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Government under fire from cyber-attacks

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Cyber-attacks on the government sector doubled in 2016, hiking to 14% from 7% of all cyber security attacks in 2015. Attacks on the finance sector also rose dramatically from just 3% in 2015 to 14% of all attacks in 2016. 

The manufacturing sector came in at third place at 13%, while the retail sector, which topped the list of all cybersecurity attacks on all sectors in 2015 moved down into fourth place (11%).

This is according to Dimension Data’s Executive’s Guide to the NTT Security 2017 Global Threat Intelligence Report, which was compiled from data collected by NTT Security and other NTT operating companies including Dimension Data, from the networks of 10 000 clients across five continents, 3,5-trillion security logs, 6,2-billion attempted attacks, and global honeypots and sandboxes located in over 100 different countries.

The report pinpoints a number of global geo-political events which could have contributed to the government sector being a cybersecurity attack target. These include:

* The US presidential election campaign

* A new US administration with a more aggressive stance toward China and North Korea

* China adopting a more aggressive policy stance in securing its vital ‘core interests’

* US and European Union-led economic sanctions against Russia

* Russian state-sponsored actors continuing cyber operations against Western targets

* Growing negative sentiment in the Middle East against the West’s aggression towards Syria

Matthew Gyde, Dimension Data’s group executive: security, says: “Governments all over the world are constantly under the threat of sophisticated attacks launched by rival nation-states, terrorist groups, hacktivists, and cyber criminals.  That’s because government agencies hold vast amounts of sensitive information – from personnel records, budgetary data, and sensitive communications, to intelligence findings.

“What’s interesting is that this year we saw numerous incidents involving insider threats.”

Commenting on the financial services industry, Gyde says the ongoing attacks in the financial services industry is no surprise.

“These organisations have large amounts of digital assets and sensitive customer data. Gaining access to them enables cybercriminals to monetise personally identifiable information and credit card data in the underground economy.”

Other highlights in the report are:

* 63% of all cyberattacks originated from IP addresses in the US, followed by the UK (4%), and China (3%). The US is the predominant location of cloud-hosted infrastructure globally. Threat actors often utilise public cloud to orchestrate attacks due to the low cost and stability of this infrastructure.

* The Internet of Things (IoT) and operating technology (OT) devices must be considered as both a potential source and target of attack. Of the IoT attacks detected in 2016, some 66% were attempting to discover specific devices such as a particular model of video camera,
3% were seeking a web server or other type of server, while 2% were attempting to attack a database.

* The top cybersecurity threats facing digital businesses are phishing, social engineering, and ransomware; business email compromise; IoT and distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks; and attacks targeting end-users.