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Cyber Attacks Decline, But Still Top Business Concern

This is a guest article by Blake Sanders.Since the advent of the internet, companies have been able to create an online presence and gain exposure as part of their overall business strategy. The security of online stores, cable internet providers, corporate portals, and web-based account management are but the tip of a very complex iceberg. This has made hackers a very worrisome threat, and the advent of cloud computing only makes the logistics of keeping a business protected more difficult than ever before.

High-profile Cyber Attacks in 2011

So far this year, there have been a long series of high profile attacks. Just the ‘hacktivist’ collective known as Anonymous alone has taken responsibility for attacks that took down websites and services for Master Card, Paypal, the Recording Industry Association of America and even government websites for the CIA and the Lybian government. LulzSec, another hacking group related to Anonymous, brought down the Sony Playstation network for weeks and is alleged to have made off with the private information of more than 70 million customers – this includes account passwords, credit card numbers, physical addresses and much more.

Drop in Attacks Overall

Yet, for all the high-profile attacks that have happened so far this year, there is actually a drop in cyber attacks according to a recent security survey released by Symantec. Data gathered from over 3,300 respondents spanning 36 countries, unsurprisingly, mentions cyber security as the main cause of concern for businesses for the second year in a row, but also indicates companies are getting better at fighting off these attacks.

For example, earlier this year, a concerted ‘Denial of Service’ attack on Amazon.com was successfully repelled by the online retailer by using clever and newer server-side defensive measures. Of the respondents who indicated losses due to cyber attacks during 2010, the percentage of those who faced losses in 2011 dropped down to 92 percent.

This may also be due to an overall decrease in the amount and intensity of the attacks themselves. This year 70 percent of surveyed businesses were victims of cyber attacks, which represent a 5 percent drop from the previous 12 months. From those who were targeted by hackers, only 21 percent reported an increase in attack frequency – a sharp decrease compared to last year’s 29 percent.

Taking Better Precautions

Fortunately, companies are getting increasingly good at cyber damage control; and only 20 percent of them suffered monetary loses of $195,000 or more.

Main Concerns for Businesses

From all the damages reported, the top issues were downtimes at 43 percent, employee data theft with 20 percent and intellectual property robbery at 19 percent. Lost productivity was the main effect, at 35 percent, but also 23 percent of respondents indicated lost revenue as the most costly consequence.

Interestingly enough, while ‘Denial of Service’ attacks have been the topic of the top news stories this last year, in reality these only grew 18 percent in the last 12 months. The attacks increasing in activity the most are malicious code at 30 percent and social engineering with 26 percent.


Biggest Threat Moving Forward


Social engineering is perhaps the biggest unsung threat of today’s cyber world, mostly because of how low tech it really is. In social engineering, hackers use deception, trickery and manipulation to make workers divulge passwords, usernames and other security information, usually by impersonating either a superior or IT staff. Many hackers will not spend the better part of the week figuring out an access code when they can trick a worker into giving them access in a couple hours.

As usual, the poll is not infallible and it has 95 percent reliability, give or take 1.8 percent. Still, it shows some very interesting numbers and a noticeable improvement on the security measures businesses use to fend off cyber attacks.

Blake Sanders writes on tech issues at broadband comparison site Broadband Expert, where he specializes in cable internet providers, wireless broadband, and industry news and insights.



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