Vulnerabilities / Threats
9/21/2011
12:20 PM
50%
50%

Social Engineering Attacks Cost Companies

Half of businesses have experienced more than 25 successful social engineering attacks in the past two years, with some having to spend up to $100,000 per incident in cleanup costs.

Strategic Security Survey: Global Threat, LocalPain
Strategic Security Survey: Global Threat, Local Pain
(click image for larger view and for full slideshow)
In the past two years, 48% of large businesses have suffered from socially engineered attacks at least 25 times, resulting in losses of between $25,000 and $100,000 per incident.

Those findings come from a new survey of 850 IT and security professionals in North America, Europe, Australia, and New Zealand, conducted by Dimensional Research and sponsored by Check Point Software Technologies.

Social engineered attacks are a growing threat, according to 86% of survey respondents. By their estimates, attackers' primary motivation is stealing financial information, followed by extracting trade secrets, or revenge. Meanwhile, the primary tool used for social engineering attacks is the phishing email, followed by using social networking sites that disclose employees' personal details.

Many CIOs see socially engineered attacks--aka "hacking the human"--as one of the primary threats facing corporate networks. While emerging strains of malware can often be countered using sophisticated technology defenses, social engineering targets what's often the weakest link in the security equation: people.

[Learn 7 crucial tips for surviving a zero-day attack from a CIO who lived through one.]

Furthermore, by socially engineering the right employee, attackers can gain a toehold in the corporate network, then use it to exploit sensitive information. In the case of the breach of RSA, for example, attackers socially engineered using a relatively unsophisticated technique: they sent an email with the subject line "2011 Recruitment Plan" to two small groups of RSA employees. One of the employees retrieved the email from their junk mailbox and opened the spreadsheet, which was really a piece of malware designed to provide the attacker with a direct connection into RSA's network. From there, the attacker was able to harvest the user's credentials and ultimately access sensitive information relating to RSA's two-factor SecurID system.

According to the survey, one-third of businesses don't train employees to avoid social engineering attacks, although half of them said they plan to do so. "At the end of the day, people are a critical part of the security process as they can be misled by criminals and make mistakes that lead to malware infections or unintentional data loss," said Oded Gonda, vice president of security products at Check Point, in a statement. "Many organizations do not pay enough attention to the involvement of users, when, in fact, employees should be the first line of defense."

Interestingly, some types of employees see more socially engineered attacks than others. Respondents to the Check Point survey said that new employees seemed to be the most susceptible to social engineering attacks, followed by contractors, executive assistants, HR employees, senior managers, and IT personnel.

After experiencing a successful social engineering attack, businesses said they typically suffered business disruption and lost productivity, lost revenue, and needed to detail experienced IT personnel to undo damage or conduct a forensic analysis. As a result, roughly half of survey respondents said their related per-incident response costs totaled at least $25,000, while 30% of larger businesses said they'd seen per-incident costs of more than $100,000. In general, social engineering attack clean-up costs were greater for businesses in the financial services and manufacturing industries.

Attend Enterprise 2.0 Santa Clara, Nov. 14-17, 2011, and learn how to drive business value with collaboration, with an emphasis on how real customers are using social software to enable more productive workforces and to be more responsive and engaged with customers and business partners. Register today and save 30% off conference passes, or get a free expo pass with priority code CPHCES02. Find out more and register.

Comment  | 
Print  | 
More Insights
Comments
Newest First  |  Oldest First  |  Threaded View
JuneSanchez
50%
50%
JuneSanchez,
User Rank: Apprentice
10/8/2011 | 8:19:26 PM
re: Social Engineering Attacks Cost Companies
My company was hit by attackers all the time. We are in the process of having a social engineer pentest after listening to Ioactive's Matias Brutti and Mike Ridpath's social engineering talk it opened my eyes to the importance and now I'm reading every article I can find on the subject.
Register for Dark Reading Newsletters
Dark Reading Live EVENTS
INsecurity - For the Defenders of Enterprise Security
A Dark Reading Conference
While red team conferences focus primarily on new vulnerabilities and security researchers, INsecurity puts security execution, protection, and operations center stage. The primary speakers will be CISOs and leaders in security defense; the blue team will be the focus.
White Papers
Video
Cartoon Contest
Write a Caption, Win a Starbucks Card! Click Here
Latest Comment: No, no, no! Have a Unix CRON do the pop-up reminders!
Current Issue
Security Vulnerabilities: The Next Wave
Just when you thought it was safe, researchers have unveiled a new round of IT security flaws. Is your enterprise ready?
Flash Poll
[Strategic Security Report] How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Problem
[Strategic Security Report] How Enterprises Are Attacking the IT Security Problem
Enterprises are spending more of their IT budgets on cybersecurity technology. How do your organization's security plans and strategies compare to what others are doing? Here's an in-depth look.
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2017-0290
Published: 2017-05-09
NScript in mpengine in Microsoft Malware Protection Engine with Engine Version before 1.1.13704.0, as used in Windows Defender and other products, allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code or cause a denial of service (type confusion and application crash) via crafted JavaScript code within ...

CVE-2016-10369
Published: 2017-05-08
unixsocket.c in lxterminal through 0.3.0 insecurely uses /tmp for a socket file, allowing a local user to cause a denial of service (preventing terminal launch), or possibly have other impact (bypassing terminal access control).

CVE-2016-8202
Published: 2017-05-08
A privilege escalation vulnerability in Brocade Fibre Channel SAN products running Brocade Fabric OS (FOS) releases earlier than v7.4.1d and v8.0.1b could allow an authenticated attacker to elevate the privileges of user accounts accessing the system via command line interface. With affected version...

CVE-2016-8209
Published: 2017-05-08
Improper checks for unusual or exceptional conditions in Brocade NetIron 05.8.00 and later releases up to and including 06.1.00, when the Management Module is continuously scanned on port 22, may allow attackers to cause a denial of service (crash and reload) of the management module.

CVE-2017-0890
Published: 2017-05-08
Nextcloud Server before 11.0.3 is vulnerable to an inadequate escaping leading to a XSS vulnerability in the search module. To be exploitable a user has to write or paste malicious content into the search dialogue.