Analytics // Threat Intelligence
4/22/2014
00:01 AM
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Stolen Passwords Used In Most Data Breaches

New Verizon 2014 Data Breach Investigations Report identifies nine types of attack patterns that accounted for 93 percent of security incidents in the past decade.

Cyber criminals and cyberspies mostly log in to steal data:  Findings from the new and much-anticipated 2014 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR) show that two out of three breaches involved attackers using stolen or misused credentials.

"Two out of three [attacks] focus on credentials at some point in the attack. Trying to get valid credentials is part of many styles of attacks and patterns," says Jay Jacobs, senior analyst with Verizon and co-author of the report. "To go in with an authenticated credential opens a lot more avenues, obviously. You don't have to compromise every machine. You just log in."

Some 422 cases last year involved the use of stolen credentials, followed by data-stealing malware (327), phishing (245), RAM scraping (223), and backdoor malware (165). Not far behind were backdoor/command & control (152), spyware (149), and downloader malware (144), as well as others.

Verizon this year widened the scope of its popular annual report to include security incidents as well as data breaches, and the 2014 Verizon DBIR includes data from 50 organizations from 95 different countries, including the US Secret Service, the Poland CERT, and Latin American CERTs. That's a big jump from the 19 contributors representing 27 countries in the 2013 Verizon DBIR.

The report tallied a grand total of 1,367 confirmed data breaches in 2013, up from 621 in last year's report from data compiled from a smaller number of contributing organizations. The new report looks at 63,437 total security incidents in 2013 spanning more than 95 countries. And now with a decade of reports in its portfolio, Verizon found that 92 percent of the 100,000 security incidents in its reports the past 10 years are tied to nine attack methods, some of which are more common than others in specific industries: errors such as sending an email to the wrong person; crimeware; insider/privilege misuse; physical theft/loss; web application attacks; denial-of-service attacks; cyber espionage; point-of-sale intrusions; and payment card skimmers.

"With all the data we had this year, we needed to break it apart and simplify the discussion...  We looked at patterns on how elements of an incident clustered," Jacobs says.

Among the patterns: 75 percent of security incidents reported in the financial services industry came via web app attacks, DDoS attacks, and payment card skimming. Some 54 percent of incidents in manufacturing come via cyber espionage and DDoS. And despite conventional wisdom that retail suffers mostly card-skimming attacks, the greatest number of retail security incidents -- 33 percent -- include DDoS, and 31 percent point-of-sale system hacks.

POS attacks are dropping, according to the report. Verizon tallied 198 total POS incidents in 2013, all of which included data theft. RAM scraping malware -- which lifts card or other sensitive data from memory while it's unencrypted and being processed -- rose last year, along with brute-force attacks of remote-access connections to POS systems. POS attacks were less than 20 percent last year, while web app attacks were at around 40 percent for incidents during that period.

"Given recent headlines, some may be surprised to find that POS intrusions are trending down over the last several years. That’s mainly because we’ve seen comparatively fewer attack sprees involving numerous small franchises. Brute forcing remote access connections to POS still leads as the primary intrusion vector. A resurgence of RAM scraping malware is the most prominent tactical development in 2013," the report says.

The accommodations industry suffered the most POS attacks last year, with 75 percent of security incidents attributed to that methodology. Next in line was retail, with 31 percent of POS attacks and 33 percent DDoS attacks.

[Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report 2014 says financial cybercrime accounting for three-fourths of real-world breaches, followed by cyber espionage in one-fifth of breaches. See No 'One Size Fits All' In Data Breaches, New Verizon Report Finds.]

Attackers are getting better and more efficient.  In more than three-fourths of the cases, it takes attackers days or less to compromise their target, while only one-fourth of the time, victim organizations discover the attack in days or less, according to Verizon's findings.

"Attackers are getting better and faster while we as defenders are not innovating as fast," Jacobs says. "Really, the attacker is innovating much faster and getting better and quicker."

Cyber espionage is on the rise, too. Some 22 percent of breaches in 2013 were cyberspy attacks, the report says, just behind web application attacks (35 percent). Cyber espionage accounted for 15 percent of all breaches between 2011 and 2013, mostly nation-state type activity. But another trend in cyberspying is cropping up as well: "There have been a few cases where [companies] have hired organized crime type units to go after their competitors," says Jacobs.

Nation-state and other cyberspies often employ a variety of tools and attack methods, he says, even within a single incident. "They are more complex attacks. What we are seeing is definitely a slower attack, more controlled and a little more complex.

"The bottom line is the bad guys are still winning."

The 2014 Verizon DBIR is available here for download. 

Kelly Jackson Higgins is Executive Editor at DarkReading.com. She is an award-winning veteran technology and business journalist with more than two decades of experience in reporting and editing for various publications, including Network Computing, Secure Enterprise ... View Full Bio

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ChrisB093
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ChrisB093,
User Rank: Strategist
4/24/2014 | 9:47:52 AM
Solutions to stop credentials-based-attack
Despite the widespread occurance and high profile too many corporations are not doing enough to mitigate the risk of security breaches from password based attacks.

Such an attacker is likely to log in with stolen credentials from an abnormal location at an unusual time. Restricting user's individual access to the network by physical location (workstation or device, IP range, department, floor, building...) and setting usage/connection time limits helps organizations avoid these credentials-based attacks.

In addition by preventing concurrent logins network vulnerability is significantly reduced. This limits users to only one possible connection at any one instant making it impossible for any rogue user to use valid credentials at the same time as their legitimate owner, wherever they are based.

Our solution UserLock ensures unauthorized access is no longer possible for Windows based infrastructures - even when credentials are compromised. It stops malicious users seamlessly using valid credentials. 

We blog further about internal security breaches from password based attacks here: http://www.isdecisions.com/blog/it-security/internal-security-breaches-from-password-based-attacks/
Kelly Jackson Higgins
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Kelly Jackson Higgins,
User Rank: Strategist
4/23/2014 | 6:00:25 PM
Re: Supplement Security With Access Analytics
Thanks so much for sharing your insight and experience with this @douglasmow. What seems to be such a basic thing to secure and track, a logon & password, always seems to rear its ugly head. The Verizon DBIR put an exclamation point on it, that's for sure. 
douglasmow
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douglasmow,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/23/2014 | 4:51:46 PM
Supplement Security With Access Analytics
@Kelly, Your story covering the 2014 Verizon DBIR highlights something we work to continuously convey to customers... what may look like a customer or partner or staff member, may not in fact be so. With the report citing 2 out of 3 data breaches are from stolen credentials, organizations with insight into who is accessing what information for what purpose will be able to better detect, deter and possibly even prevent a breach. The only way to gain this insight is by applying analytics to the big data of identity and access. By analyzing user access rights and the associated risk on a continuous basis, organizations can identify suspicious behavior patterns to expose external, as well as internal, threats of inappropriate access.

 

@Robert, agree fortifying perimeter defense is critical but security can be enhanced by knowing who should be accessing what once a user, legitimate or not, is inside.

 
Markus5
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Markus5,
User Rank: Apprentice
4/23/2014 | 6:09:44 AM
Re: The Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report bears a close look
Isn't it time for everyone to start using a password management system? I use Sticky Password, but there are many others out there.
Marilyn Cohodas
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Marilyn Cohodas,
User Rank: Strategist
4/22/2014 | 11:51:48 AM
Re: The Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report bears a close look
In case you missed the link to the full report in Kelly's news story, you can get all the details here
Kelly Jackson Higgins
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Kelly Jackson Higgins,
User Rank: Strategist
4/22/2014 | 10:31:04 AM
Re: Let's Talk About Response In Addition To Defense
Totally agree, @Drew Conry-Murray. I've been writing a series on IR's role in security (was on hold for  Heartbleed but another installment coming on Thursday :-) ), and the bottom line is that by necessity, IR is gradually becoming part and parcel of a good security strategy.
Drew Conry-Murray
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Drew Conry-Murray,
User Rank: Ninja
4/22/2014 | 10:27:37 AM
Let's Talk About Response In Addition To Defense
Attackers have the advantage: they only need to find one flaw to get a beachhead, while the defenders have to be perfect all the time. It seems like the security industry is starting to put more emphasis on how organizations respond to an incident, instead of going for the impossible standard of perfect security. It's important to have a robust defense, but just like companies have DR/BC plans, they also need to have breach response plans in place.
RyanSepe
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RyanSepe,
User Rank: Ninja
4/22/2014 | 10:00:13 AM
Re: Phish vs. Use of Credentials
@Robert. I agree with your multifactor authentication. Also, now that biometrics is increasing in popularity, what are the breach trends in accordance with this type multi-factor setup. (Biometrics & Hardcode passwords) My organization doesn't use biometrics and I am unsure how many organizations do but I am curious to see what difficulties they are facing in this space.
Kelly Jackson Higgins
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Kelly Jackson Higgins,
User Rank: Strategist
4/22/2014 | 8:22:24 AM
Re: The Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report bears a close look
Absolutely, Tim. There is a lot to the report, as always. Even more so this year with the broader and more global input. This year's report is a truly global and comprehensive look at what's really happening in data breaches as well as other security incidents. As always, we'll be drawing from its findings all year long. 

 
DarkReadingTim
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DarkReadingTim,
User Rank: Strategist
4/22/2014 | 8:10:41 AM
The Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report bears a close look
Great story from Kelly Jackson Higgins, but if you can make the time, it's worth reading the entire Verizon DBIR from beginning to end. The DBIR is one of the most interesting security studies released each year because it is not a survey -- it's data collected from actual breaches that Verizon and partners have investigated in the past year.

Surveys are great, but in security sometimes respondents don't give all the details of their posture, or simply don't know what they don't know. The DBIR shows the actual reasons behind major security breaches, how they occurred, and what their impact was. It's a great benchmark for the industry, and sometimes brings our flaws or faulty practices that enterprises have overlooked.
Page 1 / 2   >   >>
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