Cisco: Attackers innovating, evading defenses in first half of 2015

Increasingly innovative threat actors are becoming faster at attacking, quicker at adapting, and better at evading detection, according to Cisco's 2015 Midyear Security Report.

Some of the evasive tactics observed by Cisco in the first half of 2015 include relaying command-and-control communications through Tor and the Invisible Internet Project, the report showed. Additionally, the increasing use of sandbox detection techniques is helping attackers conceal their presence on networks.

“Some exploit kit authors are incorporating text from Jane Austen's classic novel Sense and Sensibility into web landing pages that host their exploit kits,” the report said. “Antivirus and other security solutions are more likely to categorize these pages as legitimate after “reading” such text.”

On the subject of exploit kits – with several critical Adobe Flash Player vulnerabilities having been disclosed earlier this year, it is perhaps no surprise that Cisco is seeing Adobe Flash bugs being regularly integrated into popular exploit kits, including Angler and Nuclear.

Although a number of experts have said that Adobe Flash Player has too many flaws and should be uninstalled, John Stewart, chief security and trust officer with Cisco, told that users should not be hasty. He said that what we are seeing currently with Adobe Flash has been seen previously with Java and Microsoft Silverlight.

“Attackers will target what's weak,” Stewart said, explaining that Adobe is responding in the same way that Oracle and Microsoft did when their respective products were being highly targeted in years past.

Other findings in the report: Cisco is increasingly seeing crimeware operators working in development teams to ensure profits continue; Microsoft Office macros is once again being used to spread malware; and spam volume has increased in the U.S., China and the Russian Federation, while remaining stable in other regions.

“[Organizations] need to be proactive about identifying and addressing cybersecurity risks that can affect their business and aligning the right people, processes, and technology to help them meet those challenges,” the report said.

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