Fortinet has announced the latest semiannual Global Threat Landscape Report from FortiGuard Labs.
In the first half of 2023, FortiGuard Labs observed a decline in organisations detecting ransomware, significant activity among advanced persistent threat (APT) groups, a shift in MITRE ATT&CK techniques used by attackers, and much more.
Highlights of the report follow:
Organisations detecting ransomware are on the decline: FortiGuard Labs has documented substantial spikes in ransomware variant growth in recent years, largely fueled by the adoption of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS).
However, FortiGuard Labs found that fewer organisations detected ransomware in the first half of 2023 (13%) compared to this time five years ago (22%). This supports the trend that FortiGuard Labs has seen over the last couple of years, that ransomware and other attacks are becoming increasingly more targeted thanks to the growing sophistication of attackers and the desire to increase the return on investment (ROI) per attack.
Research also found that the volume of ransomware detections continues to be volatile, closing 1H 2023 13x higher than the end of 2022 but still on a downward trend overall when comparing year-over-year.
Malicious actors are 327x more likely to attack top EPSS vulnerabilities within seven days, compared to all other CVEs: This project aims to leverage a myriad of data sources to predict the likelihood and when a vulnerability will be exploited in the wild.
FortiGuard Labs analysed six years of data spanning more than 11,000 published vulnerabilities that detected exploitation and found that the Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVEs) categorised with a high EPSS score (top 1% severity) are 327x more likely to be exploited within seven days than any other vulnerability.
Nearly one-third of APT groups were active in 1H 2023: For the first time in the history of the global Threat Landscape Report, FortiGuard Labs tracked the number of threat actors behind the trends. Research revealed that 41 (30%) of the 138 cyber threat groups MITRE tracks were active in the 1H 2023.
Of those, Turla, StrongPity, Winnti, OceanLotus, and WildNeutron were the most active based on malware detections. Given the targeted nature and relatively short-lived campaigns of APT and nation-state cyber groups compared to the long life and drawn-out campaigns of cyber criminals, the evolution and volume of activity in this area will be something to look forward to in future reports.
Five-year comparison reveals explosion in unique exploits, malware variants and botnet persistence: In 1H 2023, FortiGuard Labs detected more than 10,000 unique exploits, up 68% from five years ago. The spike in unique exploit detections highlights the sheer volume of malicious attacks security teams must be aware of and how attacks have multiplied and diversified in a relatively short amount of time.
The report also shows over a 75% drop in exploitation attempts per organisation over a five-year window and a 10% dip in severe exploits, suggesting that while malicious actor exploit toolkits have grown, the attacks are much more targeted than five years ago.
Malware families and variants exploded, up 135% and 175% respectively: The number of malware families that propagate to at least 10% of global organisations (a notable prevalence threshold) has doubled over the last five years.
This escalation in malware volume and prevalence can be attributed to more cyber criminal and APT groups expanding operations and diversifying their attacks in recent years. A significant focus of the last Global Threat Landscape report was the surge in wiper malware largely tied to the Russian-Ukraine conflict.
That increase persisted throughout 2022 but slowed over the first half of 2023. FortiGuard Labs continues to observe wipers being used by nation-state actors, although the adoption of this type of malware by cybercriminals continues to grow as they target organisations in technology, manufacturing, government, telecommunications, and healthcare sectors.
Botnets lingering in networks longer than ever: While the report finds more active botnets (+27%) and a higher incidence rate among organisations over the last half-decade (+126%), one of the more shocking findings is the exponential increase in the total number of active days, which FortiGuard Labs defines as the amount of time that transpires between the first hit of a given botnet attempt on a sensor and the last.
Over the first six months of 2023, the average time botnets lingered before command and control (C2) communications ceased was 83 days, representing over a 1,000x increase from five years ago. This is another example where reducing the response time is critical because the longer organisations allow botnets to linger, the greater the damage and risk to their business.