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Symantec: 552 million identities exposed in 2013...

By David Williams, 10 Apr 2014
FYI, this story is more than a year old

During 2013 cyber criminals unleashed the most damaging series of cyber attacks in history, with 552 million identities exposed during the calendar year.

Symantec's Internet Security Threat Report, shows a significant shift in cybercriminal behaviour, revealing the bad guys are plotting for months before pulling off huge heists – instead of executing quick hits with smaller rewards.

“One mega breach can be worth 50 smaller attacks,” says Kevin Haley, director, Symantec Security Response.

“While the level of sophistication continues to grow among attackers, what was surprising last year was their willingness to be a lot more patient – waiting to strike until the reward is bigger and better.”

In 2013, there was a 62 percent increase in the number of data breaches from the previous year, resulting in more than 552 million identities exposed – proving cybercrime remains a real and damaging threat to consumers and businesses alike.

“Security incidents, managed well, can actually enhance customer perceptions of a company; managed poorly, they can be devastating,” adds Ed Ferrara, VP and principal analyst, Forrester Research.

“If customers lose trust in a company because of the way the business handles personal data and privacy, they will easily take their business elsewhere.”

The size and scope of breaches is exploding, putting the trust and reputation of businesses at risk, and increasingly compromising consumers’ personal information – from credit card numbers and medical records to passwords and bank account details.

Each of the eight top data breaches in 2013 resulted in the loss of tens of millions of data records. By comparison, 2012 only had a single data breach reach that threshold.

“Symantec’s Internet Security Threat Report demonstrates that on the internet everything is interconnected," says Martin Cocker, executive director, Netsafe."Other people’s actions can impact our personal information. We all need to be vigilant and manage our own security and privacy."

According to Haley, nothing breeds success like success – especially if you’re a cybercriminal.

“The potential for huge paydays means large-scale attacks are here to stay," he adds. :Companies of all sizes need to re-examine, re-think and possibly re-architect their security posture.”

Targeted attacks were up 91 percent and lasted an average of three times longer compared to 2012 with personal assistants and those working in public relations the two most targeted professions – cybercriminals use them as a stepping stone toward higher-profile targets like celebrities or business executives.

How to Maintain Cyber Resiliency:

While the increasing flow of data from smart devices, apps and other online services is tantalising to cybercriminals, there are steps businesses and consumers can take to better protect themselves – whether it be from a mega data breach, targeted attack or common spam.

The following best practices are recommended:

Know your data:

Protection must focus on the information – not the device or data centre. Understand where your sensitive data resides and where it is flowing to help identify the best policies and procedures to protect it.

Educate employees:

Provide guidance on information protection, including company policies and procedures for protecting sensitive data on personal and corporate devices.

Implement a strong security posture:

Strengthen your security infrastructure with data loss prevention, network security, endpoint security, encryption, strong authentication and defensive measures, including reputation-based technologies.

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