TrendMicro Midyear Cybersecurity Assessment

The first six months of 2019 saw organisations dealing with a broad range of incoming threats and, more urgently, tackling threats that had already gained a foothold in their systems, according to the midyear trend assessment carried out by TrendMicro.


Malware that “lived off the land,” or took advantage of legitimate and whitelisted tools to carry out malicious actions, was prevalent. Ransomware, an old threat, refocused on particular targets. Phishing, another perennial peril, used new platforms to ensnare victims. And the number of disclosed high-impact vulnerabilities drew concern and underscored the need for a better understanding of the real-world risks faced by enterprise systems.


Trendmicro's midyear security roundup highlights these and other threats that made their mark in the first half of 2019 and provides security insights to help users and organisations determine the right solutions and defence strategies against them.


In the first half of 2019, cybercriminals were more selective about their ransomware targets, concentrating mainly on multinationals, enterprises, and even government organisations. Their modus operandi involved sending employees tailored phishing emails, exploiting security gaps to gain access into the network, and then moving laterally within the network.


The LockerGoga ransomware, for example, hit a Norwegian manufacturing company and halted production in several of its plants in March, eventually resulting in over US$55 million in financial losses. And the city of Baltimore, Maryland, had incurred US$5.3 million in recovery costs after its systems were infected with the RobbinHood ransomware in May.


Some municipal organisations were evidently pressured into simply paying the ransoms in hopes of quickly restoring the affected systems used for their public services. Notably, three municipalities in Florida were struck by separate ransomware attacks over the course of several weeks: Riviera Beach, by an unidentified ransomware variant, and Lake City and Key Biscayne, both by the notorious Ryuk ransomware.


As predicted by TrendMicro, threat actors had been increasingly “living off the land,” or abusing legitimate system administration and penetration testing tools to hide their malicious activities. Their so-called fileless threats are not as visible as traditional malware since these typically do not write to disk, are usually executed in a system’s memory, reside in the registry, or misuse normally whitelisted tools like PowerShell, PsExec, or Windows Management Instrumentation.


See the full report here.

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