Trend Micro Blocks Over 61 Million Ransomware Attacks in 2019

SINGAPORE, March 24, 2020 – Trend Micro Incorporated, a global leader in cybersecurity solutions, has released its 2019 security roundup report. The report details the most important issues and changes in the threat landscape to provide businesses with insights into best practices and strategies for protecting their infrastructures from current and emerging threats.

Ransomware continued to be a mainstay cyber threat last year. Overall, Trend Micro discovered a 10% increase in ransomware detections, despite a 57% decrease in the number of new ransomware families. 

The modus operandi morphed in 2019. We saw ransomware increasingly becoming a secondary infection vector and alliances being forged to carry out an elaborate, complex ransomware scheme. Under the partnership, one group gains access to a network, and sells the access to another group to execute a ransomware attack. This shows that groups are becoming more specialized and segmenting the pieces of a cybercriminal business model.  

The report also revealed that email remained the top threat vector used by cybercriminals in 2019. Globally, Trend Micro blocked 15% more email threats in 2019 than in 2018. This pattern held true in Singapore – Trend Micro blocked more than 413 million email threats in the city-state, a 19.9% increase from 2018.

Phishing continued to be the top threat to organizations in 2019 and started to feature advanced techniques. As a result, such threats targeting Office 365 increased twofold. Business email compromise (BEC[2]) is a notorious form of phishing attack; it grew by 5% last year. A global trend we observed showed BEC operators expanding from their traditional enterprise victims to encompass religious, educational, and non-profit organizations.

Further 2019 Singapore findings include:

  • Trend Micro recorded a 54.5% year-on-year decline in the number of times it blocked malicious URLs hosted[3] in Singapore. 
  • On the flipside, the number of times users in Singapore accessed malicious links[4] rose by 32.5%, compared to 2018 – pointing towards the need to empower users to identify risks through education

“Our 2019 findings revealed how cybercriminals recognized the high return on investment from ransomware and BEC scams – a single successful attempt could make for a lucrative yield, even factoring in the research and other efforts that went behind it,” said Nilesh Jain, vice president, Southeast Asia and India, Trend Micro.

“The traditional approach of using numerous best-of-breed security solutions is not today’s state-of-the-art security. As the security stack becomes bloated, efficiencies need to be identified and had. By the end of the day, having 20 security solutions that don’t talk to each other at all may not be as effective as having five that do.”

Known vulnerabilities remain key to successful cyber attacks, including ransomware. In 2019, Trend Micro’s Zero Day Initiative (ZDI) disclosed 171% more high severity vulnerabilities than in 2018. The criticality score reflects the likelihood of these flaws being leveraged by attackers, so high severity bugs are more likely to be weaponized and the patches should be prioritized.

To protect against today’s threat landscape, Trend Micro recommends a connected threat defense across gateways, networks, servers and endpoints. Additionally, these best practices can increase a company’s security posture:

  • Mitigate ransomware with network segmentation, regular back-ups and continuous network monitoring.
  • Update and patch systems and software to protect against known vulnerabilities.
  • Enable virtual patching, especially for operating systems that are no longer supported by the vendor.
  • Implement multi-factor authentication and least privilege access policies to prevent abuse of tools that can be accessed via admin credentials, like remote desktop protocol, PowerShell and developer tools.

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