THE MAGAZINE

Cyberattacks Grow More Complex

By Sherry Harowitz

While many breaches are caused by trusted sources and simple security flaws, it’s also getting harder to stop malware because it’s more cleverly hidden.

While cyberespionage from China and other countries has dominated the news recently, more traditionally motivated hacks by common criminals still make up the bulk of cyberattacks. Cyber­thieves attack everything from hotels to small retail franchises in search of data like credit cardholder information they can turn to fast cash.

In the past two years, cyberattacks on businesses have grown significantly more complex, according to the 2013 Trustwave Global Security Report, making prevention and detection harder. Even so, it is also striking that in a good many cases, compromise occurred at least in part because companies failed to take care of the basics—like avoiding weak or default credentials. Half of 3 million user passwords analyzed (not only from breach cases) were the bare minimum.

The findings are based on more than 450 data breach investigations performed by Trustwave SpiderLabs in 19 countries. The United States was by far the most frequent victim (see chart). For some of the conclusions about attacks, Trustwave also analyzed results from 2,500 penetration tests, more than five million malicious Web sites and more than nine million Web site application attacks, and tens of billions of events.

While all corporate data is at risk once a system is breached, thieves tend to go for cardholder data, because it takes less work to monetize. Intellectual property (IP) was the clear target in only 2 percent of the cases in this study. The places thieves go to get such data are most often retail establishments. Three years ago, notes the report, the hospitality industry was a bigger target, but it has made great strides toward strengthening security of data, and the effort appears to have paid off.
 

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