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Critical Start's Biannual Report Reveals Soaring Cyber Threats and Vulnerabilities in H2 2023

Critical Start, a prominent provider of Managed Detection and Response (MDR) cybersecurity solutions, has released its biannual Cyber Threat Intelligence Report, shedding light on the major cyber threats witnessed in the latter half of 2023. These threats have far-reaching consequences across critical sectors like finance, education, manufacturing, and state and local government (SLED).

In a digital landscape where hackers employ advanced, automated tools, organizations are grappling with a surge in cyberattacks. Astonishingly, despite traditional threat-based security measures, a staggering 67% of organizations have faced breaches requiring attention in the past two years. Critical Start's Cyber Threat Intelligence (CTI) team employs a multifaceted approach, analyzing sources like customer data, open-source intelligence, vulnerability research, social media, and dark web monitoring. Their research offers invaluable insights into the disruptive cyber threats affecting businesses and provides guidance on fortifying security postures and preemptively mitigating risks.

Key takeaways from the report reveal a surge in phishing attacks utilizing Quick Response (QR) codes, often disguising themselves as Microsoft security notifications embedded within PNG images or PDF attachments. The education sector, in particular, remains highly susceptible to cyberattacks, with vulnerability exploitation and phishing campaigns comprising a significant portion of incidents in K-12 schools during 2023.

Moreover, the report highlights the concerning trend of ransomware groups sharing tactics extensively, underscoring the complex and ever-changing nature of the cybercrime landscape. Microsoft Teams also presents a new avenue for potential threats, as external accounts can send potentially harmful files directly to an organization's staff, bypassing security measures.

In the realm of state-sponsored threats, Volt Typhoon, believed to be backed by the Chinese state, is anticipated to continue its cyber espionage campaigns, aligning with broader Chinese government objectives against U.S. critical infrastructure.

Callie Guenther, Senior Manager of Cyber Threat Research at Critical Start, aptly summarizes the current cyber landscape: "The volume and sophistication of cyberattacks are continuously growing and evolving, making it impossible for organizations to feel on top of internal vulnerabilities and remain cognizant of every external threat." To help organizations proactively reduce cyber risk, the report offers valuable insights into prevailing security issues.



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