Trend Micro Inc., a cybersecurity solutions firm, annual mid-year roundup report reveals that COVID-19-related threats as the single largest type of threat in the first half of the year. In just six months, Trend Micro blocked 8.8 million COVID-19 related threats, nearly 92% of which were email-based.
Of the threats detected, more than 37,700 cases were detected from Hong Kong, of which more than 25,000 were email-based threats. Trend Micro found email samples that claimed to provide the latest news and updates on the virus but instead delivered malware to its recipients.
Cybercriminals shifted their focus from January through June to take advantage of global interest in the pandemic. The risk to businesses was compounded by security gaps created by a completely remote workforce.
“The pandemic has dominated all of our lives during the first half of 2020, but it’s not slowing down the cybercriminals,” said Tony Lee, consulting manager of Trend Micro Hong Kong and Macau. “IT leaders must continue to adapt their cybersecurity strategies to account for increased threats to their new normal. That means protecting remote endpoints, cloud systems, user credentials and VPN systems, as well as refreshing training courses to turn that newly dispersed workforce into a more effective first line of defense.”
In total, Trend Micro blocked 27.8 billion cyber threats in the first half of 2020, 93% of which were email-borne.
Business Email Compromise (BEC) detections increased by 19% from the second half of 2019, in part due to scammers trying to capitalize on home workers being more exposed to social engineering.
Among all the threats in the first half of the year, ransomware was a constant factor. Although the number of detected ransomware threats decreased, Trend Micro saw a 45% increase in new ransomware families compared to the same time last year.
Zero Day Initiative
Global organizations have also been burdened by a significant spike in newly disclosed vulnerabilities. Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) published a total of 786 advisories, representing a 74% increase from the second half of 2019. Some of these came as part of Microsoft Patch Tuesday updates, which have fixed an average of 103 CVEs per month so far in 2020 — including the largest number of patches ever issued in a single month (129) in June.
Trend Micro also observed a 16% increase in vulnerabilities disclosed in industrial control systems (ICS), compared to the first half of 2019, which could create major challenges for smart factory owners and other organizations running IIoT environments.
To effectively protect dispersed corporate networks, Gartner recommends businesses “refine security monitoring capabilities to reflect an operating environment where network traffic patterns, data and system access vectors have changed due to increased remote and mobile operations.” Trend Micro XDR helps customers do exactly that by correlating security events across the entire IT environment, which is critical for holistic protection in the second half of 2020.