IBM: Retail Attacks Down, But When They Hit Cyberattackers Get More

In 2014 unauthorized access via Secure Shell Brute Force was most trendy attack; Shellshock as well as POS malware such as BlackPOS, Dexter, vSkimmer, Alina and Citadel were also prevalent.

IBM says there’s good and bad news when it comes to retail cyber attacks: While overall network assaults are down – by 50%, when they hit, cyber-attackers get a ton of data.

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According IBM, cyber attackers are becoming increasingly more sophisticated, using new techniques to obtain massive amounts of confidential records with increased efficiency. For example, since 2012 the number of breaches reported by retailers dropped by 50%, but in 2014 cyber attackers still managed to steal more than 61 million records, according to Big Blue’s 2014 Retail Research and Intelligence Report and the Holiday Trends: Black Friday/Cyber Monday Research and Intelligence Report.

Delving into that 61 million number, IBM noted it too is down from almost 73 million in 2013. “However, when the data was narrowed down to only incidents involving less than 10 million records (which excludes the top two attacks over this timeframe, Target Corporation and The Home Depot), the data shows a different story--the number of retail records compromised in 2014 increased by more than 43% over 2013.”

Despite this “cyber threat slow down,” the retail and wholesale industries emerged as the top industry target for attackers in 2014, a potential result of the wave of high profile incidents impacting name brand retailers. In the two years prior, manufacturing ranked first among the top five attacked industries while the retail and wholesale industry ranked last, IBM said.

This past year, the primary mode of attack was unauthorized access via Secure Shell Brute Force attacks, which surpassed malicious code, the top choice in 2012 and 2013.

Some other interesting points from the IBM survey:

  • While there has been a rise in the number of Point of Sale (POS) malware attacks, the vast majority of incidents targeting the retail sector involved Command Injection or SQL injection. The complexity of SQL deployments and the lack of data validation performed by security administrators made retail databases a primary target. Over 2014, this Command Injection method was used in nearly 6,000 attacks against retailers. Additional methods include Shellshock as well as POS malware such as BlackPOS, Dexter, vSkimmer, Alina and Citadel
  • Contrary to what most would expect, the majority of cyber attackers scaled back their hacking efforts around Black Friday and Cyber Monday in 2014 rather than capitalize from the massive spike in retail spending. When looking at the two week period (Nov. 24 - Dec. 5) around these days, the data shows the following activity across all industries:

-The number of daily cyber attacks was 3,043, nearly one third less than the 4,200 average over this period in 2013.

-From 2013 and 2014, the number of breaches dropped by more than 50% for Black Friday and Cyber Monday.

-In 2013, there were more than 20 breaches disclosed including several large breaches that caused the number of records compromised to rise drastically, reaching close to 4 million.

-Over the same period in 2014, 10 breaches were disclosed which resulted in just over 72,000 records getting compromised.

This story, "IBM: Retail Attacks Down, But When They Hit Cyberattackers Get More" was originally published by Network World.

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