Ransomware up. Breaches up. What do hackers want? Research, prototypes... all your secrets

Verizon super depressing report's in

Cyberespionage and ransomware attacks are on the increase, according to the latest annual edition of Verizon's breach report.

Organisations in manufacturing, the public sector and education bore the brunt of spying attacks, it adds. Mounting high proliferation of propriety research, prototypes and confidential personal data made these sectors a tempting target for cyber-spies.

More than 90 per cent of 289 confirmed breaches related to espionage were attributed to state-affiliated groups, with competitors and former employees accounting for the rest. Phishing was by far the most prevalent tactic used to target victims by spies of various stripes.

More generally phishing was present in over a fifth of all security incidents (21 per cent), up from just 8 per cent last year. Verizon attributes the increase in prevalence to more hackers adopting phishing as an increasingly potent tactic. One in 14 (7.3 per cent) of phishing attacks were successful, as defined by assaults that result in the victim clicking on a link or email attachment sent by attackers. Spoofed website harvesting credentials are becoming less of a threat in such attacks than macro-enabled malware.

Verizon's 2017 edition of its annual Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) was based on an analysis of more than 42,000 security incidents and 1,935 confirmed data breaches, across 84 countries. A total of 65 partners contributed to the report, making its the industry's most authoritative study on breach prevalence, trends and causes.

The top three industries for data breaches are financial services (24 per cent); healthcare (15 per cent) and the public sector (12 per cent). Four in five (81 per cent) of breaches using either stolen passwords and/or weak or guessable passwords.

Organised criminal groups were behind 51 per cent of breaches and state-affiliated groups were involved in 18 per cent. Financial services firms were the most prevalent victims (24 per cent of breaches), with financial gain (72 per cent) and espionage (21 per cent) the top two motives for cybercriminals.

Ransomware continued its seemingly inexorable rise with a 50 per cent year-on-year increase.

Some industries are under greater threat from ransomware than others. For example, ransomware accounted for 72 per cent of all malware incidents in the healthcare sector, according to Verizon's tenth annual DBIR.

Elsewhere inadequate password security is still causing problems. Four in five (81 per cent) of hacking-related breaches succeed through either stolen, weak or easily guessable passwords. Greater awareness of phishing, or the use of two-factor authentication, would limit the effect of these shortcoming but many firms are still failing to apply basic security control, leaving them more open to attack as a result.

Gabe Basset, ‎senior information security data scientist at Verizon, told El Reg that different industries face diverse threats. Manufacturing is most exposed to espionage by comparison to other industries, for example, while hotels and restaurants bear the brunt of PoS attacks. "The goal of the study is to help organisations to understand what they are protecting against," he said. ®

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