Detection capabilities improve, but ransomware surges on

A FireEye report outlines critical details on trending attacker techniques and malware, the proliferation of multifaceted extortion and ransomware, preparing for expected UNC2452 / SUNBURST copycat threat actors, growing insider threats, plus pandemic and industry targeting trends.

ransomware detection

Global median dwell time drops below one month for first time

Over the past decade, Mandiant has observed a trending reduction in global median dwell time (defined as the duration between the start of a cyber intrusion and when it is identified). This measure went from over one year in 2011 to just 24 days in 2020 – that’s more than twice as quickly identified in comparison to last year’s report with a median dwell time of 56 days.

This reduction is attributed to continued development and improvement of organizational detection and response capabilities, along with the surge of multifaceted extortion and ransomware intrusions.

Median dwell time trends varied by region. The Americas continued to decrease. The Americas median dwell time for incidents discovered internally improved the most – dropping from 32 days down to only nine days – marking the first time a region has dipped into single digits. Conversely, APAC and EMEA experienced an overall increase in median dwell time, which experts believe to be influenced by a greater number of intrusions with dwell times extending beyond three years, as compared to the Americas.

Internal detections on the rise

While last year’s report noted a drop in internal detections of intrusions compared to the previous year, experts observed a return of organizations independently detecting most of their own incidents. Internal incident detection rose to 59% in 2020 – a 12-point increase compared to 2019. This return to organizations detecting the majority of intrusions within their environments is in line with the overall trend observed over the last five years.

Notably, internal detection was on the rise across all regions year-over-year. Organizations located in the Americas led the internal detection trendline at 61%, followed by EMEA and APAC closely aligned at 53% and 52%, respectively. In comparison, APAC and EMEA organizations received more notifications of compromise from external entities, versus North America organizations.

Attackers narrow sights on retail and hospitality and healthcare

The top five most targeted industries, in order, are business and professional services, retail and hospitality, financial, healthcare and high technology.

Experts observed that organizations in the retail and hospitality industry were targeted more heavily in 2020 – coming in as the second most targeted industry compared to 11th in last year’s report. Healthcare also rose significantly, becoming the third most targeted industry in 2020, compared to eighth in last year’s report. This increased focus by threat actors can most likely be explained by the vital role the healthcare sector played during the global pandemic.

“While organizations continue to improve their ability to discover compromises within their environments, containing adversaries today comes with unique challenges. The consequences of a global pandemic forced companies to rethink how they operate and move to a remote workforce. This change resulted in VPN infrastructure, video conferencing, collaboration and knowledge sharing platforms becoming business-critical systems and changing the attack surface of organizations.

“In many cases, regular employees became responsible for connectivity and cybersecurity. While business and professional services has been in the top five most targeted industries since 2016, we believe the sudden boost in business services necessary for remote working has made this industry the most targeted in 2020 by cybercriminals and state-sponsored threat actors,” said Jurgen Kutscher, Executive VP, Service Delivery, Mandiant.

“Multifaceted extortion and ransomware are the most prevalent threats to organizations. In this year’s report, direct financial gain was the likely motive for at least 36% of the intrusions we investigated.

“Data theft and reselling of unauthorized access to victim organizations remain high as multifaceted extortion and ransomware actors have trended away from purely opportunistic campaigns in favor of targeting organizations that are more likely to pay large extortion demands. Given this surge, organizations must take proactive action to mitigate the potential impact,” said Charles Carmakal, Sr VP and CTO, Mandiant.

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