Security

Why botnets, ransomware, and phishing attacks are the biggest cyberthreats to your business

Phishing was the no. 1 threat vector for Office 365-based products in the second half of 2017, according to a Microsoft report.

Building a slide deck, pitch, or presentation? Here are the big takeaways:
  • Botnets, phishing, and ransomware attacks are the top threats to businesses in 2017-2018. — Microsoft, 2018
  • Poorly secured cloud apps are a major target for criminals, as 79% of SaaS storage apps and 86% of SaaS collaboration apps do not encrypt data both at rest and in transit. — Microsoft, 2018

Botnets, ransomware, and phishing attacks dominate the current cyberthreat landscape, according to a Thursday security report from Microsoft. As cybersecurity attacks grow more sophisticated and cause more damage, businesses must be aware of the top threats and vectors for attacks to best protect their assets.

Microsoft analyzed data from Windows, Bing, Office 365, and Azure users to determine the top cyberthreats facing customers since February 2017. Across these Microsoft services, the company each month scans 400 billion email messages for phishing and malware, processes 450 billion authentications, executes more than 18 billion web page scans, and scans more than 1.2 billion devices for threats, according to the report.

As software vendors increasingly build in stronger security measures, hackers are looking to "low-hanging fruit" methods to infiltrate users' systems in an easier, less costly way, the report found. With this being the case, phishing was the no. 1 threat vector for Office 365-based products in the second half of 2017, according to Microsoft. Poorly secured cloud apps also pose a major security risk to businesses, the report found: 79% of SaaS storage apps and 86% of SaaS collaboration apps do not encrypt data both at rest and in transit.

SEE: Incident response policy (Tech Pro Research)

Botnets also continue to infect millions of computers across the world, Microsoft found. Cybercriminals use botnets to gain access to a large infrastructure to mine for sensitive data, and defending against this threat can be difficult.

Digging into the Gamarue botnet in particular, Microsoft analyzed more than 44,000 malware samples and uncovered that Gamarue had distributed more than 80 different malware families. The top three malware classes distributed by the Gamarue botnet were ransomware, trojans, and backdoors, the report noted.

Ransomware remains another top strategy for cybercriminals to extort money or cryptocurrency from their victims, Microsoft found. WannaCry, Petya/NoPetya, and BadRabbit were three major ransomware attacks that disrupted corporate networks and other systems in 2017, and we can expect to see more attempts like these this year.

To keep your enterprise safe, Microsoft recommends following standard security practices, including keeping software and security solutions updated.

"The proliferation of low-cost attack methods such as social engineering is a reminder of the importance of security awareness training for employees to keep them apprised of latest phishing techniques," according to a Microsoft blog post.

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Image: iStockphoto/BeeBright

About Alison DeNisco Rayome

Alison DeNisco Rayome is a Senior Editor for TechRepublic. She covers CXO, cybersecurity, and the convergence of tech and the workplace.

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