Each year, $10 billion is spent by the government in an attempt to keep privileged information private in the face of increased cyber attacks, but a recent report by the Associated Press found that at least half of the federal data breaches that occurred in the last four years were caused by government employees and contractors.
According to the AP, U.S. intelligence officials have said that cyber crime currently trumps terrorism as the biggest threat to the country’s security. However, an analysis of government records by the AP discovered that efforts to protect sensitive national data are falling short as federal employees continue to undermine defense efforts. The security incidents are almost always caused by accident, in response to workers visiting websites hosting malware, clicking on malicious links in phishing emails or being tricked into sharing private information through social engineering attacks.
Despite their origins, security events are occurring more frequently than ever and causing major problems. Between 2009 and 2012, the number of federal data breaches reported on .gov and .mil networks grew by almost 20,000 intrusions to a total of 46,605, according to the U.S. Computer Emergency Readiness Team. Last year US-CERT received reports of more than 228,000 cyber incidents.
Attacks becoming more frequent, sophisticated
The U.S. government will spend an estimated $65 billion on cyber security contracts over the next six years, but experts believe this is insufficient action to defend against a wide variety of hackers with a multitude of reasons for launching attacks. Any number of malicious actors – from nation-states to petty thieves – could leverage an attack against the U.S. using a variety of methods and the nation’s networks will have to be prepared for any of them. The Federal Bureau of Investigation recently sent out a five-page confidential news flash warning U.S. businesses that hackers have launched a malware campaign specifically designed to wipe its targets’ hard drives. While who exactly is behind the attack is still unclear, it’s obvious that there are now well-resourced cyber criminals launching destructive campaigns against U.S. targets more frequently than ever before.
As the years have progressed, the attack methods employed by cyber criminals have grown more sophisticated. Organizations are at the point now where they’re experiencing finely tuned attacks on a regular basis. According to a recent study by IT governance nonprofit ISACA, 92 percent of respondents felt that advanced persistent threats are a serious risk to the country and have the ability to impact economic stability and national security. In a recent blog post, cyber security expert Bruce Schneier wrote that organizations of all kinds need to be prepared to face increasingly sophisticated attacks like APTs, saying that they are the work of “a new sort of attacker, which requires a new threat model.”
Protecting against modern threats
In order to defend against a data breach, Trend Micro analyst Tom Kellermann noted in a recent blog post that organizations need to take steps toward protecting their sensitive information. Kellermann suggests that businesses enhance their existing defenses with the use of advanced protection in order to detect and block zero day threats. Updating security training exercises and staff best practices is an important step to educate staff member about the current threat landscape.
The increased use of employee-owned devices in the enterprise has also left networks vulnerable, opening up a multitude of new entry points for hackers to gain access into sensitive systems. To protect companies with blended computing environments, Trend Micro researchers suggested in a recent blog post that employing a data-focused security approach can help to detect malicious behavior and mitigate its results.