Adversaries leveraging privileged accounts for cyber-attacks increase: report

Vectra AI has announced that there is a major security gap that is obvious, important and urgent: the ability to know if privileged accounts and services are compromised.

privileged accounts
Chris Morales, Vectra AI

According to the firm, this is proof that traditional access-based approaches that rely on one-time security gating decisions or predefined lists of privileged identities continue to fail.

Published in the Vectra 2020 RSA Conference Edition of the Attacker Behavior Industry Report and Spotlight Report on Privilege Access Analytics Report, the findings provide a first-hand analysis of active and persistent attacker behaviours from more than five million workloads and devices from customer cloud, data center and enterprise environments.

The 2020 RSA Conference edition of the Attacker Behaviour Industry Report and Spotlight Report on Privilege Access Analytics found that potentially malicious privilege access from an unknown host was the most common privileged access anomaly behaviour observed, accounting for 74 percent of all privilege access anomaly behaviour detections. These are similar to the behaviours found in the Capital One breach.

It also revealed that finance and insurance, healthcare and education organisations exhibited the most privilege access anomaly behaviours. These three industries together account for almost half (47 percent) of all privilege access anomaly behaviour detections.

Across all industries, 215 attacker behaviour detections per 10,000 hosts were observed. This is lower than the 282 attacker behaviors per 10,000 hosts experienced in the first half of 2019, the report noted.

Meanwhile, technology (138 detections per 10,000) and education organisations (102 detections per 10,000) remain the most common sectors to exhibit command and control behaviours, nearly three times more than the average across other industries.

The report also found that small companies (0 to 5,000 employees) are more at risk of lateral movement attacks. Small companies observed 112 lateral movement behaviours per 10,000 hosts, nearly twice that of medium and larger sized companies.

Adversaries leverage privileged accounts to gain unauthorised access to the most critical assets that an organisation relies on. It underscores the importance of continuous monitoring of user accounts, services and hosts once they gain access to and operate on the network so that security teams have the right information to take quick action against the malicious use of privilege across cloud and hybrid environments.

“The observations from this report reinforce the importance of visibility into privileged access and other attacker behaviors,” said Chris Morales, Head of Security Analytics at Vectra. “Combining data sources in the cloud with network data can stitch together a powerful combination of information that increases the likelihood of detecting and prioritising post-compromise activities before a catastrophic breach occurs.”

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