McAfee COVID-19 Report Reveals Pandemic Threat Evolution

By on Jul 21, 2020

The McAfee Advanced Threat Research team today published the McAfee® Labs COVID-19 Threats Report, July 2020.

In this “Special Edition” threat report, we delve deep into the COVID-19 related attacks observed by our McAfee Advanced Threats Research and McAfee Labs teams in the first quarter of 2020 and the early months of the pandemic.

What started as a trickle of phishing campaigns and the occasional malicious app quickly turned to thousands of malicious URLs and more-than-capable threat actors leveraging our thirst for more information as an entry mechanism into systems across the world.

Thus far, the dominant themes of the 2020 threat landscape have been cybercriminal’s quick adaptation to exploit the pandemic and the considerable impact cyberattacks have had. For example, many ransomware attacks have escalated into data breaches as cybercriminals up the ante by leaking sensitive, often regulated, data, regardless of whether victims have paid the ransom.

Some of the other significant threat findings in our COVID-19 report include:

  • Average of 375 threats per minute in Q1 2020
  • Nearly 47% of all publicly disclosed security incidents took place in the United States
  • New PowerShell Malware increased drastically
  • Disclosed incidents largely targeted Public, Individual, and Education sectors

In a first, we also have made available a COVID-19 dashboard to complement this threat report and extend its impact beyond the publication date. Timeliness is a challenge for publishing any threat report, but through the development of MVISION Insights our threat reports will include a link to another live dashboard tracking the world’s top threats. We will also make available the IOCs, Yara rules, and mapping to the MITRE ATT&CK framework as part of our continuing commitment to sharing our actionable intelligence. I hope these McAfee resources will be useful to you, the reader.

As we head into the second half of the year, we must consider how the threat landscape has changed when we address and define each attack. Simply assigning a technical descriptor or reverting to the same attack classifications fail to communicate the impact such campaigns have on the broader society.

All too often, we are called into investigations where businesses have been halted, or victims have lost considerable sums of money. While we all have had to contend with pandemic lockdown, criminals of all manner of capability have had a field day.

We hope you enjoy these new threat report approaches, and moreover we would appreciate you sharing these findings far and wide. These tools and insights could be the difference between a business remaining operational or having to shut its doors at a time when we have enough challenges to contend with.


About the Author

Raj Samani

Raj Samani is Chief Scientist and Fellow for the Enterprise business. He has assisted multiple law enforcement agencies in cybercrime cases and is a special advisor to the European Cybercrime Centre in The Hague. Samani has been recognized for his contribution to the computer security industry through numerous awards, including the Infosecurity Europe hall of ...

Read more posts from Raj Samani

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