Governments ‘most attacked sector’ – as proportion of cyber attacks double globally

Latest attack analysis from Dimension Data shows 14% of all cyber attacks were on the public sector – putting it at the top of the most attacked sectors list for the first time

Global cyber attack analysis puts governments in top spot alongside finance sector – Photo credit: Pixabay

The proportion of cyber attacks on governments across the world increased from 7% to 14% from 2015 to 2016, according to research from Dimension Data.

The analysis looks at data collected by NTT Group companies, which this year comprised 3.5 trillion security logs, 6.2 billion attempted attacks, and global honeypots – lures built to attract attackers – and sandbox testing environments, in more than 100 countries.

The most attacked sectors – each receiving 14% of all attacks – were the finance sector – which has been in the top spot before – and, for the first time, governments.

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The report said that it was “no surprise” that there was a continued focus on financial services, as “it’s well known that cybercriminals follow the money”, and that their databases of sensitive customer data made them an obvious target.

Similarly, it said that the sensitive information held by governments made it a target.

“Governments all over the world are constantly under the threat of sophisticated attacks launched by rival nation-states, terrorist groups, hacktivists, and cyber criminals,” said Matthew Gyde, Dimension Data’s group executive for security.

“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.”

The report added that geopolitical events in 2016, such as the US presidential campaign and economic sanctions against Russia, could have contributed to the increase in attacks on governments.

The government and financial sectors were joined in the top three most-attacked sectors by manufacturing (13%). This was followed by retail (11%) and then the education and business and professional services sectors (10% each).

However, when broken down by geographical region, the data shows a slightly different picture.

For instance, in Europe, Middle East and Africa, the most-targeted industries were finance (20%), manufacturing (17%) and retail (17%); while in the Americas it was manufacturing (23%), education (20%) and finance (15%).

The most common types of attacks globally were suspicious activity, such as privileged access attempts and exploitation software, which made up 30% of the attacks.

This was followed by web applications attacks (16%) and then service specific attacks (8%).

In the EMEA region, phishing was a “significant issue”, the report said, with source IP addresses in the EMEA accounting for 53% of the world’s phishing attacks – the Netherlands was the most prolific, with 38% of the total attacks coming from the country.

Meanwhile, the report said that Internet of Things devices “must be considered as both a potential source and target of attack”.

It found that 66% of the IoT attacks detected in 2016 were attempting to discover specific devices – such as a particular model of video camera – while 3% were seeking a web server or other type of server.

A UK government survey of cyber attacks in the country, which was carried out by researchers at Ipsos Mori and the University of Portsmouth and published last month, found that 51% of companies holding personal data had experienced a cyber attack last year.

The most common breaches in that study were fraudulent emails – for instance by encouraging staff to open dangerous attachments – followed by viruses, malware and ransomware.


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