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Threat Labs Report: Japan 2024

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This report examines the cloud adoption and threat trends affecting organizations in Japan over the past 12 months, highlighting attackers consistently using social engineering to target users with Trojans via popular cloud apps.
Netskope Threat Labs Report
9 min read

In This Report link link

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Cloud App Adoption: Users in Japan upload and download files to cloud apps at the same frequency as users in the rest of the world, but tend to interact with fewer cloud apps on average. AI apps are gaining popularity quickly in Japan, with the AI app Microsoft Copilot seeing more than twice as much usage on average than in the rest of the world.

Cloud App Abuse: While Microsoft OneDrive and SharePoint took the top two spots for the most malware downloads in Japan, Box stood out by coming in third place. Box rarely cracks the top ten in other regions, but its overall popularity in Japan has bred abuse, resulting in significantly more malware downloads than other regions.

Malware & Ransomware: Among the most prevalent malware families targeting victims in Japan were the remote access Trojan NjRat, the Trojan ModernLoader, and the infostealer Azorult.

Cloud App Adoption link link

The average user in Japan interacts with 20 cloud apps per month. The top 1% of users interact with 76 apps per month. Users in Japan use fewer apps on average than other regions but otherwise track similarly in terms of seasonal usage.

Average apps per user Japan vs Other Regions - Last 12 Months 2024

Users in Japan download data from cloud apps at a similar rate as other industries, with 95% of users downloading data from cloud apps in Japan versus 94% in other industries. The same theme remains when it comes to uploaded data, with users from Japan and other industries uploading data at exactly the same average of 67%. This indicates that users in Japan interact with cloud apps as frequently as users in the rest of the world, they are just more selective about the number of apps that they use.

Most Popular Cloud Apps

The top 10 most popular cloud apps in the Japan region are a mix of both Microsoft and Google apps, with the top three mirroring other industries and Microsoft OneDrive leading all other apps with almost the same percentage as other industries. AI apps are gaining popularity very quickly in Japan, with 18% of users regularly interacting with Microsoft Copilot, more than twice the rate of the rest of the world. The cloud storage app Box and messaging app Slack are also significantly more popular in Japan than the rest of the world.

Overall App Popularity Japan vs Other Regions 2024

Top Apps Used for Uploads

As expected, with Microsoft OneDrive being the most popular app by a large margin, it is also the app most used for uploading data, with 18% of Japan users uploading data to OneDrive daily, although lagging behind other industries where OneDrive is slightly more popular. The Box app usage, on the other hand, seems to be a very specific preference of users in Japan, far outpacing its use by other regions.

Apps Used for Uploads Japan vs Other Regions 2024

Top Apps Used for Downloads

OneDrive is also the most popular app for downloads in Japan, with 23% of users downloading from it, the exact same as other industries. The SharePoint app has twice the usage compared to Box, which follows the trend for SharePoint in other regions. Additionally, apps like Amazon S3, Google Cloud Storage, and Azure Blob Storage are used more frequently in other regions than in Japan.

Apps Used for Downloads Japan vs Other Regions 2024

Looking at the overall app usage including both uploads and downloads, OneDrive is the most used app worldwide as well as in Japan, reflecting its consistent popularity and market share. Regions outside of Japan use SharePoint significantly more than Box, 20 to 40 times as much, while in Japan it’s only about twice as much, indicating Box usage in Japan is much higher relative to SharePoint. When looking at SharePoint alone in Japan, it is also used by users about twice as much for downloads than uploads (20% vs 10%), indicating that any content uploads are read/downloaded often as opposed to a simple repository for archived files that are not used. In Japan, Box is approximately 15x more popular than other regions.

Cloud App Abuse link link

Cloud Malware Delivery

Over the past year, the percentage of malware downloads from cloud apps has decreased gradually throughout the world. In Japan, the percentage of malware downloads fell in line with the global trend through most of the year in 2023, but flattened out and began increasing again in early 2024. The abuse of cloud apps allows malware to fly under the radar and evade regular security controls that rely on tools such as domain block lists or that do not inspect cloud traffic.

Malware Delivery, Cloud vs. Web, Japan vs Other Regions - Last 12 Months 2024

When compared to other regions, Japan has a slightly higher percentage of malware sourced from the cloud, four percentage points more than the next closest region, North America, and 11 more than the rest of Asia. This indicates that adversaries are having slightly more success delivering malware using cloud apps in Japan than in the rest of the world. The following section highlights that the abuse of three specific apps is the primary driver of this success.

Malware Sourced from the Cloud Last 12 Months Average - Japan 2024

Cloud Apps Abused for Malware Delivery

Microsoft OneDrive takes the top spot for the most malware downloads. In general, adversaries abuse Microsoft OneDrive because it is the most popular cloud storage app. Meanwhile, people who regularly use Microsoft OneDrive are more likely to click on links to download files shared with them on that platform. Therefore, the number of malware downloads that Netskope detects and blocks from Microsoft OneDrive is both a reflection of adversary tactics (abusing OneDrive to distribute malware) and victim behavior (their likelihood to click on the links and download the malware).

In second place, SharePoint is more popular for malware downloads in Japan than in the rest of the world, despite having similar overall popularity. One way in which SharePoint is used to deliver malware is through Microsoft Teams, which uses SharePoint for file sharing. In third place, Box is significantly more popular for malware downloads in Japan than the rest of the world, and is the result of the overall popularity of that app in Japan compared to the rest of the world. This underscores how popularity breeds abuse and that adversaries are able to effectively abuse popular apps to target their victims, even when that popularity is isolated to specific regions.

Top Cloud Apps Abused for Malware Download Last 12 Months Japan vs Other Regions 2024

Top Malware & Ransomware Families link link

This list contains the top 10 malware and ransomware families detected by Netskope targeting users in Japan in the last 12 months:

Backdoor.Zusy (a.k.a. TinyBanker) is a banking Trojan based on the source code of Zeus, aiming to steal personal information via code injection into websites.

Infostealer.Azorult (a.k.a. PuffStealer) is a malware that aims to steal sensitive information such as account passwords. In March 2024, a campaign tracked by Netskope Threat Labs delivered Azorult via Google Slides and HTML smuggling.

Infostealer.QakBot (a.k.a. Quakbot, QBot) is a modular malware, active since 2007, capable of stealing sensitive financial data from infected systems, often delivered via malicious documents.

RAT.ComRAT is a second-stage implant used by the Turla threat group. The first version of ComRAT was identified in 2007. The malware can send information to the attacker and receive commands to be executed.

RAT.NetWiredRC (a.k.a. NetWire RC) is a malware associated with APT33, aimed to provide remote access and steal sensitive information, like passwords.

RAT.NjRAT (a.k.a. Bladabindi) is a remote access Trojan with many capabilities, including logging keystrokes, stealing credentials from browsers, accessing the victim’s camera, and managing files.

RAT.Remcos is a remote access Trojan that provides an extensive list of features to remotely control devices, and it’s popularly abused by many attackers.

Trojan.ModernLoader (a.k.a Avatar Bot) is a malware able to collect basic system information as well as deliver multiple malwares to the infection system, such as cryptominers and RATs.

Trojan.Ursnif (a.k.a. Gozi) is a banking Trojan and backdoor, whose source code was leaked on GitHub in 2005, allowing attackers to create and distribute many variants.

Trojan.Valyria (a.k.a. POWERSTATS) is a family of malicious Microsoft Office documents that contain embedded malicious VBScripts, usually to deliver other malicious payloads.

Recommendations link link

This report highlighted increasing cloud adoption, including increased data uploaded to and downloaded from various cloud apps. It also highlighted an increasing trend of attackers abusing various cloud apps, especially popular enterprise apps, to deliver malware (mostly Trojans) to their victims. Netskope Threat Labs recommends organizations in Japan review their security posture to ensure that they are adequately protected against these trends:

  • Inspect all HTTP and HTTPS downloads, including all web and cloud traffic, to prevent malware from infiltrating your network. Netskope customers can configure their Netskope NG-SWG with a Threat Protection policy that applies to downloads from all categories and applies to all file types.
  • Ensure that high-risk file types like executables and archives are thoroughly inspected using a combination of static and dynamic analysis before being downloaded. Netskope Advanced Threat Protection customers can use a Patient Zero Prevention Policy to hold downloads until they have been fully inspected.
  • Configure policies to block downloads from apps and instances that are not used in your organization to reduce your risk surface to only those apps and instances that are necessary for the business.
  • Configure policies to block uploads to apps and instances that are not used in your organization to reduce the risk of accidental or deliberate data exposure from insiders or abuse by attackers.
  • Use an Intrusion Prevention System (IPS) that can identify and block malicious traffic patterns, such as command and control traffic associated with popular malware. Blocking this type of communication can prevent further damage by limiting the attacker’s ability to perform additional actions.
  • Use Remote Browser Isolation (RBI) technology to provide additional protection when there is a need to visit websites that fall into categories that can present higher risk, like Newly Observed and Newly Registered Domains.

Netskope Threat Labs link link

Staffed by the industry’s foremost cloud threat and malware researchers, Netskope Threat Labs discovers, analyzes, and designs defenses against the latest cloud threats affecting enterprises. Our researchers are regular presenters and volunteers at top security conferences, including DefCon, BlackHat, and RSA.

About This Report link link

Netskope provides threat protection to millions of users worldwide. Information presented in this report is based on anonymized usage data collected by the Netskope Security Cloud platform relating to a subset of Netskope customers with prior authorization.

This report contains information about detections raised by Netskope’s Next Generation Secure Web Gateway (SWG), not considering the significance of the impact of each individual threat. Stats in this report are based on the period starting April 1, 2023 through March 31, 2024. Stats are a reflection of attacker tactics, user behavior, and organization policy.

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In the monthly Netskope Threat Labs Report, you will find the top 5 malicious domains, malware, and apps that the Netskope Security Cloud platform blocked plus recent publications and a threat roundup.

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