Ransomware, social engineering costs skyrocket – report
Verizon Business has released the results of its 16th annual Data Breach Investigations Report (2023 DBIR), which analysed 16,312 security incidents and 5,199 breaches.
Chief among its findings is the soaring cost of ransomware – malicious software (malware) that encrypts an organisation’s data and then extorts large sums of money to restore access.
The median cost per ransomware more than doubled over the past two years to $26,000, with 95% of incidents that experienced a loss costing between $1 and $2.25 million. This rise in cost coincides with a dramatic rise in frequency over the past couple of years when the number of ransomware attacks was greater than the previous five years combined. That prevalence held steady this year: Representing almost a quarter of all breaches (24%), ransomware remains one of the top cyberattack methods.
The human element still makes up the overwhelming majority of incidents, and is a factor in 74% of total breaches, even as enterprises continue to safeguard critical infrastructure and increase training on cybersecurity protocols. One of the most common ways to exploit human nature is social engineering, which refers to manipulating an organisation's sensitive information through tactics like phishing, in which a hacker convinces the user into clicking on a malicious link or attachment.
“Senior leadership represents a growing cybersecurity threat for many organisations,” says Chris Novak, Managing Director of Cybersecurity Consulting at Verizon Business.
“Not only do they possess an organisation’s most sensitive information, they are often among the least protected, as many organisations make security protocol exceptions for them. With the growth and increasing sophistication of social engineering, organisations must enhance the protection of their senior leadership now to avoid expensive system intrusions.”
Like ransomware, social engineering is a lucrative tactic for cybercriminals, especially given the rise of those techniques being used to impersonate enterprise employees for financial gain, an attack known as Business Email Compromise (BEC). The median amount stolen in BECs has increased over the last couple of years to $50,000 USD, based on Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) data, which might have contributed to pretexting nearly doubling this past year. With the growth of BEC, enterprises with distributed workforces face a challenge that takes on greater importance: creating and strictly enforcing human-centric security best practices.
"Globally, cyber threat actors continue their relentless efforts to acquire sensitive consumer and business data. The revenue generated from that information is staggering, and it's not lost on business leaders, as it is front and centre at the board level," adds Craig Robinson, Research Vice President at IDC.
"Verizon's Data Breach Investigations Report provides deep insights into the topics that are critical to the cybersecurity industry and has become a source of truth for the business community."
In addition to the increase in social engineering, other key findings in the 2023 DBIR include:
- While espionage garners substantial media attention, owing to the current geopolitical climate, only 3% of threat actors were motivated by espionage. The other 97% were motivated by financial gain.
- 32% of yearly Log4j vulnerability scanning occurred in the first 30 days after its release, demonstrating threat actors’ velocity when escalating from a proof of concept to mass exploitation.
- External actors leveraged a variety of different techniques to gain entry to an organisation, such as using stolen credentials (49%), phishing (12%) and exploiting vulnerabilities (5%).
One of the ways that enterprises can help safeguard their critical infrastructure is through the adoption and adherence of industry leading protocols and practices. Verizon recently became the first nationwide telecom provider to become a participant of Mutually Agreed Norms for Routing Security (MANRS): a global initiative that provides crucial fixes to reduce the most common routing threats that can be exploited by attackers. Participation in MANRS demonstrates Verizon’s commitment to implementing industry best fixes to common routing threats and best practices geared at helping to prevent cyber incidents for customers on the network.