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Email remains the top attack vector for cybercriminals

Many of our affairs are organized via email. No wonder cybercriminals exploit it to lure unsuspecting users into providing their financial and personal information.

In its 2022’s Q2 report, Vade analyzed the current state of phishing and malware emails worldwide.

Malware emails’ frequency fluctuated over the last couple of months, decreasing to 48% in April and then jumping back up to 31% in May, with 22.4 million malware-weaponized emails detected. In June, the increase from the previous month was even higher: 29%.

Phishing emails, on the other hand, have been steadily increasing month-on-month, seeing an unprecedented 88% increase in June.

When it comes to phishing, threat actors primarily opted for brand impersonation, with Facebook being the most impersonated brand. Japanese telecommunications company, Au, came in second, followed by Microsoft, Credit Agricole, and WhatsApp. Microsoft and Facebook usually trade places in terms of being the most impersonated brands.

Cybercriminals most often impersonated financial services (in 31% of cases), with nine out of 25 brands at the top of the list, followed by social media (23%), Internet/Telco (20%), and cloud (17%).

Researchers also noticed that Emotet malware came back after its initial slowdown in 2021. In Europe, the number of Emotet attacks increased 44% in Q2. On the contrary, the volume of Emotet-laced emails continues to decrease in the United States.

Vade also detected a number of country- and brand-specific attacks. As such, tax-themed emails weaponized with spyware affected over 9,000 users in India in June 2022. The email included the subject line “Final Warning About Your Unsuccessful Tax Payment” and a link with the instructions “download and save a copy of your Payment Challan below.” The link then automatically downloads a malicious archive.

In May 2022, a large-scale phishing attack impersonating Maersk, one of the world’s largest shipping companies, was discovered. Threat actors crafted emails claiming to include shipping documents and linking to a Maersk phishing page, targeting over 8,000 users in New Zealand.

“Email-borne malware is significantly easier to distribute than remote attacks, providing even inexperienced hackers with a quick and efficient method of causing destruction,” the researchers conclude.


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