Vulnerabilities / Threats
9/21/2011
12:20 PM
Connect Directly
RSS
E-Mail
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
Oldest First  |  Newest 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
Partner Perspectives
What's This?
In a digital world inundated with advanced security threats, Intel Security seeks to transform how we live and work to keep our information secure. Through hardware and software development, Intel Security delivers robust solutions that integrate security into every layer of every digital device. In combining the security expertise of McAfee with the innovation, performance, and trust of Intel, this vision becomes a reality.

As we rely on technology to enhance our everyday and business life, we must too consider the security of the intellectual property and confidential data that is housed on these devices. As we increase the number of devices we use, we increase the number of gateways and opportunity for security threats. Intel Security takes the “security connected” approach to ensure that every device is secure, and that all security solutions are seamlessly integrated.
Featured Writers
White Papers
Cartoon
Current Issue
Dark Reading's October Tech Digest
Fast data analysis can stymie attacks and strengthen enterprise security. Does your team have the data smarts?
Flash Poll
Video
Slideshows
Twitter Feed
Dark Reading - Bug Report
Bug Report
Enterprise Vulnerabilities
From DHS/US-CERT's National Vulnerability Database
CVE-2013-7407
Published: 2014-10-22
Cross-site request forgery (CSRF) vulnerability in the MRBS module for Drupal allows remote attackers to hijack the authentication of unspecified victims via unknown vectors.

CVE-2014-3675
Published: 2014-10-22
Shim allows remote attackers to cause a denial of service (out-of-bounds read) via a crafted DHCPv6 packet.

CVE-2014-3676
Published: 2014-10-22
Heap-based buffer overflow in Shim allows remote attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted IPv6 address, related to the "tftp:// DHCPv6 boot option."

CVE-2014-3677
Published: 2014-10-22
Unspecified vulnerability in Shim might allow attackers to execute arbitrary code via a crafted MOK list, which triggers memory corruption.

CVE-2014-3828
Published: 2014-10-22
Multiple SQL injection vulnerabilities in Centreon 2.5.1 and Centreon Enterprise Server 2.2 allow remote attackers to execute arbitrary SQL commands via (1) the index_id parameter to views/graphs/common/makeXML_ListMetrics.php, (2) the sid parameter to views/graphs/GetXmlTree.php, (3) the session_id...

Best of the Web
Dark Reading Radio
Archived Dark Reading Radio
Follow Dark Reading editors into the field as they talk with noted experts from the security world.