Encryption-based cyber attacks up 260%

Healthcare, finance and insurance were the top targets for cyber criminals as attacks spiked 260 per cent during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to new research.

An analysis of more than 6.6 billion encrypted threat reports by cloud security firm Zscaler found that cybercriminals stepped up their attacks on critical infrastructure from January through to September 2020, using encrypted channels to exploit vulnerabilities.

The threat research highlighted the the emerging techniques and impacted industries behind a 260 per cent spike in attacks using encrypted channels to bypass legacy security controls.

The research found that the industry most targeted was healthcare (1.6 billion threats, 25 per cent of the total), followed by finance and insurance (1.2 billion threats, 18 per cent of the total), manufacturing (1.1 billion threats, 17.4 per cent of the total).

These were followed by government (952 million threats, 14 per cent of the total) and services (730 million, 14 per cent of the total).

The study by Zscaler’s researchers also saw a five-fold increase in ransomware attacks as the World Health Organisation declared the virus a pandemic in March. Zscaler research also indicates a 30,000 per cent spike in COVID-related threats across the board.

In addition, phishing attacks nearly tipped 200 million, with more than 193 million attempts recorded over Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) during the first nine months of 2020.

The manufacturing sector was the most targeted by this kind of attack (39 per cent) followed by services (14 per cent), and healthcare (11 per cent).

A total of 30 per cent of SSL-based attacks were delivered through trusted cloud providers, the researchers claimed, with cybercriminals continuing to become more sophisticated in avoiding detection, taking advantage of the reputations of trusted cloud providers such as Dropbox, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon to deliver malware over encrypted channels.

Cybercriminals are also increasingly spoofing Netflix and other streaming entertainment services during the pandemic.

Deepen Desai, chief information security officer (CISO) and vice president of security research at Zscaler said: “Cybercriminals are shamelessly attacking critical industries like healthcare, government and finance during the pandemic, and this research shows how risky encrypted traffic can be if not inspected.”

He added: “Attackers have significantly advanced the methods they use to deliver ransomware, for example, inside of an organization utilizing encrypted traffic. The report shows a 500 percent increase in ransomware attacks over SSL, and this is just one example to why SSL inspection is so important to an organization’s defence.”

    Share Story:

Recent Stories