Cybersecurity company OpenText reveals the nastiest malware of 2022

Muhi Majzoub, Executive Vice President and Chief Product Officer at OpenText

OpenText recently announced the Nastiest Malware of 2022, a ranking of the year’s biggest cyber security threats. For the fifth year running, OpenText Security Solutions’ threat intelligence experts combed through the data, analysed different behaviours, and determined which malicious payloads are the nastiest in 2022. Emotet regained its place at the top, reminding the world that while affiliates may be taken down, the masterminds are resilient.

How has Malware evolved this year?

LockBit evolved its tactics into something never seen before: triple extortion. Analysis revealed 1100% increase in phishing during the first 4 months of 2022 compared to 2021, indicating a possible end to the “hacker holiday,” a hacker rest period following the busy holiday season.

“The takeaway from this year’s findings is that malware remains centre stage in the threats posed towards individuals, businesses, & gov’t,” said Muhi Majzoub, EVP & CPO, OpenText.

“Cybercriminals continue to evolve their tactics, leaving the infosec community in a constant state of catch-up. With the mainstream adoption of ransomware payloads & cryptocurrency facilitating payments, the battle will continue. No business is immune to these threats.”

While this year’s list may designate payloads into different categories of malware, it’s important to note many of these bad actor groups contract work from others. This allows each group to specialise in their respective payload and work on perfecting it.

What is the Nastiest Malware in 2022?

  1. Emotet remains the most successful botnet in existence, following a brief shutdown last year. Its job is to send malspam campaigns to billions of emails a day. It creates a foothold on a victim’s computer, with follow-up malware that will then move laterally and compromise the rest of the environment before bringing in the final payload of ransomware.
  2. LockBit is this year’s most prolific and successful ransomware group. While the group has been around for about three years as a ransomware-as-a-service (RaaS) group, they continue to advance their tactics. In addition to taking data, holding it for ransom and threatening to leak it, triple extortion adds a third layer: a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack on an entire system to completely lock it down.
  3. Conti, a RaaS malware, has been on the Nastiest Malware radar for quite some time. In Feb, Conti released a statement of support on their leak site for the Russian gov’t. Shortly after a twitter account, Conti leaks, leaked Conti’s internal chats dating back almost 2yrs resulted in the dismantling of their leak site & command & control servers. Conti has since rebranded into multiple operations, most notably HelloKitty, BlackCat, & BlackByte.
  4. Qbot, the oldest info-stealing trojan, still receives updates. It moves throughout the network & infects the entire env’t while “casing the joint” to allow access to as much data as possible to exfiltrate for extortion & to prepare for the final stage of ransomware payloads.
  5. Valyria is another strain of a used-to-be banking trojan turned into malspam botnet with email attachments, turned into malicious scripts that starts an infection chain typically resulting in ransomware. The tricky part about Valyria is its ability to evade detection.
  6. Cobalt Strike and Brute Ratel are adversarial attack simulation tools. Cobalt Strike is a pen testing tool designed by white hats; Brute Ratel was created for red teams. The purpose of these tools is to help teams simulate attacks to understand the tactics hackers use, determine security gaps, and make the appropriate changes. Not surprising, Cobalt Strike, and now Brute Ratel, are frequently used by the hackers cyber criminals.