Breaches Originate from Outside

Thursday, March 1, 2012 @ 01:03 PM gHale

More than 85 percent of the data breach incident response cases investigated by Verizon Business last year originated from a hack, and more than 90 percent of them came from the outside rather than via a malicious insider or business partner, a new study said.

Those facts are just one snapshot of data from Verizon’s upcoming 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report, using data from its own caseload of 90 of its 855 breach cases.

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“This is the first year that we worked more cases outside the U.S. than inside. That ratio has been building and it makes the case that this is not a U.S.-specific problem. All regions are having data breaches,” said Wade Baker, director of research and intelligence at Verizon Enterprise Solutions.

At the top of the list of compromised industries again was retail, financial services, and hospitality. And a big factor in this year’s cases was the rise in hacktivist-based attacks, Baker said.

Outside or external attackers jumped from 88 percent in 2010 to 92 percent in 2011, and breaches due to internal threats continued to decline, from just more than 10 percent in 2010 to less than 5 percent in 2011, according to Verizon’s data. “We can expect this trend to continue. Every single caseload we ever looked at shows the external [threat agent] as the majority except for one,” Baker said.

As for breach methods, hacking (86 percent) and malware (57 percent) were on the rise, while social engineering, misuse, physical threats, errors, and environmental factors all dropped.

The most commonly used venue for breaches was exploiting default or easily guessed passwords, with 29 percent of the cases last year, followed by backdoor malware (26 percent), use of stolen credentials (24 percent), exploiting backdoor or command and control channels (23 percent), and keyloggers and spyware (18 percent). SQL injection attacks accounted for 13 percent of the breaches.

“There were a lot of authentication-type attacks,” Baker said.

As for the targets, 90 percent of the breaches Verizon investigated went after servers, mainly point-of-sale servers, Web and app servers, and database servers. Nearly 50 percent targeted user devices such as desktops, laptops, and POS terminals. “The user device serves as a foothold into the environment. They are trying to get into your environment and then they spread out,” Baker said.

How do organizations learn they suffered a hit? Most find out from an external source, usually law enforcement, Baker said. And for nearly 60 percent of the cases, it took months before the organization learned it suffered a hack.