Sophisticated attacks are now the rule, rather than the exception, across the Web, according to a study published earlier this week.
According to the Websense 2014 Threat Report, which was issued Thursday, most malicious exploits now are advanced and targeted. "Of the more than 4.1 billion live attacks that Websense technology prevented in 2013, nearly all exhibited techniques to bypass traditional defenses, compromise systems, and persist throughout infected networks in pursuit of confidential data," the study says.
"Cybercriminals continue to evolve their attack planning and execution to stay ahead of most existing security measures," said Charles Renert, vice president of security research for Websense, in a press release. "While the determined, persistent attackers continue to have success in advanced, strategic attacks using zero-day exploits and advanced malware, there has also been a boom in cybercriminal activity on a massive scale. Even these more 'common' forms of attack are easily slipping past organizations without real-time defenses."
Eighty-five percent of malicious links used in Web or email attacks were located on compromised legitimate websites, rather than more easily recognizable malicious sites, Websense says. Thirty percent of malicious executable files sampled included custom encryption of command-and-control communication or data exfiltration.
Websense detected more than 67 million exploit kit events in 2014, the study says. The Magnitude and Neutrino Exploit Kits experienced the largest surge in adoption following the arrest of Blackhole's creator in 2013.
The Zeus malware, which was originally designed as a financial threat and keylogging Trojan, dramatically increased in use as it was repurposed for other vertical markets, Websense says. In the last year, the government and the communications industry joined financial firms among the top five verticals targeted with Zeus malware. The top two industries hit hardest with Zeus attacks were the services and manufacturing sectors, according to the study.