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Targeted Attacks Stoke Concerns of Rising Cyberespionage

Almost every IT security professional is concerned that the latest advanced persistent threats (APTs) have made them potential targets of sophisticated cyberespionage campaigns. A survey of IT security leaders in the U.S. and several European countries conducted by security software provider Bitdefender found that 96 percent are concerned about APTs, while 61 percent worry about becoming victims of targeted corporate or industrial espionage.

The survey of 1,051 IT security decision makers, conducted in April and May of this year, also found that 58 percent could be targeted by cyberespionage campaigns using APTs, with 36 percent acknowledging that they were at risk of sophisticated cyberespionage attacks aimed at exfiltrating critical information.

Office 365 attacks are of particular risk since they provide access to e-mail accounts and files stored in OneDrive. Cloud access security broker (CASB) Skyhigh Networks last month revealed a campaign specifically targeting its large enterprise customers' Office 365 accounts.

Skyhigh reported it detected 100,000 failed login attempts originating from 67 IP addresses and 12 networks throughout the world. The campaign targeted 48 of its customers' Office 365 accounts, according to Sandeep Chandana, senior VP of engineering at Skyhigh Networks. Chandana revealed the brute force attack in a blog post on July 20, noting the attack didn't cast a wide net, but rather was targeted at high-level executives.

"The attack was really sophisticated," Chandana said in an interview this week. "It worked really slow, under the radar. Typical systems didn't detect it because it was timed in such a way to evade typical solutions." Based on the intelligence Skyhigh gathered, the attackers appeared to have passwords of high-level executives, many of them C-level, Chandana said, but not their login IDs. "They were trying to use different variations of user names with the same passwords," he said.

Chandana said Skyhigh alerted the ISPs and Microsoft of the incident, and the attempted logins have since tapered off. No one was breached that the company is aware of, he said, noting these were all Fortune-250 companies that use two-factor authentication.

IT security pros believe competitors (61 percent) are the number one culprit of these campaigns, according to the Bitdefender survey, followed by hactivists (56 percent), foreign state-sponsored actors (48 percent) and national government agencies (41 percent).  "Most advanced persistent threats are not limited to state-sponsored attacks, as enterprises can also fall victim to attackers that exploit zero-day vulnerabilities to install highly targeted malware to spy on companies and steal intellectual property," according to the report's executive summary. Only 32 percent believe that insiders are likely attackers when it comes to APTs.

Posted by Jeffrey Schwartz on 08/04/2017 at 1:37 PM


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