The cyber security research company reported on Tuesday that there has been a significant increase in ransomware and distributed denial-of-service attacks from October to November this year.
NCC Group reported a 41% jump in ransomware attacks in November, from 188 in October to 265, making November the most active month for the malware since April.
During the same period in 2021, the report continued, the increase was lower (4%), but the totals were higher – 314 for October and 328 for November.
The report states that the Conti and Payasa gangs probably contributed heavily to the ransomware threat landscape at that time. Both the gangs have either disbanded or are now separate.
Seasonal changes in ransomware attacks are common, noted Marcus Smiley, CEO of Epoch Concepts, an IT solutions provider based in Littleton, Colo.
“Ransomware attacks have increased during the holiday season since at least 2018,” Smiley told TechNewsWorld.
“The simplest explanation is that companies cease operations at the end of the year, making them less vulnerable to cyberattacks than usual,” he said. “This is a logical time to launch new ransomware campaigns.”
“There’s definitely an increased risk of attacks during the holiday season,” said Morgan Demboski, a threat intelligence analyst with IronNet, a network security company in McLean, VA.
“Threat actors attempt to take advantage of a potentially low cyber security posture and response as employees are out for the holidays,” Demboski told TechNewsWorld.
In 2021, there was a decline in ransomware attacks in the fourth quarter as threat actors focused on quality, not quantity, James McQuigan said. A security awareness advocate at KnowBe4, a security awareness training provider in Clearwater, Fla.
“However, this year, there has been an increase in attacks targeting the health care, education and retail sectors,” McQuigan told TechNewsWorld.
A malware for all seasons
In general, attacks can often be tracked back to specific time periods, which makes it difficult to mix them with expected, legitimate communications or maximize the chances of a large payout, explained Mark Guntrip, Senior Director of Cyber Security Strategy at Menlo Security. make capable. , a cyber security company in Mountain View, California.
“Attacks against agricultural companies at harvest time have drawn warnings from the FBI,” Guntrip told TechNewsworld. “There have also been attacks against game makers close to a big launch and candy makers before Halloween and the holidays.”
While there can be seasonal spikes in ransomware attacks, experts say the practice will continue to increase no matter the time of year.
Ransomware Regional Analysis – November 2022
As seen throughout the year, the top two regions globally targeted by ransomware in November were North America, followed by Europe. (Source: NCC Group Monthly Threat Pulse)
“Ransomware attacks have increased and will continue to increase in 2023,” Guntrip said.
“From attacks on critical infrastructure to individual businesses, it is clear that in today’s threat landscape, no one’s system is secure, and cybercriminals show no signs of slowing their efforts,” he said.
“The level of success and subsequent money paid out following an attack is a clear attraction for threat actors to increase their focus on ransomware,” he added.
extortion is gaining popularity
The increased opportunities are contributing to the rise in ransomware attacks, maintained Smiley. “Today’s organizations have more connected surfaces than ever before, thanks to IoT and remote employment,” he added.
Another factor is motive. “With increasing geopolitical conflict around the world, there is more activity on the part of nation-states and politically driven actors,” he observed.
“Yet another factor,” he said, “is the growing number of ransomware-as-a-service groups that offer their services to less sophisticated cybercriminals for a fee.”
Demboski explained that the “as a service” offering makes ransomware a low-effort, low-risk alternative to generating criminal profit.
“The availability of various ransomware families through Ransomware-as-a-Service, combined with other readily available services such as Phishing-as-a-Service and Initial Access Brokers, has created a great opportunity for cyber criminals to acquire credentials and ready-made Buying access has become much easier for organizations, in essence giving them all the necessary ingredients to launch an effective and damaging ransomware attack,” he said.
A troubling trend that will further fuel ransomware attacks is the use of ransomware for extortion.
“With the opening of ransomware in recent months, there have been several cases of ransoms not being collected after payment and data being held hostage for future extortion,” said Timothy Morris, chief security advisor at Tanium. An endpoint management and security platform in Kirkland, Wash.
“It takes into account the extortion trend,” Morris told TechNewsWorld. “This is easier to deal with than the logistics of ransomware keys and the management of encryption/decryption, which can create technical support issues that damage the criminal syndicate’s ‘reputation’ if they go down.”
DDoS attacks are on the rise
As noted in the NCC report, in October, distributed denial-of-service attacks continued to rise, with November seeing 3,648. A major target among them was the United States with 1,543 attacks.
The reasons for the US being the most targeted include the large attack surface and the current geopolitical tensions in the country, which show no signs of easing, the report pointed out.
It added that given the timing, the US strikes could be aimed at disrupting the midterm elections.
NCC’s Global Head of Threat Intelligence, Matt Hull, predicted that DDoS attacks would continue to increase.
“However, as more organizations become aware of the growing threat, it will be interesting to see how malicious actors who execute DDoS attacks are combated,” he said in a statement. “DDoS is not a new attack type, and preventive and defensive measures are more widely available and affordable than ever.”
DDoS Ransomware Isn’t for the Crowd
While denial-of-service attacks were common with some cybercriminal groups, DDoS attacks related to ransomware have decreased, McQuigan said.
“This action may result in the victim organization being blocked from using the Internet to access the Tor network, making it very difficult to make payments,” he explained.
“If they start denying service,” he continued, “that’s to tell the organization that they are still susceptible to other attacks to continue to pose a threat.”
Data breaches seem to be less of a concern than DDoS attacks compared to malware and phishing because DDoS attacks typically do not result in the theft or loss of sensitive data, observed Casey Ellis, CTO and founder of Bugcrowd, an operator of the Internet. Crowdsourced bug bounty platform.
“While DDoS attacks can cause significant disruption to company operations, they do not pose the same risk to the privacy, integrity, or availability of critical data as other types of cyber attacks,” Ellis told TechNewsworld. “DDoS attacks are less sophisticated and easier to defend against than data breaches, malware and phishing attacks.”