SINGAPORE - Media OutReach - 14 June 2021 - Ensign
InfoSecurity (Ensign), Asia's largest, pure-play cybersecurity firm, today unveiled the findings of its Cyber
Threat Landscape 2021 report, which found that the technology, manufacturing,
and banking and finance industries were the top targets in Asia
Pacific for threat actors in 2020.
Ensign's latest report provides insights into the
cyber risks and threats that surfaced across four Asia Pacific markets – Hong
Kong, Malaysia, Singapore, and South Korea – as the pandemic dramatically
reshaped the business landscape. It also explores cyber threat trends that are
emerging or will persist in 2021.
Here are the key findings and insights from the
Sector analysis: Threat actors targeted the
technology sector to achieve economies of scale
Technology service providers were
attractive targets for threat actors as many organisations have engaged their
services during the pandemic to ensure business continuity. A successful cyber attack
would allow the threat actors to obtain the credentials of these service
providers' clients, gaining them illicit access to a wide range of companies.
Threat actors also targeted technology
hardware and software vendors to breach and implant malicious codes and
components into the vendors' product development systems. This enabled the
perpetrators to rapidly develop zero-day exploits or create
backdoors to compromise
the integrity of the products, allowing them to readily reach a larger pool of
The threat actors' focus
on these sectors is a concern as organisations continue to invest in digital
technologies. According to IDC, digital transformation investments in Asia
Pacific including Japan and China (APJC) are poised to hit an estimated US$921
billion by 2024, compared to US$430 billion in 2019.
Additionally, IDC estimates that by the end of 2023, 80% of enterprises in Asia
Pacific will put mechanisms in place that will enable them to shift to
cloud-centric infrastructure and applications twice as fast as before the
and service providers will continue to be lucrative targets for threat actors
as organisations become increasingly reliant on digital technologies to support
their business operations and position themselves for the future. If threat
actors can successfully compromise just one of these companies' systems, it can
create a ripple effect that will impact large groups of organisations across
industries and geographies," said Steven Ng, CIO and EVP of Managed Security
"Organisations need to recognise that as their
cyber supply chain ecosystem expands and diversifies, they will also need to
take additional steps to mitigate the elevated cyber risks that come with it.
This includes increasing the organisation's situational awareness by
maintaining a complete inventory of the software, hardware, and information
assets that are within their network, and those managed by their partners and
vendors," added Steven.
Analysis: Threat actors exploited Covid-19-induced disruptions and set their sights
on trade secrets
Ensign highlighted that
in 2020, threat actors attacked manufacturing companies with ransomware. The perpetrators
understood that these companies' production capabilities were already strained
due to the pandemic-induced supply chain disruptions. This made manufacturers
more willing to pay the ransom to resume operations quickly and avoid further
also targeted manufacturing companies to steal their trade secrets, including
industrial design, operational knowledge, as well as source materials and
suppliers. These types of information are particularly valuable as they can significantly
undermine the victims' competitive edge while boosting the capabilities of
Analysis: Threat actors intensified social engineering attacks and sought to
exploit remote working arrangements in the banking and finance sector
the country went into lockdown during the pandemic in 2020, there was increased
usage of online banking services. This led threat actors to ramp up their
social engineering attacks by faking banking websites and mobile applications
to deceive bank customers into disclosing their credentials.
report also revealed a greater increase in threat activities in this sector due
to the widespread adoption of remote working arrangements. More exploit
attempts were targeting remote solutions used in this sector compared to other
industries. Threat actors were particularly interested in getting credentials
to gain access to banks and other financial institutions. They could sell this
information to ransomware operators and other sophisticated threat groups that can
find their way into these organisations' core network.
Emotet and TrickBot were Top Malware Detected Across
found that Emotet and TrickBot were the top malware observed
across the region in 2020, constituting the bulk of Command & Control (C2) threat activities
detected, especially in Hong Kong, Malaysia, and Singapore.
actors commonly use Emotet and TrickBot as they are versatile in design,
allowing the perpetrators to steal credentials, obtain information to move
deeper into the infiltrated network, and inject additional malicious payloads
into the compromised digital environment.
actors frequently target technology service providers with these two malware
families due to their capabilities to download more malware into the infected
systems. Both Emotet and Trickbot were also observed to be used in phishing
Opportunistic Threat Actors Exploited Covid-19 in
The report revealed that threat actors sought
to exploit individuals' anxiety, fear, and curiosity caused
by the pandemic through phishing attacks. Ensign uncovered that 99% of the phishing campaigns
detected in Singapore in 2020 were centred on Covid-19 subjects, and that
the market's Circuit Breaker period provided an opportune timeframe for threat
actors to launch phishing attacks.
in South Korea, most phishing emails also took advantage of the pandemic
situation. One of the top threat actor groups in Asia Pacific, Lazarus Group,
also impersonated the South Korean government to announce fake additional
Covid-19 payouts and shopping vouchers in their phishing campaign in June 2020.
The attacks were targeted at 700,000 email addresses they have illicitly
obtained from previous breaches.
Ensign found that Covid-19-themed phishing attacks are more effective. In an
exercise Ensign conducted to test a client's cybersecurity measures, 35% of the
organisation's employees clicked on the simulated malicious link included in
Ensign's mock Covid-19-related phishing email and provided their personal
information. This is 10% higher than the average result of past exercises,
demonstrating the effectiveness of customised, well-timed phishing campaigns.
 IDC Worldwide
Digital Transformation Spending Guide - Technology Forecast 2021
 IDC FutureScape:
Worldwide IT Industry 2021 Predictions — Asia/Pacific (Excluding Japan)
 Command and Control is a set of techniques
that threat actors use to communicate and commander devices that have been
compromised by malware. Threat actors can issue instructions to the compromised
devices, including downloading additional malicious payloads or transferring
stolen data back to the threat actors.