We're in the season of ghosts and ghouls, but there are things more frightening than those Halloween-related frights: cyberattacks. They're getting worse, and some industries get targeted more often than others.
Sometimes, a year has to substantially progress before a disturbing trend becomes apparent. But, that wasn't the case with cybercrime in 2018. A report from Positive Technologies found a 32 percent increase in cyberattacks in the first quarter of 2018.
This report found malware was one of the most widely used methods hackers depend on to affect their victims. The study continued by clarifying spyware was especially popular concerning the type of malware. It allows hackers to obtain information about user habits and corporate plans, as well as gaining login credentials.
Cybersecurity professionals know shifting trends mean the threat landscape is ever-changing. According to research from ISACA, a nonprofit organization involved in globally accepted information systems practices, 80 percent of respondents believe it is likely or very likely their organizations will experience attacks over the next year.
Moreover, the study found that although attacks are on the rise, the methods cybercriminals use have stayed relatively constant. The most popular methods of attack are phishing, malware and social engineering.
History can often show signs of trends. In the case of cybersecurity threats, evidence shows 2018 is not the only year when cyberattacks rose at an alarming rate. In 2017, the number of such incidents doubled, resulting in a known total of 160,000. However, analysts believe the actual number could be higher, especially since many such events go unreported.
The evolution of technology has simultaneously spurred hackers' efforts. As technology becomes more advanced and more industries depend on it, cybercriminals realize there are growing opportunities for snagging valuable information to sell on the black market. That's why it shouldn't surprise people that cyberattack rates are climbing — and not likely to decrease anytime soon.
Given that many hackers seek incredible amounts of financial gain and the notoriety that builds from headline news coverage, it makes sense the financial services sector is at a higher-than-average risk of cyberattacks. Experts warn of a recent uptick in such issues for U.S. banks. Statistics indicate the average financial services firm in the United States gets attacked a billion times per year.
Moreover, it costs financial companies several million dollars more, on average, to recover from such incidents compared to other kinds of establishments.
A new report warns cyberattacks could even be behind the next financial crisis. That's because there's been a shift — from hackers primarily looking for a monetary gain to investigating how to use cyberattacks as geopolitical weapons that cause infrastructure breakdowns.
It's not difficult to imagine how disabling it'd be for a nation if a cyberattack made it impossible to do banking activities or pay for things in stores. In August 2018, the FBI issued a warning about suspected plans hackers made to extract cash from ATMs.
Afterward, it became apparent that an Indian bank suffered such an incident involving ATM withdrawals and fraudulent transfers that cost the equivalent of $13.5 million.
The banking sector is particularly attractive to hackers because of the money associated with it, but there are other industries seen as being at an elevated risk, too.
A report from eSentire, a cybersecurity company, logged 4 million "potentially hostile events" in a relatively short span between April 1 and June 30, 2018, prompting the company to send out 57,000 notifications about the incidents.
The top industries most affected by the attacks the company recorded during that period were biotechnology, accounting services, real estate, marketing and construction, in that order. The construction industry's appearance on the list may startle some, but it proves no sector can assume it's safe from hackers' targets.
Research suggests the insurance industry could also be a target, mainly due to a lack of worry among firms. Nationwide's annual business owners survey found that compared to the 2017 findings, the percentage of respondents in the insurance sector who are unconcerned about cyberattacks rose 18 points to 40 percent this year.
The same study found the vast majority of firms polled use connected devices, but do not associate those gadgets with the potential for a higher attack risk.
Plus, a different investigation asked 4,100 respondents about cybersecurity matters and found seven out of 10 of the associated organizations were unprepared for attacks.
Collectively, these findings show that if cyberattacks haven't hit companies yet, they might consider themselves lucky. However, they should never assume they'll be exceptions to the norm.
The criminals who operate in the online realm love to stay ahead of their victims and devise incredibly complex and creative attacks. But, a vigilant attitude and willingness to take proactive measures could boost protection throughout the rest of 2018 and beyond.
Kayla Matthews writes about data centers and big data for several industry publications, including The Data Center Journal, Data Center Frontier and insideBIGDATA. To read more posts from Kayla, you can follower her personal tech blog at ProductivityBytes.com.