Cyber-espionage Tops Security Threats to Businesses

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Cyber-espionage is the top threat facing businesses, ahead of targeted attacks and phishing attempts, according to new research.

Trend Micro’s research covered nearly 2500 organizations across Europe and the UK and found that 64% of businesses had experienced a ‘known’ major cyber-attack in the past 12 months. On average, businesses were hit by four cyber-attacks during that time.

Ransomware proved to be the most common type of incident, with 78% of respondents reporting an attack. Phishing (31%), business email compromise (17%) and cyber-espionage (15%) were other common attacks

Looking ahead, Trend Micro found that cyber-espionage is the most pressing concern for businesses. That’s likely to be because of the increased coverage of cyber-espionage in the press. In particular, reports of Russian involvement in hacking the US Democratic National Committee (DNC) in order to influence the US presidential election in favor of Donald Trump, as well as concerns over potential Russian involvement in elections in the UK, France and other European nations.

“Could this be a reaction to the wall-to-wall media coverage of alleged state-sponsored interference in the US and upcoming European elections? It’s certainly a growing threat, both in terms of nation state spying and financially motivated cybercrime,” said Raimund Genes, chief technology officer, Trend Micro.

Cyber-espionage was the top concern for 20% of respondents, followed by targeted attacks (17%) and phishing (16%). Ransomware drops to just 10%, which is surprising given its impact over the last 12 months; Trend Micro says ransomware saw a 748% increase in 2016, leading to losses of over $1bn worldwide.  

Another surprise is in the number that think business email compromise (BEC) will be a problem - just 12% flagged it as a potential problem over the next 12 months. That’s despite the FBI warning about the impact of BEC attacks, which have cost companies around $3bn over the last few years.

Trend Micro’s report suggests that many businesses are struggling to defend themselves against threats. Around one-third of respondents said the increasing unpredictability of cyber-criminals is their biggest cybersecurity challenge, along with a lack of understanding of latest threats (29%) and the struggle to keep up with the rapidly evolving landscape and increasing sophistication of cyber-criminal activity (26%).

“There’s no silver bullet for cybersecurity; these threats are constantly evolving,” said Genes. “While many organizations will be wooed by exciting new security technologies, this Elastoplast approach means they will be quickly bypassed and become obsolete,” Genes added. “The increasingly unpredictable tactics used by well-funded cyber-criminals and the fast evolving threat landscape highlights the fundamental need for businesses to have a layered defense to greatly reduce the risk.”

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