Many businesses that are transitioning to public cloud environments, microservices architectures, and 5G networks are creating new blind spots in the attack surface for criminals to leverage, according to a new report from Radware.
The security vendor recently surveyed more than 560 security professionals from small and large companies around the world on how they are preparing for and dealing with cyberattacks. Their responses showed that a substantial percentage of organizations are struggling to get a handle on cyber-risk because they lack visibility across their network environment.
Twenty-two percent of the respondents didn't know if their organizations had been attacked recently, 27% of organizations that were attacked had no idea what their attackers might have been after, and nearly half (46%) were unable to tell if they had experienced an SSL-based distributed denial-of-service attack. Thirty percent did not monitor so-called east-west traffic, meaning they would be unable to detect lateral movement.
Unsurprisingly, many organizations are experiencing a very high volume of cyberattacks. Nearly one-third of those surveyed said their organizations experience attacks on either a daily or a weekly basis. "The main takeaway is that as organizations make strategic transformations — in technology, environments, and processes — they inevitably create a lot of cracks and blind spots," says Ben Zilberman, head of product marketing for application security at Radware.
Until even relatively recently, the adoption of microservices architectures, the public cloud, and technologies such as 5G was somewhat limited across enterprises. But with more organizations adopting these technologies, new cracks have begun to emerge in their defenses. "While businesses are better prepared to cope with threats they know and understand, the dynamics of change [is creating] more ways for hackers to get in," Zilberman says.
Radware's survey showed that financial services companies are no longer the favorite targets of cyberattackers. A higher percentage of organizations in the education and retail sectors reported daily attacks — 45% and 39%, respectively — than financial services organizations (37%). Other heavily targeted sectors included government and healthcare, with 36% of organizations reporting daily attacks, followed by service providers (35%), professional services (34%), and manufacturing (32%).
Significantly, the percentage of cyberattacks that were attributed to nation-state-backed threat actors jumped 42% compared with 2018. Zilberman says that rather than an increase in nation-state attacks, the new data suggests that enterprise organizations are getting better at identifying and attributing attacks to state-backed groups. "It may have to do with the establishment of national agencies, like CERTs, that help organizations, particularly critical ones within critical infrastructures," he says.
For organizations targeted by nation-state actors, the danger is not just data theft and espionage. In many cases, government-backed threat groups are also infiltrating and injecting dormant tools into targeted networks to be activated if war or other hostilities break out between rival nations. The tools can be remotely controlled and used to trigger large-scale disruptions and shutdowns of critical government, military, and civil systems.
For the most part, though, a majority of cyberattacks in the US and elsewhere continue to be financially motivated. Seven in 10 of US organizations that reported being attacked in the survey said their attackers were looking for a ransom or some other form of financial gain. More than three in 10 organizations also described attacks against them as being motivated by political or "hacktivist" reasons or as being cyberwar or geopolitically related. Radware said it expects to see massive Internet of Things botnets being used to thwart election-related activity in 2020.
Organizational response to the changing threat landscape continues to be decidedly mixed. "Some neglect and deny and believe stacking up solutions will deliver on the promise," Zilberman notes. Others are simply keeping on doing what they have always done. "They continue to design and manage their information security using old methods that don't match the current requirements."
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