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Education emerges as prime target of cybercriminals

Education emerges as prime target of cybercriminals

“Adversaries are now focusing on new targets to catch less security-mature companies and countries,” says Mark Thomas, group CTO at Dimension Data.

With an open network model and collaborative environments that enable connectivity and research between students, campuses, colleges, and universities, this is a valuable target

Mark Thomas, Dimension Data

Cybercriminals are turning their attention to the supply chain as a new means to exploit business data, with the business and professional services sector receiving a significant increase of attacks, according to Dimension Data. 

The businesses and professional services sector received 10 per cent of global ransomware attacks, the third most targeted industry (up from sixth position in 2016), behind finance and technology, says Dimension Data in its NTT Security 2018 Global Threat Intelligence Report.

 As ransomware-related outsourced incident response engagements against financial institutions declined (a drop from 22 per cent in 2016 to 5 per cent in 2017), the business and professional services supply chain has clearly become a prime target for trade secrets and intellectual property theft, potentially exposing customer and business partner data. 

Attacks against the finance sector decreased from 46 per cent in 2016 to 26 per cent in 2017, but it remained the most attacked sector in the Asia Pacific region.

“There are numerous moving parts to supply chains and outsourcing companies, which often run on disparate and outdated network infrastructures, making them easy prey to cyberthreat actors,” Mark Thomas, group CTO at Dimension Data. 

He says service providers and outsourcers are also top targets, due to their trade secrets and intellectual property. 

“Businesses need to wise-up to the very real threats against them, and ensure all aspects of their operations are robustly and securely protected.” 

Technology was the second most cyber-attacked industry in 2017, with a 19 per cent attack volume, with business and professional services moving to third place. 

Interestingly, the report notes attacks on the government sector last year dropped to 5 per cent from 9 per cent in 2016. 

Attacks against the education sector doubled - from 9 per cent in 2016 to 18 per cent in 2017, according to the report. In New Zealand and Australia, education was the the most attacked sector.

“With an open network model and collaborative environments that enable connectivity and research between students, campuses, colleges, and universities, this is a valuable target,” says Thomas.

Assess the threat to the organisation: what would stop the business in its tracks?

“Similar activity seen in the Asia Pacific region was driven mostly by brute force, which suggests adversaries are using trivial methods to compromise accounts to access R&D and intellectual property - which is often incubated within education institutions first on behalf of government and commercial entities. The education sector is easier to compromise and steal intellectual property from than targeting mature sectors.”

Fighting off ransomware

The Dimension Data report says over the past year, there was a massive 350 per cent rise in ransomware, representing 7 per cent of all global malware attacks (up from 1 per cent in 2016).

But ransomware-related incident response engagements dropped from 22 per cent in 2016 to 5 per cent in 2017. This indicates that companies are improving their capabilities to deal with such threats internally, says Thomas.

 “Adversaries are now focusing on new targets to catch less security-mature companies and countries,” says Thomas.

These include casinos and gaming companies that are financially lucrative organisations but which may not have the security pedigree to match.

He says ransomware is still a serious threat for all sectors and shouldn’t be ignored. Future surges in ransomware attacks are very likely.

He lists the following steps organisations can take to build their defences against ransomware:

 

 

 

 

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Tags malwaredata securityeducationData managementbig dataSupply Chaindimension dataintellectual propertyransomwareuniversitiesMark Thomas

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