Symantec's latest Global Internet Security Report reveals that while the largest percentage of data breaches were caused by the physical theft or loss of a device with corporate information, hacking was the greatest cause of data records being exposed in 2009.
That credit card number swiped in a data breach may go for as
little as 85 cents in the cyber-underground, according to Symantec's
latest Global Internet Security Report.
The massive, 97-page document details the company's review of the
threat landscape in 2009. While there was a significant drop in
documented vulnerabilities--from 5,491 in 2008 to 4,501 in 2009
--Symantec's analysis of data breaches during the year showed a notable change as well.
While the largest percentage (37 percent) of data breaches that
could possibly lead to identity theft were still caused by
physical theft or loss, a growing number were caused by hacking.
According to Symantec, 60 percent of the data records exposed were
compromised via hacking, up from 22 percent in 2008. Fifteen percent
of breaches that could lead to identity theft were caused by
hacking, a slight decrease from 2008, Symantec said.
Much of this can be attributed to the fallout resulting from the activities of notorious hacker Albert Gonzalez
who was recently sentenced for his role in a number of massive data
breaches that exposed millions of records, the report said. The
financial sector was hardest hit among the verticals analyzed by
Symantec, and accounted for 60 percent of the total identities
"Attackers have evolved from simple scams to highly
sophisticated espionage campaigns targeting some of the world's
largest corporations and government entities," said Stephen Trilling,
senior vice president of security technology and response at Symantec,
in a statement. "The scale of these attacks and the fact
that they originate from across the world makes this a truly
international problem requiring the cooperation of both the private
sector and world governments."
The international nature of cyber-crime was underscored in the report, which found a significant growth of malicious activity
countries such as Brazil and India. Brazil cracked the top three of
Symantec's list of countries with the most malicious activity, marking
the first time since 2006 a country other than the United States, China
or Germany has ranked in the top three. Brazil's climb, the report
says, is likely due to the country's growing Internet infrastructure.
The top five most malicious countries, ranked in order, are: the
United States, China, Brazil, Germany and India, according to the
Web-based attacks associated with malicious PDF files
during the year. According to Symantec, the number of attacks targeting
PDF viewers such as Adobe Reader accounted for 49 percent of the
Web-based attacks observed for the year, more than four times the 11
percent observed in 2008.The attack is not directly related to any
specific vulnerability, but the contents of the malicious PDF file were
designed to exploit arbitrary vulnerabilities in applications that
process PDFs, the report explained.
While some of that increase may be due to targeted attacks focused
businesses, it is likely also related to the overall usage of the file
format, Marc Fossi, executive editor of the report and
manager of research and development with Symantec Security
Response, told eWEEK.
"Because it's now an open format, there are more PDF readers out
there that can be potentially exploited," he said. "Part of it may also
be related to some people potentially thinking PDF files are safer than
other types of files, such as word processing documents or