Verizon: Cyber-war fears are overblown

"Many security experts are using anecdote and opinion for their predictions, whereas Verizon's researchers are applying empirical evidence to help enterprises focus on what will be truly important in the coming year – and also what isn't," said Wade Baker, principal author of the DBIR in a new breakdown of its research oriented toward 2013.

He added, "First and foremost, we don't believe there will be an all-out cyber war, although it's possible," he said. "Rather, an enterprise's 2013 data breach is much more likely to result from low-and-slow attacks."

Based on eight years of evidence, Verizon said that the biggest thing to worry about in 2013, with a 90% chance of probability, are attacks and failures related to authentication, including vulnerable or stolen usernames and passwords, which often represent the initial events in a breach scenario.

"Nine out of 10 intrusions involved compromised identities or authentication systems, so enterprises need to make sure they have a sound process for creating, managing and monitoring user accounts and credentials for all of their systems, devices and networks," Baker said.

After that, web application exploits are, going forward, most likely to affect larger organizations and especially governments, rather than small to medium-sized businesses. The chances of such attacks occurring are three out of four. "Given these odds, organizations that choose to take their chances and ignore secure application development and assessment practices in 2013 are asking for trouble," said Baker.

Social engineering attacks, which target people rather than machines and rely on clever and sometimes clumsy deceptions to be successful, will be growing over the course of the next year. "The use of social tactics like phishing increases by a factor of three for larger enterprises and governments," said Baker. "It's impossible to eliminate all human error or weaknesses from an organization, but vigilance and education across the employee population help to control and contain such schemes."

Baker also said that targeted attacks from adversaries motivated by espionage and hacktivism will continue to occur, so "it's critical to be watchful on this front."

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