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7/1/2010
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More Than 80 Percent of U.S. Enterprises Hit By Advanced Attacks

Ponemon Institute survey shows 71 percent increase in attacks from unknown or stealthy attacks over the past 12 months

Advanced threats are growing and more companies are getting hit by attackers employing techniques that slip past most up-to-date security controls, a new study has found.

The Ponemon Institute's new "Growing Risks of Advanced Threats" report, commissioned by NetWitness, found that 83 percent of U.S. enterprises have been victimized by so-called advanced threats, attacks that use zero-day exploits, social engineering, or other sophisticated methods of getting past security measures. These include targeted attacks and advanced persistent threats, for example.

Among the more than 700 IT and IT security professionals in the survey, 44 percent say they think their organizations are frequently targeted by advanced attacks. And 71 percent say they've witnessed an increase in advanced threats over the past 12 months. "These are attacks that [get through organizations] that have patched all of their systems, have the latest AV and IDS … and despite all of their best efforts," they get hit with these more advanced attacks, says Eddie Schwartz, chief security officer at NetWitness.

Schwartz says he was surprised by the large number of enterprises reporting advanced threat attacks. "There's a critical level of concern with this issue," he says.

Even more disconcerting, he says, was how long it took organizations to realize they had been victimized by these attacks. Around 80 percent say it took a day or more to detect the threat, and 46 percent say it takes 30 days or more. Overall, nearly 60 percent say it takes anywhere from a week to 60 days to discover the presence of an advanced attack. "That's crazy," Schwartz says.

Some 45 percent say they accidentally discovered that they had been attacked.

Half of the respondents in the survey say attackers went after source code, non-financial and financial business information, and 48 percent say they're after customer and employees' personal information. Most don't have much faith in their security technologies: only 32 percent say their technologies are adequate for protecting them from these threats. And 90 percent say exploits or malware have bypassed their IDSes or they aren't sure, and the same for AV systems.

And advanced attacks aren't just a one-time deal. More than 40 percent say their organizations were are targeted frequently.

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Kelly Jackson Higgins is the Executive Editor of Dark Reading. 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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