Artificial Intelligence and USBs Drive Significant Rise in Cyber-Attacks

Check Point Research recently published its 2023 Mid-Year Security Report, revealing a troubling 8% surge in global weekly cyber-attacks during Q2. This marks the most substantial increase in two years and raises concerns about the evolving landscape of cyber threats.

One of the key findings of the report revolves around the fusion of advanced artificial intelligence (AI) technology with traditional tools like USB devices. Attackers are leveraging AI tools to enhance phishing emails, develop keystroke monitoring malware, and create basic ransomware code. This misuse of AI has contributed to the proliferation of cyber-attacks.

Additionally, the report highlights a shift in ransomware tactics. Ransomware groups are now exploiting vulnerabilities in common corporate software and shifting their focus from simply encrypting data to stealing it. This change in strategy allows them to capitalize on sensitive information and further monetize their attacks.

USB devices, once considered obsolete, have resurfaced as potent vectors for malware distribution. Both state-affiliated groups and cyber-criminals are utilizing USBs to distribute malware globally, increasing the threat landscape. Furthermore, hacktivism, driven by politically motivated groups, has seen a surge in targeted attacks.

In the first half of 2023, over 2200 victims fell prey to 48 ransomware groups. Lockbit, with a 20% increase in victims compared to the previous year, stands at the forefront. Meanwhile, emerging groups like Royal and Play have gained prominence as Hive and Conti Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) groups disband.

Geographically, the United States accounted for 45% of the victims, while Russian targets experienced a surge due to a ransomware variant called “MalasLocker,” which replaces ransoms with charitable donations. With the manufacturing and retail sectors being the most affected, it indicates a strategic shift in ransomware operations.

Maya Horowitz, the VP of research at Check Point Software, emphasized how familiar threats like ransomware and hacktivism have evolved, with threat groups adapting their methods and tools to target organizations worldwide. She emphasized the importance of building a cyber-resilience strategy and adopting a prevention-first, integrated approach to cybersecurity.

The insights from the report were obtained through an analysis of data from the Check Point ThreatCloud Cyber-Threat Map, which provides a comprehensive view of current cyber threats. It is evident that to combat the rising tide of cyber-attacks, organizations must remain proactive, continually improve their security measures, and leverage advanced technologies.