Trellix Report sees Escalation of Cyberattacks Targeting SA Sectors
02-05-2022 08:31:00 | by: Nixon Kanali | hits: 2389 | Tags:

Cybersecurity firm Trellix has released its Threat Labs Report: April 2022, examining cybercriminal behaviour in South Africa over the last six months. Key findings from the report include individual consumers being the No. 1 target of cybercriminals, closely followed by the healthcare vertical. Additionally, the transportation, shipping, manufacturing and information technology industries showed a sharp increase in threats.

“We’re at a critical juncture in cybersecurity and are observing increasingly hostile behaviour across an ever-expanding attack surface. While, globally, individuals and healthcare were the most frequently targeted industries by cybercriminals, in South Africa – Trellix saw an upsurge in attacks targeted at the country’s government and utilities sectors,” says Carlo Bolzonello, South Africa Country Lead for Trellix South Africa.

“The fourth quarter signalled the shift out of a two-year pandemic, which cybercriminals used for profit. We believe that’s the reason why we saw the prevalence of threat actors such as TA505 Group, APT29, and APT32 being active in the country.” Carlo adds. 

Threats to Critical Infrastructure

According to the report, Q4 2021 saw increased cyberactivity targeting sectors essential to the function of society. Transportation and shipping were the target of 27% of all advanced persistent threat (APT) — activity by adversarial and stealthy actors — detections. Healthcare was the second most targeted sector, bearing 12% of total detections. From Q3 to Q4 2021 the report notes that threats to manufacturing increased 100%, and threats to information technology increased 36%. Of Trellix customers, it also notes that the transportation sector was targeted in 62% of all observed detections in Q4 2021.

Earlier this month, Trellix released a global Cyber Readiness Report investigating how critical infrastructure providers are preparing for cyberattacks. It found many critical infrastructure providers have not implemented cybersecurity best practices despite high-profile breaches.

Tactics, Techniques & Procedures

Trellix observed the continued use of Living off the Land (LotL) methods, where criminals use existing software and controls native to a device to execute an attack. Windows Command Shell (CMD) (53%) and PowerShell (44%) were the most-frequently used NativeOS Binaries, and Remote Services (36%) was the most-used Administrative Tool in Q4 2021.

Trellix Threat Labs recently found LotL techniques deployed by DarkHotel, a suspected South Korean APT group, using Excel files to successfully infiltrate luxury hotels and glean information on prominent guests traveling for work and conferences.

Earlier this year, Trellix Threat Labs also identified a multi-stage espionage attack on a prime minister’s office to surveille high-ranking government officials and defense sector business executives. This campaign featured the use of Microsoft’s OneDrive as a Command and Control (C2) server and Excel to gain access to victim environments.

Other methods and techniques gaining traction among cyber adversaries in recent months include Cobalt Strike ranking highest among tools used by APT groups in Q4 2021 — a 95% increase from Q3. Obfuscated files or information, followed by credentials from web browsers, and file and directory discovery were the techniques observed most in Q4 2021 while malware was used most often in reported incidents in Q4 2021, accounting for 46% of total incidents and increasing 15% from Q3 2021.

Threats to Individuals

Notably, the report found a significant — 73% — increase in cyber incidents targeting individuals and positioned people as the top attack sector in Q4 2021. This includes threats executed through social media, mobile devices and other services where consumers store data and credentials. For example, in Q4 2021 Facebook discovered spyware campaigns targeting users around the world and another criminal group leveraged Joker malware to target Android users globally. These attacks are typically politically motivated to follow a person’s interactions and contacts.

This follows the release of In the Crosshairs: Organizations and Nation-State Cyber Threats, a report from Trellix and the Center for Strategic and International Studies which found access to consumer data was and likely will continue to be the motive for nearly half of state-backed cyberattacks.

The full report is available for download here.