No company or consumer can afford to ignore the significance of cybersecurity. Organizations and individuals depend more on software than ever before, and this status quo attracts a great deal of attention from unsavory characters. Countless hackers are constantly developing new, advanced strategies to illegally obtain others' sensitive information, which they can then use to commit identity theft, fraud and other cybercrimes.
Recently, Verizon highlighted the extent and severity of cybersecurity threats around the globe in its annual Data Breach Investigations Report. This report found that cybercriminals now utilize a range of strategies and are seeing an increasing success rate. Organizations of all kinds must embrace advanced tactics and utilize software security tools to effectively protect their own and their customers' sensitive data from these threats.
Diverse cyberattack strategies
CNN Money reported that the Verizon study analyzed more than 63,000 security incidents from entities around the world in 2013. Of these, approximately 94 percent could be attributed to one of nine basic types of cyberattack.
By far the most common data breach type concerned Web app attacks. The news source noted that the Verizon report described Web applications as "the proverbial punching bag of the Internet." Cybercriminals focus on these areas by using malware, phishing and password guessing strategies.
On a related note, the Verizon report drew attention to crimeware, which it defined as malware incidents that did not fit into the espionage or point-of-sale categories. These attacks often take the form of drive-by infections, wherein users inadvertently download dangerous malware onto their devices.
Perhaps the most worrying trend highlighted by the Verizon report Data Breach Investigations Report was the rise of cyber espionage. As InformationWeek noted, three-fourths of all of the incidents cataloged by Verizon affected public sector organizations. Compared to 2012, last year saw a 300 percent increase in cyber espionage incidents, the news source reported.
The United States was the most commonly targeted country for such incidents, accounting for more than half of all breaches. The next closest target was South Korea, which experienced only 6 percent of all incidents. Of the U.S.-focused attacks, 87 percent were perpetrated by state-affiliated actors and 11 percent could be traced to organized crime, InformationWeek reported. CNN Money noted that cyber espionage attacks took a variety of forms, including exporting data and scanning networks. China and Eastern European nations were seen as the most frequent sources of these attacks.
Better defenses needed
As this report highlighted, organizations of all kinds, from government agencies to for-profit corporations, need to take more robust steps to protect sensitive data from cyberattackers. These threats are becoming more sophisticated, more persistent and more common. If organizations fail to keep pace, their networks will sooner or later fall victim to cybercriminals.
There are several tactics that firms can utilize as part of an overarching cybersecurity strategy. First and foremost, organizations must make sure that the software they deploy internally is secure. Businesses should only use trusted, dependable applications and programs. To this end, improved employee training may be necessary. Without educational efforts, many workers will lack the knowledge needed to avoid questionable or dangerous Internet habits, which can put the whole organization at risk.
For those firms that develop their own software, the use of high-grade cybersecurity tools, such as static analysis solutions, is essential. These resources can enable developers to identify and correct vulnerabilities early, before the organization is exposed to the threat of opportunistic cybercriminals.