In 2016 there were 702 million attempts to launch an exploit – malware that uses bugs in software to infect devices with additional malicious code like banking Trojans or ransomware. This is 24.54% more than in 2015, when Kaspersky Lab protection technologies blocked just over 563 million such attempts. The growing use of exploits is one of the key findings of the “Attacks with Exploits: From Everyday Threats to Targeted Campaigns” report prepared by Kaspersky Lab experts to evaluate the threat level that exploits pose to regular users and organizations.
Attacks conducted with the help of exploits are among the most effective as they generally do not require any user interaction, and can deliver their dangerous code without the user suspecting anything. Such tools are therefore often used, both by cybercriminals seeking to steal money from private users and companies, and by sophisticated targeted attacks actors hunting for sensitive information.
In 2016, more companies and organizations encountered such attacks: the number of corporate users attacked by exploits increased 28.35% to reach more than 690,000, or 15.76% of all users attacked with exploits.
The other significant findings of the report are:
Interestingly, despite the growing number of attacks featuring exploits, and the growing number of corporate users attacked in this way, the number of private users who encountered an exploit attack in 2016 decreased just over 20% - from 5.4 million in 2015 to 4.3 million in 2016.
According to Kaspersky Lab researchers, a possible reason for this decline could be a reduction in the number of sources for exploits: 2016 saw several big and popular exploit kits (the Neutrino and Angler exploit kits) leave the underground market. This significantly affected the overall exploit threat landscape as many cybercriminal groups apparently lost their capabilities to spread the malware. Another reason is the faster reaction time of software vendors to newly discovered security issues. As a result it is now far more expensive for cybercriminals to develop and support a really effective exploit kit and simultaneously stay in profit. However this is not the case when it comes to attacks against organizations.
“Based on both our detection statistics and our observations of the activity of targeted attack actors, we see that professional cyber espionage groups still have the budgets and skills to develop and distribute sophisticated exploits. The recent leak of malicious tools allegedly used by the Equation Group is an illustration of this. However, this doesn’t mean that it is impossible to protect your organization against exploit-based attacks.
In order not to let malicious actors succeed, we advise users, especially corporate ones, to implement best practices of internet security and protect their computers, mobile devices and networks with proven and effective protection tools,” - said Alexander Liskin, security expert at Kaspersky Lab. In order to protect your personal or business data from attacks via software exploits, Kaspersky Lab experts advise the following:
To learn more about changes at exploit threat landscape at Securelist.com.