Behind the Crime: New Phishing Attack Launched Every Two Minutes

by Heidi Bleau

Mar 06, 2020

If the business of cybercrime was a stock, investors would be scrambling to buy it.  Or at least that’s what we can glean from the growth in cyber attacks observed in 2019.  Based off analysis in the RSA® Quarterly Fraud Report, cybercrime and fraud flourished last year.  Highlights from the report include:

  • In 2019, RSA identified 255,095 global fraud attacks, or approximately one every two minutes.
  • Phishing remains the predominant attack vector used by fraudsters accounting for 60 percent of all fraud attacks observed by RSA in Q4.  Overall, phishing volume increased 54 percent year-over-year.
  • RSA saw a year-over-year increase across all other fraud attack vectors.  Specifically, financial malware attacks increased 41 percent, fraud and brand abuse attacks on social media increased 62 percent, and the number of rogue mobile apps uncovered across popular app stores increased 175 percent.
  • Three out of every five fraud transactions identified in Q4 originated from a mobile browser.
  • RSA recovered over 32.5 million unique compromised cards and card previews in 2019. The top five countries that compromised cards for sale can be attributed to are the United States, India, Spain, Brazil and the United Kingdom. 

While phishing remains popular among cybercriminals for targeted attacks, data breaches continue to provide a treasure trove of compromised credentials for sale in the underground, and automation makes it easier for cybercriminals to monetize them.  As a result, account takeover remains another growing threat that has been difficult for organizations to contain.  It doesn't take a very high success rate to reap significant rewards, due to the speed at which automated tools, such as Sentry MBA, SNIPR, or BlackBullet, can check the validity of credentials across numerous popular websites.

The mobile channel also continues to be a breeding ground for fraud activity, from the number of fraudulent transactions that originate in it to the spread of attacks through illegitimate apps in popular app stores.  In 2019, RSA uncovered 100 fraudulent mobile apps a day, posing as legitimate and trusted brands to steal customer data or spread high-profile financial malware such as the BankBot Trojan.

Trends That Will Propel Cybercrime in 2020

As organizations continue to undertake digital transformation initiatives, they also invite new and expanded digital risks.  Here are some of the trends that have the potential to facilitate the growth of cybercrime in 2020:

Cloud Transformation.  As reported by CNET in summarizing the top data breaches of last year, “The words "unsecured database" seemed to run on repeat through security journalism in 2019.”  Human error, and not issues with the cloud provider, are the cause of a majority of data breaches. As more infrastructure, data, and applications are moved to the cloud, organizations must create and configure security policies specifically for the cloud.  This includes applying standards for things such as access controls, visibility and governance, with the goal of achieving the same desired outcomes as if those resources were on-premises.

API Economy.  The growth of cloud computing and the need for integration, along with big data and the need to share analytics across multiple systems, has helped fuel the rapidly emerging API economy. The use of APIs is growing across all sectors, from financial services to healthcare.  However, financial services has really seen the most dynamic growth in leveraging APIs helped by the rise of Fintechs, demand for real-time payments, and regulations such as PSD2 in Europe.  With the increase in operational and fraud risk brought on by APIs, organizations will need to ensure proper third-party governance and fraud management controls are in place.

Author: Heidi Bleau

Category: Research and Innovation, Blog Post

Keywords: Digital Risk, Digital Transformation, Digital Risk Management, Cybersecurity, Third Party Risk, Fraud, Phishing, Cloud Security, Malware Attacks, Account Takeover Fraud, APIs

What trend do you think will drive cybercrime growth in 2020? Where do you think cybercriminals will invest?  Check out the latest RSA® Quarterly Fraud Report to gain full insight into the global fraud trends that had the most impact in 2019 and their potential implications in the coming year.

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