January 2014 started with a bang, with one in every 191 web requests resulting in a web malware encounter. The Cisco Computer Security Incident Response Team (CSIRT) observed this same trend, witnessing a 200% increase in web malware encounters experienced by Cisco employees for the month. Overall, January 1, 25, and 26 were the highest risk days for encountering web delivered malware. In the chart below, the lower the number, the higher the risk of encounters. Still, with a median encounter rate of 1:375 requests, every day of January 2014 represented significant risk for web browsing.
“There is no silver bullet.” That’s one of our favorite sayings at Cisco Security. We use it to convey the point that malware prevention is not 100%. As new attack vectors emerge and the threat landscape evolves, some malware will get through – regardless of which security vendor you choose.
In fact, our recently released 2014 Annual Security Report found that “100 percent of business networks analyzed by Cisco have traffic going to websites that host malware.” Basically, everyone will be compromised to one degree or another.
There are two factors at play. First, as modern networks have expanded and extend beyond the traditional perimeter to include endpoints, mobile devices, virtual desktops, data centers, and the cloud, new attack vectors have emerged. Attackers don’t discriminate and will take advantage of any gap in protection to accomplish their mission.
Second, attackers are focused on understanding security technologies, how they work, where they are deployed, and how to exploit their weaknesses. For example, they outsmart point-in-time defenses – like sandbox technologies that only scan files once – by creating targeted, context-aware malware that can modify its behavior to evade detection and infiltrate the extended network where it is difficult to locate, let alone eradicate.
So what can you do about it? Well, at Cisco we advocate for continuous protection across the entire attack continuum – before, during, and after an attack. We believe security strategies that focus solely on perimeter-based defenses and preventive techniques will only leave attackers free to act as they please, once inside your network.
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Malware is everywhere and it’s incredibly challenging to combat, using whatever unprotected path exists to reach its target and accomplish its mission.
Malware has become the weapon of choice for hackers. According to the 2013 Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report, of the top 20 types of threat actions last year, malware is the most common method used, followed by hacking and social engineering. Increasingly, blended threats that combine several methods – for example, phishing, malware and hacking – are being used to introduce malware, embed the malware in networks, remain undetected for long periods of time and steal data or disrupt critical systems. More specifically on blended threats, the report tells us that more than 95 percent of all attacks intended for conduct espionage employed phishing. What is more, a prominent recent retail breach began with a targeted email phishing attack that ultimately led to access to payment system data via malware uploaded to PoS systems.
In the next few years, there will be more mobile users and more mobile connections than ever:
- By 2018, there will be 4.9 billion mobile users, up from 4.1 billion in 2013, according to the newly released Cisco VNI forecast
- In addition, there will be 10 billion mobile-ready devices and connections, which includes 8 billion mobile devices and 2 billion machine-to-machine (M2M) connections
Are the networks that are in place today able to handle the influx and sophistication of devices and data, or is this wave of technology going to usher in a need for a different kind of network?
I don’t think I’m alone in saying that organizations need a flexible, programmable infrastructure that can expand and contract more readily to their needs, especially in terms of security. A security-centric, programmable infrastructure that detects and responds to emerging threat vectors is essential for organizations to thrive in our hyper-connected era.
However, many business and IT leaders are unsure of what that looks like. How can a programmable infrastructure examine security holistically and gain visibility across the entire cybercrime continuum—before, during, and after an attack?
Last week, following the release of the 2014 Cisco Annual Security Report, my colleague Levi Gundert and I took questions from you, our partners and customers, about the report and its most interesting findings.
This year’s report highlighted a number of new trends and found unprecedented growth of threat alerts, which reached the highest level we’ve seen in more than a decade of monitoring.
Although the report paints a grim picture of the current state of cybersecurity, we are optimistic that there is hope for restoring trust in people, institutions, and technologies. This must start with empowering defenders with real-world knowledge about expanding attack surfaces. To truly protect against all of these possible attacks, defenders must understand the attackers, their motivations and their methods – before, during, and after an attack.
Here is a link to view the recording of the broadcast. If you have any questions that didn’t get answered, please leave them in the comments, and Levi or I will get back to you.