Cyberthreats to financial institutions in 2019: overview and predictions
Despite this, let’s start the review with a positive trend: in 2018, police arrested a number of well-known cybercrime group members responsible for Carbanak/Cobalt and Fin7, among others. These groups have been involved in attacks on dozens, if not hundreds of companies and financial institutions around the world. Unfortunately, the arrest of group members including the leader of Carbanak, did not lead to a complete halt in activities – in fact, it seemingly started the process of splitting the groups into smaller cells. The most active actor of 2018 was Lazarus. This group is gradually expanding its arsenal of tools and looking for new targets. The area of interest today includes banks, fintech companies, crypto-exchanges, PoS (point-of-sale) terminals, ATMs, and in terms of geography, we have recorded infection attempts in dozens of countries, most of which are located in Asia, Africa, and Latin America. At the end of last year, we noted that young fintech companies and crypto-exchanges are at a higher risk, due to the immaturity of their security systems. This certain type of companies was targeted most often. The most creative attack seen in 2018, from our point of view, was AppleJeus, which targeted cryptocurrency traders. In this case, criminals created special software that looked legitimate and carried out legitimate functions. However, the program also uploaded a malicious update that turned out to be a backdoor. This is a new type of attack, which infects its targets via the supply chain. Continuing the topic of supply chain attacks, it is worth mentioning the MageCart group, which, by infecting website payment pages (including those of large companies such as British Airways) was able to access a huge amount of payment card data this year. This attack was even more effective because the criminals chose an interesting target – Magento, which is one of the most popular platforms for online stores. Using vulnerabilities in Magento, criminals were able to infect dozens of sites in a technique that is likely to be used by several other groups. We should also note the development of ATM malware families. In 2018, Kaspersky Lab specialists discovered six new families, meaning that there are now more than 20 of this kind. Some ATM malware families have also evolved: for example, the Plotus malware from Latin America has been updated to a new version, Peralda, and has gained new functionality as a result. The greatest damage associated with attacks on ATMs was caused by infections from internal banking networks, such as FASTCash and ATMJackPot, which allowed attackers to reach thousands of ATMs. 2018 also saw attacks on organizations that use banking systems. Firstly, our machine learning-based behavioral analysis system detected several waves of malicious activity related to the spread of the Buhtrap banking Trojan this year, as attackers embedded their code in popular news sites and forums. Secondly, we detected attacks on the financial departments of industrial companies, where payments of hundreds of thousands of dollars would not cause much suspicion. Often in the final stages of attacks like this, attackers install remote administration tools on infected computers such as RMS, TeamViewer, and VNC. Before giving our forecasts for 2019, let’s see how accurate our forecasts for 2018 turned out to be:
- Attacks made through the underlying blockchain technologies of financial systems implemented by the financial institutions themselves – This did not happen in the financial field, but was seen in the online casino sector.
- More supply chain attacks in the financial world – Yes
- Attacks on mass media (in general, including Twitter accounts, Facebook pages, telegram channels and more) including hacks and manipulation for getting financial profit through stock/crypto exchange trade – Yes
- ATM malware automation – Yes. For example, there are malicious programs that immediately give money to attackers.
- More attacks on crypto exchange platforms – Yes
- A spike in traditional card fraud due to the huge data breaches that happened in the previous year – no
- More nation-state sponsored attacks against financial organizations – Yes
- The inclusion of fintechs and mobile-only users in attacks: a fall in the number of traditional PC-oriented internet banking Trojans, with novice mobile banking users becoming the new prime target for criminals – Yes. In particular, some banking Trojans stopped attacking users of online banking on PCs, while the number of Trojans attacking users of mobile devices has more than doubled over the past year.
- The emergence of new groups due to the fragmentation of Cobalt/Carbnal and Fin7: new groups and new geography
- The first attacks through the theft and use of biometric data
- The emergence of new local groups attacking financial institutions in the Indo-Pakistan region, South-East Asia and Central Europe
- Continuation of the supply-chain attacks: attacks on small companies that provide their services to financial institutions around the world
- Traditional cybercrime will focus on the easiest targets and bypass anti-fraud solutions: replacement of PoS (point-of-sale) attacks with attacks on systems accepting online payments
- The cybersecurity systems of financial institutions will be bypassed using physical devices connected to the internal network
- Attacks on mobile banking for business users
- Advanced social engineering campaigns targeting operators, secretaries and other internal employees in charge of wires: result of data leaks
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