Security

Network attacks at highest point last three years

5th April 2022
Beatrice O'Flaherty

WatchGuard Technologies’ latest quarterly Internet Security Report shows a record number of evasive malware detections with advanced threats increasing by 33%, indicating a higher level of zero day threats than ever before.

Researchers at the WatchGuard Threat Lab detected malware threats in EMEA at a much higher rate than other regions of the world in Q4 2021, with malware detections per Firebox at 49%, compared to Americas at 23% and APAC at 29%. The trajectory of network intrusion detections also continued its upward climb with the largest total detections of any quarter in the last three years and a 39% increase quarter over quarter. Researchers suggest that this may be due to the continued targeting of old vulnerabilities as well as the growth in organisations’ networks. As new devices come online and old vulnerabilities remain unpatched, network security is becoming more complex.

“The continued shift to a hybrid workforce is making attack surfaces larger and creating more potential security holes for organisations to plug,” says Corey Nachreiner, chief security officer at WatchGuard. “With the highest level of zero-day threats we’ve ever recorded and an attack surface that extends well beyond the network perimeter to IoT, home networks and mobile devices, companies need to adopt a true unified security approach that can adapt quickly and efficiently to the growing threat landscape. Organisations should make a commitment to implementing simple but critically important measures like updating and patching systems on a regular basis so they’re not enabling hackers.”

Other key findings from this Internet Security Report include:

78% of malware delivered via encrypted connections is evasive – Overall, 67% of malware detections arrived over an encrypted connection, and within those malware detections, 78% were evasive zero-day malware threats that evade basic detections. This continues a trend seen in previous quarters. These threats can often be stopped at the perimeter by setting firewalls to decrypt and scan incoming traffic – a step that, unfortunately, many organisations fail to take.

A new leader in Office exploit malware emerges – Q4 2021 saw a significant incidence of malware targeting Office documents, similar to findings from Q3. CVE-2018-0802 remains on the top 10 malware list, landing at number 5 this quarter, up one spot from last quarter, and remains on the most widespread malware list. Researchers suspect this may have replaced CVE-2017-11882 as the top Office exploit.

Emotet comes back with a vengeance - Two new malware domains were added this quarter to the list of top malware domains detected by WatchGuard. One of these domains, Skyprobar[.]info, has been linked to Emotet, the banking trojan that has evolved into a C2 and distribution infrastructure malware for other payloads. After diminishing due in part to direct disruption by US law enforcement, the Emotet malware saw a resurgence in Q4 2021.

WatchGuard’s quarterly research reports are based on anonymised Firebox Feed data from active WatchGuard Fireboxes whose owners have opted to share data in direct support of the Threat Lab’s research efforts. In Q4, WatchGuard blocked a total of more than 23.9 million malware variants (313 per device) and nearly 5.9 million network threats (75 per device). The full report includes details on additional malware and network trends from Q4 2021, a detailed analysis of the Log4Shell vulnerability, recommended security strategies and critical defence tips for businesses of all sizes and in any sector, and more.

For a detailed view of WatchGuard’s research, read the complete Q4 2021 Internet Security Report.

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