Month: June 2017

2017 Data Breaches 29% Higher Than 2016

2016 was a bad year for data breaches, but a new analysis by the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) shows 2017 data breaches figures are far worse. Year over year, data breaches have increased by 29.1%.

Last year saw record numbers of data breaches, with 1,093 incidents tracked by the ITRC; however, If breaches continue to occur at the rate seen over the past 6 months, this year is likely to be another record breaking year. 2017 is likely to see more than 1,500 breaches – a particularly worrying milestone to pass.

55.4% of 2017 data breaches have been reported by organizations in the business sector. Those 420 incidents have involved more than 7.5 million records, more than 64% of all records exposed so far in 2017. The healthcare industry has also experienced many data breaches, accounting for 22% of the total. So far this year, the protected health information of 2.5 million individuals has been exposed – 21.1% of all records exposed so far in 2017, resulting in HIPAA breaches.

Education may have only experienced 87 data breaches this year – 11.5% of the year to date total – but those breaches account for 9% of exposed records, helped in no small part by a single breach at Washington State University that involved at least 1 million records.

The government/military (43 breaches) is in fourth place, accounting for 1.8% of the total with the 200,000+ exposed records. Fifth place is taken by the financial services with 41 breaches, with more than 526,000 exposed records accounting for 5.4% of the year to date figures.

The ITRC has been tracking data breaches since 2005, with the 2017 data breaches bringing the overall total number of incidents up to 7,656. The total number of exposed records has now risen to 899,792,157.

In the case of healthcare data breaches, more incidents have been reported following the clarification of HIPAA Rules covering ransomware attacks. Last year there was some confusion as to whether ransomware attacks were reportable. The Department of Health and Human Services’ Office for Civil Rights confirmed late last year that most ransomware attacks are reportable under HIPAA Rules. Consequently, there has been an increase in reports of these events in recent months.

Companies in other industries are also reporting more data breaches due to changes in state legislation and public pressure. However, ITRC points out the big jump in 2017 data breaches can also be explained by an increase in insider incidents and cyberattacks.

The increase in data breaches in 2017 clearly highlights the importance of conducting a thorough, organization-wide risk analysis to identify all potential vulnerabilities that could potentially be exploited. A risk management plan should then be put in place to address any vulnerabilities that are identified.

While organizations should consider augmenting security to protect the network perimeter, the threat from within should not be ignored. Employees are typically a weak point in security defenses, although action can be taken to reduce risk. Training should be provided to improve security awareness, technological solutions implemented to reduce the risk from phishing and other malicious email-born attacks, while web-based attacks can be limited with a web filtering solution.

2017 may be shaping up to be a particularly bad year for data breaches, but with investment in people and cybersecurity defenses, it is not too late to prevent 2017 from being another record-breaking year.

Astrim Exploit Kit Now Delivering Mole Ransomware

The recent ransomware attack on University College London has been discovered to have occurred as a result of an end user visiting a website hosting the Astrim exploit kit. Exploit kits are used to probe for vulnerabilities and exploit flaws to download malware.

Most ransomware attacks occur via email. Phishing emails are sent in the millions with many of those emails reaching end users’ inboxes. Ransomware is downloaded when infected email attachments are opened or malicious links are clicked. Organizations can reduce the threat of ransomware attacks by implementing an advanced spam filtering solution to prevent those malicious emails from being delivered.

However, spam filtering would not have stopped the University College London ransomware attack – one of many ransomware attacks on universities in recent months.

In order for an exploit kit to work, traffic must be sent to malicious websites hosting the kit. While spam email can be used to direct end users to exploit kits, the gang behind this attack was not using spam email.

The gang behind the Astrim exploit kit – AdGholas – has been using malvertising to direct traffic to sites hosting the EK. Malvertising is the name for malicious adverts that have been loaded onto third party ad networks. Those adverts are displayed to web users on sites that sign up with those advertising networks. Many high traffic sites display third party adverts, including some of the most popular sites on the Internet. The risk of employees visiting a website with malicious adverts is therefore considerable.

Exploit kit attacks are far less common than in 2015 and 2016. There was a major decline in the use of exploit kits such as Magnitude, Nuclear and Neutrino last year. However, this year has seen an increase in use of the Rig exploit kit to download malware and the Astrim exploit kit is also attempting to fill the void. Trend Micro reports that the Astrim exploit kit has been updated on numerous occasions in 2017 and is very much active.

The risk of exploit kit attacks is ever present and recent ransomware and malware attacks have shown that defenses need to be augmented to block malicious file downloads.

An exploit kit can only download malware on vulnerable systems. If web browsers, plugins and software are patched promptly, even if employees visit malicious websites, ransomware and malware cannot be downloaded.

However, keeping on top of patching is a difficult task given how many updates are now being released. Along with proactive patching policies, organizations should consider implementing a web filtering solution. A web filter can be configured to block third party adverts as well as preventing employees from visiting sites known to contain exploit kits.

With exploit kit attacks rising once again, now is the time to start augmenting defenses against web-based attacks. In the case of University College London, a fast recovery was possible as data were recoverable from backups, but that may not always be the case. That has been clearly highlighted by a recent ransomware attack on the South Korean hosting firm Nayana. The firm had made backups, but they too were encrypted by ransomware. The firm ended up paying a ransom in excess of $1 million to recover its files.

Retail Industry Data Breaches Most Common with U.S. Companies Heavily Targeted

The healthcare industry has been heavily targeted by cybercriminals, but retail industry data breaches are now the most common according to a recent study by Trustwave. Retail industry data breaches account for 22% of all reported breaches, closely followed by the food and beverage industry on 20%.

In 2016, corporate and internal networks were the most commonly breached systems although there was a marked increase in POS system breaches, which are now the second most targeted systems accounting for 31% of all reported breaches. Last year, POS data breaches only accounted for 22% of the total. POS data breaches were most common in the United States. In 2015, E-commerce platforms were heavily targeted accounting for 38% of all breaches, although in 2016 the percentage fell to 26%.

Healthcare data is in high demand, although it is still credit card numbers that are most commonly stolen. 63% of data breaches involved card data, split between card track data (33% of incidents) – mostly from hospitality and retail industry data breaches – and card-not-present data (30% of incidents) which came from breaches of e-commerce platforms.

The United States was also the most targeted country, accounting for 49% of all breaches – more than double the percentage of Asia-Pacific in second place with 21% of reported breaches. Europe was in third place with 20%.

Zero-day exploits are in high demand, commanding an initial price of $95,000 on the black market, although there were only 9 zero-day vulnerabilities exploited in the wild in 2016 – 5 for Adobe Flash, 3 for Internet Explorer and one for Microsoft Silverlight.

The top two methods of compromise were remote access – 29.7% of attacks – and phishing and social engineering, which accounted for 18.8% of attacks.

Exploit kit activity has fallen since the fall of the Angler, Magnitude and Nuclear exploit kits, although others such as Rig are increasing in popularity. Exploit kits activity could increase further due to the low cost of conducting malvertising campaigns – malicious adverts on third party ad networks that direct individuals to sites hosting exploit kits. Trustwave reports it now costs cybercriminals $5 to target 1,000 vulnerable computers with malicious adverts. Trustwave warns that while exploit kit activity has fallen, it would be wrong to assume it is gone for good. If it is profitable to use exploit kits, more will be developed.

Spam email is still the primary attack vector. In 2016, there was an increase in spam email messages rising from 54% of message volume in 2015 to 60% of total email volume in 2016. 35% of those messages contained malicious attachments, which Trustwave reports is up from 3% in 2015.

The most common malware variants discovered in 2016 data breach investigations attacked POS systems and were PoSeidon (18%) and Alina (13.5%) with Carbanak/Anunak in third place on 10%.

A recent Ponemon Institute study suggest data breaches take more than six months to detect, while Trustwave’s figures suggest the median number of days between intrusion and detection for external incidents was 65 days in 2016, although some companies took up to 2,000 days to discover a breach. Detection rates have improved from 2015, when it took an average of 80.5 days to detect a breach.

Study Reveals the Cost of a Data Breach

For the first time in the past seven years, the cost of a data breach has fallen, with a 10% reduction in per capita data breach costs across all industry sectors. The global study revealed the average cost of a data breach is now $141 per exposed or stolen record. The global average cost of a data breach is down to $3.62 million from $4 million last year.

The IBM Security sponsored study was conducted by the Ponemon Institute, which has been tracking the costs of data breaches for the past seven years. In every other year data breach costs have risen year over year.

The Ponemon Institute say the reduction can partly be explained by a strong dollar. In the United States, the cost of a data breach has risen from $221 to $225 per record with the total breach cost increasing to $7.35 million from $7.02 million last year.

For the study, the Ponemon Institute assessed the breach resolution costs after organizations experienced a breach and had notified affected individuals. Large data breaches – those in which more than 100,000 records were exposed or stolen – were not included in the study as they were deemed atypical. Instead, only breaches of between 5,000 and 100,000 records were included. The average size of the breaches were 28,512 records. A breach was defined as the loss or theft of a record that included an individual’s name along with either their Social Security number, financial information or medical record.

For the seventh consecutive year, the healthcare industry had the highest data breach costs. The per capita cost of a healthcare data breach was $380. The financial services, another highly regulated industry, had the second highest breach costs ($336 per record). Services sector data breaches cost $274 per record, life sciences breaches were $264 per record and the Industrial sector had a per capita breach cost of $259.

The lowest breach costs were retail ($177), hospitality ($144), entertainment ($131), research ($123) and the public sector ($110).  The biggest cause of data breaches were malicious and criminal attacks, which also carried the highest resolution costs. System glitches and human error each accounted for 24% of data breaches.

An analysis of breach costs revealed there are a number of ways to reduce the cost of a data breach. Having a breach response plan in place saw companies reduce breach costs by $19 per record, while the use of encryption reduced breach costs by an average of $17 per record. Employee education helped reduce breach costs by an average of $12.50 per record.

A fast response to a data breach can also dramatically reduce the total breach cost. Organizations that were able to contain a breach within 30 days saw breach costs reduced by $1 million. On average, it takes companies more than six months to discover a breach and containing the breach takes an average of 66 days.

Fear of WannaCry Being Exploited to Push Fake Antivirus Apps

Following the massive WannaCry ransomware attacks there has been heightened interest in cybersecurity products. Marketers have capitalized on the fear of an imminent attack to increase downloads of fake antivirus apps.

The apps are sold to worried users promising to protect them from WannaCry and other ransomware threats. In some cases, a free scan is offered that reveals the user’s device is already infected with any number of malicious programs. Installing the app will allow users to rid their device of the malicious software.

In many cases, the fake antivirus apps misreport infections to scare users into buying and installing an unnecessary app. Some of those apps will offer no protection whatsoever, but others are more sinister. Many of the new fake antivirus apps that are sneaking their way into the Google Play store are far from benign. PUPs, Trojans and adware are packaged with the apps. Users download the fake antivirus apps to protect themselves against malware, when the reality is downloading the app results in infection.

A study of antivirus apps has recently been conducted by RiskIQ. The firm discovered almost 6,300 antivirus apps that were either an antivirus solution, reviews of antivirus software or were otherwise associated with an antivirus program. More than 700 of those apps triggered blacklist detections on VirusTotal, with many of the apps coming packaged with malware.

131 of the 655 antivirus apps on the Google Play Store triggered blacklist detections. Many of the apps are no longer active, although 55 out of 508 active AV apps on the Google Play Store were blacklisted. In total, 20% of blacklisted antivirus apps were in the Google Play store with 10.8% still active.

RiskIQ reports that some of the blacklisted apps are false positives and not all of those apps are bundled with malware. However, many of the apps were rated as malicious by multiple AV vendors and were not all they claimed to be.

While it is important to have antivirus software on mobile devices, users should exercise caution when downloading any app. Just because an app claims to protect you and your device, it does not mean that it will do as it says. Downloading the app could even result in infection.

Users can reduce the risk of downloading a fake antivirus app by only using official app stores such as Google Play, but additional checks should be performed. An app should not be installed if the developer is using a free email address such as Gmail or Outlook. RiskIQ recommends checking the descriptions of the apps, specifically looking for spelling mistakes or grammatical errors. The app should ideally be checked against VirusTotal to see if it raises any red flags and users should carefully check the permissions requested.