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2013 Threat Report: More than Scary Stats and Chilling Charts

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Wednesday, Feb 13, 2013

The 2013 Threat Report from the Websense® Security Labs (WSL) is now available. The report details mobile, social, email and web-based threats, and while it is full of ominous data points, it is a very interesting read. The report is designed to help security professionals keep current with threat trends and improve the effectiveness of existing security solutions. It can also be used to identify and prioritize security gaps that may require new approaches and more innovative strategies.

Creating the report began with the ThreatSeeker® Network, composed of big data clusters used by the WSL to collect and manage up to 5 billion inputs each day from 900 million global endpoints. Malware samples, mobile applications, email content, web links and other information were then passed through deep analysis processes including our Advanced Classification Engine (ACE), which applied over 10,000 different analytics.

Here is a sampling of key findings from this year's report:

  1. Web Security. The web became significantly more malicious in 2012, both as an attack vector and as the primary support element of attacks originating through social media, mobile devices, and email. Researchers measured an alarming 600 percent increase in the use of malicious web links through all vectors.
  2. The Social Web. Malicious content was hidden within social media behind shortened web links 32 percent of the time. Social media attacks took advantage of the confusion of new features, changing services and unsophisticated users.
  3. Mobile Security. A study of last year's malicious apps revealed how they often abuse permissions; especially in the use of SMS communications, something very few legitimate apps do. Risks also increased as mobile devices were used for social media and web surfing more often than actually making a phone call.
  4. Email Security. Only 1 in 5 emails sent were legitimate, as spam increased to 76 percent of email traffic, and 92% of spam included links to potentially malicious content. Phishing threats delivered via email also grew.
  5. Malware Behavior. Forensic analysis identified that registry modification behavior in malware has declined to 7.7%. Once a key indicator of malicious behavior, malware has now become increasingly Internet-connected. Half of all malware that used the Internet for communications and downloaded additional malicious executables to extend their attack capabilities in the first 60 seconds.
  6. Data Theft. Key changes in data theft targets and methods took place last year. Reports of intellectual property (IP) theft increased, and theft of credit card numbers and other Personally Identifiable Information (PII) continued to grow. Hacking, malware and other cyberthreats continued to be common methods of attack. However, some of the largest thefts involved physical penetration of security as well, often by willful employees.

Because today's attacks occur in multiple stages through numerous vectors, the report includes an appendix on The Seven Stages of Advanced Threats. This methodology for analyzing and classifying cyberattacks provides a useful framework for organizations to assess their current defenses against their security profile, identify weaknesses and develop a more comprehensive strategy for withstanding next-generation attacks. A summary of the Websense 2013 Security Predictions report is also included for planning purposes.

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About the Author

Carl Leonard

Principal Security Analyst

Carl Leonard is a Principal Security Analyst within Forcepoint X-Labs. He is responsible for enhancing threat protection and threat monitoring technologies at Forcepoint, in collaboration with the company’s global Labs teams. Focusing on protecting companies against the latest cyberattacks that...