Akamai Technologies, Inc. (NASDAQ: AKAM), a global solution for protecting and delivering digital experiences, has published the State of the Internet / Security Report: Phishing for Finance. The report provides an analysis of both global and financial services-specific web application and credential stuffing attack traffic — revealing significant increases across the attack surfaces year over year from 2019 to 2020.
The report also features a collaboration between Akamai and WMC Global researchers that examined two specific phishing kits: ‘Kr3pto’ and ‘Ex-Robotos’. Kr3pto has targeted customers of 11 UK banking brands, and Ex-Robotos has aimed its scams at corporate employees.
By The Numbers
In 2020, Akamai saw 193 billion credential stuffing attacks globally, with 3.4 billion hitting financial services organisations specifically — an increase of more than 45% year-over-year in the sector.
Akamai observed nearly 6.3 billion web application attacks in 2020, with more than 736 million targeting financial services — which represents an increase of 62% from 2019.
SQL Injection (SQLi) attacks remained in the top spot across all business types globally, making up 68% of all web application attacks in 2020, with Local File Inclusion (LFI) attacks coming in second at 22%. However, in the financial services industry, LFI attacks were the number one web application attack type in 2020 at 52%, with SQLi at 33% and Cross-Site Scripting at 9%.
Over the past three years (2018-2020), Akamai saw DDoS attacks against the financial services sector grow by 93%, indicating that systemic disruption remains an objective for criminals, who target services and applications required for daily business.
Threat Intelligence Collaboration
For this report, Akamai partnered with threat intelligence company WMC Global. The researchers at WMC Global are experts at understanding SMS phishing (smishing) and the toolkits that criminals devise to make their attacks possible. This unique collaboration examined two specific phishing kits: ‘Kr3pto’ and ‘Ex-Robotos’.
“The ongoing, significant growth in credential stuffing attacks has a direct relationship to the state of phishing in the financial services industry,” said Steve Ragan, Akamai security researcher and author of the State of the Internet / Security report. “Criminals use a variety of methods to augment their credential collections, and phishing is one of the key tools in their arsenal. By targeting banking customers and employees in the sector, criminals increase their pool of potential victims exponentially.”
The Kr3pto phishing kit, which targets financial institutions and their customers via SMS, has been observed spoofing 11 brands in the UK, across more than 8,000 domains since May 2020. WMC Global tracked more than 4,000 campaigns linked to Kr3pto targeting victims via SMS messaging over 31 days in Q1 2021.
Kr3pto has become a popular kit in the phishing economy — so popular that other criminals have started ripping the code, or copying it wholesale, and using it in their projects. These kits have the same structure, functionality, and basic features, but the branding has been altered. If anything, their actions prove there is no honor among thieves. It is doubtful they are paying the real Kr3pto creator any sort of commission when they sell the ripped kits.
Ex-Robotos is a phishing kit that essentially sets a benchmark when it comes to corporate credential phishing. According to data from the Akamai Intelligent Edge Platform, there were more than 220,000 hits to the API IP address used for Ex-Robotos over a span of 43 days. In fact, traffic to that address reached a peak of tens of thousands of hits per day on average between January 31 and February 5, 2021.
“Kits like Kr3pto and Ex-Robotos are just two of the many kits targeting corporations and consumers today,” said Jake Sloane, Senior Threat Hunter at WMC Global. “It’s important to remember that employees are consumers too, and with the prevalence of work from home, as well as mobile device usage in corporate environments, criminals are not shy about attacking people no matter where they are, which explains the recent growth in SMS-based phishing attacks.”
“By partnering with WMC Global for this report, we were able to expand on our existing coverage of the financial sector and offer a wider range of details into the attacks that financial organisations face on a daily basis,” added Ragan.