Bad security hygiene still a major risk for enterprise IT networks

Unpatched vulnerabilities, along with growing network and application complexity pose an ongoing security risk which could threaten the security of enterprise IT networks.

bad security hygiene

Analyzing the biggest security findings over the past year, Keysight has released the third annual security report from Ixia’s Application and Threat Intelligence (ATI) Research Center.

Humans are the weakest link

In 2018, Ixia detected 662,618 phishing pages in the wild, and 8,546,295 pages hosting or infected by malware – so a successful attack requires only a single errant click on an email or link.

A well-crafted and timed phishing attempt can encourage even savvy users to click on compromised links.

Successful defense depends on a combination of proactive user education, blocking phishing attacks and malware that cross the network edge, and detecting and blocking lateral movement in a network.

Crypto-jacking activity continues to grow

This threat reached new peaks in 2018, with hackers combining multiple classic attacks to deliver nearly autonomous malware.

Ixia honeypots captured several new exploits that run an EternalBlue scan, and when successful, deposit a cryptominer on the network.

Software security flaws caused the majority of product vulnerabilities

Ixia observed more new devices joining networks than ever before, but also more devices designed and deployed without proper measures to stop or even limit threats.

Well-understood SQL injections and cross-site scripting vulnerabilities were used by bad actors to target web applications.

Code sharing posed a risk despite efforts by the open source community to standardize controls and measures in web development.

Security vulnerability disclosures are a double-edged sword

Both hackers and vendors benefit when vulnerabilities are announced, particularly zero-day exploits.

Mirai, Drupalgeddon and the D-Link DSL-2750B remote code execution vulnerability are examples where hackers were able to move faster than vendors and IT teams.

Cyber hygiene is at an all-time low

IT vendors created code or configurations that led to many successful security breaches in 2018, but IT operations and security personnel also shared the blame.

Well-known attacks and attack vectors remained successful because security personnel did not address vulnerabilities and apply patches.

This was successful primarily due to two factors: ignorance of the latest patches and challenges in deploying patches in a timely manner.

“Compromised enterprise networks from unpatched vulnerabilities and bad security hygiene continued to be fertile ground for hackers in 2018. Misconfigured security and access policies also were a major source of data breaches in 2018,” said Steve McGregory, senior director, Ixia Application and Threat Intelligence, Keysight Technologies.

“Network and application complexity pose serious security threats and create new vulnerabilities every day. Hackers continue to leverage the complexity as well as existing vulnerabilities and misconfigurations to their advantage. It has never been more important for organizations to take a proactive approach to identify and mitigate such flaws as thoroughly as possible.”

bad security hygiene

Security watchlist for 2019

Based upon Ixia-collected data and historical activity, the Ixia ATI team predicts the following six trends will pose the biggest threat to enterprises over the coming 18 months:

  • Abuse of low-value endpoints will escalate
  • Brute-force attacks on public-facing systems and resources will increase
  • Cloud architectures create complexity that increase attack surfaces
  • Phishing will continue to evolve
  • Multiphase attacks that use lateral movement and internal traffic will increase
  • Crypto mining/cryptojacking attacks will increase