Financial services lead when it comes to fixing open source flaws

The financial services industry has the best flaw fix rate across six industries and leads a majority of industries in uncovering flaws within open source components, Veracode reveals.

fixing open source flaws

Fixing open source flaws is critical because the attack surface of applications is much larger than developers expect when open source libraries are included indirectly.

The findings came as a result of an analysis of 130,000 applications from 2,500 companies.

Fixing open source flaws

The research found that financial services organizations have the smallest proportion of applications with flaws and the second-lowest prevalence of severe flaws behind the manufacturing sector.

It also has the highest fix rate among all industries, fixing 75% of flaws. Still, the research found that financial services firms require about six and a half months to resolve half of the flaws they find, indicating it is slower than other industries to remediate.

“Financial services firms have a median time to remediation of more than six months, despite having a high fix rate compared to other sectors,” said Chris Wysopal, CTO at Veracode.

“However, developers in the financial services industry are often limited by the nature of the environments they are working in, as applications tend to be older, have a medium flaw density, and aren’t consistently following DevSecOps practices compared to other industries.

“With some additional training and sticking to best practices, they can quickly remediate issues and start to reduce security debt.”

Financial services specific findings

The research found compelling evidence that certain developer behaviors associated with DevSecOps yield substantial benefits to software security. The findings detail that financial services firms:

  • Are a leading industry when it comes to fixing flaws in their open source software and establishing strong scan cadences.
  • Fall to middle-of-the-road for scanning frequency and integrating security testing, and are not likely to be using dynamic analysis (DAST) scanning technology to uncover vulnerabilities.
  • Outperform averages across all industries in dealing with issues related to cryptography, input validation, Cross-Site Scripting, and credentials management – all things related to protecting users of financial applications.

Hybrid environments driving positive business impact amid pandemic

Nutanix announced the findings of its survey and research report, which measures enterprise progress with adopting private, hybrid and public clouds. This year, survey respondents were also asked about the impact of the COVID-19 pandemic on current and future IT decisions and strategy.

hybrid environments

Hybrid cloud is still the frontrunner as the ideal IT infrastructure model (86% of respondents think so), and respondents running hybrid environments are more likely to plan to focus on strategic efforts and driving positive business impact.

Shifting IT’s focus toward remote worker support

The pandemic has shifted IT’s focus toward remote worker support and enabling near-instant infrastructure deployments that reach geographically distributed workforces, spurring increased enterprise progress with cloud expansion.

Additionally, a greater number of respondents running hybrid environments said they were likely to offer more flexible work setups, strengthen their business continuity plans, simplify operations, and increase digital conferencing usage because of the pandemic.

76% of respondents reported the pandemic made them think more strategically about IT, and 46% said their investments in hybrid cloud have increased as a direct result of the pandemic, including public and private clouds.

Additionally, businesses also increasingly rely on multiple public clouds to meet their needs compared to previous years. The report showed that, among those who use public clouds, 63% of respondents use two or more public clouds, or multicloud, respondents are also expecting this number to jump to 71% in the next 12 months.

Enterprises taking key steps toward reaching their IT operating model of choice

Global respondents report taking the initial key steps to successfully run a hybrid environment, including adopting hyperconverged infrastructure in their datacenters and decommissioning non-cloud-enabled datacenters in favor of private and public cloud usage.

Global IT teams are also planning for substantial infrastructure changes; they foresee, on average, hybrid cloud deployments increasing by more than 37 percentage points over the next five years, with a corresponding 15-point drop in non-cloud-enabled datacenters.

Most notably of the many infrastructure categories, respondents reported running a mixed model of private cloud, public cloud, and traditional datacenter more often than any other (nearly 26%) which is likely a precursor to a hybrid cloud deployment.

Remote work is here to stay — and companies are planning for it

In last year’s survey, about 27% of respondent companies had no full-time at-home workers. That number fell 20 percentage points this year to only 7%, as a result of to COVID-19.

By 2022, respondents predict that an average of 13% of companies will have no full-time remote employees at that time, less than half as many as a year ago in 2019, before COVID struck. Improving IT infrastructure (50%) and work-from-home capabilities (47%) have therefore become priorities for the next 12 to 18 months.

Strategic business outcomes, not economics, drive change today

Respondents said their primary motives for modifying their IT infrastructures are to get greater control of their IT resources (58%), gain the flexibility to meet dynamic business requirements (55%), and improve support for customers and remote workers (46%). By contrast, just 27% mentioned cutting costs as a driver.

Educators face unique COVID-19-related challenges and needs

More education-industry respondents cited “ensuring that remote workers have adequate hardware” as a primary challenge than any other issue. 47% also cited providing “adequate communications channels among employees, customers, and clients” as a top challenge.

The education sector is taking the right steps toward transformation, ranking high in private cloud deployments, with 29% of respondents saying they were running private clouds only (substantially more than the 22% global average).

“In January, for many companies technology was considered a basic function of a business, enabling core organizational processes,” said Wendy M. Pfeiffer, CIO of Nutanix.

“Today, technology has taken on an entirely new meaning. It is a complex strategy and it makes or breaks a company’s long-term viability. COVID-19 has accelerated us into a new era of strategic IT and raised its profile considerably, and the findings from this year’s Enterprise Cloud Index reflect this new reality.

“Hybrid cloud is the frontrunner, and it will continue to be as we navigate our mixing of physical and virtual environments and move away from doing business in a single mode.”

Multi-cloud environments leaving businesses at risk

Businesses around the globe are facing challenges as they try to protect data stored in complex hybrid multi-cloud environments, from the growing threat of ransomware, according to a Veritas Technologies survey.

multi-cloud environments risk

Only 36% of respondents said their security has kept pace with their IT complexity, underscoring the need for greater use of data protection solutions that can protect against ransomware across the entirety of increasingly heterogenous environments.

Need to pay ransoms

Typically, if businesses fall foul to ransomware and are not able to restore their data from a backup copy of their files, they may look to pay the hackers responsible for the attack to return their information.

The research showed companies with greater complexity in their multi-cloud infrastructure were more likely to make these payments. The mean number of clouds deployed by those organizations who paid a ransom in full was 14.06. This dropped to 12.61 for those who paid only part of the ransom and went as low as 7.22 for businesses who didn’t pay at all.

In fact, only 20% of businesses with fewer than five clouds paid a ransom in full, 44% for those with more than 20. This compares with 57% of the under-fives paying nothing to their hackers and just 17% of the over-20s.

Slow recovery times

Complexity in cloud architectures was also shown to have a significant impact on a business’s ability to recover following a ransomware attack. While 43% of those businesses with fewer than five cloud providers in their infrastructure saw their business operations disrupted by less than one day, only 18% of those with more than 20 were as fast to return to normal.

Moreover, 39% of the over-20s took 5-10 days to get back on track, with just 16% of the under-fives having to wait so long.

Inability to restore data

Furthermore, according to the findings of the research, greater complexity in an organization’s cloud infrastructure, also made it slightly less likely that they would ever be able to restore their data in the event of a ransomware attack.

While 44% of businesses with fewer than five cloud providers were able to restore 90% or more of their data, just 40% of enterprises building their infrastructure on more than 20 cloud services were able to say the same.

John Abel, SVP and CIO at Veritas said: “The benefits of hybrid multi-cloud are increasingly being recognised in businesses around the world. In order to drive the best experience, at the best price, organizations are choosing best-of-breed cloud solutions in their production environments, and the average company today is now using nearly 12 different cloud providers to drive their digital transformation.

“However, our research shows many businesses’ data protection strategies aren’t keeping pace with the levels of complexity they’re introducing and, as a result, they’re feeling the impact of ransomware more acutely.

“In order to insulate themselves from the financial and reputational damage of ransomware, organizations need to look to data protection solutions that can span their increasingly heterogenous infrastructures, no matter how complex they may be.”

Businesses recognize the challenge

The research revealed that many businesses are aware of the challenge they face, with just 36% of respondents believing their security had kept pace with the complexity in their infrastructure.

The top concern as a result of this complexity, as stated by businesses, was the increased risk of external attack, cited by 37% of all participants in the research.

Abel continued: “We’ve heard from our customers that, as part of their response to COVID, they rapidly accelerated their journey to the cloud. Many organizations needed to empower homeworking across a wider portfolio of applications than ever before and, with limited access to their on-premise IT infrastructure, turned to cloud deployments to meet their needs.

“We’re seeing a lag between the high-velocity expansion of the threat surface that comes with increased multi-cloud adoption, and the deployment of data protection solutions needed to secure them. Our research shows some businesses are investing to close that resiliency gap – but unless this is done at greater speed, companies will remain vulnerable.”

Need for investment

46% of businesses shared they had increased their budgets for security since the advent of the COVID-19 pandemic. There was a correlation between this elevated level of investment and the ability to restore data in the wake of an attack: 47% of those spending more since the Coronavirus outbreak were able to restore 90% or more of their data, compared with just 36% of those spending less.

The results suggest there is more to be done though, with the average business being able to restore only 80% of its data.

Back to basics

While the research indicates organizations need to more comprehensively protect data in their complex cloud infrastructures, the survey also highlighted the need to get the basics of data protection right too.

Only 55% of respondents could claim they have offline backups in place, even though those who do are more likely to be able to restore more than 90% of their data. Those with multiple copies of data were also better able to restore the lion’s share of their data.

Forty-nine percent of those with three or more copies of their files were able to restore 90% or more of their information, compared with just 37% of those with only two.

The three most common data protection tools to have been deployed amongst respondents who had avoided paying ransoms were: anti-virus, backup and security monitoring, in that order.

Global trends

The safest countries to be in to avoid ransomware attacks, the research revealed, were Poland and Hungary. Just 24% of businesses in Poland had been on the receiving end of a ransomware attack, and the average company in Hungary had only experienced 0.52 attacks ever.

The highest incident of attack was in India, where 77% of businesses had succumbed to ransomware, and the average organization had been hit by 5.27 attacks.

Encryption-based threats grow by 260% in 2020

New Zscaler threat research reveals the emerging techniques and impacted industries behind a 260-percent spike in attacks using encrypted channels to bypass legacy security controls.

encryption-based threats

Showing that cybercriminals will not be dissuaded by a global health crisis, they targeted the healthcare industry the most. Following healthcare, the research revealed the top industries under attack by SSL-based threats were:

1. Healthcare: 1.6 billion (25.5 percent)
2. Finance and Insurance: 1.2 billion (18.3 percent)
3. Manufacturing: 1.1 billion (17.4 percent)
4. Government: 952 million (14.3 percent)
5. Services: 730 million (13.8 percent)

COVID-19 is driving a ransomware surge

Researchers witnessed a 5x increase in ransomware attacks over encrypted traffic beginning in March, when the World Health Organization declared the virus a pandemic. Earlier research from Zscaler indicated a 30,000 percent spike in COVID-related threats, when cybercriminals first began preying on fears of the virus.

Phishing attacks neared 200 million

As one of the most commonly used attacks over SSL, phishing attempts reached more than 193 million instances during the first nine months of 2020. The manufacturing sector was the most targeted (38.6 percent) followed by services (13.8 percent), and healthcare (10.9 percent).

30 percent of SSL-based attacks spoofed trusted cloud providers

Cybercriminals continue to become more sophisticated in avoiding detection, taking advantage of the reputations of trusted cloud providers such as Dropbox, Google, Microsoft, and Amazon to deliver malware over encrypted channels.

Microsoft remains most targeted brand for SSL-based phishing

Since Microsoft technology is among the most adopted in the world, Zscaler identified Microsoft as the most frequently spoofed brand for phishing attacks, which is consistent with ThreatLabZ 2019 report. Other popular brands for spoofing included PayPal and Google. Cybercriminals are also increasingly spoofing Netflix and other streaming entertainment services during the pandemic.

“Cybercriminals are shamelessly attacking critical industries like healthcare, government and finance during the pandemic, and this research shows how risky encrypted traffic can be if not inspected,” said Deepen Desai, CISO and VP of Security Research at Zscaler. “Attackers have significantly advanced the methods they use to deliver ransomware, for example, inside of an organization utilizing encrypted traffic. The report shows a 500 percent increase in ransomware attacks over SSL, and this is just one example to why SSL inspection is so important to an organization’s defense.”

Most UK businesses using Oracle E-Business Suite are running old systems

The majority of UK businesses using Oracle E-Business Suite (EBS) are running on old versions of the business critical ERP system, according to a Claremont study.

Oracle E-Business Suite

Of the 154 IT professionals polled, 64% revealed they are running on an earlier version that the current R12.2. With Oracle cutting off premier support to EBS 12.1 in December 2021, this leaves these businesses facing potential legislative and security issues if they fail to upgrade prior to the deadline.

58% of the businesses polled claimed they did intend on making the upgrade to R12.2.

“Businesses intent on upgrading to EBS R12.2 face a race against the clock in order to get it done in time. There is now just 14 months until the deadline, and while that may seem like a long time, given that the survey indicates almost two-thirds of businesses are currently looking to upgrade, there is likely to be resource scarcity in the marketplace. With upgrades taking 6-12 months to complete, vendor selections to be made and business cases to be raised, now is the time to act,” said Mark Vivian, CEO at Claremont.

The study also revealed that the majority of EBS users are currently hosting EBS on physical servers. 69% said they were still using physical servers, compared to just 31% hosting EBS on a cloud platform. 60% of businesses claimed they had no intention of migrating to the cloud, while 26% said they were planning a migration, and just 14% said their migration was underway.

The survey also revealed the reasons why those businesses using cloud platforms to host EBS had chosen their cloud provider. 53% of businesses cited price as the main reason they had chosen their cloud provider, while 40% cited greater agility and flexibility, and just 36% cited better support from the cloud vendor.

Mark Vivian added: “It’s surprising to see that so many businesses are still running Oracle E-Business on physical servers. Moving to cloud infrastructure means a shift towards greater agility, crucial for organisations to survive and thrive in response to the accelerating pace of change in today’s marketplace.”

What’s stopping job seekers from considering a career in cybersecurity?

The cybersecurity industry no longer has an image problem, but many things are still stopping individuals from considering a career in cybersecurity: a high cost of entry (the need for more education /certification / technical knowledge / training), the inability to code and the perception of the field as too intimidating.

cybersecurity career

In addition to this, many don’t have a clear, realistic view of the profession and are confused by its breadth and sprawl.

Cybersecurity career: A look from the outside

(ISC)² has recently asked 2,500 people across the US and the UK who don’t currently work in cybersecurity roles and have never worked in the field about how they view cybersecurity workers, whether they would consider entering the field, and what’s stopping them from doing it.

The good news is that 71% of participants said that they view cybersecurity professionals as smart, technically skilled individuals, 51% view them as “good guys fighting cybercrime,” and 35% said cybersecurity professionals “keep us safe, like police and firefighters.”

The bad news is that even though most view cybersecurity as a good career path, they don’t think it’s the right path for them. In fact, only 8% of respondents have considered working in the field at some point.

“One of the most unexpected findings in the study is that respondents from the youngest generation of workers – Generation Z (Zoomers), which consist of those up to age 24 – have a less positive perception of cybersecurity professionals than any other generation surveyed. This issue in particular merits close attention by the cybersecurity industry at a time when employers are struggling to overcome the talent gap,” (ISC)² noted.

The analysts posited that Generation Z’s perceptions of the cybersecurity field are shaped negatively by social media exposure, as social media platforms “tend to focus on the negative – arguments and venting.”

Other findings

The survey revealed that respondents view the profession as having a high cost of entry: 61% said they believe they would need more education or would need to earn a certification before getting a cybersecurity job, and 32% believe it would require too much technical knowledge or training.

37% of the female and 17% of the male respondents said that they found the profession intimidating, and a higher number of women are more discouraged than men by a perceived lack of diversity in the field (13% to 7%).

The respondents don’t have a clear idea about what they can expect from the field, and the school curriculum of 77% of the respondents never included cybersecurity.

“Even when cybersecurity education is available, it tends to come much later in the educational path when many students may have already determined another area of focus,” (ISC)² pointed out.

One of the biggest deterrents to entering the field is the distorted perception that, to work in it, you have to have highly specialized, technical skills.

“When survey participants were simply asked about the first thing that came to mind when they thought of the term cybersecurity, their responses included sentiments like, ‘smart computer skills that I don’t have’ and ‘I’m not qualified to apply for the jobs’,” the non-profit shared.

“In reality, many cybersecurity teams are searching for a wider pool of skillsets to complement their technical staff, including those individuals who possess legal, risk, compliance or communications knowledge, among other areas.”

Making cybersecurity more accessible

Correcting the perceptions about the cybersecurity field should be a broad goal for the industry. Emphasis should be placed on the many positive cybersecurity career attributes and a better educational foundation should be introduced.

“Co-develop cybersecurity programs with school districts and higher learning institutions to awaken earlier interest in the field. Creating a stronger pipeline of candidates who understand the realities and the benefits of a cybersecurity career will help to reduce the global talent gap,” (ISC)² advised to hiring managers and organizations.

More immediately, they should:

  • Increase the focus on the non-technical aspects of certain positions in job descriptions, such in order to get a larger pool of candidates to consider
  • Develop recruitment strategies that focus on outreach to individuals with complementary experience (e.g., in communications, law enforcement, data flow, process development and controls, regulatory compliance, etc.) and consider recruiting employees in different departments that are looking to enter the field.

Every employee has a cybersecurity blind spot

80% of companies say that an increased cybersecurity risk caused by human factors has posed a challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, particularly in times of heightened stress.

cybersecurity blind spot

This is according to Cyberchology: The Human Element, a new report that explores the role employees and their personality play in keeping organisations safe from cyber threats. Including that:

  • Cybercrime has increased by 63% since the COVID-19 lockdown was introduced
  • Human error has been the biggest cybersecurity challenge during the COVID-19 pandemic, according to CISOs
  • Just a quarter of businesses consider their remote working strategy effective
  • 47% of people are concerned about their ability to manage stress during the coronavirus crisis

Cyberchology research investigates the attitudes of 2,000 consumers and over 100 Chief Information Security Officers in the UK, with psychological research examining the link between cybersecurity, personality, and stress in a virtual world.

The report found that 75% of companies say that half of their business is being undertaken by employees who are now working remotely – but weren’t doing so before COVID-19, showing a highly dispersed current workforce.

With CISOs reporting a 63% increase in cybercrime since the lockdown began, and remote working here to stay for many employees, businesses are more at risk than ever.

Meanwhile, the report found that over two thirds of consumers were concerned about their cybersecurity but didn’t know what to do about it, and nearly half of respondents were concerned about their ability to manage stress during the pandemic.

Stress affects different personality types in different ways, meaning that each individual employee has their own specific blind spot when it comes to cybersecurity. As the pandemic has raised stress levels, staff members may be more likely to panic and click on a malicious link, or fail to report a security breach to the IT team, depending on their personality type.

The paper therefore encourages businesses to implement a holistic cybersecurity strategy that takes individual personalities into account.

“Remote working has brought greater flexibility to the workforce, but has also dramatically altered business processes and systems. The combination of fractured IT systems, a lack of central security, the sudden shift to home working, and a global climate of stress and concern is a perfect breeding ground for a successful cyberattack. The fact that only a quarter of businesses have faith in their own remote working strategy is shocking, and shows there is much work to be done to secure working from home,” said Jake Moore, Cybersecurity Specialist, ESET.

John Hackston, Head of Thought Leadership at The Myers-Briggs Company, commented: “Cybersecurity has long been thought of as the responsibility of IT departments alone, but in order to build a holistic cybersecurity strategy that accounts for the human factor, IT and HR departments must work together. Using psychometric testing and self-awareness tools, HR can help to identify the makeup of teams and pinpoint potential vulnerabilities. IT teams can use this insight to create comprehensive security protocols and a proactive cyber strategy to stay one step ahead of potential threats.”

Paying a ransom to prevent leaking of stolen data is a risky gamble

Ransomware groups have realized that their tactics are also very effective for targeting larger enterprises, and this resulted in a 31% increase of the average ransom payment in Q3 2020 (reaching $233,817), ransomware IR provider Coveware shared in a recently released report.

They also warned that cases where the attackers exfiltrated data and asked for an additional ransom to delete it have doubled in the same period, but that paying up is a definite gamble.

“Despite some companies opting to pay threat actors to not release exfiltrated data, Coveware has seen a fraying of promises of the cybercriminals (if that is a thing) to delete the data,” they noted.

The data cannot be credibly deleted, it’s not secured and is often shared with other parties, they said. Various ransomware groups have posted the stolen data online despite having been paid to not release it or have demanded another payment at a later date.

ransom payment

“Unlike negotiating for a decryption key, negotiating for the suppression of stolen data has no finite end. Once a victim receives a decryption key, it can’t be taken away and does not degrade with time. With stolen data, a threat actor can return for a second payment at any point in the future,” the company said.

“The track records are too short and evidence that defaults are selectively occurring is already collecting. Accordingly, we strongly advise all victims of data exfiltration to take the hard, but responsible steps. Those include getting the advice of competent privacy attorneys, performing an investigation into what data was taken, and performing the necessary notifications that result from that investigation and counsel.”

Other findings

Coveware’s analyst also found that improperly secured Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) connections and compromised RDP credentials are the most prevalent way in for ransomware gangs, followed by email phishing and software vulnerabilities.

ransom payment

What’s interesting is that the “popularity” of RDP as an attack vector declines as the size of the target companies increases, bacuse larger companies are typically wise enough to secure it. The attackers must then switch to using more pricy means: RDP credentials can be purchased for less than $50, but email phishing campaigns and vulnerability exploits require more effort and time/money – even if they are performed by another attacker who then sells the access to the gang.

“The foothold created by the phishing email or CVE exploit is used to escalate privileges until the attacker can command a domain controller with senior administrative privileges. Once that occurs, the company is fully compromised and data exfiltration + ransomware are likely to transpire within hours or days,” they explained.

Companies/organizations in every industry can be a target, but attackers seem to prefer those in the professional services industry, healthcare and the public sector:

ransom payment

76% of applications have at least one security flaw

The majority of applications contain at least one security flaw and fixing those flaws typically takes months, a Veracode report reveals.

applications security flaw

This year’s analysis of 130,000 applications found that it takes about six months for teams to close half the security flaws they find.

The report also uncovered some best practices to significantly improve these fix rates. There are some factors that teams have a lot of control over, and those they have very little control over categorizing them as “nature vs. nurture”.

Within the “nature” side, factors such as the size of the application and organization as well as security debt were considered, while the “nurture” side accounts for actions such as scanning frequency, cadence, and scanning via APIs.

Fixing security flaws: Nature or nurture?

The report revealed that addressing issues with modern DevSecOps practices results in higher flaw remediation rates. For example, using multiple application security scan types, working within smaller or more modern apps, and embedding security testing into the pipeline via an API all make a difference in reducing time to fix security defects, even in apps with a less than ideal “nature.”

“The goal of software security isn’t to write applications perfectly the first time, but to find and fix the flaws in a comprehensive and timely manner,” said Chris Eng, Chief Research Officer at Veracode.

“Even when faced with the most challenging environments, developers can take specific actions to improve the overall security of the application with the right training and tools.”

applications security flaw

Other key findings

Flawed applications are the norm: 76% of applications have at least one security flaw, but only 24% have high-severity flaws. This is a good sign that most applications do not have critical issues that pose serious risks to the application. Frequent scanning can reduce the time it takes to close half of observed findings by more than three weeks.

Open source flaws on the rise: while 70% of applications inherit at least one security flaw from their open source libraries, 30% of applications have more flaws in their open source libraries than in the code written in-house.

The key lesson is that software security comes from getting the whole picture, which includes identifying and tracking the third-party code used in applications.

Multiple scan types prove efficacy of DevSecOps: teams using a combination of scan types including static analysis (SAST), dynamic analysis (DAST), and software composition analysis (SCA) improve fix rates. Those using SAST and DAST together fix half of flaws 24 days faster.

Automation matters: those who automate security testing in the SDLC address half of the flaws 17.5 days faster than those that scan in a less automated fashion.

Paying down security debt is critical: the link between frequently scanning applications and faster remediation times has been established in a prior research.

This year’s report also found that reducing security debt – fixing the backlog of known flaws – lowers overall risk. Older applications with high flaw density experience much slower remediation times, adding an average of 63 days to close half of flaws.

Cyber risk literacy should be part of every defensive strategy

While almost 95 percent of cybersecurity issues can be traced back to human error, such as accidentally clicking on a malicious link, most governments have not invested enough to educate their citizens about the risks, according to a report from the Oliver Wyman Forum.

cyber risk literacy

Cyber risk literacy of the population

Cyber literacy, along with financial literacy, is a new 21st century priority for governments, educational institutions, and businesses.

“Cyberattacks are now one of the fastest growing crimes globally and are expected to cost organizations more than $600 billion dollars a year by 2021,” said Paul Mee of the Oliver Wyman Forum.

“The situation has become even more pressing during the pandemic as our reliance on the internet has grown. Yet many citizens still lack the basic skills to keep themselves, their communities, and their employers safe.”

50 geographies were assessed, including the European Union, on the present cyber risk literacy of its population, and the nature of related education and training available to promote and enable future cyber risk literacy.

Specifically, the Index measures five key drivers of cyber risk literacy and education: the public’s motivation to practice good cybersecurity hygiene; government policies to improve cyber literacy; how well cyber risks are addressed by education systems; how well businesses are raising their employees cyber skills, and the degree to which digital access and skills are shared broadly within the population.

How are assessed countries doing?

Switzerland, Singapore and the UK topped the list because of their strong government policies, education systems and training, practical follow through and metrics as well as population motivation to reduce risk.

Switzerland, the number one ranked country, has a comprehensive implementation document that lays out specific responsibilities along with what national or provincial legislation is required. Specific milestones are set, and timelines are assigned to ensure accountability regardless of who oversees the government.

Singapore, which is ranked second, has prioritized cybersecurity education efforts from early childhood to retirees. It established the Cyber Security Agency of Singapore to keep its cyberspace safe and secure. Its cyber wellness courses occur over multiple grades and focus on social and practical safety tips such as understanding cyber bullying.

The UK ranked third, has the most integrated cyber system because it incorporates cyber risk into both primary and secondary education. The UK’s National Cyber Security Strategy of 2016-2021 is also one of the strongest plans globally. The US ranked 10th.

Countries that rank lower lack an overall national strategy and fail to emphasize cyber risk in schools. Some countries in emerging markets are only beginning to identify cybersecurity as a national concern.

“Governments that want to improve the cyber risk literacy of their citizens can use the index to strengthen their strategy by way of adopting new mindsets, trainings, messaging, accessibility and best practices,” Mee added. “With most children using the internet by the age of four, it is never too early to start teaching your citizens to protect themselves.”

Most cybersecurity pros believe automation will make their jobs easier

Despite 88% of cybersecurity professionals believing automation will make their jobs easier, younger staffers are more concerned that the technology will replace their roles than their veteran counterparts, according to a research by Exabeam.

cybersecurity automation jobs

Overall, satisfaction levels continued a 3-year positive trend, with 96% of respondents indicating they are happy with role and responsibilities and 87% reportedly pleased with salary and earnings. Additionally, there was improvement in gender diversity with female respondents increasing from 9% in 2019 to 21% this year.

“The concern for automation among younger professionals in cybersecurity was surprising to us. In trying to understand this sentiment, we could partially attribute it to lack of on-the-job training using automation technology,” said Samantha Humphries, security strategist at Exabeam.

“As we noted earlier this year in our State of the SOC research, ambiguity around career path or lack of understanding about automation can have an impact on job security. It’s also possible that this is a symptom of the current economic climate or a general lack of experience navigating the workforce during a global recession.”

AI and ML: A threat to job security?

Of respondents under the age of 45, 53% agreed or strongly agreed that AI and ML are a threat to their job security. This is contrasted with just 25% of respondents 45 and over who feel the same, possibly indicating that subsets of security professionals in particular prefer to write rules and manually investigate.

Interestingly, when asked directly about automation software, 89% of respondents under 45 years old believed it would improve their jobs, yet 47% are still threatened by its use. This is again in contrast with the 45 and over demographic, where 80% believed automation would simplify their work, and only 22% felt threatened by its use.

Examining the sentiments around automation by region, 47% of US respondents were concerned about job security when automation software is in use, as well as SG (54%), DE (42%), AUS (40%) and UK (33%).

In the survey, which drew insights from professionals throughout the US, the UK, AUS, Canada, India and the Netherlands, only 10% overall believed that AI and automation were a threat to their jobs.

On the flip side, there were noticeable increases in job approval across the board, with an upward trend in satisfaction around role and responsibilities (96%), salary (87%) and work/life balance (77%).

Diversity showing positive signs of improvement

When asked what else they enjoyed about their jobs, respondents listed working in an environment with professional growth (15%) as well as opportunities to challenge oneself (21%) as top motivators.

53% reported jobs that are either stressful or very stressful, which is down from last year (62%). Interestingly, despite being among those that are generally threatened by automation software, 100% of respondents aged 18-24 reported feeling secure in their roles and were happiest with their salaries (93%).

Though the number of female respondents increased this year, it remains to be seen whether this will emerge as a trend. This year’s male respondents (78%) are down 13% from last year (91%).

In 2019, nearly 41% were in the profession for at least 10 years or more. This year, a larger percentage (83%) have 10 years or less, and 34% have been in the cybersecurity industry for five years or less. Additionally, one-third do not have formal cybersecurity degrees.

“There is evidence that automation and AI/ML are being embraced, but this year’s survey exposed fascinating generational differences when it comes to professional openness and using all available tools to do their jobs,” said Phil Routley, senior product marketing manager, APJ, Exabeam.

“And while gender diversity is showing positive signs of improvement, it’s clear we still have a very long way to go in breaking down barriers for female professionals in the security industry.”

Cloud environment complexity has surpassed human ability to manage

IT leaders are increasingly concerned accelerated digital transformation, combined with the complexity of modern multicloud environments, is putting already stretched digital teams under too much pressure, a Dynatrace survey of 700 CIOs reveals.

cloud environment complexity

This leaves little time for innovation, and limits teams’ ability to prioritize tasks that drive greater value and better outcomes for the business and its customers.

Key findings

  • 89% of CIOs say digital transformation has accelerated in the last 12 months, and 58% predict it will continue to speed up.
  • 86% of organizations are using cloud-native technologies, including microservices, containers, and Kubernetes, to accelerate innovation and achieve more successful business outcomes.
  • 63% of CIOs say the complexity of their cloud environment has surpassed human ability to manage.
  • 44% of IT and cloud operations teams’ time is spent on manual, routine work just ‘keeping the lights on’, costing organizations an average of $4.8 million per year.
  • 56% of CIOs say they are almost never able to complete everything the business needs from IT.
  • 70% of CIOs say their team is forced to spend too much time doing manual tasks that could be automated if only they had the means.

“The benefits of IT and business automation extend far beyond cost savings. Organizations need this capability – to drive revenue, stay connected with customers, and keep employees productive – or they face extinction,” said Bernd Greifeneder, CTO at Dynatrace.

“Increased automation enables digital teams to take full advantage of the ever-growing volume and variety of observability data from their increasingly complex, multicloud, containerized environments. With the right observability platform, teams can turn this data into actionable answers, driving a cultural change across the organization and freeing up their scarce engineering resources to focus on what matters most – customers and the business.”

Cloud environment complexity

  • Organizations are using cloud-native technologies including microservices (70%), containers (70%) and Kubernetes (54%) to advance innovation and achieve more successful business outcomes.
  • However, 74% of CIOs say the growing use of cloud-native technologies will lead to more manual effort and time spent ‘keeping the lights on’.

Traditional tools and manual effort cannot keep up

  • On average, organizations are using 10 monitoring solutions across their technology stacks. However, digital teams only have full observability into 11% of their application and infrastructure environments.
  • 90% of CIOs say there are barriers preventing them from monitoring a greater proportion of their applications.
  • The dynamic nature of today’s hybrid, multicloud ecosystems amplifies complexity. 61% of CIOs say their IT environment changes every minute or less, while 32% say their environment changes at least once every second.

CIOs call for radical change

  • 74% of CIOs say their organization will lose its competitive edge if IT is unable to spend less time ‘keeping the lights on’.
  • 84% said the only effective way forward is to reduce the number of tools and amount of manual effort IT teams invest in monitoring and managing the cloud and user-experience.
  • 72% said they cannot keep plugging monitoring tools together to maintain observability. Instead, they need a single platform covering all use cases and offering a consistent source of truth.

cloud environment complexity

Observability, automation, and AI are key

  • 93% of CIOs said AI-assistance will be critical to IT’s ability to cope with increasing workloads and deliver maximum value to the business.
  • CIOs expect automation in cloud and IT operations will reduce the amount of time spent ‘keeping the lights on’ by 38%, saving organizations $2 million per year, on average.
  • Despite this advantage, just 19% of all repeatable operations processes for digital experience management and observability have been automated.

“History has shown successful organizations use disruptive moments to their advantage,” added Greifeneder. “Now is the time to break silos, establish a true BizDevOps approach, and deliver agile processes across a consistent, continuous delivery stack.

“This is essential for effective and intelligent automation and, more importantly, to enable engineers to take more end-to-end responsibility for the outcomes and value they create for the business.”

SMBs’ size doesn’t make them immune to cyberattacks

78% of SMBs indicated that having a privileged access management (PAM) solution in place is important to a cybersecurity program – yet 76% of respondents said that they do not have one that is fully deployed, a Devolutions survey reveals.

size cyberattacks

While it’s a positive trend that the majority of SMBs recognize the importance of having a PAM solution, the fact that most of the respondents don’t have a PAM solution in place reflects that there is inertia when it comes to deployment.

SMBs are not immune, company size doesn’t protect from cyberattacks

Global cybercrime revenues have reached $1.5 trillion per year. And according to IBM, the average price tag of a data breach is now $3.86 million per incident. Despite these staggering figures, there remains a common (and inaccurate) belief among many SMBs that the greatest security vulnerabilities exist in large companies.

However, there is mounting evidence that SMBs are more vulnerable than enterprises to cyberthreats – and the complacency regarding this reality can have disastrous consequences.

“SMBs must not assume that their relative smaller size will protect them from cyberattacks. On the contrary, hackers, rogue employees and others are increasingly targeting SMBs because they typically have weaker – and, in some cases, virtually non-existent – defense systems.

“SMBs cannot afford to take a reactive wait-and-see approach to cybersecurity because they may not survive a cyberattack. And even if they do, it could take several years to recover costs, reclaim customers and repair reputation damage,” said Devolutions CEO David Hervieux.

Key findings from the survey

To dig deeper into the mindset of SMBs about cybersecurity, Devolutions conducted a survey of 182 SMBs from a variety of industries – including IT, healthcare, education, and finance. Some notable findings include:

  • 62% of SMBs do not conduct a security audit at least once a year – and 14% never conduct an audit at all.
  • 57% of SMBs indicated they have experienced a phishing attack in the last three years.
  • 47% of SMBs allow end users to reuse passwords across personal and professional accounts.

These findings reinforce the need for better cybersecurity education for smaller companies.

“Conducting this survey reaffirmed to us that while progress is being made, there is a still a lot of work to do for many SMBs to protect themselves from cybercrime. We plan to conduct a survey like this each year so that we can identify the most current trends and in turn help our customers address their most pressing needs,” added Hervieux.

size cyberattacks

Protect from cyberattacks: The role of MSPs

One way for SMBs to close the cybersecurity gap is to seek out a trusted managed service provider (MSP) for guidance and implementation of cybersecurity solutions, monitoring and training programs. Because SMBs do not typically have huge IT departments like their enterprise counterparts, they often look to outside resources.

MSPs have an opportunity to strengthen their relationship with existing customers and expand their client base by becoming cyber experts who can advise SMBs on various cybersecurity issues, trends and solutions – as well as offer the ability to promptly respond to any security incidents that may arise and take swift action.

“We expect more and more MSPs will be adding cybersecurity solutions and expertise to their portfolio of offerings to meet this demand,” Hervieux concluded.

Prevent privileged account abuse

Organizations must keep critical assets secure, control and monitor sensitive information and privileged access, and vault and manage business-user passwords – all while ensuring that employees are productive and efficient. This is not an easy task for SMBs without the right solution in place.

Many PAM and password management solutions on the market are prohibitively expensive or too complex for what SMBs need.

How important is monitoring in DevOps?

The importance of monitoring is often left out of discussions about DevOps, but a Gartner report shows how it can lead to superior customer experiences.

DevOps monitoring

The report provides the following key recommendations:

  • Work with DevOps teams during the design phase to add the instrumentation necessary to track business key performance indicators and monitor business metrics in production.
  • Automate the transmission of embedded monitoring results between monitoring and deployment tools to improve application deployments.
  • Use identified business requirements to develop a pipeline for delivering new functionality, and develop monitoring to a practice of continuous learning and feedback across stakeholders and product managers.

While the report focuses on application monitoring, the benefits of early DevOps integration apply equally to database monitoring, according to Grant Fritchey, Redgate DevOps Advocate and Microsoft Data Platform MVP: “In any DevOps pipeline, the database is often the pain point because you need to update it alongside the application while keeping data safe. Monitoring helps database developers identify and fix issues earlier, and minimizes errors when changes are deployed.”

Optimizing performance before releases hit production

Giving development teams access to live monitoring data during database development and testing, for example, can help them optimize performance before releases hit production. They can see immediately if their changes influence operational or performance issues, and drill down to the cause.

Similarly, database monitoring tools can be configured to read and report on deployments made to any server and automatically deliver an alert back to the development team if a problem arises, telling them what happened and how to fix the issue.

This continuous feedback loop not only reduces time spent manually checking for problems, but speeds up communication between database development and operational teams. Most importantly, this activity all takes place on non-production environments, meaning fewer bad customer experiences when accessing production data.

This increased focus on monitoring is prompting many high performing DevOps teams to introduce third-party tools which offer more advanced features like the ability to integrate with the most popular deployment, alerting and ticketing tools.

The advantages

A good example is the financial services sector. Redgate’s report revealed that 66% of businesses in the sector now use a third-party monitoring tool, outpacing all other sectors. And while 61% of businesses deploy database changes once a week or more, compared to 43% across other sectors, issues with deployments are detected faster and recovered from sooner.

The Gartner report states: “By enabling faster recognition and response to issues, monitoring improves system reliability and overall agility, which is a primary objective for new DevOps initiatives.”

Many organizations are discovering there are big advantages in including the database in the monitoring conversation as well.

Average data queries take too long, yet organizations need daily data insights to make decisions

58% of organizations make decisions based on outdated data, according to an Exasol research.

decisions data

The report reveals that 84% of organizations are under increasing pressure to make faster decisions as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic, yet 58% of organizations lack access to real-time insights.

The report further reveals that 63% of respondents confirm that daily insights are needed to make informed business decisions, but these are hampered by long query run times.

A query taking to long to come back

75% of respondents have to wait between 2 hours and a full day for a query to come back, and only 15% of respondents’ query run times are between 15 and 60 minutes. 56% believe they can’t make informed decisions based on their organization’s data.

“As a healthcare, retail, or financial services business you cannot afford to make decisions based on yesterday’s data,” said Rishi Diwan, CPO of Exasol.

“If the pandemic has made one thing clear it’s that business conditions can turn on a dime, yet 6 in 10 businesses find themselves saddled with decision-making infrastructure that is just not responsive enough.”

The report is based on a global survey of 2,500 data decision makers and reveals ample pessimism among data and IT professionals regarding the extent to which current infrastructure set-ups can power a crisis recovery. According to the research:

  • 51% believe their organization’s data infrastructure will need improvements in order to help them recover from macro or micro economic challenges.
  • The top areas highlighted for performance improvement include data literacy (84%), data infrastructure (55%) and data quality (33%). However, 85% report action being taken to improve literacy across the business, which is an encouraging sign.
  • Of the 36% of organizations that have increased the size of their decision-making teams during the COVID-19 pandemic to compensate the long time-to-insights, 86% have experienced an increase in decision-making speed.
  • 69% of respondents reported receiving a higher number of data analytics requests from both multiple business departments and their end-users in recent months.

Demand for data analytics will continue to rise

Going forward, 45% of respondents agreed that demand for data analytics will continue to rise. While the bulk of these requests is expected to come from marketing, operations and sales, demand from all areas is expected to increase, adding to the urgency for organizations to review their data-driven decision-making capabilities.

“One way that organizations compensate for the long time-to-insights during the COVID-19 pandemic is by expanding the number of people with decision-making authority,” said Mathias Golombek, CTO at Exasol.

“Our research clearly shows that organizations want to increase their speed and agility regarding data-driven decisions. Data-democratization and self-service analytics across the organization are the ultimate goal, but existing legacy systems are struggling with these workloads. That’s where a reduction of query response times from hours to seconds is a game changer.”

“If you want to evolve towards a data-driven agile enterprise, you need to start with your existing data infrastructure. Not only must it be set up to support your future growth, but it should also enable data democratization,” said Philip Howard, Bloor Research.

“You should also look at whether your infrastructure can deliver the time to insight – the performance – that you need. Can it scale across all your knowledge workers? Because if it doesn’t do all of these things, then it’s not supporting your business goals and you need to think about changing it.”

Views and misconceptions of cybersecurity as a career path

Attitudes toward cybersecurity roles are now overwhelmingly positive, although most people still don’t view the field as a career fit for themselves, even as 29% of respondents say they are considering a career change, an (ISC)² study reveals.

cybersecurity career path

The findings indicate a shift in popular opinion about cybersecurity professionals, who have traditionally been viewed through a negative lens as roadblocks to business efficiency.

In fact, 71% of the survey’s respondents, all of whom do not work in the industry, say they consider cybersecurity professionals to be smart and technically skilled, while 51% also described them as “the good guys fighting cybercrime.” 69% of respondents replied that cybersecurity seems like a good career path, just not one they see themselves pursuing.

Obstacles to attracting additional information security workers

The cybersecurity industry is made up of 2.8 million skilled professionals, but research indicates that there is a global shortage of 4.07 million, which requires a massive recruitment effort of new entrants to the field who may not have considered the career before. The study reveals that the obstacles to attracting these additional workers may be two-fold.

First, 77% of respondents said cybersecurity was never offered as part of their formal educational curriculum at any point, making it difficult for most people to gain a solid understanding of what roles in the industry actually entail and how to pursue the career.

The second factor that may be limiting interest is a pervasive belief that such roles would require very advanced skills development that would require time and resources to achieve.

“What these results show us is that while it’s becoming even more highly-respected, the cybersecurity profession is still misunderstood by many, and that’s counterproductive to encouraging more people to pursue this rewarding career,” said Wesley Simpson, COO of (ISC)².

“The reality of the situation, and what we need to do a better job of publicizing, is that a truly effective cybersecurity workforce requires a broad range of professionals who bring different skillsets to their teams.

“While technical skills are vital for many roles, we also need individuals with varied backgrounds in areas including communications, risk management, legal, regulatory compliance, process development and more, to bring a well-rounded perspective to cyber defense.”

cybersecurity career path

Cybersecurity as a career path: Key findings

  • Conducted during a time of record unemployment amidst the COVID-19 pandemic, the study found that job stability is now the most valued characteristic in a career (61% of respondents), followed by ones that offer a “flexible work environment” (57%) and only then, “earning potential” (56%).
  • In the absence of formal cybersecurity education, perceptions about the industry and the professionals in it are formed primarily through portrayals in TV shows and movies (37% of respondents) or by news coverage of security incidents (31%).
  • 61% of respondents said they believe they would either need to go back to school (26%), earn a certification (22%) or teach themselves new skills (13%) in order to pursue a career in cybersecurity. 32% of respondents said they believe too much technical knowledge or training would be required.
  • Generation Z (Zoomers) were the least likely demographic group to cast cybersecurity professionals in a positive light. Just 58% view cybersecurity professionals as smart and technically skilled, as opposed to 78% of Baby Boomers. And only 34% of Zoomers consider them the “good guys, fighting cybercrime,” as opposed to 60% of Boomers.

Cyberwarfare predicted to damage the economy in the coming year

71% of CISOs believe cyberwarfare is a threat to their organization, and yet 22% admit to not having a strategy in place to mitigate this risk. This is especially alarming during a period of unprecedented global disruption, as 50% of infosec professionals agree that the increase of cyberwarfare will be detrimental to the economy in the next 12 months.

cyberwarfare

CISOs and infosec professionals however are shoring up their defenses — with 51% and 48% respectively stating that they believe they will need a strategy against cyberwarfare in the next 12-18 months.

These findings, and more, are revealed in Bitdefender’s global 10 in 10 Study, which highlights how, in the next 10 years, cybersecurity success lies in the adaptability of security decision makers, while simultaneously looking back into the last decade to see if valuable lessons have already been learnt about the need to make tangible changes in areas such as diversity.

It explores, in detail, the gap between how security decision makers and infosec professionals view the current security landscape and reveals the changes they know they will need to make in the upcoming months and years of the 2020s.

The study takes into account the views and opinions of more than 6,724 infosec professionals representing a broad cross-section of organizations from small 101+ employee businesses to publicly listed 10,000+ person enterprises in a wide variety of industries, including technology, finance, healthcare and government.

The rise and fall (and rise again) of ransomware

Outside of the rise of cyberwarfare threats, an old threat is rearing its head — ransomware. During the disruption of 2020, ransomware has surged with as much as 43% of infosec professionals reporting that they are seeing a rise in ransomware attacks.

What’s more concerning is that 70% of CISOs/CIOs and 63% of infosec professionals expect to see an increase in ransomware attacks in the next 12-18 months. This is of particular interest as 49% of CISOs/CIOs and 42% of infosec professionals are worried that a ransomware attack could wipe out the business in the next 12-18 months if they don’t increase investment in security.

But what is driving the rise in ransomware attacks? Some suggest it’s because more people are working from home — which makes them an easier target outside of the corporate firewall. The truth might however be tied to money.

59% of CISOs/CIOs and 50% of infosec professionals believe that the business they work for would pay the ransom in order to prevent its data/information from being published — making ransomware a potential cash cow.

A step change in communication is in high demand

Cyberwarfare and ransomware are complex topics to unpack, amongst many others in infosec. The inherent complexity of infosec topics does however make it hard to gain internal investment and support for projects. This is why infosec professionals believe a change is needed.

In fact, 51% of infosec professionals agree that in order to increase investment in cybersecurity, the way that they communicate about security has to change dramatically. This number jumps up to 55% amongst CISOs and CIOs — many of whom have a seat at the most senior decision-making table in their organizations.

The question is, what changes need to be made? 41% of infosec professionals believe that in the future more communication with the wider public and customers is needed so everyone, both in and organization and outside, better understands the risks.

In addition, 38% point out that there is a need for the facilitation of better communication with the C-suite, especially when it comes to understanding the wider business risks.

And last, but not least, as much as 31% of infosec professionals believe using less technical language would help the industry communicate better, so that the whole organization could understand the risks and how to stay protected.

“The reason that 63% of infosec professionals believe that cyberwarfare is a threat to their organization is easy,” said Neeraj Suri, Distinguished Professorship and Chair in Cybersecurity at Lancaster University.

“Dependency on technology is at an all-time high and if someone was to take out the WiFi in a home or office, no one would be able to do anything. This dependency wasn’t there a few years back–it wasn’t even as high a few months back.

“This high dependency on technology doesn’t just open the door for ransomware or IoT threats on an individual level, but also to cyberwarfare which can be so catastrophic it can ruin economies.

“The reason that nearly a quarter of infosec pros don’t currently have a strategy to protect against cyberwarfare is likely because of complacency. Since they haven’t suffered an attack or haven’t seen on a wide scale–the damage that can be done–they haven’t invested the time in protecting against it.”

Diversity, and specifically neurodiversity, is key to future success

Outside of the drastic changes that are needed in the way cybersecurity professionals communicate, there’s also a need to make a change within the very makeup of the workforce. The infosec industry as a whole has long suffered from a skills shortage, and this looks to remain an ongoing and increasingly obvious issue.

15% of infosec professionals believe that the biggest development in cybersecurity over the next 12-18 months will be the skills gap increasing. If the skills deficit continues for another five years, 28% of CISOs and CIOs say they believe that it will destroy businesses.

And another 50% of infosec professionals believe that the skills gap will be seriously disruptive if it continues for the next 5 years.

Today, however, it will take more than just recruiting skilled workers to make a positive change and protect organizations. In 2015, 52% of infosec workers would have agreed that there is a lack of diversity in cybersecurity and that it’s a concern.

Five years later, in 2020, this remains exactly the same — and that is a significant problem as 40% of CISOs/CIOs and infosec professionals say that the cybersecurity industry should reflect the society around it to be effective.

What’s more, 76% of CISOs/CIOs, and 72% of infosec professionals, believe that there is a need for a more diverse skill set among those tackling cybersecurity tasks. This is because 38% of infosec professionals say that neurodiversity will make cybersecurity defenses stronger, and 33% revealed a more neurodiverse workforce will level the playing field against bad actors.

While it’s clear that the cybersecurity skills gap is here to stay, it’s also clear why changes need to be made to the makeup of the industry.

cyberwarfare

Liviu Arsene, Global Cybersecurity Researcher at Bitdefender concludes, “2020 has been a year of change, not only for the world at large, but for the security industry. The security landscape is rapidly evolving as it tries to adapt to the new normal, from distributed workforces to new threats. Amongst the new threats is cyberwarfare.

“It’s of great concern to businesses and the economy — and yet not everyone is prepared for it. At the same time, infosec professionals have had to keep up with new threats from an old source, ransomware, that can affect companies’ bottom lines if not handled carefully.

“The one thing we know is that the security landscape will continue to evolve. Changes will happen, but we can now make sure they happen for better and not for worse. To succeed in the new security landscape, the way we as an industry talk about security has to become more accessible to a wider audience to gain support and investment from within the business.

“In addition, we have to start thinking about plugging the skills gap in a different way — we have to focus on diversity, and specifically neurodiversity, if we are to stand our ground and ultimately defeat bad actors.”

A look at the top threats inside malicious emails

Web-phishing targeting various online services almost doubled during the COVID-19 pandemic: it accounted for 46 percent of the total number of fake web pages, Group-IB reveals.

threats inside malicious emails

Ransomware, the headliner of the previous half-year, walked off stage: only 1 percent of emails analyzed contained this kind of malware. Every third email, meanwhile, contained spyware, which is used by threat actors to steal payment data or other sensitive info to then put it on sale in the darknet or blackmail its owner.

Downloaders, intended for the installation of additional malware, and backdoors, granting cybercriminals remote access to victims’ computers, also made it to top-3. They are followed by banking Trojans, whose share in the total amount of malicious attachments showed growth for the first time in a while.

Opened email lets spy in

According to the data, in H1 2020, 43 percent of the malicious mails on the radars of Group-IB Threat Detection System had attachments with spyware or links leading to their downloading.

Another 17 percent contained downloaders, while backdoors and banking Trojans came third with a 16- and 15-percent shares, respectively. Ransomware, which in the second half of 2019 hid in every second malicious email, almost disappeared from the mailboxes in the first six months of this year with a share of less than 1 percent.

These findings confirm adversaries’ growing interest in Big Game Hunting. Ransomware operators have switched from attacks en masse on individuals to corporate networks. Thus, when attacking large companies, instead of infecting the computer of a separate individual immediately after the compromise, attackers use the infected machine to move laterally in the network, escalate the privileges in the system and distribute ransomware on as many hosts as possible.

Top-10 tools used in attacks were banking Trojan RTM (30%); spyware LOKI PWS (24%), AgentTesla (10%), Hawkeye (5%), and Azorult (1%); and backdoors Formbook (12%), Nanocore (7%), Adwind (3%), Emotet (1%), and Netwire (1%).

The new instruments detected in the first half of the year included Quasar, a remote access tool based on the open source; spyware Gomorrah that extracts login credentials of users from various applications; and 404 Keylogger, a software for harvesting user data that is distributed under malware-as-a-service model.

Almost 70 percent of malicious files were delivered to the victim’s computer with the help of archives, another 18% percent of malicious files were masked as office documents (with .doc, .xls and .pdf file extensions), while 14% more were disguised as executable files and scripts.

Secure web-phishing

In the first six months of 2020, a total of 9 304 phishing web resources were blocked, which is an increase of 9 percent compared to the previous year. The main trend of the observed period was the two-fold surge in the number of resources using safe SSL/TLS connection – their amount grew from 33 percent to 69 percent in just half a year.

This is explained by the cybercriminals’ desire to retain their victim pool – the majority of web browsers label websites without SSL/TLS connection as a priori dangerous, which has a negative impact on the effectiveness of phishing campaigns.

Experts predict that the share of web-phishing with insecure connection will continue to decrease, while websites that do not support SSL/TLS will become an exception.

threats inside malicious emails

Pandemic chronicle

Just as it was the case in the second half of 2019, in the first half of this year, online services like ecommerce websites turned out to be the main target of web-phishers. In the light of global pandemic and the businesses’ dive into online world, the share of this phishing category increased to remarkable 46 percent.

The attractiveness of online services is explained by the fact that by stealing user login credentials, threat actors also gain access to the data of bank cards linked to user accounts.

Online services are followed by email service providers (24%), whose share, after a decline in 2019, resumed growth in 2020, and financial organizations (11%). Main web-phishing target categories also included payment services, cloud storages, social networks, and dating websites.

The leadership in terms of the number of phishing resources registered has persistently been held by .com domain zone – it accounts for nearly a half (44%) of detected phishing resources in the review period. Other domain zones popular among the phishers included .ru (9%), .br (6%), .net (3%) and .org (2%).

“The beginning of this year was marked by changes in the top of urgent threats that are hiding in malicious emails,” comments CERT-GIB deputy head Yaroslav Kargalev.

“Ransomware operators have focused on targeted attacks, choosing large victims with a higher payment capacity. The precise elaboration of these separate attacks affected the ransomware share in the top threats distributed via email en masse.

“Their place was taken by backdoors and spyware, with the help of which threat actors first steal sensitive information and then blackmail the victim, demanding a ransom, and, in case the demand is refused, releasing the info publicly.

“The ransomware operators’ desire to make a good score is likely to result in the increase of the number of targeted attacks. As email phishing remains the main channel of their distribution, the urgency of securing mail communication is more relevant than ever.”

DDoS attacks rise in intensity, sophistication and volume

There have been significant shifts in DDoS attack patterns in the first half of 2020, a Neustar report reveals. There has been a 151% increase in the number of DDoS attacks compared to the same period in 2019. These included the largest and longest attacks that Neustar has ever mitigated at 1.17 Terabits-per-second (Tbps) and 5 days and 18 hours respectively.

DDoS attacks rise

These figures are representative of the growing number, volume and intensity of network-type cyberattacks as organizations shifted to remote operations and workers’ reliance on the internet increased.

DDoS attacks becoming increasingly intense and sophisticated

Large DDoS attacks are bigger, more intense, and happening in greater numbers than ever before. There has been a noticeable spike in large attacks across the industry, most notably the 2.3 Tbps attack targeting an Amazon Web Services client in February – the largest volumetric DDoS attack on record.

The total number of attacks increased by over two and a half times during January through June of 2020 compared to the same period in 2019. The increase was felt across all size categories, with the biggest growth happening at opposite ends of the scale – the number of attacks sized 100 Gbps and above grew a whopping 275% and the number of very small attacks, sized 5 Gbps and below, increased by more than 200%.

Overall, small attacks sized 5 Gbps and below represented 70% of all attacks mitigated between January and June of 2020.

“While large volumetric attacks capture attention and headlines, bad actors increasingly recognise the value of striking at low enough volume to bypass the traffic thresholds that would trigger mitigation to degrade performance or precision target vulnerable infrastructure like a VPN,” said Michael Kaczmarek, Neustar VP of Security Products.

“These shifts put every organization with an internet presence at risk of a DDoS attack – a threat that is particularly critical with global workforces reliant on VPNs for remote login. VPN servers are often left vulnerable, making it simple for cybercriminals to take an entire workforce offline with a targeted DDoS attack.”

The rise in smaller DDoS attacks has been matched by increases in attack sophistication and intensity. 52% of threats mitigated by Neustar leveraged three vectors or more, with the number of attacks featuring a single vector essentially nonexistent.

New amplification methods and attacks of higher intensity targeted at critical pieces of web infrastructure were also tracked. The previous high-water mark of 500 millions-of-packets-per-second (Mpps) was topped this year, with an attack of over 800 Mpps recorded.

“The dependency and growth in online communications since COVID-19 has fundamentally changed what organizations must do to succeed,” said Brian McCann, President, Neustar Security Solutions.

“There is no one-size-fits-all solution for security, but having a reliable cloud service that ensures availability and security for all services and users has proven to be a critical difference between barely surviving and thriving in this rapidly changing environment.”

Ongoing impact of COVID-19 on cyberthreats and industry web traffic

The precipitous rise in DDoS attacks mirrors the growth in internet traffic seen during the pandemic. Internet use is up between 50% and 70% and streaming media rose more than 12% in the first quarter of 2020. This has meant that attackers of all types, whether serious cybercriminals or bored teenagers stuck at home, have had more screen time to be disruptive.

In a study of one of the largest cybercrime sites by Cambridge University’s Cybercrime Centre, they found that the number of attacks enacted by the website went up sharply at the start of the pandemic and associated lockdown. They also found that instead of existing cybercriminals staging more attacks, it was new attackers driving the increase in DDoS attacks.

The corresponding attacks, like internet traffic, have not been evenly spread across all websites. It’s well known that ecommerce and gaming websites have received a lot of negative attention from hackers, but there are other industries that have been hit hard by cybercriminals over the last six months.

Healthcare organizations contain sensitive patient information and a growing number of IoT devices that are easily exploited. Combined with the additional pressure of the pandemic, hospitals have become some of the most desirable targets for cybercriminals.

Industries that have seen a lot of growth during the pandemic, like online gambling, have also been ripe for cyberthreats. Most notably, online video has seen an incredible rise in both usage and DDoS attacks.

Omdia has reported an additional 200 billion hours of Netflix viewing or Zoom video calls over initial 2020 forecasts. Where traffic rises, so too do attacks; Neustar attack mitigations for this vertical increased by 461% over the last six months.

“While 2020 has brought radical changes in behaviour to consumers and criminals alike, it is naïve to assume that actions of either audience will revert completely to pre-pandemic norms after this crisis passes,” added Kaczmarek.

“Mitigating these increasingly sophisticated DDoS attacks will continue to be a necessary part of doing business online. At a time when many organizations could do with less worry, fully managed services can take the pressure off and ensure critical digital assets are safe and secure.”

The report highlights several emerging attacker tactics seen across the industry, including an increase in burst and pulse DDoS attacks, broadening abuse of built-in network protocols such as ARMS, WS-DD, CoAP and Jenkins to launch DDoS amplification attacks that can be carried out with limited resources and cause significant disruptions, NXNS attacks targeting DNS servers, RangeAmp attacks targeting Content Delivery Networks (CDNs), and a resurgence of Mirai-like malware capable of building large botnets through the exploitation of poorly secured IoT devices.

Do Californians use CCPA to protect their privacy?

Californians regularly opt-out of companies selling their personal information, with “Do-not-sell” being the most common CCPA right exercised, happening nearly 50% of the time over access and deletion requests, DataGrail’s Mid-Year CCPA Trends Report shows.

CCPA use

Consumer rights under CCPA

The California Consumer Privacy Act gives California residents the right to:

  • Know what personal data businesses have about them
  • Know what businesses do with that information (to whom they sell it or disclose it)
  • Access their personal data
  • Refuse the sale of their personal data
  • Request that a business deletes their personal data

Do-not-sell requests are almost 50% of all DSRs

When CCPA went into effect in January 2020, DataGrail saw people exercise their rights immediately, with a surge of data subject requests (DSRs) going across its platform in January 2020.

Since the initial surge, DSRs have stabilized around 13 DSRs per million records every month, which is a substantial rate and confirms that organizations need an established privacy program.

Consumers are accessing their data (21%), deleting their data (31%) and requiring that businesses do-not-sell their personal information (48%).

Processing DSRs

Gartner data shows that manually processing a single DSR costs on average $1,406. At this rate, organizations can expect to spend almost $240,000 per million records to fulfill DSRs – if they are done manually.

Additionally, organizations could be on the hook for more DSR requests from fines that will likely begin appearing in October, if CCPA follows the same timeline as GDPR.

According to the research, B2C companies should prepare to process approximately 170 total DSRs per one million consumer records each year.

DataGrail has also found that three of every ten DSRs will go unverified, confirming the need for a robust and scalable verification method to prevent fraud (i.e., detect fraudulent requests being made to steal personal data).

Access requests (DSARs) make up 70% of the unverified requests, validating the concern that nefarious characters could be submitting access requests to gain access to another person’s personal information.

Cyber losses are increasing in frequency and severity

Cyber attacks have increased in number and severity since the onset of the pandemic. The changes organizations implemented to facilitate remote work have given cybercriminals new opportunities to launch campaigns exploiting mass uncertainty and fear.

cyber losses

Ransomware attack severity increases

In fact, since the beginning of COVID-19, Coalition observed a 47% increase in the severity of ransomware attacks, on top of a 100% increase from 2019 to Q1 2020.

Researchers also found that newer strains of ransomware have been particularly malicious, with costly ransom demands and criminal actors threatening to expose an organization’s data if they don’t pay the ransom demand. They report that the average Maze demand is approximately six times larger than the overall average ransom demand.

Funds transfer fraud and social engineering

Since the beginning of the pandemic, researchers also reported a 35% increase in funds transfer fraud and social engineering claims filed by their policyholders. Reported losses from these types of attacks have ranged from the low thousands to well above $1 million per event.

Additionally, COVID-19 has resulted in a notable surge of business email compromise. Coalition observed a 67% increase in the number of email attacks during the pandemic.

Coalition’s findings indicate that ransomware (41%), funds transfer loss (27%), and business email compromise incidents (19%) were the most frequent types of loss — accounting for 87% of reported incidents and 84% of claims payouts in the first half of 2020. Digging deeper into what ultimately caused these claims, Coalition found that:

  • Due to the transition to remote work, exploitation of remote access was the root cause of reported ransomware incidents
  • Email intrusion, invoice manipulation, and domain spoofing were the most common attack techniques for funds transfer fraud incidents
  • Organizations that use Outlook for email were more than three times as likely to experience a business email compromise as compared to organizations that use Gmail

cyber losses

“When it comes to cyber loss, the conventional wisdom is that it’s not ‘if’ it will happen, but ‘when’,” said Joshua Motta, CEO, Coalition. “We’re in a heightened state of cyber vulnerability: human errors are more likely to be made remotely, new technology is being deployed on a daily basis to support remote work setups, and cybercriminals are taking advantage.”

The report also shows that criminal actors target organizations of all sizes. While larger organizations in the sample (with revenues of $100M-$250M) were five times as likely to experience claims as small organizations (with revenues under $10M), the severity of losses was often well into six figures, regardless of the organization’s size. This highlights the disproportionate financial impact of cyber incidents on small businesses.