Targeted attacks increase by 42% in 2012: Symantec

Infotech Lead America: Targeted attacks have increased by 42 percent in 2012, according to Symantec.

These targeted cyberespionage attacks are designed to steal intellectual property. They target the manufacturing sector as well as small businesses. Small businesses have become attractive targets as they are seen to be a way of reaching larger companies using “watering hole” techniques. In a watering hole attack, the attacker compromises a website which is frequently visited by the victim of interest. At the victim’s next visit to the compromised website, a targeted attack payload is installed on their computer.

The Elderwood Gang successfully infected 500 organizations in a single day through the watering hole method in 2012. Consumers continue to be vulnerable to ransomware and mobile threats, particularly on the Android platform, said Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report, Volume 18 (ISTR).

Targeted attacks are found to be growing rapidly among businesses with less than 250 employees. Small businesses bear 31 percent of all attacks, which is a threefold increase from 2011. Cybercriminals target bank account information, customer data and intellectual property held by small organizations do not have adequate security.

Web-based attacks have increased by 30 percent in 2012. Manufacturing tops the list of industries targeted for attacks in 2012. Knowledge workers who have access to intellectual property were the most targeted victim at 27 percent, while those in sales formed 24 percent of the targeted victims in 2012.

Mobile malware increased by 58 percent in 2012, with 32 percent of all mobile threats attempting to steal information such as e-mail addresses and phone numbers.

Apple’s iOS was found to have the most documented vulnerabilities but only had one threat discovered during the same period. Android had fewer vulnerabilities but more threats than any other mobile operating system.

Additionally, it was revealed that 61 percent of malicious websites were actually legitimate websites that have been compromised and infected with malicious code. The top five types of websites hosting infections were business, technology and shopping. Symantec cites unpatched vulnerabilities on legitimate websites as the cause for this. In the past, these websites were often used to sell fake antivirus to unsuspecting consumers.

Attackers now increasingly resort to ransomware because of its high profitability.

David Hall, Regional Consumer Product Marketing manager, Asia Pacific, Norton by Symantec noted last year that mobile platforms and cloud services will be likely targets for attacks and breaches in 2013.

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