the technology. Not only was this the top priority for UAE organizations, but the proportion of respondents that cited it was significantly higher than the global average, suggesting that automation and alert triage are of specific interest to UAE enterprises — an understandable finding given the region’s extant cybersecurity skills gaps.

Among other important factors that compelled UAE companies to implement XDR was its capability to detect threats in real-time (76%), and the ability to deliver operational efficiency by freeing human analysts to pursue higher-value cyber work (37%). A quarter of UAE XDR implementors were drawn to the technology by its capability to learn from incidents and adapt to threats; and 38% were impressed by the reduction in response times. Some 46% said that because of the benefits they had witnessed, they were likely to recommend that their organization allocate budgets this year to advanced programs that include XDR.

“This research reveals how unsustainable the situation is for cybersecurity professionals today,” said Aparna Rayasam, chief product officer, Trellix. “Instead of relying on traditional siloed solutions that add complexity, businesses can reshape SecOps with a flexible, intelligent security architecture that consolidates security tools, so teams can work smarter and quickly remediate threats.”

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