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Rudimentary Attacks Pose Greatest Risk to Midsized Organizations According to New Threat Report

Posted on 15th May 2017 at 13:08pm

eSentire SOC Analyzes Nearly 5 Million Attacks Across Hundreds of Midmarket Organizations in 2016

Rudimentary attacks, such as intrusion attempts, information gathering and policy violations pose the greatest risk to midsized organisations, according to a recent cyber threat report by eSentire, Inc., a pure-play managed detection and response (MDR) provider.

Produced by eSentire’s Threat Intelligence team, the 2016 Midmarket Threat Summary Report provides an overview of the cyber threats investigated by the eSentire Security Operations Center (SOC) in 2016. The report addresses three key areas: Threat types, threat volume, and attack types. The analytical assessment includes visual data analysis, written analytical evaluations, practical recommendations, and key analytical assumptions, providing threat perspective for business leaders in small and midsize enterprises, and actionable takeaways to help leaders strategically reduce the risk of cyberattacks.

“In 2016, the eSentire SOC detected almost five million attacks across hundreds of primarily small to medium organisations, spanning multiple industries,” said Viktors Engelbrehts, director of threat intelligence at eSentire. “Cybercriminals are attracted to easy targets because they are low risk, high reward, and require little effort to execute. However, available evidence suggests that the majority of opportunistic cyber-attacks against mid-sized businesses can be prevented by applying basic best practice security principles.”

Key findings include: 

  • March to April and September to October were the most intense periods of threat events throughout the year, with March being the most active month, and June to July being the least active;
  • The most often observed threat categories were intrusion attempts, information gathering, and policy violations, representing 63 per cent of all observed attacks.
  • Intrusion attempts (primarily web attacks) were the top-ranking threat category, representing almost 30 per cent of all observed events;
  • The top attack methods in the Intrusion attempts category involve exploiting a shellshock vulnerability (CVE-2014-6271), representing approximately 60 per cent of all intrusion attempts;
  • OpenVAS remains the most prominent tool used for information gathering purposes, with 62 per cent of all events attributed to this category. Attacks against the secure shell (SSH) protocol remain the second highest threat in this category, with 21 per cent of all events attributed to attempts to guess or brute force passwords; and
  • Web-based attacks and network scanning continue to increase as widely adapted automated tools allow a hands-off approach by threat actors. 

Rudimentary attacks pose the greatest risk – cybercriminals are moving away from sophisticated malicious code attacks, with the majority of attackers preferring inexpensive and automated methods of intrusions, exploiting ‘low hanging fruit’ (representing almost 30 PER CENT of all observed events). This trend is expected to continue so long as these techniques are successful.

Every organiSation is a target – with easier access than ever before to simple and automated tools, cybercriminals can quickly and easily stage attacks against every business. Attacks such as ransomware can reap financial gains without the painstaking effort required to identify and extract high value information from an organisation’s network.

The report also finds that detecting and disrupting the common methods and tools used will make attacks less effective, directly affecting cybercriminal rationale when choosing attack targets. This includes steps to minimise the attack surface and tailoring of security controls.

Organisations can use seasonal threat trends to align security efforts to their advantage, says eSentire. For example, security awareness training is most effective when applied between December to March, ahead of the busiest time for threat activity, which is March to April.

The eSentire threat Intelligence team used data gathered from more than 1,500 proprietary network and host-based detection sensors distributed globally across multiple industries. Raw data was normalised and aggregated using automated machine-based processing methods. Processed data was reviewed by a visual data analyst applying quantitative analysis methods and quantitative intelligence analysis results were further processed by a qualitative intelligence analyst, resulting in a written analytical product.

“Defending against evolving threats has never been more important for midsized organisations working to guard against financial and reputation-based risk. By addressing the recommendations listed in eSentire’s 2016 Midmarket Threat Summary Report , business leaders will be equipped to disrupt threat opportunities, as opposed to remediating financial damage caused by attacks,” said Mark McArdle, eSentire CTO.

Access eSentire’s complete threat summary report here: eSentire 2016 Midmarket Threat Summary

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