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Research shows that 91.5% Malware in Q2 2021 Appeared Over Encrypted Connections

Malware designed to target Microsoft Exchange servers and generic email clients to install remote access trojans (RATs) has also increased.


According to the recent WatchGuard data, 91.5 percent of malware originated via encryption techniques during Q2 2021. This represents a significant increase compared to the previous quarter, implying that any organization that does not examine encrypted HTTPS traffic at the periphery is overlooking 9/10 of all malware. 

The study also showed worrisome increases in file-less malware threats, a substantial increase in ransomware, and a massive increase in network cyber attacks. “With much of the world still firmly operating in a mobile or hybrid workforce model, the traditional network perimeter doesn’t always factor into the cybersecurity defense equation,” said Corey Nachreiner, CSO at WatchGuard. 

AMSI.Disable.A appeared in the leading malware segment for the very first time in Q1 and quickly rose to the forefront this quarter, ranking second overall by volume as well as first for cumulative encoded attacks. This malware family employs PowerShell techniques to leverage various Windows security flaws, but what makes it particularly intriguing is its evasive technique. 

AMSI.Disable.A employs code capable of deactivating the Antimalware Scan Interface (AMSI) in PowerShell, enabling it to avoid script-security screening while carrying out its malware payload completely unnoticed. Within the first six months of 2021, malware observations believed to have originated from scripting engines such as PowerShell already have managed to reach 80% of last year's overall script-initiated attack volume, representing a significant increase compared to the previous year. 

In the following quarter, the said number increased by another million, indicating an aggressive course that emphasizes the evolving importance of keeping perimeter security along with user-focused safeguards. Whereas overall ransomware detections on endpoints fell from 2018 to 2020, the trend reversed in the first half of 2021, with the six-month total finishing just short of the full-year total for 2020. 

The Colonial Pipeline attack on May 7, 2021, demonstrated unequivocally that ransomware will be here to stay. The breach, which was the top security incident of the quarter, demonstrates how cybercriminals are not only targeting the most essential services – such as hospitals, industrial control, and infrastructure – but also seem to be intensifying attacks against such elevated targets. 

One of the most notable examples was a 2020 vulnerability within the popular online scripting language PHP, however, the other three aren't. A 20ll Oracle GlassFish Server vulnerability, a 2013 SQL injection flaw in the medical records application OpenEMR, and a 2017 remote code execution (RCE) vulnerability in Microsoft Edge are among them. Even though they are all out of date, they all pose a danger if not patched. 

Although it's an old attack vector that has hopefully been fixed in most systems, those who are yet to patch will be in for a huge shock if an attacker manages to get to it before they do. A very relatively similar RCE security flaw, CVE-2021-40444, hit the headlines earlier this month when it was purposefully abused in targeted attacks against Microsoft Office and Office 365 on Windows 10 computers. 

Malware designed to target Microsoft Exchange servers and generic email clients to install remote access trojans (RATs) in highly sensitive locations has recently increased. It's most probably because Q2 was the second consecutive quarter in which remote employees and learners reverted to either hybrid offices and educational environments or normally functioning on-site behavior. 

Strong security consciousness and monitoring of departing communications on gadgets that aren't essentially connected directly to the connected devices is advised in any event – or location.
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Q2 2021