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Cyberattacks on remote access protocols on the rise: Report

Hemani Sheth Mumbai | Updated on March 25, 2021

Cyberattacks against remote access protocols used by employees to access corporate resources have continued to rise over the past year following the switch to remote work, according to a recent report by cybersecurity firm Kaspersky.

According to the report, there were 377.5 million brute-force attacks in February 2021, a significant rise from the 93.1 million witnessed at the beginning of 2020. India alone witnessed 9.04 million (90,48,791) attacks in Feb 2021.

The total number of brute force attacks in India from Feb-Dec 2020 was around 37 million (3,76,64,893), while the total number of attacks recorded in India during Jan and Feb 2021 are around 15 million (1,58,04,209), as per the report.

Such attacks became more prominent as employees switched to remote work in 2020 to curb the spread of Covid-19.

“RDP is perhaps the most popular remote desktop protocol and is used to access Windows or servers. After the switch to remote work, brute-force attacks against this protocol skyrocketed. In a brute-force attack, attackers test different usernames and passwords until the correct combination is found—and they gain access to the corporate resources,” explained Kaspersky.

“Over the past year, while the total number of brute-force attacks has ebbed and flowed, they have continued to increase when compared to pre-pandemic levels,” it said.

According to Kaspersky’s telemetry, soon after the global lockdowns began in March 2020, the total number of brute-force attacks against RDP jumped from 93.1 million worldwide in February 2020 to 277.4 million 2020 in March recording a 197 per cent increase. In India the attacks increased from 1.3 million (13,63,953) in Feb 2020 to 3.3 million (33,01,848) in March 2020. From April 2020 onward, monthly attacks kept rising above 300 million, and they reached a new high of 409 million attacks worldwide in November 2020. The highest number of attacks 4.5 million (45,86,533) in India was recorded in July 2020.

“Remote work isn’t going anywhere. Even as companies begin considering re-opening their workplaces, many have stated that they will continue to include remote work in their operating model or pursue a hybrid format. That means it’s likely these types of attacks against remote desktop protocols will continue to occur at a rather high rate. 2020 made it clear that companies need to update their security infrastructure, and a good place to start is providing stronger protection for their RDP access,” said Dmitry Galov, a security expert at Kaspersky.

“The increase in the number of brute force attacks in India as well as globally is concerning and an immediate action needs to be taken by businesses of all sizes, as no one is completely safe from the nefarious cyber criminals. It is imperative for businesses to secure themselves from these attacks, as it is a very popular method of attack that is used for data breaches by cybercriminals in order to gain sensitive data from enterprises successfully and without much investment,” said Chris Connell, Managing Director, Kaspersky (APAC).

Connell further said, “Educating the staff on safe practices and tools for password management and watching accounts in real-time for strange activity can help the enterprises tremendously in fighting against such attacks.”

Published on March 25, 2021

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