Cyber attacks switch gear

The report also says advanced targeted attacks are spreading to organisations of all sizes and variety of personnel, data breaches are increasing and that attackers are focusing on mobile threats.

Symantec says it blocked more than 5.5 billion malicious attacks in 2011, an increase of 81 percent over the previous year. In addition, the number of unique malware variants increased to 403 million and the number of web attacks blocked per day increased by 36 percent.

At the same time, spam levels fell considerably and new vulnerabilities discovered decreased by 20 percent. 

“These statistics, compared to the continued growth in malware, paint an interesting picture,” says the company. “Attackers have embraced easy-to-use attack toolkits to efficiently leverage existing vulnerabilities. Moving beyond spam, cyber criminals are now turning to social networks to launch their attacks.”  

More than half of the assaults on corporations target organisations with fewer than 2500 employees, and almost 18 percent target companies with fewer than 250 employees.  

Symantec says these organisations may be targeted because they are in the supply chain or partner ecosystem of larger company and because they are less well-defended.  

“Furthermore, 58 percent of attacks target non-execs, employees in roles such as human resources, public relations and sales. Individuals in these jobs may not have direct access to information, but they can serve as direct link into the company. They are also easy for attackers to identify online and are used to getting proactive inquiries and attachments from unknown sources.” 

Last year was the first time that Symantec identified mobile malware as tangible threat to businesses and consumers. The threats are designed for activities including data collection, the sending of content and user tracking. 

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