Human factor report reveals how 2020 transformed today’s threat landscape

Proofpoint released its annual human factor report, which examines three primary elements of user risk—vulnerability, attacks, and privilege—as well as how the exceptional events of 2020 shifted the threat environment.

Human factor 2021 is based on a year’s research, and it covers risks identified, mitigated, and resolved across the cybersecurity databases.

Proofpoint examines over 2.2 billion email messages, 35 billion URLs, 200 million attachments, and 35 million cloud accounts per day. This report draws on analysis of that data throughout 2020 by their team of threat researchers and reveals risks and vulnerabilities that persist today.

According to the research, ransomware was omnipresent, with more than 48 million messages containing malware capable of being used as an entry point for ransomware attacks. Email remains a crucial part of these attacks, serving as the route through which much of the first-stage malware used to download ransomware is distributed.

Credential phishing—both consumer and corporate—was by far the most common form of cyberattack, accounting for two-thirds of all malicious messages.

Of all phishing methods, attachment proved the most successful, with an average of one in five users clicking.

Steganography was wildly successful, with more than one in three people targeted in such attack campaigns clicking the malicious email—the highest success rate of all attacks. Attacks using captcha techniques garnered 50 times as many clicks as the year prior.

Cyberthieves used Remote Access Trojans (RAT). In fact, nearly one in four email threat campaigns employed RAT software tools. For example, the volume of threats delivering cobalt strike—a commercial security tool that helps organisations probe for system weaknesses—jumped 161 per cent.

Read: Cyberattacks on UAE small businesses up 183% in 2020 – report

Emile Abou Saleh, regional director, Middle East and Africa for Proofpoint, added: “In the Middle East, our recent research revealed that CISOs in the UAE and KSA have seen an increase in targeted attacks in the past year of 76 per cent and 69 per cent respectively. As cyber criminals continue to exploit vulnerabilities created by remote working, the shift to e-commerce and cloud, and the acceleration of digital transformation across all sectors, it is more important than ever for companies in the region to employ a people-centric approach to their cybersecurity practices.”

According to Netscout, attacks will only grow more complex, and threat actors will continue to discover and weaponise new attack vectors designed to exploit the vulnerabilities exposed by this enormous digital shift. Therefore, security professionals must remain vigilant to protect the critical infrastructure that connects and enables the modern world.

Battling cybercrime is a multifront war, and modern-day DDoS attacks are complex, multi-vector, and dynamic. Companies need to make ongoing investments in security to adapt to today’s constantly evolving threat tactics. The more robust a defense is, the more capable a company will be in fending off the growing number of cyber threats.

Read: The rising cost of cybercrime: Why businesses must invest in cybersecurity

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