No silver bullet as hacker attacks on UK and Irish businesses grow 300pc – FireEye

30 Apr 2014

Advanced persistent threats (APTs) against UK and Irish businesses have risen 300pc in the past year. That’s according to IT security player FireEye, which found an average of 70 new infections in enterprises by the day.

During the quarter, at least 12 major UK and Ireland business markets were impacted by APT attacks.

Drawing on worldwide data gathered from nearly 40,000 unique cyberattacks (more than 100 per day) and more than 22m malware command and control (CnC) communications, the FireEye Advanced Threat Report provides a look into cyberattacks that routinely bypass traditional defences, such as firewalls, next-generation firewalls, IPS, anti-virus, and security gateways.

Paul Davis, vice-president, Europe, at FireEye, said that with financial and telecommunications operations being key drivers of the UK and Ireland’s markets, advanced threat actors have many high-value targets to go after in both countries.

“Combine this with the proliferation of hi-tech across all industries and it becomes clear as to why we have seen such a drastic spike in attacks since the beginning of 2013.”

The major sectors that received the most attention from hackers in the UK and Ireland were government, energy and utilities, financial services and higher education.

Earlier this year, FireEye revealed plans to acquire endpoint security player Mandiant for around US$1bn.

A year ago, Mandiant revealed plans to create 100 new security jobs in Dublin with the establishment of an engineering and security operations centre in the Irish capital. Last May it emerged up to 150 new jobs will be created in Cork by FireEye, which is establishing its EMEA technical support centre in the city. The new EMEA technical support centre will be a strategic centre for FireEye and will have a central role in supporting international growth.

According to Tom Keating, managing director of engineering at FireEye in Dublin, the company has so far recruited 85 people in Cork and more than 20 in the company’s engineering and security operations centre (SOC) in Dublin.

Keating said firms are facing a myriad of threats despite investing heavily in firewalls, virus protection and network intrusion systems.

“We’re facing a situation where people are putting malware into corporate networks by using methods like spear-phishing to compromise the system.”

Evidence and intelligence gathering

Keating cited the situation last year whereby The New York Times was hacked when elaborate security systems were undone by one worker clicking on a link in a spear-phishing email.

Analysis revealed that in the case of the venerable New York Times the hackers weren’t motivated by money but rather were trying to find the sources to an article about China that had the hackers actually read would have realised that it was based on public information.

Keating explained that FireEye’s technology, instead of simply getting rid of the malware or virus, it detects, prevents, contains and resolves the attack plus it establishes the evidence trail needed to understand the nature of the threat and gather intelligence on it.

“There is no silver bullet for preventing cyberattacks. But we provide the products, people, and intelligence to deliver a continuous threat protection model.

“Every day we are managing exploits and compromises into systems. That’s how severe the situation has become,” Keating said.

Mandiant (FireEye) is a Silicon Republic Featured Employer, comprised of top tech companies that are hiring now

Silver bullet image via Shutterstock

John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years