Emotet Has Reemerged as Top Malware in Circulation

The HP Wolf Security threat research team has identified a 2700% increase in Emotet infections in the first quarter of 2022, re-emerging in late 2021 after its command and control network was shut down by authorities in Jan. 2021. Once described by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) as one of the most destructive and costly types of malware to remediate, Emotet has become the greatest malware threat in 2022 (representing 9% of all malware captured).

How Are The Attacks Happening?

Macro-enabled Excel files sent via email campaigns led to nearly a 1000% increase in infections in Japan alone. Email campaigns tricked users into opening Microsoft macro-enabled excel files (filename.xlsm) and spread Emotet malware once again.

Some other notable attack campaigns include:

  • Java Archive Files: as Microsoft begins disabling macros in their office suite, hackers are switching to malicious Java Archive files (+476%) and JavaScript files (+42%) which are harder to defend against as detection rates for these file types are often low, increasing the chance of infection.
  • HTML Smuggling attacks: The median file size of HTML threats grew from 3KB to 12KB, suggesting a rise in the use of HTML smuggling, a technique where cybercriminals embed malware directly into HTML communications that hide from email gateways and firewall detection algorithms due to encryption via HTTPS and SSL.
  • “Two for One” malware campaign leads to multiple RAT infections: A Visual Basic script attack was found being used to kick start an intrusive kill chain resulting in multiple infections on the same device, giving attackers persistent access to victims’ systems with VW0rm, NjRAT, and AsyncRAT.

“A clear signal its operators are regrouping, building back their strength and investing in growing the Emotet botnet… Their reemergence is bad news for businesses and the public sector alike.”

– Alex Holland, Senior Malware Analyst, HP Wolf Security Threat Research Team

What Should Your MSP or SMB Do?

Dr. Ian Pratt, Global Head of Security for Personal Systems, HP Inc. says that with the uptake in alternative file types and techniques being used to bypass detection, organizations need to change course and take a layered approach to endpoint security. Applying the Principle of Least Privilege by removing Administrative Rights from end users in your organization, and isolating the most common threat vectors from email, browsers, or downloads makes malware delivered through these vectors nearly harmless. The following minimum cybersecurity recommendations should also be done to help reduce the likelihood of becoming a victim of Emotet malware.

CyberHoot’s Minimum Essential Cybersecurity Recommendations

The following recommendations will help you and your business stay secure with the various threats you may face on a day-to-day basis. All of the suggestions listed below can be gained by hiring CyberHoot’s vCISO Program development services.

  1. Govern employees with policies and procedures. You need a password policy, an acceptable use policy, an information handling policy, and a written information security program (WISP) at a minimum.
  2. Train employees on how to spot and avoid phishing attacks. Adopt a Learning Management system like CyberHoot to teach employees the skills they need to be more confident, productive, and secure.
  3. Test employees with Phishing attacks to practice. CyberHoot’s Phish testing allows businesses to test employees with believable phishing attacks and put those that fail into remedial phish training.
  4. Deploy critical cybersecurity technology including two-factor authentication on all critical accounts. Enable email SPAM filtering, validate backups, and deploy DNS protection, antivirus, and anti-malware on all your endpoints.
  5. In the modern Work-from-Home era, make sure you’re managing personal devices connecting to your network by validating their security (patching, antivirus, DNS protections) or prohibiting their use entirely.
  6. If you haven’t had a risk assessment by a 3rd party in the last 2 years, you should have one now. Establishing a risk management framework in your organization is critical to addressing your most egregious risks with your finite time and money.
  7. Buy Cyber-Insurance to protect you in a catastrophic failure situation. Cyber-Insurance is no different than Car, Fire, Flood, or Life insurance. It’s there when you need it most.

Each of these recommendations, except cyber-insurance, is built into CyberHoot’s product and virtual Chief Information Security Officer services. With CyberHoot you can govern, train, assess, and test your employees. Visit CyberHoot.com and sign up for our services today. At the very least continue to learn by enrolling in our monthly Cybersecurity newsletters to stay on top of current cybersecurity updates.

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