Cyber Attack Defenders Up For Battle: Huge Uptick In Timely Attack Detections

Attackers are employing evasion techniques to bypass detection and extend dwell time on compromised systems. This is achieved by targeting unmonitored devices, leveraging legitimate tools, and exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities

While defenders are improving detection speed (dwell time decreased from 16 to 10 days), this is partly due to faster ransomware identification and adversary-in-the-middle and social engineering tactics to bypass multi-factor authentication

Cloud infrastructure is under attack, with attackers even leveraging cloud resources. Both red and purple teams are exploring AI for better security outcomes as they analyze these trends and offer mitigation strategies to the security community.

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In 2023, more than half of compromised organizations learned of the incident from an external source, most commonly through a ransom demand from the attacker (70% for ransomware-related intrusions). 

Ransomware External Notification Source, 2023

It suggests improved internal detection capabilities, as the percentage of externally notified intrusions decreased compared to 2022 (54% vs. 63%).

Ransomware events are most often discovered externally (70%), with attacker ransom notes being the dominant notification method (75% of externally discovered ransomware intrusions). 

Investigations into ransomware attacks are on the rise again, reaching 23% of all investigations in 2023, surpassing the 2022 numbers and matching the 2021 levels.

Organizations are also becoming faster at detecting ransomware than other intrusions, with a median detection time of just 5 days in 2023. 

Global Median Dwell Time by Detection Source

The improvement is seen across the board, with internal detection dropping to 6 days and external notification leading to a 5-day detection window.

Overall, dwell time (time attackers remain undetected) continues to decrease, highlighting the urgency of rapid response to security incidents. 

Mandiant’s 2023 incident response investigations showed financial, business, and professional services, high tech, retail and hospitality, and healthcare as the most targeted industries. 

Global Industries Targeted, 2023

These sectors hold sensitive data like PII, PHI, and financial information, and the most typical initial infection vector was an exploit (38%), followed by phishing (17%) and prior compromises (15%). This suggests that attackers are increasingly using exploits and leveraging existing network breaches to gain access.

There was a rise in financially motivated cyberattacks in 2023, with ransomware being the most common culprit. Data theft also remained prevalent, though slightly less frequent than in 2022. 

In some cases, stolen data was directly sold for extortion, while other attackers used a combination of data theft, ransomware deployment, and extortion threats.

Data breaches involving intellectual property and targeted theft by espionage groups were also identified. 

Observed Threat Groups by Goal, 2023

They tracked a vast number of threat actors, encountering over 300 unique groups during incident response in 2023. A significant portion (719) were newly identified, with over half exhibiting financial motivations. 

It aligns with the rise in ransomware observed in 2023, as espionage and other objectives saw a modest decline, while a substantial number (36%) remains challenging to categorize definitively due to limited evidence. 

In 2023, a consistent distribution of malware categories was observed, with backdoors (33%), downloaders (16%), droppers (15%), credential stealers (7%), and ransomware (5%) being the top five. 

Credential stealers re-entered the top five in 2023, while ransomware families decreased from 7% in 2022 to 5% in 2023. This suggests a rise in preexisting ransomware strains like LOCKBIT, ALPHV, BASTA, and ROYALLOCKER.

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Author: Guru baran