Five out of every six large companies targeted by cyber attacks in 2014

There was a 40% increase in the number of large companies targeted by cyber attacks in 2014, according to Symantec

There was a 40% increase in the number of large companies targeted by cyber attacks in 2014, as criminals hijack infrastructures and attack from within, according to IT security firm Symantec.

The fact it took on average 59 days for software suppliers to roll out patches, compared with just four days in 2013, meant criminals could infiltrate networks.

These were some of the findings in the latest Symantec Internet security threat report, which said cyber attackers “are infiltrating networks and evading detection by hijacking the infrastructure of major corporations and using it against them”.

Symantec security response director Kevin Haley said attackers aren't having to break in to a company's network as access is readily available. 

“We’re seeing attackers trick companies into infecting themselves by Trojanising software updates to common programs and patiently waiting for their targets to download them – giving attackers unfettered access to the corporate network,” he said.

According to the report, there was an 8% increase in the number of highly targeted spear-phishing attacks in 2014 compared with 2013. It said these attacks used 20% fewer emails to successfully reach their targets.

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Symantec also revealed that attackers were using stolen email accounts from one corporate victim to spear-phish other victims. They have also taken advantage of companies’ management tools and procedures to move stolen IP around the corporate network before exfiltration, and have built custom attack software inside the network of their victims to further disguise their activities.

The report said hackers experiment with new attack methods across mobile devices and social networks to reach more people, with less effort.

“Cyber criminals are inherently lazy; they prefer automated tools and the help of unwitting consumers to do their dirty work,”  said Haley. “Last year [2014], 70% of social media scams were shared manually, as attackers took advantage of people’s willingness to trust content shared by their friends.”

Meanwhile, the amount of ransomware increased by 113% in 2014. Symantec said there were 45 times more victims of crypto-ransomware attacks compared with 2013. 

"Instead of pretending to be law enforcement seeking a fine for stolen content, as we’ve seen with traditional ransomware, the more vicious crypto-ransomware attack style holds a victim’s files, photos and other digital content hostage without masking the attacker’s intention,” said Haley.

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