Businesses Increasingly Under Attack From Cyber-Security Threats

SonicWALL, Inc., provider of intelligent network security and data protection solutions, recently issued its mid-year cyber-threat intelligence bulletin. The bulletin reveals that businesses are increasingly under attack by cyber-criminals who seek to exploit employees connecting to corporate networks via mobile devices and their rising use of social media. Growth in Android-based malware and social media scams such as click-jacking on Facebook and malicious links sent over Twitter are creating new and heightened levels of business vulnerability from data intrusion, theft and loss. Productivity and profitability are also compromised due to network and application downtime. Data for the bulletin was sourced from the SonicWALL Global Response Intelligent Defense (GRID) Network, which gathers, analyzes and correlates billions of dynamic, real-time global cyber-threats. 

“Cyber-criminals are focusing their attention on penetrating corporate networks and data through mobile workflow and applications. Employees innocently surfing dating sites via a mobile device or PC, that are in fact fake sites, or clicking on offers on Facebook such as a free McDonald’s meal that are click-jacking scams, can have a catastrophic impact on data security, business continuity and profitability," said Boris Yanovsky, SonicWALL vice president of software engineering. Yanovsky added, “New levels of network and firewall security are needed to protect against these increasingly sophisticated and prolific threats. Advanced networking security technologies such as application intelligence and control, real-time data visualization, intrusion prevention and malware protection, all of which are available in SonicWALL’s Next-Generation Firewalls, deliver this protection.”

Key findings of the mid-year cyber-threat intelligence bulletin include:

• Mobile-based threats have risen significantly over the last six months. While these threats are not as widespread as computer-based threats, cybercriminals have found workarounds to attack mobile phones on any platform. Threats that infiltrate mobile devices via popular applications like Apple Safari and Adobe Reader can attack multiple operating systems. Also, the small screens of mobile devices typically truncate the view of long URLs, giving hackers an opportunity to lure unsuspecting users to a fake site masquerading as the site of a trusted institution.

• Android Market malware is a growing issue. With the growth of the Android Market, there has been an increase in rogue applications affecting thousands of users. Google is actively removing malicious applications that appear in the market and has also removed multiple malicious apps remotely from users’ mobile devices. However, some threats remain.

• Security threats resulting from the use of social media continue to rise. As social media has become part of the fabric of social and work-life, constant access to sites by employees from the corporate network is creating new levels of vulnerability. Click-jacking scams lead to surveys that generate income for the hackers and rogue apps compromise confidential information. Twitter messages can contain shortened malicious links that can even activate just by hovering over them. Email attacks on popular sites emulate the “look and feel” of these sites to produce very credible-looking scams.

• The U.S., Canada and Taiwan are the most heavily hit countries for worldwide threat-related traffic. In addition, the U.S., China, India and Korea lead in intrusion-related and multimedia threats. A snapshot of the top 10 most heavily hit countries may be viewed here.

• New and familiar viruses continue to infect computers and networks worldwide. Top malware threats in the first half of 2011 were fake anti-virus malware, including a new variant consisting of fake desktop utilities, SpyEye and Zeus trojan spams. “Poisoned” search results continue to deliver active malware, and every new variant is repackaged to evade anti-virus detection. Malicious code and spam often masquerade as Facebook status updates, or email and security updates from Microsoft, while BredoLab and Oficla trojan spams masquerade as tracking and invoice sites from shipping companies such as FedEx, UPS, DHL and USPS. For a list of the top intrusions, malware as well as important gateway and anti-virus signatures that protected against these threats for the first half of 2011, click here.

• Phishing fraud is more sophisticated and difficult to detect. Phishers have reduced errors and improved the quality and content of their emails, and they are now able to produce web sites that look entirely legitimate, with multiple redirections masking the deception. Blended threats that combine techniques such as data theft and malware installation are also more prevalent. SonicWALL continuously updates its list of institutions likely to be targets of spoofing attacks intended to harvest usernames, passwords and other sensitive customer information. An updated list of organizations that have been spoofed over the last six months is available here.

• Most dangerous threats over the last six months include advanced persistent threats that come in through clicked links, lie hidden for an indefinite period of time and become active at a predefined time. Also highly dangerous are institutional database breaches, which expose a wealth of data for criminal use by correlating data from more than one source, providing the basis for sophisticated attacks such as spear phishing (targeted phishing) and threats to SCADA-based systems.

• Most widespread threats. The most active category continues to be FakeAV, which uses the latest trends and news stories to target a large user base, serving OS-specific and location-specific malware. Spam continues to be widespread, with large flows of emails carrying virus-laden attachments; pitches for weight loss products, wristwatches, and pornographic services and products; “nuisance” spam that has no content other than three or four random characters; and image-only spam.

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