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Cybersecurity Intelligence

QBot Malware Most Prevalent in the First Half of 2023

At a Glance

Main Takeaway

In April of 2023, a new cybersecurity threat to private sector businesses emerged: a malicious email campaign disguised as legitimate business correspondence. This threat aims to install the QBot malware onto your business’s devices and steal sensitive information, such as banking credentials and financial data.

Next Step

This malicious email campaign became the most prevalent cyber threat to businesses in the first half of 2023. Understanding how a QBot attack works and the threat to your business operations can help you seek the right cybersecurity services to safeguard your data and prevent costly losses.


What is QBot?

QBot, like Qakbot, QuackBot, Pinkslipbot, or BASHLITE, is a type of computer virus disguised as a legitimate file and shows up in users’ inboxes as normal email. According to a 2020 report published by the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), QBot was discovered in 2008 and has been under constant development ever since.

QBot is known as , a type of malware that disguises itself as a legitimate file to trick users into downloading and opening it. Once activated, QBot makes itself harder to detect by injecting parts of its code into other programs running on the computer.

After infiltrating these areas, QBot then scans for and steals sensitive data. This can include a business’s financial information, internet browser data, banking credentials, and keystrokes.


Why is the QBot Malware Such a Major Threat to Businesses in the Private Sector?

QBot has been used in numerous infection campaigns and infected thousands of machines owned by private-sector businesses. The CISA report notes that during the first campaign, from January to May 2020, QBot infected nearly 4,000 individual machines.

The second campaign started in August 2020 and is currently ongoing. After variations in activity, the current campaign spiked in 2022 and became one of the top cybersecurity threats in early 2023.

The most recent QBot malware campaign targets several businesses in the private sector. These include manufacturing, insurance, law, healthcare, finance, banking, and transportation companies.

If your business is in these highly targeted industries, QBot represents a significant threat due to the following:

  • It is a long-running threat in continuous development. The malicious actors responsible for maintaining QBot have continuously improved it for over 14 years, allowing it to evolve and adapt against the latest cybersecurity measures.
  • It is fast-acting. QBot begins stealing information less than 30 minutes after a successful infection. Hackers and malicious actors receive the data in under an hour, making it one of the fastest-acting malware on the current cyber threat landscape.
  • It is modular. Although it began as a banking Trojan designed to steal financial data and banking credentials, it has become more versatile. Today, experts frequently call it a “Swiss Army knife” that can be adapted to accomplish nearly any task. It can threaten any part of your operations and can be used to steal any kind of business data.
  • It is hard to detect. QBot is designed to disguise itself as a legitimate program or process, making detecting it more challenging for antivirus and anti-malware software. This is especially true if the software has not been updated to respond to the latest versions of QBot. These files are typically distributed by spam email, counting on users not recognizing the message or its attachments as false.
  • Once in, it threatens your business’s entire network. A successful infection compromises the device it entered and any other computer, phone, or tablet on the same network. In other words, even one infection can endanger your entire business.


Potential Consequences of Exposure to QBot

The aftermath of a typical QBot infection is twofold for victims. The malware steals sensitive information on the infected device, then spreads itself to other devices on the same network and attempts to steal more data.

Sensitive data QBot may target includes:

  • Login credentials to access sensitive accounts
  • Personal and business financial data
  • Other sensitive internet browser data, such as passwords and encryption keys

While the potential consequences of such data theft depend on the nature of each attack, the most common consequence of a QBot infection is financial fraud. Malicious actors can use stolen data to log into your business’s bank accounts, steal funds, or perform fraudulent transactions.

They can also conduct Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks, allowing cyber criminals to steal and impersonate a business employee or executive’s information and impersonate them.


How to Protect Your Business Data

Although QBot is a persistent threat to businesses, you can implement solutions to protect your enterprise data against an infection. Cyber experts at Windes offer comprehensive cybersecurity assessments and a range of services to protect your business against QBot:

  • Determine your system vulnerabilities. Windes’s advisory team will analyze your devices, detect security gaps and weaknesses, and determine whether QBot or other malware can exploit them.
  • Conduct regular penetration tests. Our team can simulate an attack on your network to accurately scan your business’s computing environment and evaluate its resistance to past and current threats. While we recommend penetration tests at least once a year, we will advise you depending on your business’s size, risk profile, and other factors.
  • Launch organizational education programs. QBot is a persistent threat to businesses of all sizes and sectors because it exploits unsuspecting and careless people. Educating your team members about it and how to recognize a potential attack is critical. Windes’s security team can provide training and educational materials to help your team become more efficient and security-minded.
  • Build an efficient threat response plan. There is no such thing as zero risk in cybersecurity, even with the best measures and educated team members. For these reasons, Windes can help you develop a robust, efficient cybersecurity incident response plan in case of a QBot infection. This will help you contain the threat, remove it from your systems, assess the damages, and hasten your business’s recovery to minimize financial losses.


Protect Your Business Against QBot Attacks With Windes

The escalating frequency of QBot attacks highlights the urgency of robust cybersecurity measures for your private business. These malware attacks jeopardize your data and can lead to operational inefficiency that affects your bottom line.

Partnering with Windes’s cybersecurity incident response team can help you implement a comprehensive cybersecurity plan to safeguard your digital assets. Allow our cybersecurity experts to assess your potential risk exposure with a cybersecurity assessment.

Connect with us today to schedule a consultation to discuss your cybersecurity needs and safeguard against QBot and other malware attacks.


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