Cyberattacks are big business for criminals, says security expert Michael Marriott


High-profile data breaches are regularly in the news and, seemingly, businesses and are losing the battle to protect their intellectual property (IP), corporate and customer data from professional cybercriminals. Michael Marriott, security expert at Digital Shadows, shares his insight.

It is no surprise that financial gain is the single biggest motivator for cyberattacks. The 2016 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report highlighted that financial gain and espionage accounted for more than 89 percent of all data breaches they studied. Financial gain was by far the biggest single reason for attacks, beating espionage and all other objectives into a distant second place. This is big business for cybercriminals.

To deal with the threats posed by these breaches, organisations have to get on the front foot when protecting their IP. Firstly, by identifying the location and protections around critical IP, and secondly, by keeping a watchful eye on the types of attackers and the methods they might use.

While much of the spotlight is often directed at new viruses, malware or attack techniques, exploit kits remain one of cybercriminals' most reliable and trusted delivery mechanisms to embed malware and conduct malicious activity. And, even as an exploit kit gets shut down, others pick up the slack and continue to deliver their payloads.

Understanding the most commonly exploited software and the most frequently targeted vulnerabilities can aid in mitigating the threat posed by exploit kits and prioritising their patching. Our report, In the Business of Exploitation, found that the vulnerabilities exploited by the top 22 exploit kits showed that Adobe Flash Player was likely to be the most targeted software, with 27 of the 76 identified vulnerabilities exploited taking advantage of this software.

To protect your IP, it is critical to evaluate your company's security using the perspective of an attacker, which helps prioritise the work to address potential vulnerabilities. This could involve looking at where your organisation is exposed on social media sites and points of compromise, and looking for evidence of previous attacks across the visible, dark and deep web. In so doing, you can be quick to respond to incidents and limit the consequences of a potential breach.

By being proactive, organisations can tailor their defences and make better, more informed business decisions. In a world of complexity and uncertainty, this kind of illuminating context is key to preventing vital IP falling in to the wrong hands.

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