The report said that 72 per cent of encrypted malware was classified as zero day, so would have evaded signature-based antivirus protection. These findings show that without HTTPS inspection of encrypted traffic and advanced behaviour-based threat detection and response, organisations are missing up to two-thirds of incoming threats.
The report also highlights that the UK was a top target for cyber criminals in the first quarter, earning a spot in the top three countries for the five most widespread network attacks.
Corey Nachreiner, chief technology officer at WatchGuard said that some organisations are reluctant to set up HTTPS inspection due to the extra work involved, but the threat data clearly shows that a majority of malware is delivered through encrypted connections and that letting traffic go uninspected is simply no longer an option.
"As malware continues to become more advanced and evasive, the only reliable approach to defence is implementing a set of layered security services, including advanced threat detection methods and HTTPS inspection.”
Other key findings from WatchGuard’s latest Internet Security Report include:
- Monero cryptominers surge in popularity. Five of the top ten domains distributing malware in Q1 (identified by WatchGuard’s DNS filtering service DNSWatch) either hosted or controlled Monero cryptominers. This sudden jump in cryptominer popularity could simply be due to its utility; adding a cryptomining module to malware is an easy way for online criminals to generate passive income.
- Flawed-Ammyy and Cryxos malware variants join top lists. The Cryxos trojan was third on WatchGuard’s top-five encrypted malware list and also third on its top-five most widespread malware detections list, primarily targeting Hong Kong. It is delivered as an email attachment disguised as an invoice and will ask the user to enter their email and password, which it then stores. Flawed-Ammyy is a support scam where the attacker uses the Ammyy Admin support software to gain remote access to the victim’s computer.
- Three-year-old Adobe vulnerability appears in top network attacks. An Adobe Acrobat Reader exploit that was patched in August 2017 appeared in WatchGuard’s top network attacks list for the first time in Q1. This vulnerability resurfacing several years after being discovered and resolved illustrates the importance of regularly patching and updating systems.
- Mapp Engage, AT&T and Bet365 targeted with spear phishing campaigns. Three new domains hosting phishing campaigns appeared on WatchGuard’s top-ten list in Q1 2020. They impersonated digital marketing and analytics product Mapp Engage, online betting platform Bet365 (this campaign was in Chinese) and an AT&T login page (this campaign is no longer active at the time of the report’s publication).
- COVID-19 Impact. Q1 2020 was only the start of the massive changes to the cyber threat landscape brought on by the COVID-19 pandemic. Even in these first three months of 2020, we still saw a massive rise in remote workers and attacks targeting individuals.
- Malware hits and network attacks decline. Overall, there were 6.9% fewer malware hits and 11.6% fewer network attacks in Q1, despite a 9% increase in the number of Fireboxes contributing data. This could be attributed to fewer potential targets operating within the traditional network perimeter with worldwide work-from-home policies in full force during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The findings in WatchGuard’s Internet Security Reports are drawn from anonymised Firebox Feed data from active WatchGuard appliances whose owners have opted in to share data to support the Threat Lab’s research efforts. Today, over 44,000 appliances worldwide contribute threat intelligence data to the report. In Q1 2020, they blocked over 32,148,519 malware variants in total (730 samples per device) and more than 1,660,000 network attacks (38 attacks per device).
Third-party testing has found that WatchGuard products consistently maintain high throughput when inspecting HTTPS traffic. Many competitive products show a significant degradation in performance in this scenario. For example, an independent test performed by Miercom found that the Firebox M370 outperformed competitive products while inspecting HTTPS traffic with full security services enabled.