Destructive ransomware, alternative crypto-currencies and increased use of deception tactics are among threats driving an even more lucrative criminal marketplace, according to a new report from Accenture Security.

The 2017 Cyber Threatscape Report examines key trends during the first half of 2017 and explores how cyber incidents may evolve over the next six months.

Based on in-depth analysis, the report anticipates a growth in the number of threat actors who are rapidly expanding their capabilities due to factors such as the proliferation of affordable, customisable and accessible tools and exploits.

“The first six months of 2017 have seen an evolution of ransomware producing more viral variants unleashed by potential state-sponsored actors and cybercriminals. Our findings confirm that a new bar has been set for cybersecurity teams across all industries to defend their assets in the coming months,” said Josh Ray, managing director at Accenture Security.

“While the occurrence of new cyber attack methods is not going away, there are immediate actions companies can take to better protect themselves against malicious ransomware and reduce the impact of security breaches.”

Other key takeaways from the report include:

  • Reverse Deception Tactics – Increasing cybercriminal use of deception tactics including anti-analysis code, steganography, and expendable command-and-control servers used for concealment of stolen data. Greater public reporting on cyber threat activity and attribution may accelerate this denial and deception trend, increasing the cost of cyber defense efforts and resource allocations.

  • Sophisticated Phishing Campaigns – Cybercriminals continue to craft familiar lures—subject lines mentioning invoices, shipping, resumes, wire transfers, missed payments— but ransomware is displacing banking trojans as one of the most prevalent types of malware delivered via phishing techniques.

  • Strategic Use of Information Operations – Escalation of espionage and disruption activity from state-sponsored actors may likely continue in response to fulfilling strategic collection requirements and geopolitical triggers such as economic sanctions, military exercises and religious conflicts.

  • Alternative Crypto-Currencies – Bitcoin continues to be the currency of choice among cybercriminals, however, the need to better conceal transactions is forcing cybercriminals to either develop and leverage bitcoin laundering techniques or adopt alternative cryptocurrencies.

  • DDoS-for-Hire Services – Distributed denial of service (DDoS)-for-hire services have given way to a thriving DDoS-for-hire botnet ecosystem leading to threat actors gaining greater access to increasingly potent and affordable DDoS-for-hire tools and services.

The report recommends businesses adopt a proactive prevention plan, including employee training, and have a strong cyber resilience plan for recovery that is regularly reviewed, updated, and tested.

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