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A third of cyberattacks in the cloud leverage credential access

Nearly 33% of cyberattacks in the cloud leverage credential access, according to a new report.

Elastic has released the 2022 Elastic Global Threat Report, detailing the evolving nature of cybersecurity threats, as well as the increased sophistication of cloud and endpoint-related attacks.

The identified trends provide organisations with the operational intelligence needed to fortify their security technology and the strategies required to observe and protect mission-critical business systems against cyber threats. The report was produced by Elastic Security Labs, the company’s threat research, malware analysis, and detection engineering team, and compiled using telemetry from worldwide deployments of Elastic Security from August 2021 to August 2022.    

The report found human error poses the greatest risk to cloud security as users overestimate the security of their cloud deployments. 

It also found nearly 1 in 3 (33%) attacks in the cloud leverage credential access, indicating that users often overestimate the security of their cloud environments and consequently fail to configure and protect them adequately.

According to the report, nearly 57% of cloud security telemetry came from AWS, followed by 22% for Google Cloud and 21% for Azure.

AWS: More than 74% of alerts related to credential access, initial access, and persistence tactics, with nearly 57% of techniques related to attempted application access token theft—one of the most common forms of credential theft in the cloud.
Google Cloud: Nearly 54% of alerts related to service account abuses, with 52% of techniques leveraging account manipulation and indicating that service account compromise remains rampant when default account credentials aren’t changed.
Microsoft Azure: More than 96% of alerts related to authentication events, with 57% of authentication events attempting to retrieve OAUTH2 tokens.

The report found 58% of initial access attempts used a combination of traditional brute-force attempts and previously-compromised password spraying.
 
Commercial software designed to help security teams is being used by threat actors to evade those same teams, the report says.

While commercial adversary simulation software such as CobaltStrike is helpful to many teams’ defense of their environments, it is also being used as a malicious tool for mass-malware implants. Elastic Security Labs found that CobaltStrike was the most widespread malicious binary or payload for Windows endpoints accounting for nearly 35% of all detections, followed by AgentTesla at 25% and RedLineStealer at 10%.

The report found that more than 54% of all global malware infections were detected on Windows endpoints, while more than 39% were on Linux endpoints. Nearly 81% of malware observed globally are trojan-based, followed by cryptominers at 11%, while MacKeeper ranked as the highest threat for macOS at nearly 48% of all detections, with XCSSet in the second-place position at nearly 17%.                  

Endpoint attacks are becoming more diverse in efforts to bypass defenses

More than 50 endpoint infiltration techniques are being utilised by threat actors, suggesting that endpoint security is working well, as its sophistication requires threat actors to continually find new or novel methods of attack to be successful.

The report found three MITRE ATT&CK tactics represented 66% of all endpoint infiltration techniques:

  • A combined 74% of all defense evasion techniques consisted of masquerading (44%) and system binary proxy execution (30%). This indicates that in addition to bypassing security instrumentation, defense evasion techniques also bypass visibility, resulting in longer dwell times for threats.
  • 59% of execution techniques related to command and native scripting interpreters, followed by 40% attributed to Windows Management Instrumentation abuses, indicating that adversaries abuse PowerShell, Windows Script Host, and Windows shortcut files to execute commands, scripts, or binaries.
  • Nearly 77% of all credential access techniques are attributed to OS credential dumping with commonly known utilities. This follows the trend of adversaries relying on valid accounts to draw less suspicion of administrators in hybrid-based deployment environments between on-premise hosting and Cloud Service Providers.
     

While credential access techniques have long been a priority for attackers, adversary investment in defense evasion techniques indicates a reaction to improvements in security technologies that have been impacting their success. When combined with execution techniques, attackers are able to bypass advanced endpoint controls while remaining undetected within organisations’ environments.

“To effectively prevent cybersecurity threats, organisations need more than just great security software—they need a program that extends to shared insights and best practices and a community focused on security data intelligence to extend the value of that product for customers,” says Ken Exner, Chief Product Officer, Elastic 

“The 2022 Elastic Global Threat Report is an important part of our holistic security program offering, and we are excited to share our visibility, capability, and expertise with the broader community.”

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