The report also found that opportunistic threat actors sought to exploit people’s emotions and uncertainties during the pandemic by using Covid-19 topics to anchor their phishing campaigns
In publishing its Cyber Threat Landscape 2021 report, Ensign InfoSecurity (Ensign) identified technology, manufacturing, and banking and finance industries as the top targets in Asia Pacific for threat actors in 2020.
Ensign’s latest report provides insights into the cyber risks and threats that surfaced across four Asia Pacific markets – Hong Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea – as the pandemic dramatically reshaped the business landscape. It also explores cyber threat trends that are emerging or will persist in 2021.
Sector analysis: Technology sector is targeted to achieve economies of scale
Technology service providers were attractive targets for threat actors as many organisations have engaged their services during the pandemic to ensure business continuity.
A successful cyberattack would allow the threat actors to obtain the credentials of these service providers’ clients, gaining them illicit access to a wide range of companies.
The success of technology hardware and software vendors made them prime candidates for spreading vulnerabilities. By planting malicious codes and components into the vendors’ product development systems, this will enable the perpetrators to rapidly develop zero-day exploits or create backdoors to compromise the integrity of the products, allowing them to readily reach a larger pool of targets.
According to IDC, digital transformation investments in Asia Pacific including Japan and China (APJC) are poised to hit an estimated US$921 billion by 2024, compared to US$430 billion in 2019. IDC estimates that by the end of 2023, 80% of enterprises in Asia Pacific will put mechanisms in place that will enable them to shift to cloud-centric infrastructure and applications twice as fast as before the pandemic.
“Technology suppliers and service providers will continue to be lucrative targets for threat actors as organisations become increasingly reliant on digital technologies to support their business operations and position themselves for the future. If threat actors can successfully compromise just one of these companies’ systems, it can create a ripple effect that will impact large groups of organisations across industries and geographies,” said Steven Ng, cio and evp of Managed Security Services, Ensign.
He suggested that organisations need to recognise that as their cyber supply chain ecosystem expands and diversifies, they will also need to take additional steps to mitigate the elevated cyber risks that come with it.
“This includes increasing the organisation’s situational awareness by maintaining a complete inventory of the software, hardware, and information assets that are within their network, and those managed by their partners and vendors,” he added.
Sector Analysis: COVID-19 disruption opened trade secrets as new target
Ensign highlighted that in 2020, threat actors attacked manufacturing companies with ransomware. The perpetrators understood that these companies’ production capabilities were already strained due to the pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions.
This made manufacturers more willing to pay the ransom to resume operations quickly and avoid further production disruption.
Cyber adversaries also targeted manufacturing companies to steal their trade secrets, including industrial design, operational knowledge, as well as source materials and suppliers.
These types of information are particularly valuable as they can significantly undermine the victims’ competitive edge while boosting the capabilities of their competitors.
Sector Analysis: Use social engineering to target banking and finance remote workforce
As the country went into lockdown during the pandemic in 2020, there was increased usage of online banking services.
This led threat actors to ramp up their social engineering attacks by faking banking websites and mobile applications to deceive bank customers into disclosing their credentials.
The report also revealed a greater increase in threat activities in this sector due to the widespread adoption of remote working arrangements. More exploit attempts were targeting remote solutions used in this sector compared to other industries.
Threat actors were particularly interested in getting credentials to gain access to banks and other financial institutions. They could sell this information to ransomware operators and other sophisticated threat groups that can find their way into these organisations’ core network.