Report identifies a large drop in dwell times as cyber attack detection capabilities improve

Published: Thursday, 15 April 2021 08:32

FireEye, Inc., has released the FireEye Mandiant M-Trends 2021 report. Now in its 12th year the report outlines critical details on trending attacker techniques and channels.

Key findings include:

Global median dwell time drops below one month for first time

Over the past decade, Mandiant has observed a trending reduction in global median dwell time (defined as the duration between the start of a cyber intrusion and when it is identified). This measure went from over one year in 2011 to just 24 days in 2020 – that’s more than twice as quickly identified in comparison to last year’s report with a median dwell time of 56 days. Mandiant attributes this reduction to continued development and improvement of organizational detection and response capabilities, along with the surge of multifaceted extortion and ransomware intrusions.

Median dwell time trends varied by region. The Americas continued to decrease. The Americas median dwell time for incidents discovered internally improved the most – dropping from 32 days down to only nine days – marking the first time a region has dipped into single digits. Conversely, APAC and EMEA experienced an overall increase in median dwell time, which Mandiant experts believe to be influenced by a greater number of intrusions with dwell times extending beyond three years, as compared to the Americas.

Internal detections on the rise

While last year’s report noted a drop in internal detections of intrusions compared to the previous year, Mandiant experts observed a return of organizations independently detecting most of their own incidents. Internal incident detection rose to 59 percent in 2020: a 12-point increase compared to 2019. This return to organizations detecting the majority of intrusions within their environments is in line with the overall trend observed over the last five years. 

Notably, internal detection was on the rise across all regions year-over-year. Organizations located in the Americas led the internal detection trendline at 61 percent, followed by EMEA and APAC closely aligned at 53 percent and 52 percent, respectively. In comparison, APAC and EMEA organizations received more notifications of compromise from external entities, versus organizations in the Americas.

Attackers narrow their sights

The top five most targeted industries, in order, are business and professional services, retail and hospitality, financial, healthcare and high technology.

Mandiant experts observed that organizations in the retail and hospitality industry were targeted more heavily in 2020 – coming in as the second most targeted industry compared to 11th in last year’s report. Healthcare also rose significantly, becoming the third most targeted industry in 2020, compared to eighth in last year’s report. This increased focus by threat actors can most likely be explained by the vital role the healthcare sector played during the global pandemic.

Full report