Financial fraud drives most targeted attacks

Check Point announced the results of a new survey revealing 65% of organizations who experienced targeted attacks reported that the hacker’s motivation was driven by financial fraud, and resulted in business disruption and the loss of sensitive information, including intellectual property and trade secrets.

The report showed companies reporting an average of 66 new security attack attempts per week, with successful incidents costing businesses anywhere from $100,000 to $300,000.

Cybercriminals are increasingly using malware, bots and other forms of sophisticated threats to attack organizations for various reasons – from financial gain and disruption of business operations to data theft or attacks driven by political agendas.

Regardless of motivation, new variants of malware are being generated on a daily basis, often targeting multiple sites and organizations to increase the likelihood of an attack’s initial success and the potential for threats to spread quietly throughout an organization.

Key findings from the report are:

Primary motivations of targeted threats – Following investigations of cyber-attacks within organizations surveyed, the majority of respondents reported financial fraud (65%) as the cybercriminal’s primary motivation, followed by intent to disrupt business operations (45%) and stealing customer data (45%). Approximately 5% of security attacks were estimated to have been driven by political or ideological agendas.

Cybercrime comes in all shapes and forms – On average, respondents reported SQL Injections as the most serious security attacks experienced in the last two years, and more than one third of respondents said they experienced APTs (35%), botnet Infections (33%) and DoS attacks (32%).

Targeted attacks continue to be costly – Survey participants estimated a single, successful targeted attack costing an average of $214,000 USD. In Germany, respondents reported a higher average estimate of $300,000 per incident, and Brazil with a lower average of $100,000 per incident. Estimates include variables such as forensic investigation, investments in technology and brand recovery costs.

Most common threat vectors – When asked to rank employee activities that pose the greatest risk, all regions unanimously cited the use of mobile devices – including smartphones and tablet PCs – as the biggest concern, followed by social networks and removable media devices such as USB sticks.

Current technology investments – While the majority of companies have important security building blocks in place, such as Firewall and Intrusion Prevention solutions, less than half of companies surveyed have advanced protections to fight botnets and APTs. However, the majority of organizations in Germany and the US are beginning to deploy solutions more specific to addressing cyber-risk such as anti-bot, application control and threat intelligence systems.

Security training and awareness – Only 64% of companies say they have current training and awareness programs in place to prevent targeted attacks.

“Cybercriminals are no longer isolated amateurs. They belong to well-structured organizations, often employing highly-skilled hackers to execute targeted attacks, many of whom receive significant amounts of money depending on the region and nature of the attack,” said Tomer Teller, security evangelist and researcher at Check Point Software Technologies. “Cybercrime has become a business. With bot toolkits for hackers selling today for the mere price of $500, it gives people insight into how big the problem has become, and the importance of implementing preemptive protections to safeguard critical assets.

“For the most part, the goal of attackers is to obtain valuable information. These days, credit card data shares space on the shelves of virtual hacking stores with items such as employee records and Facebook or email log-ins, as well as zero-day exploits that can be stolen and sold on the black market ranging anywhere from $10,000 to $500,000,” added Teller. “Unfortunately, the rate of cybercrime seems to be climbing as businesses experience a surge in Web 2.0 use and mobile computing in corporate environments – giving hackers more channels of communication and vulnerable entry points into the network.”

“Companies are constantly facing new and costly security risks from both internal and external sources that can jeopardize the business,” said Dr. Larry Ponemon, chairman and founder, Ponemon Institute. “While the types of threats and level of concern companies have may vary across regions, the good news is that security awareness is rising. Across the board, C-level executives reported high levels of concern about targeted attacks and planned to implement security precautions, technology and training to mitigate the risk of targeted attacks.”

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