Cyberespionage is now the most common type of attack seen in manufacturing, the public sector and now education, warns the Verizon 2017 Data Breach Investigations Report. Much of this is due to the high proliferation of propriety research, prototypes and confidential personal data, which are hot-ticket items for cybercriminals.
Nearly 2,000 breaches were analyzed in this year’s report and more than 300 were espionage-related, many of which started life as phishing emails.
In addition, organized criminal groups escalated their use of ransomware to extort money from victims: this year’s report sees a 50 percent increase in ransomware attacks compared to last year. Despite this increase and the related media coverage surrounding the use of ransomware, many organizations still rely on out-of-date security solutions and aren’t investing in security precautions. In essence, they’re opting to pay a ransom demand rather than to invest in security services that could mitigate against a cyberattack.
Malware is big business
Fifty-one percent of data breaches analyzed involved malware. Ransomware rose to the fifth most common specific malware variety. Ransomware – using technology to extort money from victims – saw a 50 percent increase from last year’s report, and a huge jump from the 2014 DBIR where it ranked 22 in the types of malware used.
Phishing is still a go-to technique
In the 2016 DBIR, Verizon flagged the growing use of phishing techniques linked to software installation on a user’s device. In this year’s report, 95 percent of phishing attacks follow this process. Forty-three percent of data breaches utilized phishing, and the method is used in both cyber-espionage and financially motivated attacks.
Pretexting is on the rise
Pretexting is another tactic on the increase, and the 2017 DBIR showed that it is predominantly targeted at financial department employees – the ones who hold the keys to money transfers. Email was the top communication vector, accounting for 88 percent of financial pretexting incidents, with phone communications in second place with just under 10 percent.
“Cyber-attacks targeting the human factor are still a major issue,” says Bryan Sartin, executive director, Global Security Services, Verizon Enterprise Solutions. “Cybercriminals concentrate on four key drivers of human behavior to encourage individuals to disclose information: eagerness, distraction, curiosity and uncertainty. And as our report shows, it is working, with a significant increase in both phishing and pretexting this year.”
Business sector insights give real-life customer intelligence
This year’s report provides tailored insights for key business sectors, revealing specific challenges faced by different verticals, and also answering the “who? what? why? and how?” for each. Key sector-specific findings include:
- The top three industries for data breaches are financial services (24 percent); healthcare (15 percent) and the public sector (12 percent).
- Companies in the manufacturing industry are the most common targets for email-based malware.
- Sixty-eight (68) percent of healthcare threat actors are internal to the organization.
“The cybercrime data for each industry varies dramatically,” comments Sartin. “It is only by understanding the fundamental workings of each vertical that you can appreciate the cybersecurity challenges they face and recommend appropriate actions.”
Get the basics in place
With 81 percent of hacking-related breaches leveraging either stolen passwords and/or weak or guessable passwords, getting the basics right is as important as ever before. Some recommendations for organizations and individuals alike include:
- Stay vigilant – log files and change management systems can give you early warning of a breach.
- Make people your first line of defense – train staff to spot the warning signs.
- Keep data on a “need to know” basis – only employees that need access to systems to do their jobs should have it.
- Patch promptly – this could guard against many attacks.
- Encrypt sensitive data – make your data next to useless if it is stolen.
- Use two-factor authentication – this can limit the damage that can be done with lost or stolen credentials.
- Don’t forget physical security – not all data theft happens online.