PowerShell malware increased by almost 700% in Q1

Cyber security outfit McAfee observed a 689% increase in malware targeting the business task automation framework

The first quarter of 2020 saw a significant rise in malware targeting popular business task automation framework Powershell, with an increase of 689% in comparison to the previous quarter. 

According to a new report from McAfee Labs, the surge of PowerShell malware can be attributed to the Donoff family of TrojanDownloader, which is also responsible for the 412% increase in New Macro Malware during the first three months of 2020.

Overall, McAfee found that the PowerShell malware grew by a staggering 1,902% over the previous four quarters.

McAfee's newly-published “COVID-19 Threats Report”, which is based on a study monitoring coronavirus-related cyber crime, revealed that the security firm observed 375 new threats per minute during the first quarter.

McAfee fellow and chief scientist Raj Samani identified the “dominant themes of the 2020 threat landscape” as the cyber criminals' “quick adaptation to exploit the pandemic and the considerable impact cyber attacks have had”.

“What began as a trickle of phishing campaigns and the occasional malicious app quickly turned into a deluge of malicious URLs and capable threat actors leveraging the world’s thirst for more information on COVID-19 as an entry mechanism into systems across the globe,” he said.

According to the findings, threats targeting cloud services increased by 630%, concentrating largely on collaboration tools such as Microsoft 365, which experienced heightened popularity during the pandemic lockdown. 

Half of all publicly disclosed security incidents took place in North America, out of which 47% in the United States. Europe was a considerably less popular target, consisting of 9% of the incidents, according to the report.

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McAfee researchers found that cyber criminals often used coronavirus-related subjects such as testing, treatments, cures, and remote work topics to lure targets into clicking on a malicious link, downloading a file, or opening a PDF.

In order to track such attempts, McAfee Advanced Programs Group (APG) announced the availability of a COVID-19 Threat Dashboard, which shows the most common threats leveraging the pandemic, most often targeted countries.

Patrick Flynn, head of McAfee APG, said that “cybersecurity cannot be solved by cookie-cutter approaches”.

“Each organisation is unique and has specific intelligence requirements and objectives,” he said. “The McAfee COVID-19 Threat Dashboard utilises data to create true analysed intelligence, which allows users to understand the total threat environment, informing them of potential threats before they are weaponised.”

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