Fortinet report highlights growing mobile malware attacks

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Fortinet today announced the findings of its latest quarterly Global Threat Landscape Report. The research reveals threats are increasing and evolving to become more sophisticated. Unique threat variants and families are on the rise, while botnet infections continue to infect organizations.

The report identifies mobile devices as a preferred target with over one-quarter of organizations experiencing a mobile malware attack, the majority being on the Android operating system. In fact, of the threats organizations faced from all attack vectors, 14% of total malware alerts were Android related. By comparison, only .000311% of threats were targeted at Apple iOS. Mobile threats can become a gateway for corporate networks to be exploited, the report said.

“Cyberthreats are growing rapidly and every organization is feeling the impact, with daily detections and exploits increasing,” said Phil Quade, Chief Information Security Officer, Fortinet. “Previously, ransomware was the talk of the day, and now cryptojacking, mobile malware, and attacks against business-critical supply chains are proliferating. As our cyber adversaries continue to incorporate new threats and leverage increasingly automated techniques at speed and scale for their malicious activities, segmentation and integration have become critical security strategies for IT and OT environments today.”

According to the report, threat development continues to be a top focus for cybercriminals who are not only expanding their attack arsenal but also developing new strategies for breaching defenses. Unique malware variants grew 43%, while the number of malware families grew by nearly 32%. The number of unique daily malware detections per firm also rose 62%. In line with these trends, unique exploits increased nearly 10% and the number of exploit detections per firm rose 37%.

Cryptojacking remains prevalent and continues to grow in scope, as per Fortinet research. The number of platforms affected by cryptojacking jumped 38% and the number of unique signatures nearly doubled in the past year. These include new sophisticated platforms for advanced attackers as well as “as-a-service” platforms for novice criminals. IoT botnets are also increasingly leveraging cryptojacking exploits for their attack strategy.

Data shows malicious network traffic represents a higher percentage of overall traffic on weekends and holidays as business traffic slows down significantly since many employees are not working during this time. For many organizations this may be an opportune time to sweep for malware because as the “haystack” of traffic becomes smaller, the chance of finding malicious “needles” is much greater. With cybercriminals using more automated and sophisticated techniques, any opportunity to increase visibility can be an advantage.

The botnet index rose only 2%, though the number of infection days per firm increased 34% from 7.6 days to 10.2 days. This may be an indication that botnets are becoming more sophisticated, difficult to detect, or harder to remove. It may also denote a failure to practice good cyber hygiene in general by some organizations. The importance of consistent security hygiene remains vital to thoroughly addressing the total scope of these attacks. Sometimes botnets can go dormant, only to return after normal business operations have resumed, if the root cause or “patient zero” is not determined.

Encrypted traffic reached a new high, comprising 72% of all network traffic, up from 55% just one year ago. While encryption can certainly help protect data in motion as it moves between core, cloud, and endpoint environments, it also represents a challenge for traditional security solutions. The critical firewall and IPS performance limitations of some legacy security solutions continue to limit the ability of organizations to inspect encrypted data at business speeds. As a result, a growing percentage of this traffic is increasingly not analyzed for malicious activity, making it an ideal mechanism for criminals to spread malware or exfiltrate data.

Digital Change Requires a New Approach to Security

The threat data in this quarter’s report once again reinforces many of the threat prediction trends unveiled by the FortiGuard Labs global research team. To stay ahead of the ongoing efforts of cybercriminals, organizations need to transform their security strategies as part of their digital transformation efforts. Isolated, legacy security devices and poor security hygiene continue to be a formula for increased risk to today’s threat landscape as they do not provide adequate visibility or control. Instead, a security fabric that spans the entire expanded network environment and is integrated between each security element is vital to address today’s growing threat environment and to protect the expanding attack surface. This approach enables actionable threat intelligence to be shared at speed and scale, shrinks the necessary windows of detection, and provides the automated remediation required for today’s multi-vector exploits.

Report and Index Overview

The Fortinet Threat Landscape Report is a quarterly view that represents the collective intelligence of FortiGuard Labs drawn from Fortinet’s vast array of global sensors during Q3 2018. Research data covers global and regional perspectives. Also included in the report is the Fortinet Threat Landscape Index (TLI), comprised of individual indices for three central and complementary aspects of that landscape which are exploits, malware, and botnets, showing prevalence and volume in a given quarter. The report also examines important zero-day vulnerabilities and infrastructure trends to add context about the trajectory of cyberattacks affecting organizations over time.

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