The 2022 Threat Report, released by Sophos a global leader in next-generation cybersecurity has indicated that until global cryptocurrencies are better regulated, Cryptocurrency will continue to fuel cyber-crimes such as ransomware and malicious cryptomining.
The in-depth report, which identifies Trends in Ransomware Services, Commodity Malware, Attack Tools, Cryptominers, and More That Are Impacting IT Security also shows how the gravitational force of ransomware black hole is pulling in other cyber-threats to form one massive, interconnected ransomware delivery system – with significant implications for IT security.
The report, written by SophosLabs security researchers, Sophos Managed Threat Response threat hunters and rapid responders, and the Sophos AI team, provides a unique multi-dimensional perspective on security threats and trends facing organizations in 2022.
Apart from Cryptocurrency fueling cyber crimes, the Sophos 2022 Threat Report analyzes the following key trends:
- Over the coming year, the ransomware landscape will become both more modular and more uniform, with attack “specialists” offering different elements of an attack “as-a-service” and providing playbooks with tools and techniques that enable different adversary groups to implement very similar attacks.
- Established cyberthreats will continue to adapt to distribute and deliver ransomware. These include loaders, droppers and other commodity malware; increasingly advanced, human-operated Initial Access Brokers; spam; and adware. In 2021, Sophos reported on Gootloader operating novel hybrid attacks that combined mass campaigns with careful filtering to pinpoint targets for specific malware bundles.
- The use of multiple forms of extortion by ransomware attackers to pressure victims into paying the ransom is expected to continue and increase in range and intensity. In 2021, Sophos incident responders catalogued 10 different types of pressure tactics, from data theft and exposure, to threatening phone calls, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, and more.
Commenting on the report, Chester Wisniewski, Principal Research Scientist at Sophos, said “Ransomware thrives because of its ability to adapt and innovate. For instance, while RaaS offerings are not new, in previous years their main contribution was to bring ransomware within the reach of lower-skilled or less well-funded attackers. This has changed and, in 2021, RaaS developers are investing their time and energy in creating sophisticated code and determining how best to extract the largest payments from victims, insurance companies, and negotiators. They’re now offloading to others the tasks of finding victims, installing and executing the malware, and laundering the pilfered cryptocurrencies. This is distorting the cyberthreat landscape, and common threats, such as loaders, droppers, and Initial Access Brokers that were around and causing disruption well before the ascendancy of ransomware, are being sucked into the seemingly all-consuming ‘black hole’ that is ransomware.
“It is no longer enough for organizations to assume they’re safe by simply monitoring security tools and ensuring they are detecting malicious code. Certain combinations of detection or even warnings are the modern equivalent of a burglar breaking a flower vase while climbing in through the back window. Defenders must investigate alerts, even ones which in the past may have been insignificant, as these common intrusions have blossomed into the foothold necessary to take control of entire networks.”
Additional trends Sophos analyzed include:
- After the ProxyLogon and ProxyShell vulnerabilities were discovered (and patched) in 2021, the speed at which they were seized upon by attackers was such that Sophos expects to see continued attempts to mass-abuse IT administration tools and exploitable internet facing services by both sophisticated attackers and run-of-the-mill cybercriminals.
- Sophos also expects cybercriminals to increase their abuse of adversary simulation tools, such as Cobalt Strike Beacons, mimikatz and PowerSploit. Defenders should check every alert relating to abused legitimate tools or combination of tools, just as they would check a malicious detection, as it could indicate the presence of an intruder in the network.
- In 2021, Sophos researchers detailed a number of new threats targeting Linux systems and expect to see a growing interest in Linux-based systems during 2022, both in the cloud and on web and virtual servers.
- Mobile threats and social engineering scams, including Flubot and Joker, are expected to continue and diversify to target both individuals and organizations.
- The application of artificial intelligence to cybersecurity will continue and accelerate, as powerful machine learning models prove their worth in threat detection and alert prioritization. At the same time, however, adversaries are expected to make increasing use of AI, progressing over the next few years from AI-enabled disinformation campaigns and spoof social media profiles to watering-hole attack web content, phishing emails and more as advanced deepfake video and voice synthesis technologies become available