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Telecommunications Industry in the Bullseye

New report cites higher volume and increased sophistication of threats to the sector.

The telecommunications sector has been experiencing a heightened number of attacks from threat actors - both in frequency and the level of sophistication.

According to a new report by security vendor Lastline, 1 in 370 files submitted to the company from the telecom sector were malicious, compared with one in every 500 across all industries. 

Andy Norton, director of threat intelligence for Lastline, says 1 in 10 of those 370 files consisted of all four of the main characteristics of a malicious file, as opposed to one in 12 across all industries. Those four main qualities of advanced malware, according to Norton, include bypassing static analysis using packers; evading dynamic analysis; remaining on a host undetected by masquerading as or injecting trusted system files; and stealing credentials to move laterally inside the victim organization.

In a post on the report, Norton says the reason for the variance between the telecom sector and the global sampling may be that telecom experiences a higher malicious encounter rate than other verticals, or it could also be the higher levels of security in the telecom sector that more effectively pre-filter files before submitting them to Lastline. 

"And while this may appear in relative terms like a very small deviation, when one considers the total volume of email attachments received and Web pages visited in any given day by the telecoms, the volume of malicious samples escaping detection can become quite large," he wrote.

But Josh Zelonis, an analyst with Forrester Research, maintains that the telecom data doesn't necessarily indicate it's a bigger target. "Without understanding the [study's] submission process for the organizations, it's impossible to come to a strong conclusion about what the numbers mean," says Zelonis. "It could be that compared to other industries, the telecoms are better filtering out files they know for sure are not malware before submitting to Lastline." 

Lastline's Norton agrees with Zelonis' take that the telco sector is probably better at filtering out files that they know are malware.

However, Norton says, "the gray area in between the good and bad files submitted leads to a higher saturation rate in telco. It does say as much about the sophistication of telecom as it does about the sophistication of the attack. A more sophisticated defense necessitates a more sophisticated attack."

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Steve Zurier has more than 30 years of journalism and publishing experience, most of the last 24 of which were spent covering networking and security technology. Steve is based in Columbia, Md. View Full Bio

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