Email attacks skyrocket by 464% in H1 2023, reveals Acronis report

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The realm of cybersecurity is constantly evolving, as cybercriminals adapt sophisticated techniques to exploit vulnerabilities. Among these methods, the combination of artificial intelligence (AI) and email phishing has emerged as a prevalent and formidable threat. 

Recently, Acronis, a prominent player in the cyber protection field, released its Mid-Year Cyberthreats Report titled “From Innovation to Risk: Managing the Implications of AI-driven Cyberattacks.” The report draws on data collected from over one million global endpoints, shedding light on the evolving cybersecurity landscape and highlighting a concerning trend—the increasing adoption of generative AI systems, such as ChatGPT, by cybercriminals to create malicious content and execute sophisticated attacks. 

The report revealed that large and medium-sized businesses faced a surge in ransomware attacks. However, small and medium-sized businesses were particularly vulnerable to email-based phishing. A technique where the perpetrator (data stealer) obtains login credentials to gain unauthorized access to sensitive information. By June 2023, there was a staggering 464% increase in email-based phishing attacks compared to 2022. Moreover, attacks per organization saw a significant growth rate of 24%. 

“The volume of threats in 2023 has surged relative to last year, a sign that criminals are scaling and enhancing how they compromise systems and execute attacks,” said Candid Wüest, Acronis VP of Research. “To address the dynamic threat landscape, organizations need agile, comprehensive, unified security solutions that provide the necessary visibility to understand attacks, simplify context, and provide efficient remediation of any threat, whether it may be malware, system vulnerability, and everything in between.” 

To enhance their tactics, cybercriminals have turned to AI to create malware and exploit existing ransomware code, allowing them to penetrate their victims’ systems more effectively and extract sensitive data. AI-generated malware can skillfully evade detection in traditional antivirus models, contributing to the exponential rise in ransomware cases over the past year. Acronis’ analysis of endpoint data highlighted that some attacks have become more intelligent, sophisticated, and challenging to detect. 

The report also revealed that cyber attackers are using automation to create new and customized malicious code at an astonishing speed. In May, the average lifetime of a malware sample was 2.1 days, which increased to 2.3 days in June, indicating the dynamic nature of cyber threats. 

Furthermore, the report identified the top ransomware gangs responsible for a significant portion of attacks, including LockBit (49%), Royal (19%), BlackCat/ALPHV (13%), Clop (12%), and Play (7%). The United States faced 48% of these cyber attacks. 

Acronis underscores the importance of proactive cyber protection measures to ensure a strong cybersecurity posture. A comprehensive defense strategy is essential, involving multiple layers of security such as anti-malware, EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response), DLP (Data Loss Prevention), email security, vulnerability assessment, patch management, RMM (Remote Monitoring and Management), and robust backup capabilities. 

To effectively combat the risks posed by ransomware and data stealers, it is crucial to adopt advanced security solutions that harness the power of AI, machine learning, and behavioral analysis. These solutions can significantly enhance threat detection and response, safeguarding against the ever-evolving tactics of cybercriminals. 

Acronis recently launched an endpoint detection and response (EDR) platform for its Cyber Protect Cloud, aiming to provide comprehensive security solutions to managed service providers and enterprises. The EDR platform detects anomalous user behavior and events, working alongside existing security technologies to tackle sophisticated cyber threats. It offers optimized incident analysis and an intuitive interface for easy navigation. Acronis is also exploring the integration of generative AI into the platform in the future.

Cybersecurity is not solely a matter of safeguarding technology; it is also about protecting the values we hold dear—trust, privacy, and freedom. By investing in strong cybersecurity measures, we can foster an environment where innovation thrives, data is safeguarded, and the potential of our digital future is fully realized.

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