In 2021, Zero Day Malware Attacks Skyrocket to 74% of All Discovered Attacks

Malware Skyrockets to 74%

In the first quarter of 2021, 74% of malware threats detected were known to be Zero Day Attacks – meaning an attack sequence in which a signature-based antivirus identifier was not present at the time of the infection.

In early 2021, it was the highest level of Zero Day Malware Detections ever recorded.  Organizations must take a layered approach, which involves AI, machine learning, and behavioral analysis to detect and stop new and sophisticated threats.

  • Fileless malware variant explodes in popularity – XML.JSLoader is a malicious payload that appeared for the first time in both Sniper Watch’s top malware by volume and most widespread malware detections lists. It was also the variant Sniper Watch detected most often via HTTPS inspection in Q1. The sample Sniper Watch identified uses an XML external entity (XXE) attack to open a shell to run commands to bypass the local PowerShell execution policy and runs in a non-interactive way, hidden from the actual user or victim. This is another example of the rising prevalence of fileless malware and the need for advanced endpoint detection and response capabilities.
  • Simple file name trick helps hackers pass off ransomware loader as legitimate PDF attachments – Ransomware loader Zmutzy surfaced as a top-two encrypted malware variant by volume in Q1. Associated with Nibiru ransomware specifically, victims encounter this threat as a zipped file attachment to an email or a download from a malicious website. Running the zip file downloads an executable, which to the victim appears to be a legitimate PDF. Attackers used a comma instead of a period in the file name and a manually adjusted icon to pass the malicious zip file off as a PDF. This type of attack highlights the importance of phishing education and training, as well as implementing back-up solutions in the event that a variant like this unleashes a ransomware infection.
  • Threat actors continue to attack IoT devices – While it didn’t make Sniper Watch’s top 10 malware list for Q1, the Linux.Ngioweb.B variant has been used by adversaries recently to target IoT devices. The first version of this sample targeted Linux servers running WordPress, arriving initially as an extended format language (EFL) file. Another version of this malware turns the IoT devices into a botnet with rotating command and control servers.
  • Network attacks surge more than 20% – Sniper Watch detected more than 4 million network attacks, a 21% increase compared to the previous quarter and the highest volume since early 2018. Corporate servers and assets on site are still high-value targets for attackers despite the shift to remote and hybrid work, so organizations must maintain perimeter security alongside user-focused protections.
  • An old directory traversal attack technique makes a comeback – Sniper Watch detected a new threat signature in Q1 that involves a directory traversal attack via cabinet (CAB) files, a Microsoft-designed archival format intended for lossless data compression and embedded digital certificates. A new addition to Sniper Watch’s top 10 network attacks list, this exploit either tricks users into opening a malicious CAB file using conventional techniques, or by spoofing a network-connected printer to fool users into installing a printer driver via a compromised CAB file.
  • HAFNIUM zero days provide lessons on threat tactics and response best practices – Last quarter, Microsoft reported that adversaries used the four HAFNIUM vulnerabilities in various Exchange Server versions to gain full, unauthenticated system remote code execution and arbitrary file-write access to any unpatched server exposed to the Internet, as most email servers are. Sniper Watch incident analysis dives into the vulnerabilities and highlights the importance of HTTPS inspection, timely patching and replacing legacy systems.
  • Attackers co-opt legitimate domains in cryptomining campaigns – In Q1, Sniper Watch blocked several compromised and outright malicious domains associated with cryptomining threats. Cryptominer malware has become increasingly popular due to recent price spikes in the cryptocurrency market and the ease with which threat actors can siphon resources from unsuspecting victims.

If you are interested in a more comprehensive, proactive approach to ensuring that your organization is fully protected, please contact us right away as more and more malware & ransomware are on the rise.

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