Healthcare, manufacturing bear brunt of pandemic cyberattacks

The healthcare, manufacturing, and finance industries all saw an increase in cyberattacks at 200%, 300%, and 53%, respectively, as hackers take advantage of the global destabilization by targeting essential industries and common vulnerabilities from the shift to remote working.

According to NTT’s 2021 Global Threat Intelligence Report, these top three sectors account for a combined total of 62% of all attacks in 2020, up 11% from 2019.

As organizations race to offer more virtual, remote access through the use of client portals, application-specific and web-application attacks spiked, accounting for 67% of all attacks, which has more than doubled in the past two years. 

Healthcare bore the brunt of these attacks from its shift to telehealth and remote care, with 97% of all hostile activity targeted at the industry being web-application or application-specific attacks.

In terms of security maturity, healthcare and manufacturing have relatively low maturity scores of only 1.02 and 1.21, respectively. These have decreased from 2019’s baseline of 1.12 and 1.32, while attack rates have significantly risen. 

“While these industries have done their best to maintain essential services throughout disruptive times, the fall in security standards when companies need them most is alarming,” said Kazu Yozawa, CEO of NTT’s security division.

“As services continue to move online and become increasingly digital to account for the new normal, organizations must be extra vigilant in upholding and maintaining best practices in their security,” said Yozawa.

Cryptominers have replaced spyware as the most common malware in the world, but the use of certain variants of malware against specific industries continues to evolve. 

Worms appeared most frequently in the finance and manufacturing sectors. Healthcare was impacted by remote access trojans, while the technology industry was targetted by ransomware.  The education sector was hit by cryptominers due to the popularization of mining among students who exploit unprotected infrastructures.

Mark Thomas, who leads NTT’s Global Threat Intelligence Center, noted that on one hand are threat actors taking advantage of a global disaster, and on the other are cybercriminals capitalising on unprecedented market booms.

“Changes in operating models or adoption of new technologies present opportunities for malicious actors and with a surging crypto-currency market popular among inexperienced students; attacks were bound to happen,” said Thomas.

“Now, as we enter a more stable phase of the pandemic, organizations and individuals alike must prioritize cybersecurity hygiene across all industries, including the supply chain,” he added.