SSL-based cyber attacks surged 30% over the past six months

Zscaler says hackers launch up to 800,000 encrypted attacks every day

Cyber criminals are increasingly using encryption technologies such as SSL to launch and hide attacks from malware detection tools, with threats rising by 30% compared to the first half of 2017, according to a new report.

Zscaler ThreatLabZ's bi-annual Secure Sockets Layer (SSL) trends report found that each day the company blocks up to 800,000 data transfers exploiting SSL encryption to transport cyber threats. By comparison, in the first six months of 2017, the company blocked 600,000 transactions on average.

Advertisement - Article continues below

The company said one of the most popular ways criminals launched attacks was using newly registered domains that were similar to well-known brand names such as DocuSign, Microsoft, Apple and Dropbox.

The SSL cryptographic protocol was first introduced in 1994 in response to growing concerns about the transfer of sensitive data online, providing a secure route between two domains - for example, a web browser and web server using HTTPS. The protocol was eventually replaced in 1999 by Transport Layer Security (TLS), although they're often used interchangeably.

However, since as early as 2011, SSL certificates have been found to contain vulnerabilities that allow hackers to bypass encrypted traffic, forcing many companies to remove thousands of certificates from their websites. 

Advertisement
Advertisement - Article continues below

Other methods of launching attacks included using SSL/TLS for communication with command and control (C&C) server activity such as documents, APKs and executable files. The most popular threats in this category were banking trojans (60%), ransomware (25%) and other trojan viruses (12%).

Advertisement - Article continues below

When Zscaler looked into how these attacks were able to happen, it revealed that although the majority of websites had a legitimate SSL certificate, in some cases, criminals were able to make use of free short-lived certificates to distribute malicious content.

"Web properties are quickly adopting SSL/TLS to curb privacy concerns, but without inspection of encrypted traffic, enterprises run the risk of an attack," said Deepen Desai, Zscaler senior director of security research and operations. "Yet, SSL inspection can cause significant performance degradation on security appliances. A multi-layer defense-in-depth strategy that fully supports SSL/TLS inspection is essential to ensure enterprises are secure."

Featured Resources

Successful digital transformations are future ready - now

Research findings identify key ingredients to complete your transformation journey

Download now

Cyber security for accountants

3 ways to protect yourself and your clients online

Download now

The future of database administrators in the era of the autonomous database

Autonomous databases are here. So who needs database administrators anymore?

Download now

The IT expert’s guide to AI and content management

Your guide to the biggest opportunities for IT teams when it comes to AI and content management

Download now
Advertisement

Recommended

Visit/security/cyber-security/355267/zoom-hires-ex-facebook-cso-to-boost-platform-security
cyber security

Zoom hires ex-Facebook CSO Alex Stamos to boost platform security

8 Apr 2020
Visit/security/vulnerability/355236/hp-support-assistant-flaws-leave-windows-devices-open-to-attack
vulnerability

HP Support Assistant flaws leave Windows devices open to attack

6 Apr 2020
Visit/security/cyber-security/355234/safari-bug-let-hackers-access-cameras-on-iphones-and-macs
cyber security

Safari bug let hackers access cameras on iPhones and Macs

6 Apr 2020
Visit/software/video-conferencing/355229/zoom-we-moved-too-fast
video conferencing

Zoom CEO admits company "moved too fast" as privacy issues mount

6 Apr 2020

Most Popular

Visit/mobile/mobile-phones/355239/microsofts-patent-design-reveals-a-mobile-device-with-a-third-screen
Mobile Phones

Microsoft patents a mobile device with a third screen

6 Apr 2020
Visit/development/application-programming-interface-api/355192/apple-buys-dark-sky-weather-app-and-leaves
application programming interface (API)

Apple buys Dark Sky weather app and leaves Android users in the cold

1 Apr 2020
Visit/server-storage/servers/355254/a-critical-flaw-in-350000-microsoft-exchange-remains-unpatched
servers

A critical flaw in 350,000 Microsoft Exchange remains unpatched

7 Apr 2020