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2014 So Far: The Year of the Data Breach

Cyber threats, data breaches and high-risk vulnerabilities continued to dominate the first half of 2014—but Trend Micro’s second quarter security roundup report shows that the severity of these attacks have intensified, especially against financial and banking institutions as well as retail outlets.

As of July 15, 2014, more than 400 data breach incidents had been reported, with a total exposure of more than 10 million personal records. The attacks in the second quarter mainly affected consumer’s personal information, such as customer names, passwords, email addresses, home addresses, phone numbers and dates of birth.

“Breaches in particular are moving from being exceptional events to nearly commonplace,” Trend Micro researcher Christopher Budd said in a blog. “EBay, P.F.Chang’s, Evernote, Code Spaces and Feedly account for the highest profile data breach events this quarter, but not all of them. This quarter is showing that data breach events can affect anyone that stores data. There is no such thing as a safe industry or website now.”

Meanwhile, the report found that critical vulnerabilities created havoc among information security professionals and the public: High-risk vulnerabilities affected various components of Internet browsing and Web services, including server-side libraries, OSs, mobile apps and browsers. The infamous Heartbleed bug was the most high-profile of these.

“The threat environment around vulnerabilities entered new and unprecedented territory with the expiration of security support for Windows XP and the Heartbleed event. Heartbleed showed clearly how costly, devastating and disruptive a seemingly small coding error can be,” Budd said. “It also highlights the risks of vulnerabilities in widely shared infrastructure components. Arguably, Heartbleed is the broadest vulnerability yet found, affecting not just websites but mobile devices, desktop applications, mobile apps and embedded systems that power the emerging internet of everything (IoE).”

Speaking of mobile, while online banking malware isn’t a new threat, it continues to grow worldwide and to expand its reach by moving to include mobile platforms. And, cybercriminals are beginning to counter online banking and mobile platform developments: Deployment of mobile ransomware and two-factor authentication-breaking malware has emerged in response to technological developments in online banking and mobile platform security.

Operation Emmental in particular shows clearly how more sophisticated security schemes like two factor authentication through mobile devices are no match for determined and well-financed attackers,” Budd said.

But, it’s not just emerging issues that are of concern: Trend Micro blocked twice as many malicious files in 2Q 2014 compared with 2Q 2013.

“It would be a mistake to assume that more traditional threats are on the wane as these newer threats emerge and grow,” said Budd. “Familiar threats like spam, phishing and malware are only growing, not declining. A clear example of this is the fact that...WORM_DOWNAD, also known as Conficker, is still the No. 1 malware threat this quarter, a full five years after it burst on to the scene, shows that even old threats still have teeth.”

As the world continues to become more dangerous, quarter by quarter, “organizations must treat information security as a primary component of a long-term business strategy rather than handling security issues as tertiary, minor setbacks,” said Raimund Genes, CTO at Trend Micro, in a statement. “Similar to having a business strategy to improve efficiency, a well-thought-out security strategy should also improve current protection practices that achieve long-term benefits. The incidents observed during this quarter further establish the need for a more comprehensive approach to security.”

In the good news column, global law enforcement partnerships have lead to arrests: By sharing research findings with law enforcement agencies, financial loss prevention from cybercrime has proven effective.

 “The reported attacks in the second quarter reveal that the wide spectrum of cyber threats can have a disastrous impact globally,” said JD Sherry, vice president of technology and solutions at Trend Micro. “Implementing a strategic incident response plan by forging collaborations, both internally and externally, will provide agencies and industries the resources to respond and protect against current threats to information security.”

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