Project Description

Internet-based security threats remain key risk to businesses

Internet-based security attacks are more ambitious than ever, stealthier, and increasingly diverse in their targets, according to Symantec’s 2019 Internet Security Threat Report1. The report’s findings underscore the relentless and evolving nature of the threat.

Key findings reflect:

  • The ongoing risk of malicious emails with infected links and email attachments
  • Persistent and new uses of malware and ransomware
  • A continued rise in attacks via Web and mobile devices
  • The growing exploitation of weaknesses through the interconnectivity of Internet-based services

Criminals evolve their methods of email attack

In 2018, 55% of all emails were categorized as spam. Symantec found that users of Microsoft Office are the most at risk of becoming victims of email-based malware. Malware typically disrupts, damages or gives unauthorized systems access for a variety of purposes including account takeover. The Symantec report noted fewer URLs, or links embedded in malicious emails, and greater use of malicious email attachments as a primary means of infection.

These trends highlight the ongoing threat of business email compromise (BEC), which frequently involves a criminal using a legitimate business email account to create malicious emails that often target those employees responsible for payments. On average, the Symantec study found, 5,803 organizations were targets of BEC scams each month in 2018. The top keywords in the email subject line were, “urgent”, “request”, “important”, and “payment”.

Malicious software heightens its focus on businesses

In 2018, criminals shifted the ways in which they use malicious software. Rather than targeting vulnerabilities remotely, cybercriminals increasingly are using worms, or self-replicating malware that employ simple techniques such as dumping passwords from memory or forcing access to shared networks and then spreading across these networks.

In 2017, a pivot occurred in ransomware incidents, with the majority of attacks pivoting from consumers to enterprises. This trend accelerated in 2018, with 81 percent of all ransomware infections hitting organizations. Ransomware blocks access to a computer system until the victim pays ransom.

Web and mobile devices are under assault

Mobile security is a challenge for organizations as employees increasingly perform their work via mobile devices. One in 36 devices used in organizations were deemed high risk. Mobile ransomware infections grew 33% over the prior year, with 63% of mobile ransomware infections concentrated in the U.S. One in 26 mobile devices had installed high-risk apps, according to the research.

In 2018, there was a 56% increase in Web attacks with formjacking emerging as one of the major trends in Internet security issues. Formjacking uses malicious code to steal information from payment forms on the checkout web pages of eCommerce sites. The study found 4,800 websites compromised on average every month in 2018. This suggests the importance of carefully choosing trusted providers of payments services with stringent security measures.

Attackers exploit Internet interconnectivity by targeting security loopholes

In 2018, there was a 78% increase in supply chain attacks, whereby criminals compromise third-party services that connect in to a final target. Criminals find weak points for entry to online retailers, for example, such as through chatbots and customer service review widgets. The growth in formjacking reflects this overall increase in supply chain attacks.

Other targets of interconnectivity via the Internet include:

  • Cloud vulnerabilities. Subpar security for Cloud databases continues to be a vulnerability for businesses. The Symantec research reported more than 70 million records leaked or stolen in 2018 due to poor Cloud database configuration.
  • Internet of Things (IoT) targeted. The volume of attacks on the IoT remained high from 2017 to 2018, and IoT devices face many threats.

To detect and thwart these attacks requires advanced technological tools such as machine learning and analytics.

With practically every business participating in Internet interconnectivity, organizational understanding of today’s threats, and how they are evolving, is vital to threat preparedness.

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1. 2019 SymantecTM Internet Security Threat Report; Copyright © 2019 Symantec Corporation. All rights reserved. Reprinted with permission from Symantec Corporation