Cyber Criminals Cash in on Millions With Formjacking, Posing a Serious Threat to Businesses and Consumers

Symantec’s Annual Threat Report Reveals More Ambitious,
Destructive, and Stealthy Attacks, Raising the Stakes for Organizations

  • Nearly one in ten targeted attack groups now use malware to destroy
    and disrupt business operations; up 25 percent compared to 2017
  • Attackers enhance tried-and-tested tactics including
    spear-phishing, hijacking legitimate tools, and malicious email
  • Enterprise ransomware infections jump by 12 percent
  • Cloud resources are increasingly easy targets for digital thieves
    with more than 70 million records stolen or leaked from poorly
    configured S3 public cloud storage buckets
  • More attackers display interest in compromising operational and
    industrial control systems with the potential for sabotage

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Faced with diminishing returns from ransomware and cryptojacking, cyber
criminals are doubling down on alternative methods, such as formjacking,
to make money according to Symantec’s (Nasdaq: SYMC) Internet
Security Threat Report
(ISTR), Volume 24.

Symantec’s ISTR provides an overview of the threat landscape, including
insights into global threat activity, cyber criminal trends, and
motivations for attackers. The report analyzes data from Symantec’s
Global Intelligence Network, the largest civilian threat intelligence
network in the world, which records events from 123 million attack
sensors worldwide, blocks 142 million threats daily and monitors threat
activities in more than 157 countries. Key highlights from this year’s
report include:

Formjacking Is the New Get Rich Quick Scheme for Cyber Criminals

Formjacking attacks are simple – essentially virtual ATM skimming –
where cyber criminals inject malicious code into retailers’ websites to
steal shoppers’ payment card details. On average, more than 4,800 unique
websites are compromised with formjacking code every month. Symantec
blocked more than 3.7 million formjacking attacks on endpoints in 2018,
with nearly a third of all detections occurring during the busiest
online shopping period of the year – November and December.

While a number of well-known retailers’ online payment websites,
including Ticketmaster and British Airways, were compromised with
formjacking code in recent months, Symantec’s research reveals small and
medium-size retailers are, by and large, the most widely compromised.

By conservative estimates, cyber criminals may have collected tens of
millions of dollars last year, stealing consumers’ financial and
personal information through credit card fraud and sales on the dark
web. Just 10 credit cards stolen from each compromised website could
result in a yield of up to $2.2M each month, with a single credit card
fetching up to $45 in the underground selling forums. With more than
380,000 credit cards stolen, the British Airways attack alone may have
allowed criminals to net more than $17 million.

Formjacking represents a serious threat for both businesses and
consumers,” said Greg Clark, CEO, Symantec. “Consumers have no way to
know if they are visiting an infected online retailer without using a
comprehensive security solution, leaving their valuable personal and
financial information vulnerable to potentially devastating identity
theft. For enterprises, the skyrocketing increase in formjacking
reflects the growing risk of supply chain attacks, not to mention the
reputational and liability risks businesses face when compromised.”

The Diminishing Returns of Cryptojacking and Ransomware

In recent years, ransomware and cryptojacking, where cyber criminals
harness stolen processing power and cloud CPU usage from consumers and
enterprises to mine cryptocurrency, were the go-to methods for cyber
criminals looking to make easy money. However, 2018 brought drop-offs in
activity and diminishing returns, primarily due to declining
cryptocurrency values and increasing adoption of cloud and mobile
computing, rendering attacks less effective. For the first time since
2013, ransomware infections declined, dropping by 20 percent.
Nevertheless, enterprises should not let their guard down – enterprise
ransomware infections jumped by 12 percent in 2018, bucking the overall
downward trend and demonstrating ransomware’s ongoing threat to
organizations. In fact, more than eight in ten ransomware infections
impact organizations.

Although cryptojacking activity peaked early last year, cryptojacking
activity declined by 52 percent throughout the course of 2018. Even with
cryptocurrency values dropping by 90 percent and significantly reducing
profitability, cryptojacking nonetheless continues to hold appeal with
attackers due to the low barrier of entry, minimal overhead, and
anonymity it offers. Symantec blocked 3.5 million cryptojacking events
on endpoints in December 2018 alone.

When It Comes to Security, the Cloud Is the New PC

The same security mistakes that were made on PCs during their initial
adoption by the enterprise are now happening in the cloud. A single
misconfigured cloud workload or storage instance could cost a company
millions of dollars or land it in a compliance nightmare. In the past
year alone, more than 70 million records were stolen or leaked from
poorly configured S3 buckets. There are also numerous, easily-accessible
tools that allow attackers to identify misconfigured cloud resources on
the internet.

The recent discoveries of hardware chip vulnerabilities, including
Meltdown, Spectre, and Foreshadow also place cloud services at risk of
being exploited to gain access to the protected memory spaces of other
companies’ resources hosted on the same physical server.

Living off the Land Tools and Supply Chain Weaknesses Spur
Stealthier, More Ambitious Attacks

Supply chain and living off the land (LotL) attacks are now a mainstay
of the modern threat landscape, widely adopted by both cyber criminals
and targeted attack groups. In fact, supply chain attacks ballooned by
78 percent in 2018.

LotL techniques allow attackers to maintain a low profile and hide their
activity in a mass of legitimate processes. For example, the use of
malicious PowerShell scripts increased by 1,000 percent last year. While
Symantec blocks 115,000 malicious PowerShell scripts each month, this
actually accounts for less than 1 percent of overall PowerShell usage. A
sledgehammer approach toward blocking all PowerShell activity would be
disruptive to organizations, further illustrating why LotL techniques
have become the preferred tactic for many targeted attack groups.

Identifying and blocking these attacks requires the use of advanced
detection methods like analytics and machine learning, such as
Symantec’s Managed
Endpoint Detection and Response (MEDR) service
, its enhanced EDR
4.0 technology
, as well as its advanced AI solution, Targeted
Attack Analytics
(TAA). TAA has allowed Symantec to uncover dozens
of stealthy targeted attacks, including those from the Gallmaker
who conducted their cyber espionage campaigns completely
without malware.

In addition to LotL and weaknesses in the software supply chain,
attackers are also increasing their use of conventional attack methods,
like spear-phishing, to infiltrate organizations. While intelligence
gathering remains the primary motive of targeted attacks, the number of
attack groups using malware designed to destroy and disrupt business
operations increased by 25 percent in 2018.

Internet of Things in the Crosshairs of Cyber Criminals and Attack

While the volume of Internet of Things (IoT) attacks remains high and
consistent with 2017 levels, the profile of IoT attacks is changing
dramatically. Although routers and connected cameras make up the largest
percentage of infected devices (90 percent), almost every IoT device has
been proven vulnerable, with everything from smart
light bulbs
to voice
creating additional entry points for attackers.

Targeted attack groups are increasingly focusing on IoT as a key entry
point. The emergence of the VPNFilter
router malware represents an evolution in traditional IoT threats.
Conceived by a skilled and well-resourced threat actor, it allows its
creators to destroy or wipe a device, steal credentials and data, and
intercept SCADA communications.

With an increasing trend towards the convergence of IT and industrial
IoT, the next cyber battlefield is operational technology,” said Kevin
Haley, director, Symantec Security Response. “A growing number of
groups, such as Thrip
and Triton,
display interest in compromising operational systems and industrial
control systems to potentially prepare for cyber warfare.”

The Great Privacy Awakening

With the recent Cambridge Analytica data scandal and the Facebook data
privacy hearings, the implementation of the General Data Privacy
Regulation (GDPR), and revelations about app location tracking and
privacy bugs in widely-used apps such as Apple’s FaceTime feature,
consumer privacy has entered the spotlight the past year.

Smart phones could arguably be the greatest spying device ever created –
a camera, a listening device and location tracker all in one that is
willingly carried and used wherever its owner goes. While already
targeted by nation-states for traditional spying, smart phones have also
become a lucrative means by which to collect consumers’ personal
information, with mobile app developers existing as the worst offenders.

According to Symantec
, 45 percent of the most popular Android apps and 25 percent
of the most popular iOS apps request location tracking, 46 percent of
popular Android apps and 24 percent of popular iOS apps request
permission to access your device’s camera, and email addresses are
shared with 44 percent of the top Android apps and 48 percent of the
most popular iOS apps.

Digital tools that gather cellphone data for tracking children, friends,
or lost phones are also on the rise and clearing the way for abuse to
track others without consent. More
than 200 apps and services
offer stalkers a variety of capabilities,
including basic location tracking, text harvesting, and even secret
video recording.

About the Internet Security Threat Report

The Internet Security Threat Report provides an overview and analysis of
the year in global threat activity. The report is based on data from
Symantec’s Global Intelligence Network, which Symantec analysts use to
identify, analyze and provide commentary on emerging trends in attacks,
malicious code activity, phishing and spam.

to view this year’s key findings and to register for Symantec’s ISTR
webinar on March 28 at 10:00 a.m. Pacific/ 1:00 p.m. Eastern.

About Symantec

Symantec Corporation (NASDAQ: SYMC), the world’s leading cyber security
company, helps organizations, governments and people secure their most
important data wherever it lives. Organizations across the world look to
Symantec for strategic, integrated solutions to defend against
sophisticated attacks across endpoints, cloud and infrastructure.
Likewise, a global community of more than 50 million people and families
rely on Symantec’s Norton and LifeLock product suites to protect their
digital lives at home and across their devices. Symantec operates one of
the world’s largest civilian cyber intelligence networks, allowing it to
see and protect against the most advanced threats. For additional
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Jennifer Duffourg
[email protected]

Kerry Tuttle
Edelman for Symantec
[email protected]

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