New threats, old tricks

Verizon's latest Data Breach Investigations Report finds hackers using old techniques to compromise corporate IT and steal data

Inside the Enterprise: In the IT security world, as in so much of technology, there is a fascination with the new. Identifying new and emerging threats is an obsession, and a business, for plenty of people in the industry. CIOs need to be kept abreast of any new risks their organisations might face.

Hackers, though, appear less fixed on new techniques. According to the latest Data Breach Investigations Report, compiled by Verizon, criminals are relying on phishing and hacking methods that have been around for years, if not decades.

Verizon which carries out this research annually says that 70 per cent of cyberattacks are now combined or blended attacks, using a mix of methods to overcome enterprises' defences. These include social engineering and phishing as well as hacking.

As many as 70 per cent of the attacks also use a secondary victim, making defence and attribution harder.

But Verizon is also warning that too many attacks are able to make use of vulnerabilities and exploits that could and should have been patched some time ago. Researchers found significant numbers of vulnerabilities that dated back to 2007. Even in a busy IT department, there are few excuses for leaving a vulnerability unpatched that long.

Simple errors or oversights of this type such as failing to apply patches, update security software or hardware, or to keep up employee training only serve to make cybercriminals' work easier.

It also allows hackers to exploit another trend: for malware to sit on systems, undetected, for long periods of time. So-called "advanced persistent threats" set out to be stealthy, so they can avoid the attention of security teams and extract data over an extended period of time.

Hackers are also hiding malware on organisations' networks, often using known vulnerabilities, or be activated to attack networks later, at will.

As Verizon's researchers point out, the fact that hackers are exploiting known and often old vulnerabilities means that many of the current attacks could be stopped.

The company points to some fairly measures to do this, including raising security awareness, using two-factor authentication and encryption, prompt patching and paying attention to both physical and virtual security.

Financially, this also makes sense. One interesting part of this year's Verizon DBIR is the attempt to quantify the cost of breaches.

The firm has reviewed almost 200 cyber insurance claims, and found that a breach involving the loss of 10 million records ranges between $2.1 million and $5.1 million and could even cost as much as $74 million. "We now know that it's rarely, if ever, less expensive to suffer a breach than to put the proper defence in place," said Verizon's Mike Denning.

If that's not an incentive to review security policies, then it is hard to know what is.

 Stephen Pritchard is a contributing editor at IT Pro.

Featured Resources

How to scale your organisation in the cloud

How to overcome common scaling challenges and choose the right scalable cloud service

Download now

The people factor: A critical ingredient for intelligent communications

How to improve communication within your business

Download now

Future of video conferencing

Optimising video conferencing features to achieve business goals

Download now

Improving cyber security for remote working

13 recommendations for security from any location

Download now

Recommended

Microsoft and FireEye push for corporate breach reporting rules
data protection

Microsoft and FireEye push for corporate breach reporting rules

24 Feb 2021
Four tips for keeping your business secure during mass remote work
data protection

Four tips for keeping your business secure during mass remote work

19 Feb 2021
Kia Motors allegedly suffers a ransomware attack
data breaches

Kia Motors allegedly suffers a ransomware attack

18 Feb 2021
Donald Trump’s one-time law firm allegedly suffers data breach
data breaches

Donald Trump’s one-time law firm allegedly suffers data breach

17 Feb 2021

Most Popular

How to connect one, two or more monitors to your laptop
Laptops

How to connect one, two or more monitors to your laptop

25 Feb 2021
How to find RAM speed, size and type
Laptops

How to find RAM speed, size and type

26 Feb 2021
Ransomware operators are exploiting VMware ESXi flaws
ransomware

Ransomware operators are exploiting VMware ESXi flaws

1 Mar 2021