Covid-19 related cyber-attacks soar in Q2 of 2020: Report

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on November 05, 2020

Science and technology sector accounted for 91% increase in threat detections

Cyberattacks have witnessed a massive surge in Q2 of 2020 owing to Covid-19, according to McAfee Threats Report: November 2020.

According to the report, detections of pandemic-related cyberattacks grew by a whopping 605 per cent in Q2.

The cybersecurity firm suggests that the global impact of the pandemic has prompted cybercriminals to modify their cybercrime campaigns to lure victims with pandemic themes and exploit the workforce mandated to work-from-home.

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“What began as a trickle of phishing campaigns and the occasional malicious app quickly turned into a deluge of malicious URLs, attacks on cloud users and capable threat actors leveraging the world’s thirst for more information on Covid-19 as an entry mechanism into systems across the globe,” said Raj Samani, McAfee fellow and chief scientist.

Cybercriminals zeroed in on Science and Technology sector which accounted for a 91 per cent increase in threat detections over the previous quarter. Incidents in Manufacturing also increased 10 per cent, as per the report.

In terms of technology, cloud services having gained massive popularity with people being mandated to work from home was one of the primary targets of cybercriminals. Attacks on cloud services users reached nearly 7.5 million in the second quarter.

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Rise in malware attacks

The quarter has also witnessed a surge in malware. Publicly disclosed security incidents rose 22 per cent in Q2 2020, Malware led attacks accounted for 35 per cent of publicly reported incidents in Q2. Account Hijacking and Targeted Attacks accounted for 17 per cent and 9 per cent respectively.

The firm detected 419 new threats per minute on an average this quarter with new malware samples growing 11.5 per cent.

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Mobile malware increased 15 per cent driven by a surge in Android Mobby Adware. There was also a significant rise in Microsoft Office malware which increased by 103 per cent.

This rise was led by the “significant proliferation” in malicious Donoff Microsoft Office documents attacks which propelled a new PowerShell malware up 117 per cent, the report said.

“Donoff Microsoft Office documents act as TrojanDownloaders by leveraging the Windows Command shell to launch PowerShell and proceed to download and execute malicious files. Donoff played a critical role in driving the 689% surge in PowerShell malware in Q1 2020. In Q2, the acceleration of Donoff-related malware growth slowed but remained robust, driving up PowerShell malware by 117 per cent,” McAfee said. This, in turn, contributed to the rise in Microsoft Office Malware.

“The second quarter of 2020 saw continued developments in innovative threat categories such as PowerShell malware and the quick adaptation by cybercriminals to target organizations through employees working from remote environments,” Samani said.

There was a 22 per cent rise in Linux malware owing to Gafgyt and Mirai Internet of Things activity, while new Coinmining malware increased 25 per cent with the adoption of new Coinmining applications, the report said.



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Published on November 05, 2020

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