After six months from Cyber Threats Trends launch it’s time to check its main findings. When I decided to develop my own Cyber Threats Observatory I was not sure about its effectiveness and I was even more skeptical about the real usage from international cybersecurity communities. Fortunately many students, researchers and professionals used such a data to write thesis, papers and researches. Many of them cited my work (by adding a link in footnotes or in the reference section), other just dropped a “thank you email”. This was enough for me to decide to mantain Cyber Threats Trends for additional six months. Performing data collection, data analysis and data classification requires a quite expensive back-end, so it needs to be useful for somebody otherwise it would make no sense to maintain such a dedicated infrastructure.
But now let’s take a looks to what it was able to find during the past six months.
The most seen Malware families from January 2020 to June 2020 (6 months of activity) are the following ones:
– GrandCrab ~3%
– Upatre ~1,9% (!!)
– Emotet ~1,8%
– TrickBot ~1,25%
It looks like be inline with many available statistics and reports from the 2020 with the only exception on Upatre, which looks like super out of topic in 2020, but I have mostly discussed it here, so today I am quite confident it’s not a wrong classification. Many other families have been seen according to the following graph, but they will not be discussed in the current post.
Looking at the distribution of the top malware families we might focus on figure-out if some temporal pattern would emerge. The following image shows the GrandCarb family distribution over time. It is interesting to see that GrandCrab was mostly active during the last two weeks of March reaching its top detection rate on 2020-03-31 within a delicious frequency rate about 138 unique “findings” in that single day. Contrary it looks like to be less used during the months of May and June 2020.
GandCrab was a Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS) emerged in January 28, 2018, managed by a criminal organization known to be confident and vocal, while running a rapidly evolving ransomware campaign. Through their aggressive, albeit unusual, marketing strategies and constant recruitment of affiliates, they were able to globally distribute a high volume of their malware.From Malpedia
Looking at pattern-wise we might agree there is a kind of frequency inside of it. If you group the date by weeks you might find that GrandCrab is mostly used twice per month. If you consider a “top” (the biggest local maximum detection rate) as the campaign launching day and the following local maximum tops in detection rate (in other words the shorter “tops” or the local maximums) as physiological campaign adjustments, it looks like attackers would take two weeks to harvest profit from previous launched campaign and to prepare new artifacts for the following one.
The following graph shows the Upatre family distribution over the past six months.
First discovered in 2013, Upatre is primarily a downloader tool responsible for delivering additional trojans onto the victim host. It is most well-known for being tied with the Dyre banking trojan, with a peak of over 250,000 Upatre infections per month delivering Dyre back in July 2015. In November 2015 however, an organization thought to be associated with the Dyre operation was raided, and subsequently the usage of Upatre delivering Dyre dropped dramatically, to less than 600 per month by January 2016.From Paloalto Unit42
This is a very interesting graph because Upatre was not longer used since years (I bet since 2016). However it looks like attackers recovered it and re-started to use it from April 2020. Grouping by date you would appreciate a 3 days rhythm meaning that from one “attack wave” to another one it would take an average of 3 days. I will perform additional check on that, but static rules are perfectly matching what we are seeing int the upatre graph.
Moving one TrickBot, the following image shows its distribution over time. TrickBot was mostly active during the first months of 2020 in a constant and linear way, while from March to April 2020 it experienced a quite significant speedup. Due to covid thematic campaigns Cyber Threats Trends recorded more TrickBot as never before in such time frame.
A financial Trojan believed to be a derivative of Dyre: the bot uses very similar code, web injects, and operational tactics. Has multiple modules including VNC and Socks5 Proxy. Uses SSL for C2 communication.From Malpedia
The following image shows the Emotet Distribution over time. As plausible the Emotet’s distribution follows the TrickBot one. Even if it is not clear the relationship between TrickBot folks and Emotet folks, we are quite accustomed to see these frameworks closely delivered in common campaigns, like for example few months ago when we experienced a lot of Ryuk (ransomware) distribution using Emotet + TrickBot.
While Emotet historically was a banking malware organized in a botnet, nowadays Emotet is mostly seen as infrastructure as a service for content delivery. For example, since mid 2018 it is used by Trickbot for installs, which may also lead to ransomware attacks using Ryuk, a combination observed several times against high-profile targets.From Malpedia
Some indicators, such as the detection rate in January and the detection rate in June show to us that Emotet is used on these specific months even without TrickBot and it might suggest a different attack delivery procedure highlighting a different threat actor. In other words, comparing TrickBot and Emomet we observe that there are mainly two groups: a group which delivers TrickBot and Emotet together (such as the Ryuk ransom group) and a group which uses Emotet without TrickBot.
Excluding the file type
exe, which is the most analyzed file extension in the dropper panorama, we continue to observe many office files as the main Malware carrier. For example Microsoft Word Document within MACRO files are the most observed Malware carrier followed by PDF documents and CDF contents. While PowerShell files are still one of the most emerging threats we have not observed vast amount of Malware delivery on such carrier so far, but we see a revamping in the ancient Microsoft Excel Macro 4.0 as obfuscation technique.
Developing Cyber Threats Trends has been a great journey ! I had many sleepless nights and additional costs due to a quite big backend network (especially “database speaking”) but I had the opportunity to collect super interesting data and to increase knowledge on malware statistics and on developing distributed systems. Moreover it turned out being a quite useful data collection and trend analysis tool for quite few people out there ! I would definitely keep it on collecting more data !