36pc of global targeted attacks aimed at small businesses – report

11 Jul 2012

Thirty-six per cent of all targeted cyber attacks (58 per day) during the last six months were directed at businesses with 250 or fewer employees, the June 2012 Symantec Intelligence Report suggests.

During the first half of the year, the total number of daily targeted attacks continued to increase at a minimum rate of 24pc with an average of 151 targeted attacks being blocked each day during May and June.

Highlights of the June 2012 Symantec Intelligence Report. In June 2012:

·        The global ratio of spam in email traffic fell by 1.0 percentage point since May, to 66.8pc (one in 1.5 emails). This follows the continuing trend of global spam levels diminishing gradually since the latter part of 2011.

·        The global phishing rate increased by 0.04 percentage points, taking the global average rate to one in 467.6 emails (0.21pc) that comprised some form of phishing attack.

·        The global ratio of email-borne viruses in email traffic was one in 316.5 emails (0.31pc) in June, an increase of 0.04 percentage points since May.

·        Some 27.4pc of email-borne malware contained links to malicious websites, 1.2 percentage points lower than May.

Large enterprises consisting of more than 2,500 employees are still receiving the greatest number of attacks, with an average 69 being blocked each day.

“There appears to be a direct correlation between the rise in attacks against smaller businesses and a drop in attacks against larger ones. It almost seems attackers are diverting their resources directly from the one group to the other,” said Paul Wood, cyber security intelligence manager, Symantec. 

“It may be that your company is not the primary target, but an attacker may use your organisation as a stepping stone to attack another company. You do not want your business to be the weakest link in the supply chain. Information is power, and the attackers know this, and successful attacks can result in significant financial advantage for the cyber criminals behind them. Access to intellectual property and strategic intelligence can give them huge advantages in a competitive market,” Wood said.

The defence industry has been the targeted industry of choice in the first half of the year, with an average of 7.3 attacks per day, followed by the chemical/pharmaceutical sector with one in five targeted attacks, and the manufacturing sector, accounting for almost 10pc of all targeted attacks.

“It is important to remember that although on the increase, targeted attacks are still very rare. Targeted attacks use customised malware and refined targeted social engineering to gain unauthorised access to sensitive information. We regard this as the next evolution of social engineering, where victims are researched in advance and specifically targeted,” Wood added.

Tina Costanza was a journalist and sub-editor at Silicon Republic