SecurityBrief Asia - Technology news for CISOs & cybersecurity decision-makers
Story image
VIPRE report predicts 276% rise in malware in 2024
Mon, 19th Feb 2024

VIPRE Security Group has published its yearly email threat landscape report, titled Email Security in 2024: An Expert Look at Email-Based Threats. The study is built on an analysis of over seven billion emails in 2023.

Out of the seven billion emails analysed, approximately one billion were found to be malicious. An alarming 276% rise in malware was recorded between January and December of 2023. The research found the Financial Services sector to be the most targeted by phishing and malspam emails, accounting for 22% of all attacks, with IT, healthcare, education and government following. In terms of phishing, 71% of emails are still utilising links as their primary bait.

The report also revealed that Microsoft, Apple, DHL, Google, DocuSign, Amazon and Dropbox are among the most frequently spoofed URLs. HTML attachments accounted for 52% of all malicious attachments, with PDFs increasing by 100% and EMLs by an astounding 4600%. In the last quarter, AgentTesla -- identified as a .NET information stealer -- was responsible for the majority of malware attacks.

The report warned that 2024 would see an increase in QR code hacks or quishing, a rise in the use of AI to create content for spam emails, including deepfakes, further growth in highly personalised social media mining; and wide use of different file types and formats, particularly EML, to propagate phishing and malware attacks. A significant rise in state-sponsored attacks is also anticipated.

As per the findings, the popularity of clean links is seeing a rise, these links have a higher success rate in duping users. In 2023, EML attachments, despite being a consistent threat, saw a tenfold increase in Q4. Due to their novelty, they often bypass basic email security measures and spark curiosity in users, leading to increased engagement and risk.

AgentTesla, which emerged as the top malware family in Q4, infiltrates target machines and harvests sensitive data off numerous qualifying browsers. Crucially, while the delivery of malware via email increased by 276% between January and December 2023, it accounted for only 5% of malspam overall. This suggests that it's easier for threat actors to trick end users than security solutions, which, despite falling behind in emerging tactics like social engineering attacks, have managed to curb malware effectively.

Usman Choudhary, General Manager of VIPRE Security Group, comments: "When you take a look at the kinds of [email] threats we're seeing today, a lot of them are preventable. It just takes the right tools, but most companies don't know they exist because email doesn't always get the same kind of security attention as the rest of the network. Unfortunately, threat actors know this."

This annual report, a by-product of VIPRE Antivirus Labs' continuous research, aims to provide insight for the wider public benefit using real-world email traffic to represent current email usage and behaviours in businesses. VIPRE also releases quarterly updates based on its findings.