If you know what attackers are after, you know what to protect most.

2022 incident response attack trends, most common incident types, how attackers gain initial access, what vulnerabilities they exploit and which industries they target

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Ransomware and business email compromise (BEC) made up the majority of cases Unit 42™ responded to over the past year. Join us to hear expert insights on preparing for and responding to the evolving threat landscape.
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Most Common Attacks

Ransomware and BEC were the top attacks we responded to over the past year, accounting for approximately 70% of our incident response cases.
01
RANSOMWARE

Attackers are asking for and getting higher ransom payouts

As of June, the average ransomware payment in cases worked by Unit 42 incident responders in 2022 was US$925,162 – a 71% increase compared to 2021.
$30M USD
Biggest Ask
$8.5M USD
Biggest Payout
ransomware details
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Prediction
Unskilled threat actors are on the rise. Even those cybercriminals who seem to know the attack basics are beginning to resort to the simpler versions of attacks.

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Prediction
Unskilled threat actors are on the rise. Even those cybercriminals who seem to know the attack basics are beginning to resort to the simpler versions of attacks.

Attackers use multiextortion techniques to maximize profit.

Ransomware actors typically encrypt an organization’s files – but increasingly, they also name and shame their victims, increasing the pressure to pay. Many ransomware groups maintain dark web leak sites for the purpose of double extortion.

Threat actors have increasingly favored extortion – whether in combination with other techniques or on its own.
4%
of Unit 42 cases involved extortion without encryption, and we expect this percentage to rise.

RaaS is helping drive an increase in unskilled threat actors.

Ransomware as a service (RaaS) is a business for criminals, by criminals. They normally set the terms for ransomware, often in exchange for monthly fees or a percentage of ransoms paid. RaaS makes carrying out attacks that much easier, lowering the barrier to entry and accelerating the growth of ransomware.
02
CLOUD INCIDENTS

Misconfiguration is the primary cause in
cloud breaches

Nearly 65% of known cloud security incidents were due to misconfigurations. The main culprit? IAM configuration.

We analyzed more than 680,000 identities across 18,000 cloud accounts from 200 different organizations. What we found is that nearly all lacked the proper IAM policy controls to remain secure.
99%
of cloud accounts lacked the proper IAM policy controls.

03
BEC

Business email compromise is more than a nuisance.

The U.S. Federal Bureau of Investigation calls BEC the “$43 billion scam.” This refers to the incidents reported to the Internet Crime Complaint Center from 2016–2021.

Unit 42’s telemetry on BEC attack campaigns has resulted in BEC actors arrested in Operation Falcon II and Operation Delilah.
Prediction
Cryptocurrency changes may drive an increase in compromises for business email and websites

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How Attackers Get In

The top three initial access vectors for adversaries were phishing, known software vulnerabilities and brute force credential attacks (primarily on remote desktop protocol).
77%
of suspected root causes for intrusions came from phishing, vulnerablity exploit, and brute force attacks.
04
Vectors
Attackers used phishing 40% of the time to gain initial access
Attackers are looking for easy ways in. Phishing is a low-cost method with high results for attackers. We've provided “10 Recommendations to Prevent Phishing Attacks” in our report.
In 13% of cases
organizations had no mitigations in place to ensure account lockout in brute force credential attacks.

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Vulnerablities Are Doorways

87%
of cases where vulnerabilities exploited were identified came from just six CVE categories.
05
LOG4SHELL

Log4Shell: A critical vulnerability with continuing impact

A zero-day remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability in Apache Log4j 2 was identified as being exploited in the wild on December 9, 2021. Log4Shell was rated a 10 on the Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) – the highest possible score.
By February 2, we observed almost 126 million hits triggering the Threat Prevention signature meant to protect against attempts to exploit the Log4j vulnerability. Log4j accounted for nearly 14% of the cases in which attackers exploited vulnerabilities to gain access over the last year – despite only being public for a few months of the time period we studied.
As recently as June 23, CISA released an advisory warning that malicious actors continue to exploit Log4Shell in VMware Horizon Systems.

06
zoho

Zoho Vulnerabilities Used by Sophisticated, Difficult-to-Detect Campaigns

U.S. CISA released an alert on September 16, 2021, warning that advanced persistent threat (APT) actors were actively exploiting newly identified vulnerabilities in the self-service password management and single sign-on solution Zoho ManageEngine ADSelfService Plus. Unit 42 later disclosed a persistent, sophisticated, active and difficult-to-detect campaign using the vulnerabilities tracked as TiltedTemple.
The TiltedTemple campaign attacked more than 13 targets across the technology, defense, healthcare, energy, finance and education industries, apparently aiming to gather and exfiltrate sensitive documents from compromised organizations. Zoho ManageEngine ADSelfService Plus accounted for about 4% of the vulnerabilities threat actors exploited to gain initial access in our incident response cases.
The nature of some of the observed attacks, however, underscores that volume is not the only consideration when evaluating risk related to a vulnerability.

07
PROXYSHELL

ProxyShell most common vulnerabilities exploited by attackers in recent Unit 42 cases

ProxyShell is an attack chain that works by exploiting three vulnerabilities in Microsoft Exchange: CVE-2021-34473, CVE-2021-34523 and CVE-2021-31207. The attack chain allows attackers to perform remote code execution, which means they would be able to run malicious code on compromised systems without needing physical access to them.
U.S. CISA issued an urgent advisory against ProxyShell on August 21, 2021. Attackers actively exploited ProxyShell almost as soon as it was disclosed – in Unit 42 cases where attackers gained initial access by exploiting a vulnerability, they used ProxyShell more than half the time.
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Industries

The top affected industries in our case data were finance, professional and legal services, manufacturing, healthcare, high tech, wholesale and retail.
These industries accounted for 63% of our cases.
Organizations within these industries store, transmit and process high volumes of monetizable sensitive information, which may attract threat actors.
Attackers are often opportunistic – in some cases, an industry may be particularly affected because, for example, organizations in that industry make widespread use of certain software with known vulnerabilities.
Prediction
Difficult economic times could lead more people to leverage cybercrime.

08

Finance

The average ransom demand we observed in the past year for the finance industry was nearly US$8 million. However, the average payment was only about US$154,000 – representing about 2% on average of the demand in cases where organizations decided to pay the ransom.

Healthcare

The average ransom demand we observed in the past year for the healthcare industry was over US$1.4 million. And the average payment was US$1.2 million, representing about 90% on average of the demand in cases where organizations decided to pay the ransom.
Prediction
The time to patch high-profile vulnerabilities will continue to shrink.

09

Top 6 Recommended Best Practices

The cyberthreat landscape can be overwhelming. Every day brings news of more cyberattacks and more sophisticated attack types. Some organizations may not know where to start, but our security consultants have some suggestions. Here are six of them:
1
Conduct recurring training for employees and contractors in phishing prevention and security best practices.
2
Disable any direct external RDP access by always using an enterprise-grade MFA VPN.
3
Patch internet-exposed systems as quickly as possible to prevent vulnerability exploitation.
4
Implement MFA as a security policy for all users.
5
Require all payment verification to take place outside of email, ensuring a multistep verification process.
6
Consider a credential breach detection service and/or attack surface management solution to help track vulnerable systems and potential breaches.

Dive Deeper with Unit 42 Experts

Unit experts Unit experts Unit experts

Stay ahead of attacks.

Ransomware and business email compromise (BEC) made up the majority of cases Unit 42™ responded to over the past year. Join us to hear expert insights on preparing for and responding to the evolving threat landscape.
Unit experts Unit experts Unit experts

Perfect your pitch.

Our clients ask for help to frame risks and threats with their leadership, especially the board of directors. Join our executives for a conversation on how to use the Incident Response Report to strengthen your argument.
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