Symantec 2013 threat report flags surge in targeted attacks

Small businesses are the most popular targets, security vendor claims.

Information security

Research by cyber security firm Symantec has shown a 42 per cent rise in targeted attacks during 2012 compared to the previous year.

The organisation's 18th annual Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR) also showed SMBs are bearing the brunt of this increase in online criminal activity, with 31 per cent of targets falling into this category.

Symantec cited increased interest in SMBs among the cyber criminal community as they provide them with an attack route in to larger companies.

Cybercriminals are able to use a technique known as waterholing, where the website of a legitimate website - that the target is almost certain to visit - is compromised with malicious code, which then infects site visitors.

Andy Singer, director of product marketing at Symantec, said in a blog post: "Cybercriminals ... are attacking smaller businesses because they increasingly lack sufficient protection, and sometimes use them as a stepping stone to larger targets.

"'Watering hole' attacks infect 500 businesses in a single day."

The company said it has also noted a rise in attacks aimed at companies in the manufacturing sector, which has now moved to the top of the list of target industries for attack during 2012. This has been accompanied by a drop in the number of government targets, the organisation claimed.

Stephen Trilling, chief technology officer at Symantec, said: "This year's ISTR shows that cybercriminals aren't slowing down, and they continue to devise new ways to steal information from organisations of all sizes.

"The sophistication of attacks coupled with today's IT complexities, such as virtualisation, mobility and cloud, require organisations to remain proactive and use defence in depth' security measures to stay ahead of attacks."

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