Nearly One in Three Cyber Attacks In 2023 Involved The Abuse of Valid Accounts

Catphishing CaseThirty percent of all cyber incidents in 2023 involved abuse of valid credentials, according to IBM X-Force’s latest Threat Intelligence Index. This represents a seventy-one percent increase compared to 2022.

“One of the top initial access vectors in 2023—jumping from third to first place— was the abuse of valid accounts identified in 30% of the observed incidents X-Force responded to,” the researchers write.

“As defenders increase their detection and prevention capabilities, attackers are finding that obtaining valid credentials is an easier route to achieving their goals, considering the alarming volume of compromised yet valid credentials available—and easily accessible—on the dark web. X-Force found that cloud account credentials alone make up 90% of for-sale cloud assets on the dark web, making it easy for threat actors to take over legitimate user identities to establish access into victim environments. Attacker use of valid accounts as an initial access vector appears to have a significant impact on the required response efforts, as well.”

X-Force observed a “significant drop in observed compromises through phishing,” which the researchers believe is due to successful phishing mitigation efforts. The researchers note, however, that generative AI will allow threat actors to craft convincing phishing lures in minutes.

“Using compromised valid credentials is a quick, direct route into the environment, whereas IBM X-Force Red data indicates that human-crafted phishing emails are time-intensive, requiring on average 16 hours to craft one,” the researchers write.

“However, it’s worth noting that X-Force assesses that phishing is expected to be one of the first malicious use cases of AI that cybercriminals will invest in, theorizing that it’s far from done scaling. In fact, X-Force data shows that AI can generate a deceptive phish in 5 minutes, a potential time savings of nearly 2 days for attackers.”

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IBM has the story.

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