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Why Do Most Cybersecurity Attacks Occur in Q4?

Why Do Most Cybersecurity Attacks Occur in Q4?

Blog Article Published: 05/24/2024

Written by Ashwin Chaudhary, CEO, Accedere.


Cybersecurity attacks exhibit intriguing patterns throughout the year. While it’s not universally true that most attacks occur in the last quarter, there are several reasons and notable trends, why cybersecurity attacks tend to increase in the fourth quarter (Q4) of the year:

Top 5 Impacted Sectors: 2022 vs 2023

With reference to my knowledge and research, the above are the top 5 impacted sectors which needs to proactively upgrade and implement security measures to reduce the impact of threat and incidents.


Active Attack Trends

  1. Holiday Season: The end of the year is typically marked by major holidays and shopping events. Cybercriminals take advantage of this period to launch phishing attacks, often using fake order receipts, spoofed shipment tracking, or fake holiday offer emails.
  2. Human Error: Interestingly, 95% of cybersecurity breaches result from human error. Proper training and awareness programs are crucial to mitigate this risk.
  3. Increased Online Activity: With the holiday season, there’s a surge in online activity as people shop for gifts and deals. This increased activity provides a larger target base for cybercriminals.
  4. Professional Services Targeted: In Q4 2023, attackers focused heavily on the professional services industry, with slight increases also observed in the healthcare sector, particularly in respect to ransomware activity.
  5. Evolution of Tactics: There’s a continuous evolution of phishing tactics, for example, a rise in the use of QR codes was observed in Q4 2023. Also, business email compromise (BEC) attacks continued to dominate.
  6. Year-End Rush: Organizations and individuals are busy closing out the year, which may lead to lapses in security practices.
  7. Malware Attacks: Malware remains a prevalent threat. Between March and May 2023, threat actors deployed an average of 11.5 attacks per minute, including 1.7 novel malware samples per minute. Avast blocked a staggering 1.05 billion unique malware attacks in Q3 2023.
  8. Budget Cycles: Many organizations allocate cybersecurity budgets for the upcoming year during Q4, making them attractive targets.
  9. Ransomware Activity: There was a significant increase in ransomware activity in Q4 2023, accounting for 23% of all cases.
  10. Spyware Attacks: In Q4 2023, the share of spyware attacks on organizations increased compared to the previous quarter.

These trends point to a complex security landscape and indicate that organizations need to be particularly vigilant about cybersecurity in the fourth quarter. It’s important for organizations to maintain robust security protocols and educate their employees about potential threats.


Conclusion

The surge in cybersecurity attacks in the Q4 can be attributed to a confluence of factors. The period witnesses heightened online activity due to significant events like Black Friday, Cyber Monday, and the holiday season, presenting an expanded attack surface for cybercriminals. The prevalence of phishing attacks also sees a marked increase during this time, with attackers leveraging fake emails related to order receipts, shipment tracking, or holiday offers to gain unauthorized access. Certain industries, notably professional services and healthcare are particularly targeted during this period. Additionally, there is a resurgence of ransomware activity in Q4 following a relative lull in the Q3. The rise in spyware attacks, especially stealers, further contributes to the overall increase in cybersecurity threats. Therefore, organizations need to exercise heightened vigilance during Q4 and ensure robust cybersecurity measures are in place to counter these threats.



About the Author

Ashwin Chaudhary is the CEO of Accedere, a Cyber Security, Privacy Audit, and Training Firm. He is a CPA from Colorado, MBA, CITP, CISA, CISM, CGEIT, CRISC, CISSP, CDPSE, CCSK, PMP, ISO27001 LA, ITILv3 certified cybersecurity professional with about 20+ years of cybersecurity/privacy and 40+ years of industry experience. He has managed many cybersecurity projects covering SOC reporting, ISO audits, Privacy, IoT, Governance Risk, and Compliance as well as Technical Assessments such as VAPT and Managing a 24x7 CSOC.


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