Critical Read

Simple exploits have a big impact in cyber crime

 

What: Symantec's annual Internet Security Threat Report for 2016

Why: Bad cyber actors, from criminals to state-sponsored groups, are leveraging existing operating systems, off-the-shelf tools and cloud services to get into Hillary Clinton's campaign and launch ransomware attacks, according to the cybersecurity company's annual ISTR.

Attackers are also not shy about using those tools to subvert and undermine government targets, it said.

Cyber criminals and state-sponsored groups are using existing OS, tools and the cloud to "live off the land," without having to develop, more costly new malware or unearth technical vulnerabilities to attack victims, according to Symantec.

In 2016, there were 15 separate data breaches that exposed more than 10 million identities each, and in all, more than 1.1 billion identities were compromised.

Email-borne malware was the favorite tool for a wide variety of cyberattacks in 2016, the study said. It was employed by state-sponsored cyber espionage groups to boiler-room gangs of ransomware pushers. It said one in every 131 emails sent were malicious, the highest rate in five years.

Email has proven to be a reliable, cheap and easily manipulated channel for attacks, Symantec said. Email doesn't have to ferret out technical vulnerabilities, but it targets what some IT officials have called the weakest link in the security chain -- users themselves. It said spear-phishing emails, such as spoofed emails instructing targets to reset their Gmail passwords, were used in the U.S. election attacks.

The attacks on U.S. state election systems, as well as the leaks of stolen data, Symantec said, shows those cybercriminals are also more willing to engage in overt campaigns to "destabilize and disrupt targeted organizations and countries."

Read the full report.

About the Author

Mark Rockwell is a senior staff writer at FCW, whose beat focuses on acquisition, the Department of Homeland Security and the Department of Energy.

Before joining FCW, Rockwell was Washington correspondent for Government Security News, where he covered all aspects of homeland security from IT to detection dogs and border security. Over the last 25 years in Washington as a reporter, editor and correspondent, he has covered an increasingly wide array of high-tech issues for publications like Communications Week, Internet Week, Fiber Optics News, tele.com magazine and Wireless Week.

Rockwell received a Jesse H. Neal Award for his work covering telecommunications issues, and is a graduate of James Madison University.

Click here for previous articles by Rockwell. Contact him at mrockwell@fcw.com or follow him on Twitter at @MRockwell4.


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