ESET Threat Report T2 2022: RDP attacks see further drop; ransomware loses war-related messaging

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  • Following a sharp decline observed in T1 2022, the total number of RDP attack attempts declined by a further 89%; the likely reasons for the decline are post-COVID return to offices, improved security, and the Russia-Ukraine war.
  • Politically motivated ransomware declined; operators turned their attention from Russia back to their usual targets such as the United States, China, and Israel.
  • Emotet continued to be active, with detections seen mainly in Japan and Italy; according to ESET telemetry, its operators took time off in August.
  • ESET phishing feeds showed a sixfold increase in shipping-themed phishing URLs, with the most commonly impersonated brands being USPS and DHL.
  • Web skimmer known as Magecart constituted three-fourths of all banking malware detections, leaving far behind the rest of the malware strains in the category.
  • Cryptocurrency threats went down along with the price of bitcoin; however, the previously declining category of Cryptostealers grew by almost 50%.

SINGAPORE — October 5, 2022 — ESET released today its T2 2022 Threat Report, summarizing key statistics from ESET detection systems, and highlighting notable examples of ESET’s cybersecurity research. The latest issue of the ESET Threat Report (covering May to August 2022) sheds light on the changes in ideologically motivated ransomware, Emotet activity, the most-used phishing lures, how the plummeting cryptocurrency exchange rates affected online threats, and the continuation of the sharp decline of Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) attacks. ESET analysts think these attacks continued to lose their steam due to the Russia-Ukraine war, along with the post-COVID return to offices and overall improved security of corporate environments.

Even with declining numbers, Russian IP addresses continued to be responsible for the largest portion of RDP attacks. “In T1 2022, Russia was also the country that was most targeted by ransomware, with some of the attacks being politically or ideologically motivated by the war. However, ESET Threat Report T2 2022 shows that this hacktivism wave has declined in T2, and ransomware operators turned their attention towards the United States, China, and Israel,” explains Roman Kováč, Chief Research Officer at ESET.

According to ESET telemetry, August was a vacation month for the operators of Emotet, the most influential downloader strain. The gang behind it also adapted to Microsoft’s decision to disable VBA macros in documents originating from the internet and focused on campaigns based on weaponized Microsoft Office files and LNK files.

The report also examines threats mostly impacting home users. ESET phishing feeds showed a sixfold increase in shipping-themed phishing lures, most of the time presenting the victims with fake DHL and USPS requests to verify shipping addresses. “In terms of threats directly affecting virtual and physical currencies, a web skimmer known as Magecart remains the leading threat going after online shoppers’ credit card details. We also saw a twofold increase in cryptocurrency-themed phishing lures and a rising number of cryptostealers,” explains Kováč.

The ESET T2 2022 Threat Report also reviews the most important findings and achievements by ESET researchers. They uncovered a previously unknown macOS backdoor, and later attributed it to ScarCruft, discovered an updated version of the Sandworm APT group’s ArguePatch malware loader, uncovered Lazarus payloads in trojanized apps, and analyzed an instance of the Lazarus Operation In(ter)ception campaign targeting macOS devices while spearphishing in crypto-waters. ESET researchers also discovered buffer overflow vulnerabilities in Lenovo UEFI firmware and a new campaign using a fake Salesforce update as a lure.

Besides these findings, the report also summarizes the many talks given by ESET researchers in recent months, and introduces talks planned for AVAR, Ekoparty, and many other conferences. For more information, check out ESET Threat Report T2 2022 on WeLiveSecurity. Make sure to follow ESET Research on Twitter for the latest news from ESET Research.

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