In a survey of nearly 4 000 IT managers across 27 countries, Kaspersky Lab has found that targeted attacks are on the rise year-over-year. The survey also identified the business sectors most likely to be targeted.

Additionally, the survey revealed that 12% of all businesses reporting a targeted attack in 2013, has risen from the 9% average reported in 2013 and 2012.

Globally, 18% of organisations in the Government & Defence sector reported at least one targeted attack within the past 12 months. The rate of targeted attacks reported within the Government & Defence sector was the highest reported in this year’s survey, a notable increase from the global average of 12% reported across all business sectors.

When looking at data across all business sectors, it’s also clear that targeted attacks are not just limited to the Government & Defence industry. Other business segments have felt the brunt of targeted attacks at a higher-than-average rate, including the Telecommunications industry where 17% of businesses reported targeted attacks, and the Financial Services and Transportation & Logistics sectors, both of which reported targeted attacks within the last 12 months at a rate of 16%.

Received in partnership with B2B International, these results have been published in Kaspersky Lab’s 2014 IT Security Risks summary, which outlines the types of internal and external security risks most often encountered by businesses across a variety of industries, along with the costs associated with an IT security incident, the types of data most lost as a result of these attacks, and more.

The increase in the prevalence of targeted attacks, both in volume and in types of businesses being targeted, comes at a time when high-profile targeted attacks are being uncovered at an alarming pace. In September 2013, Kaspersky Lab released its analysis of the Icefog targeted attack campaign, a multi-year campaign which focused on military, telecommunications, shipping and research organisations in South Korea and Japan.

In February 2014, Kaspersky Lab reported the discovery of The Mask cyber-espionage campaign, which included victims in 31 countries around the world, including governments and government-related agencies.

While the overall amount of data stolen from targeted attacks is lower than the losses that result from general malware attacks, it must be noted that general malware attacks themselves are much more common (an average of 61% of businesses reported malware attacks compared to an average of 12% reported targeted attacks).

However, the value of the data stolen from a targeted attack is much more likely to be highly valuable to the attackers, and the loss of this highly-sensitive data (future product plans, company financial statements, etc.) would cause more long-term damage to a company’s business outlook.

A “targeted attack” typically consists of several malicious components that operate in tandem to bypass an organisation’s security measures, infect machines, and steal sensitive data. These attacks can implement unique modifications to common malware, or exploit specific vulnerabilities in targeted organisations.

Kaspersky Lab’s industry-leading security research gives the company unique insight into targeted attack strategies, which has produced technologies found within Kaspersky Endpoint Security for Business that are designed specifically to thwart these tactics.