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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.

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Cyber Security

The Rising Risk of Ransomware Attacks on Organisations and How to Mitigate it

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According to the 2022 SonicWall Cyber Threat Report, “ransomware volume increased 105% year over year and is up 232% since 2019.” With the risk of ransomware attacks continuing to rise, it’s crucial to shield your organization from these attacks to avoid unwanted financial fallout.

Ransomware attacks commonly target an organization’s file servers and databases using malicious code to encrypt files such as documents, images, and videos on the system. Ransomware can also be programmed to find vulnerabilities on the network and use these to spread to other systems in an organization. Ransomware attacks are typically executed through social engineering like widespread phishing attacks, but cybercriminals can also specifically target a certain entity, sometimes a popular one. These attacks have the potential to cripple an entire organization’s database.

Once encrypted by ransomware, files are almost impossible to retrieve without the decryption key. To get this key, the victim is demanded to pay a ransom—often millions of dollars—within a short timeframe, usually 24 to 48 hours. If the victim organization keeps a backup of its files, then it’ll be able to restore those files and avoid paying the ransom. If not, the organization often has no option but to pay the ransom.

However, if you fall victim to a ransomware attack, it’s strongly recommended that you don’t pay the ransom to regain access to your encrypted files. This is because you are relying on the integrity of a cybercriminal. The cybercriminal may not give you the decryption key after the transaction or, even worse, they may continue to target your organization and repeatedly demand higher ransoms now that they know you’re willing to pay.

In recent years, it has become much easier to develop ransomware, resulting in the continued rise in ransomware attacks. Cybercriminals can develop and execute a ransomware attack with readily available open-source code and with easy-to-use drag-and-drop platforms. It is also hard to track these cybercriminals because transactions involving ransomware are commonly made using cryptocurrency.

Ransomware attacks can result in exploitation and loss of your organization’s critical and confidential data. But there are steps you can take to prevent and mitigate these attacks.

Back-Up Your Data
Take regular backups of all your files and data; this way, even if your system is infected, you can erase the infected files and recover them using your backups. This cannot prevent a ransomware attack, but it can mitigate the risk of losing all your data.

Keep Your System and Software Up-to-Date
Maintain a healthy patching routine. This includes updating your software as soon as possible when patches for security vulnerabilities are released by vendors. To keep your device secure from ransomware attacks, use a security solution that can identify these attacks at their earliest stages and mitigate their impact.

Be Careful Where You Click
Beware of social engineering attacks and email scams, and avoid downloading files from untrusted sources as these can result in your system being exploited by malicious software like ransomware. What makes social engineering attacks so dangerous is that they take advantage of human error rather than system vulnerabilities.

Create Awareness Among Employees About Ransomware Attacks
Since human error is a major vector cybercriminal manipulate to carry out ransomware attacks, it is essential to educate and train employees on social engineering and email phishing attacks to effectively secure your organization against them.

ManageEngine’s security information and event management (SIEM) solutions protect your enterprise network from cyberattacks and insider threats. SIEM solutions collect and analyze the security data generated by your devices in real-time, alerting you about vulnerabilities, indicators of compromise, and any suspicious activity to help you mitigate the risk of ransomware attacks.

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Cyber Security

Ransomware Hit 59% of UAE Organizations Surveyed for Sophos’ Annual “State of Ransomware 2022”

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Sophos has released its annual international survey and review of real-world ransomware experiences in the State of Ransomware 2022. The report shows that 59% of UAE organizations surveyed were hit with ransomware in 2021, up from 38% in 2020.

The report summarizes the impact of ransomware on 5,600 mid-sized organizations in 31 countries across Europe, the Americas, Asia-Pacific, and Central Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. The main findings for the UAE in the State of Ransomware 2022 global survey, which covers ransomware incidents experienced during 2021, as well as related cyber insurance issues, include:

  • Many organizations rely on cyber insurance to help them recover from a ransomware attack – 85% of mid-sized organizations had cyber insurance that covers them in the event of a ransomware attack – and, in 100% of incidents, the insurer paid some or all the costs incurred.
  • Ninety-eight percent of those with cyber insurance said that their experience of getting it has changed over the last 12 months, with higher demands for cybersecurity measures, more complex or expensive policies, and fewer organizations offering insurance protection.

“The findings suggest we may have reached a peak in the evolutionary journey of ransomware, where attackers’ greed for ever higher ransom payments is colliding head-on with a hardening of the cyber insurance market as insurers increasingly seek to reduce their ransomware risk and exposure,” said Wisniewski. “In recent years, it has become increasingly easy for cybercriminals to deploy ransomware, with almost everything available as-a-service. Second, many cyber insurance providers have covered a wide range of ransomware recovery costs, including the ransom, likely contributing to ever higher ransom demands. However, the results indicate that cyber insurance is getting tougher and in the future ransomware victims may become less willing or less able to pay sky-high ransoms. Sadly, this is unlikely to reduce the overall risk of a ransomware attack. Ransomware attacks are not as resource intensive as some other, more hand-crafted cyberattacks, so any return is a return worth grabbing and cybercriminals will continue to go after the low hanging fruit.”

Sophos recommends the following best practices to help defend against ransomware and related cyberattacks:

  1. Install and maintain high-quality defenses across all points in the organization’s environment. Review security controls regularly and make sure they continue to meet the organization’s needs.
  2. Proactively hunt for threats to identify and stop adversaries before they can execute their attack – if the team lacks the time or skills to do this in house, outsource to a Managed Detection and Response (MDR) specialist.
  3. Harden the IT environment by searching for and closing key security gaps: unpatched devices, unprotected machines, open RDP ports, etc. Extended Detection and Response (XDR) solutions are ideal for this purpose.
  4. Prepare for the worst. Know what to do if a cyber incident occurs and keep the plan updated.
  5. Make backups, and practice restoring from them so that the organization can get back up and running as soon as possible, with minimum disruption.
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Cyber Security

Cybersecurity Skills Gap Contributed to 80 Percent of Breaches: Fortinet Report

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Fortinet has released its 2022 Cybersecurity Skills Gap Report. The new global report reveals that the cybersecurity skills shortage continues to have multiple challenges and repercussions for organizations, including the occurrence of security breaches and subsequently loss of money. As a result, the skills gap remains a top concern for C-level executives and is increasingly becoming a board-level priority. The report also suggests ways the skills gap can be addressed, such as through training and certifications to increase employees’ education.

Sandra Wheatley, SVP Marketing, Threat Intelligence, and Influencer Communications at Fortinet says, “According to the Fortinet report released today, the skills gap isn’t just a talent shortage challenge, but it’s also severely impacting business, making it a top concern for executive leaders worldwide. Through Fortinet’s Training Advancement Agenda (TAA) and Training Institute programs, we are committed to tackling the challenges revealed in the report through various initiatives, including programs focused on cybersecurity certifications and recruiting more women into cyber. As part of this commitment, Fortinet has pledged to train 1 million professionals to increase cyber skills and awareness and make a dent in the skills gap by 2026.”

The Widespread Global Impact of the Cybersecurity Skills Shortage
According to (ISC)2’s 2021 Cyber Workforce Report, the global cybersecurity workforce needs to grow 65 percent to effectively defend organizations’ critical assets. While the number of professionals needed to fill the gap has decreased from 3.12 million down to 2.72 million in the past year, this is still a significant void that leaves organizations vulnerable.

Fortinet’s report demonstrates multiple risks resulting from the cybersecurity skills gap. Most notably, 8 in 10 organizations surveyed have suffered at least one breach they could attribute to a lack of cybersecurity skills or awareness. The survey also showed that globally 64 percent of organizations experienced breaches that resulted in the loss of revenue, recovery costs and/or fines.

Given the increasing costs of breaches on organizations’ profits and reputation, cybersecurity is becoming more of a board-level priority. Globally, 88 percent of organizations that have a board of directors reported that their board asks questions specifically about cybersecurity. And 76 percent of organizations have a board of directors who has recommended increases in IT and cybersecurity headcount.

Advancing Cybersecurity Skills Through Training and Certifications
Fortinet’s skills gap report demonstrated that training and certifications are critical ways organizations seek to further tackle the skills gap. The report revealed that 95 percent of leaders believe technology-focused certifications positively impact their role and their team, while 81 percent of leaders prefer to hire people with certifications. Additionally, 91 percent of respondents shared they are willing to pay for an employee to achieve cyber certifications. One major reason for certifications being highly regarded is due to their validation of increased cybersecurity knowledge and awareness.

In addition to valuing certifications, 87 percent of organizations have implemented a training program to increase cyber awareness. However, 52 percent of leaders believe their employees still lack the necessary knowledge, which raises questions about how effective their current security awareness programs are. For organizations looking for security awareness training, Fortinet offers a Security Awareness and Training service through the award-winning Fortinet Training Institute. The service further protects organizations’ critical digital assets from cyber threats by building employee cybersecurity awareness. This service receives updates from Fortinet’s FortiGuard Labs threat intelligence so that employees are learning and keeping up with the latest evolving cyberattack methods to prevent company breaches and risks from being introduced.

Addressing Recruitment and Retention Challenges with Diversity Commitments
A significant challenge for organizations has been finding and retaining the right people to fill critical security roles ranging from cloud security specialists to SOC analysts. The report found that 60 percent of leaders admit their organization struggles with recruitment and 52 percent struggle to retain talent.

Among hiring challenges is the recruitment of women, new college graduates, and minorities. Globally, 7 out of 10 leaders see the recruitment of women and new graduates as a top hiring hurdle and 61 percent said hiring minorities has been challenging. As organizations look to build more capable and more diverse teams, 89 percent of global companies have explicit diversity goals as part of their hiring strategy according to the report. The report also demonstrated that 75 percent of organizations have formal structures to specifically recruit more women and 59 percent have strategies in place to hire minorities. Additionally, 51 percent of organizations have efforts in place to hire more veterans.

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