The automation and industrialization of cyber attacks

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A new Imperva report highlights cyber criminals’ use of automation to increase both the magnitude and velocity of attacks designed to compromise users and steal sensitive data.

Every application analyzed in the report was attacked, with over 75 percent of the applications attacked by every one of the eight identified attack types. The eight attack types analyzed in the report are SQL injection (SQLi), remote file inclusion (RFI), remote code execution (RCE), directory traversal (DT), cross site scripting (XSS), spam, file upload (FU), and HTTP reconnaissance.

Applications suffered a marked increase in the number of SQLi and XSS attacks.

2015 also saw hackers shift emphasis to attacking healthcare applications, likely reflecting the black market value of the personally identifiable information contained within healthcare applications. The data also highlights an increase in the percentage of attacks successfully identified and blocked by reputation services, further validating that already identified and known hackers use automation to more effectively and efficiently launch attacks against a broad set of targets.

“This year’s report illustrates that any and every web application may come under attack by cyber criminals, due in large part to the fact that hackers have industrialized – making broad attacks possible – the techniques used to gain access to valuable personally identifiable information,” said Amichai Shulman, CTO of Imperva. “As a result, every web application is at risk. Businesses must pay particular attention to directly protecting data and applications by using security measures like a web application firewall, ideally in conjunction with real-time reputation services.”

All applications are under increased attacks, including Shellshock attacks launched blindly against any and every public facing application.

  • Shellshock attacks were recorded on 100 percent of the applications under analysis.
  • Applications suffered a three times year-over-year increase in SQLi attacks. Successful SQLi attacks allow cyber criminals to access data not meant to be revealed.
  • Applications suffered a 2.5 times year-over-year increase in XSS attacks. XSS attacks are frequently used by cyber criminals to compromise users.

Detect-by-reputation mechanisms have become increasingly effective against attacks.

  • 78 percent of the malicious alerts were identified by Imperva ThreatRadar Reputation Services as coming from known bad actors.

Content Management Systems such as WordPress and Drupal, and healthcare applications were the most frequently targeted.

  • CMS applications were attacked three times more frequently than non-CMS applications.
  • Sites hosted on WordPress, a popular CMS, are under threat, with WordPress applications experiencing 250 percent more attack incidents than non-CMS applications.