The C-suite is the latest target for cyber attacks warns 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report
- Published: Friday, 10 May 2019 09:17
C-level executives – who have access to a company’s most sensitive information, are now the major focus for social engineering attacks, according to the Verizon 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report. Senior executives are 12x more likely to be the target of social incidents, and 9x more likely to be the target of social breaches than in previous years – and financial motivation remains the key driver. Financially-motivated social engineering attacks (12 percent of all data breaches analyzed) are a key topic in this year’s report, highlighting the critical need to ensure ALL levels of employees are made aware of the potential impact of cyber crime.
A successful pretexting attack on senior executives can reap large dividends as a result of their - often unchallenged - approval authority, and privileged access into critical systems. Typically time-starved and under pressure to deliver, senior executives quickly review and click on emails prior to moving on to the next (or have assistants managing email on their behalf), making suspicious emails more likely to get through. The increasing success of social attacks such as business email compromises (BECs -which represent 370 incidents or 248 confirmed breaches of those analyzed), can be linked to the unhealthy combination of a stressful business environment combined with a lack of focused education on the risks of cybercrime.
The report’s findings also highlight how the growing trend to share and store information within cost-effective cloud based solutions is exposing companies to additional security risks. Analysis found that there was a substantial shift towards compromise of cloud-based email accounts via the use of stolen credentials. In addition, publishing errors in the cloud are increasing year-over-year. Misconfiguration (‘Miscellaneous Errors’) led to a number of massive, cloud-based file storage breaches, exposing at least 60 million records analyzed in the DBIR dataset. This accounts for 21 percent of breaches caused by errors.
Other key findings include:
- Attacks on human resource personnel have decreased from last year: Findings saw 6x fewer human resource personnel being impacted this year compared to last, correlating with W-2 tax form scams almost disappearing from the DBIR dataset.
- Chip and pin payment technology has started delivering security dividends: the number of physical terminal compromises in payment card related breaches is decreasing compared to web application compromises.
- Ransomware attacks are still going strong: they account for nearly 24 percent of incidents where malware was used. Ransomware has become so commonplace that it is less frequently mentioned in the specialized media unless there is a high profile target.
- Media-hyped crypto-mining attacks were hardly existent: these types of attacks were not listed in the top 10 malware varieties, and only accounted for roughly 2 percent of incidents.
- Outsider threats remain dominant: external threat actors are still the primary force behind attacks (69 percent of breaches) with insiders accounting for 34 percent.