Cyber Attacks Become More Complex and Diversified Phishing Attacks Reach New High HKCERT Calls on Public to Raise Awareness of Information Security
(Hong Kong, 10 February 2022) The Hong Kong Computer Emergency Response Team Coordination Centre (HKCERT) of the Hong Kong Productivity Council today announced a review on the information security situation in Hong Kong in 2021 and the forecast for 2022. In the past year, the epidemic was still raging, which greatly changed how enterprises conduct their business and the living habits of individuals. Distance business, work from home, distance learning and online shopping have become the “new normal”. With the wider use of information technology, the threat of cyber attacks cannot be overlooked. Hence both enterprises and individual must raise their awareness of information security with preventative measures in place so that the community can effectively respond to the increasingly sophisticated and complex cyber attacks.
In 2021, HKCERT handled 7,725 security incidents. Phishing (3,737 cases representing 48% of the total) was the principal source of the incidents, up 7% from 2020, rising for the fourth consecutive year and reaching a new high. More than 70% of the incidents involved online shopping or online banking. The second most common incident was botnets (3,479 cases, 45%), about half of which belonged to the Avalanche botnet. Botnet incidents fell by 16% from 2020. The main reason is believed to be that 35 regions have joined forces in 2020 to successfully destroy Necurs, one of the world’s largest botnets, thereby ensuring locally connected devices infected with this virus are no longer under its control.
Mr Alex Chan, General Manager, Digital Transformation of HKPC and spokesman of HKCERT, said, “As the shadow of the COVID-19 epidemic continues to plague the world, Internet and technologies have become part and parcel for everyone touting as the solution to solve all different needs in work, study and entertainment. However, hackers are also looking for opportunities in these new technologies to conduct various cyber criminal activities against individuals and businesses. As an information security expert, HKCERT has been actively keeping a close look on the cyber attack trends and security technologies in the past years. Through different channels, such as issuing security advices, cyber attack warnings, emerging technology alerts, etc., HKCERT has responded quickly to various security challenges. Large-scale international conferences and competitions were organised to enhance local information security standard and awareness, and to nurture relevant talents.”
Five “must watch” security risks in 2022:
- NFT and metaverse involve new type of virtual assetsstorage, huge volume of transactions and large amount of data exchange. Hence, information security of their related networks will receive more attention;
- As the value of cryptocurrencies and related markets continue to escalate and expand, criminals may seize the opportunity to steal sensitive user information, accessing their accounts and transferring currency to other accounts, or even using the information for other malicious purposes;
- Cyber attacks that seize on the wider use and potential security vulnerabilities of emerging technologies [e.g. 5G, Internet of Things, artificial intelligence (AI), QR code, etc.] will become more diversified, for example, AI frauds and QR code login-based account jacking attacks (QRLJacking);
- As the epidemic will further expedite the interconnection and digitalisation of the supply chain, there will also be a corresponding rise in supply chain attacks that compromise end-target organisations by attacking third-party service providers; and
- Cyber attacks will become more targeted and organised with multiple ransomware and phishing attacks targeting individual industries (e.g. online shopping, e-banking, etc.) emerging as a norm.
Given the complex and diversified new information security threats, Mr Chan urged everyone not to take them lightly. He said, "Innovation and technology are undoubtedly important elements in promoting economic development, not only driving social progress, but also improving the quality of life. In this digital era with the popularisation and application of 5G, artificial intelligence, and QR codes, continuous expansion of NFT and cryptocurrency markets, and digital integration of supply chains, both individuals and enterprises must continue to improve their information security awareness and response capability.”
Mr Chan added, “Enterprises should be aware of the possible information security threats brought by emerging technologies and formulate relevant security strategies and measures. If phishing attacks continue to be rampant, companies should make good use of a variety of connected device protection tools, such as automatic suspicious email identification systems, to deal with the risk of phishing emails and other fraudulent emails. At the same time, enterprises should raise the awareness of information security risks of partners and service providers, and strengthen their monitoring of third-party suppliers and application software, and understand their risks, so as to improve the security defence mechanism to deal with supply chain attacks. In addition, regular assessment on network security and systems, and monitoring the configuration of all devices connected to the Internet are essential.
In the upcoming year, HKCERT will produce and promote guidelines on incident response and cloud security to enhance preventive and handling competence. It will also organise seminars and training courses regularly to strengthen the information security awareness and response capability of SMEs and continue to maintain close ties with those local and overseas organisations involved in maintaining cyber security including the Hong Kong Police Force.
Today’s briefing also invited Mr Wilson Fan, Superintendent of Cyber Security Division of Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau of the Hong Kong Police Force to introduce the latest efforts of the police in combatting phishing scams. He said the scammers spread fraudulent messages through emails, text messages and voice calls in the form of fishing expedition, tricking victims into providing sensitive information and making them liable to suffer losses. The police have thus set up the “Phishing Scam Search Engine” in its CyberDefender one-stop information platform and launched the V@nguard suspicious email detection system.
For security incident reporting or enquiries, please contact HKCERT through email: [email protected], or its 24-hour hotline: 8105 6060.
Mr Alex Chan, General Manager, Digital Transformation of HKPC and spokesman of HKCERT (Left), said phishing incidents handled by HKCERT in 2021 went up 7% from 2020, rising for the fourth consecutive year and reaching a new high. He urged both enterprises and individual to have preventative measures in place to effectively respond to the increasingly sophisticated and complex cyber attacks. Also present was Mr Wilson Fan, Superintendent of Cyber Security Division of Cyber Security and Technology Crime Bureau of the Hong Kong Police Force (Right).