AI-boosted phishing sees 222% surge, warns Acronis report

Acronis, a leading player in the field of cyber protection, has released the findings of its benchmarked report on cyber threats for the second half of 2023. The report, titled “Acronis Cyberthreats Report, H2 2023: Alarming rise in cyberattacks, SMBs and MSPs in the crosshairs,” is an in-depth analysis of key security issues and prevalent cyber threats worldwide. Leveraging data from over a million unique endpoints across 15 countries, the report reveals that AI-enhanced phishing attacks affected over 90% of organisations, leading to a huge 222% surge in email attacks in 2023 compared to the second half of 2022.

While ransomware variants and the number of new groups are decreasing, the most notorious families of the attack vector are still causing companies globally to lose data and money. The report highlights the absence of robust security solutions to detect the exploitation of zero-day vulnerabilities. Organisations often fall victim to attacks owing to the delay in patching susceptible software, which allows threat actors to gain domain administrative rights, uninstall security tools, and infiltrate sensitive information.

Candid West, Acronis VP of Product Management, remarked, “There’s a disturbing trend being recognized globally where bad actors continue to leverage ChatGPT and similar generative AI systems to increase cyberattack efficiency, create malicious code, and automate attacks.” He further added, “Now, more than ever, corporations need to prioritize comprehensive cyber protection solutions to ensure business continuity.”

The report has also shed light on how the scaling efficiencies of managed service providers (MSPs) that centralize services for numerous businesses make them a single point of failure, where cybercriminals can exploit multiple entities through a single attack. Advanced tactics like supply chain attacks, AI-driven attacks and state-sponsored incursions are likely to intensify, leading to potential threats unique to MSP operations.

The report highlights several key findings, such as Singapore, Spain, and Brazil emerging as the most targeted countries for malware attacks in Q4 2023. Despite a 36% decrease in URLs blocked at the endpoint compared to Q4 2022, 33.4% of received emails were identified as spam, with 1.5% containing malware or phishing links. Furthermore, notable contributions came from LockBit, Play, ALPHV, and the active Toufan group who explicitly mentioned ransomware cases 1,353 times in Q4 2023.

Summing-up the report’s findings, Michael Suby, Research VP at IDC, stated, “The Acronis Cyberthreats Report H2 2023 highlights the continued threats faced by businesses of all sizes worldwide. Unfortunately, bad actors continue to profit from these activities and are leveraging AI-enhanced techniques to create more convincing phishing schemes, guaranteeing that this problem will continue to plague businesses.”

The Acronis Cyberthreats Report, released biannually, sets the industry standard by establishing itself as a benchmark for cybersecurity intelligence. It is intended for the benefit of Acronis users and partners and is curated by the advanced Acronis Cyber Protection Operation Center. The report encompasses data around ransomware threats, phishing, malicious websites, software vulnerabilities, and a security forecast for 2024.


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