Individual consumers have become the top target for cybercriminals, closely followed by the healthcare vertical.

Additionally, the transportation, shipping, manufacturing and information technology industries showed a sharp increase in threats, according to the Threat Labs Report: April 2022 from Trellix, which examines cybercriminal behaviour over the last six months.

“We’re at a critical juncture in cybersecurity and are observing increasingly hostile behaviour across an ever-expanding attack surface. While, globally, individuals and healthcare were the most frequently targeted industries by cybercriminals, in South Africa – Trellix saw an upsurge in attacks targeted at the country’s government and utilities sectors,” says Carlo Bolzonello, South Africa country lead for Trellix South Africa.

“The fourth quarter signalled the shift out of a two-year pandemic, which cybercriminals used for profit. We believe that’s the reason why we saw the prevalence of threat actors such as TA505 Group, APT29, and APT32 being active in the country.”

Threats to critical infrastructure

Q4 2021 saw increased cyberactivity targeting sectors essential to the function of society:

* Transportation and shipping were the target of 27% of all advanced persistent threat (APT) — activity by adversarial and stealthy actors — detections.

* Healthcare was the second most targeted sector, bearing 12% of total detections.

* From Q3 to Q4 2021 threats to manufacturing increased 100%, and threats to information technology increased 36%.

* Of Trellix customers, the transportation sector was targeted in 62% of all observed detections in Q4 2021.

Earlier this month, Trellix released a global Cyber Readiness Report investigating how critical infrastructure providers are preparing for cyberattacks. It found many critical infrastructure providers have not implemented cybersecurity best practices despite high-profile breaches.

Threats to Ukraine

Trellix Threat Labs has been investigating wiper malware and other cyberthreats targeting Ukraine. Wipers render devices within targeted organisations useless by destroying the memory critical to how the devices operate.

Trellix analysis of the Whispergate and HermeticWiper malware used before and during the invasion of Ukraine details the similarities and differences of the two strains used to destabilize Ukrainian IT systems by destroying the communications within the country.

The new report lists threat actors targeting Ukraine, including Actinium APT, Gamaredon APT, Nobelium APT (also known as APT29), UAC-0056 and Shuckworm APT. Of all APT activity Trellix observed in Q4 2021, APT29 accounted for 30% of the detections.

Tactics, techniques and procedures

Trellix observed the continued use of Living off the Land (LotL) methods, where criminals use existing software and controls native to a device to execute an attack. Windows Command Shell (CMD) (53%) and PowerShell (44%) were the most-frequently used NativeOS Binaries, and Remote Services (36%) was the most-used Administrative Tool in Q4 2021.

Trellix Threat Labs recently found LotL techniques deployed by DarkHotel, a suspected South Korean APT group, using Excel files to successfully infiltrate luxury hotels and glean information on prominent guests traveling for work and conferences.

Earlier this year, Trellix Threat Labs also identified a multi-stage espionage attack on a prime minister’s office to surveille high-ranking government officials and defense sector business executives. This campaign featured the use of Microsoft’s OneDrive as a Command and Control (C2) server and Excel to gain access to victim environments.

Other methods and techniques gaining traction among cyber adversaries in recent months:

* Cobalt Strike ranked highest among tools used by APT groups in Q4 2021 — a 95% increase from Q3.

* Obfuscated files or information, followed by credentials from web browsers, and file and directory discovery were the techniques observed most in Q4 2021.

* Malware was used most often in reported incidents in Q4 2021, accounting for 46% of total incidents and increasing 15% from Q3 2021.

Threats to individuals

Notably, the report found a significant — 73% — increase in cyber incidents targeting individuals and positioned people as the top attack sector in Q4 2021. This includes threats executed through social media, mobile devices and other services where consumers store data and credentials. For example, in Q4 2021 Facebook discovered spyware campaigns targeting users around the world and another criminal group leveraged Joker malware to target Android users globally. These attacks are typically politically motivated to follow a person’s interactions and contacts.

This follows the release of In the Crosshairs: Organisations and Nation-State Cyber Threats, a report from Trellix and the Centre for Strategic and International Studies which found access to consumer data was and likely will continue to be the motive for nearly half of state-backed cyberattacks.

Q4 2021 Threat Activity

* Ransomware Families. Lockbit (21%) was the most prevalent ransomware family detected in Q4 2021 — a 21% increase from Q3 — followed by Cuba (18%), and Conti (16%).

* Ransomware Arrests. REvil/Sodinokibi, the top Ransomware Family detected in Q3 2021, did not rank among most prevalent detections in Q4 due to Global Law Enforcement interventions.

* Ransomware Increase. Substantial increases in ransomware activity were observed in Italy (793%), the Netherlands (318%), and Switzerland (173%) in Q4 2021. India (70%) and the UK (47%) also experienced notable increases compared to Q3.

* Malware Families. RedLine Stealer (20%), Raccoon Stealer (17%), Remcos RAT (12%), LokiBot (12%), and Formbook (12%) amounted to almost 75% of malware families observed in Q4 2021.