Monday, April 18, 2011

Verizon 2011 Data Breach Investigations Report: Cyber Criminals Refine Attacks

Data loss through cyber attacks decreased sharply in 2010, but the total number of breaches was higher than ever, according to the "Verizon 2011 Data Breach Investigations Report," which analyses 760 security incidents that were investigated by Verizon and the U.S. Secret Service during 2010. The number of incidents investigated was up, but the amount of data stolen or compromised was lower than the year before. Verizon attributes this to the increasingly refined methods of cyber criminal, who are now engaging in small, opportunistic attacks rather than large-scale, difficult attacks.



Hacking (50 percent) and malware (49 percent) were the most prominent types of attack, with many of those attacks involving weak or stolen credentials and passwords. For the first time, physical attacks -- such as compromising ATMs -- appeared as one of the three most common ways to steal information, and constituted 29 percent of all cases investigated. Approximately one-third of Verizon's cases originated in either Europe or the Asia-Pacific region, reflecting the global nature of data breaches.



Key Findings of the 2011 Report:



Large-scale breaches dropped dramatically while small attacks increased. The report notes there are several possible reasons for this trend, including the fact that small to medium-sized businesses represent prime attack targets for many hackers, who favor highly automated, repeatable attacks against these more vulnerable targets, possibly because criminals are opting to play it safe in light of recent arrests and prosecutions of high-profile hackers.



Outsiders are responsible for most data breaches. Ninety-two percent of data breaches were caused by external sources. Contrary to the malicious-employee stereotype, insiders were responsible for only 16 percent of attacks. Partner-related attacks continued to decline, and business partners accounted for less than 1 percent of breaches.



Physical attacks are on the rise. After doubling as a percentage of all breaches in 2009, attacks involving physical actions doubled again in 2010, and included manipulating common credit-card devices such as ATMs, gas pumps and point-of-sale terminals. The data indicates that organized crime groups are responsible for most of these card-skimming schemes.



Hacking and malware is the most popular attack method. Malware was a factor in about half of the 2010 caseload and was responsible for almost 80 percent of lost data. The most common kinds of malware found in the caseload were those involving sending data to an external entity, opening backdoors, and keylogger functionalities.



Stolen passwords and credentials are out of control. Ineffective, weak or stolen credentials continue to wreak havoc on enterprise security. Failure to change default credentials remains an issue, particularly in the financial services, retail and hospitality industries.



Recommendations for Enterprises

Focus on essential controls. Many enterprises make the mistake of pursuing exceptionally high security in certain areas while almost completely neglecting others. Businesses are much better protected if they implement essential controls across the entire organization without exception.



Eliminate unnecessary data. If you do not need it, do not keep it. For data that must be kept, identify, monitor and securely store it.



Secure remote access services. Restrict these services to specific IP addresses and networks, minimizing public access to them. Also, ensure that your enterprise is limiting access to sensitive information within the network.

Audit user accounts and monitor users with privileged identity. The best approach is to trust users but monitor them through pre-employment screening, limiting user privileges and using separation of duties. Managers should provide direction, as well as supervise employees to ensure they are following security policies and procedures.



Monitor and mine event logs. Focus on the obvious issues that logs pick up, not the minutiae. Reducing the compromise-to-discovery timeframe from weeks and months to days can pay huge dividends.



Be aware of physical security assets. Pay close attention to payment card input devices, such as ATMs and gas pumps, for tampering and manipulation.



The National High Tech Crime Unit of the Netherlands Policy Agency (KLPD) also contributed to the report.
A complete copy of the 74-page "2011 Data Breach Investigations Report" is available for download.
http://www.verizon.com

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