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Cybercrooks continue to be a menace to corporate security, with hackers and malware authors collectibly responsible for 85 per cent of all stolen data.

The latest edition of Verizon's annual data breach report also records a rise in insider threats and greater use of social engineering.

Verizon worked with the US Secret Service to pool information and develop a more complete picture of data breaches. Information used in the 2010 Verizon Data Breach Investigations study spans six years, and more than 900 breaches involving in excess of 900 million compromised records.

Data breaches crop up in all types of industries but financial services, hospitality and retail still make up the “Big Three” of industries affected (accounting for 33 per cent, 23 per cent and 15 per cent of incidents, respectively). However, a huge majority (94 per cent) of all compromised records in 2009 were attributable to breaches at financial service firms.

Many of the breaches covered by the study involved privilege misuse. Almost half (48 per cent) of breaches were blamed on users who, for malicious purposes, abused their right to access corporate information.  An additional 40 per cent of breaches were the product of hacking.

Social engineering (for example tricking company reps into handing over sensitive data) played a role in 28 per cent of attacks.

Hackers largely feasted off hanging fruit, as in previous years. The vast majority (85 per cent) of the breaches were not considered highly difficult. Most (87 per cent) of the firm hit by breaches had evidence of data loss in their log files, yet missed it.

Verizon adds that 79 per cent of the victims involved in handling credit card transaction and therefore subject to the PCI-DSS standard hadn’t achieved compliance prior to the breach. ®

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