7 Takeaways from the 2016 Internet Threat Report

Cyber criminals are becoming more sophisticated in their attacks due to increased skills and resources, according to a new cybersecurity report by Symantec.

The 2016 Internet Security Threat Report provides a detailed overview and analysis of the year’s global threat activity, including rising trends, malicious activity, spam, and phishing.

Below are seven takeaways from the report.

1) Most cyber attacks originate from the U.S.  The U.S. is responsible for more cyber attacks than any other country, accounting for 50 percent of all source activity, and 18 percent of source IP addresses. China comes in second place, representing 31 percent of source activity and 60 percent of source IP addresses. These statistics may be alarming but should be taken with reservations, since cyber criminals often redirect their attacks through multiple servers, potentially skewing the data.

2) Health sector at greatest risk of data breach  More than half a billion personal information records were reported as lost or stolen last year, with the services industry comprising the vast majority (65.6 percent) of these data breaches.

Hospitals and healthcare firms fell victim to more breaches than any other sub-sector, accounting for 39 percent of all lost or stolen records. This statistic is hardly surprising, given the strict HIPAA ruling around data breach reporting in this industry.

Ranked equal second were finance, insurance and real estate, followed by retail trade in third place, and finally, government administration in fourth.

 3) Ransomware on the up   Ransomware attacks, in which attackers typically encrypt stolen data, and demand ransom for its release, grew by 35 percent last year. Again, the healthcare setting has proved particularly vulnerable to these attacks, since a hospital in California came under attack, and publicly paid $17,000 to release their information systems. Kevin Haley, Director of Product Management and Security Response at Symantec, recommends that companies avoid paying ransom to cyber criminals, as in doing so, we are simply funding further attacks.

4)Most websites not secure   Three quarters of websites contain major security vulnerabilities that put all users at risk because web administrators are failing to keep on top of their security patch updates. Even some of the world’s most recognised and trusted sites are open to forms of infection or manipulation from cyber criminals, the report revealed. Symantec urges web administrators to step up and address the risks with greater force.

5) No one is safe   Businesses of all sizes are at risk of a targeted attack; spear-phishing campaigns aimed at employees for example, have risen by 55 percent in the past year. Small businesses accounted for 43 percent of all attacks in 2015, while the report shows that large businesses targeted once were almost certain to be targeted at least three more times in the same year.

6) IoT poses greater risks   The report highlights that any internet-connected device poses a cybersecurity risk. There are currently 6.4 billion connected devices worldwide, a figure which Symantec predicts to rise to around 20.6 billion by 2020, meaning more vulnerabilities as technology develops the internet of things (IoT).

7) Just the tip of the iceberg  Many data breaches go unreported, and, Symantec estimates that, though 429 million identities were exposed, the actual figure is probably closer to around 500 million. We really only ever hear about the very tip of the data breach iceberg. Kevin Haley comments on this ‘disturbing trend’ of companies holding back crucial security details, reminding us that “hiding the full impact of an attack makes it difficult to assess and prevent future risks”.

You can download the full report from https://www.symantec.com/security-center/threat-report.