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by Staff Writer

Senior executives blamed for a majority of undisclosed security incidents

Nov 08, 20134 mins
IT JobsIT LeadershipIT Strategy

Malware analysts find that many of the undisclosed issues could have been easily avoided

According to a report from ThreatTrack Security, the company responsible for VIPRE Anti-Virus, a majority of malware analysts say that they’ve investigated or addressed a security incident that was never disclosed by their company. Moreover, many of those unreported incidents were caused by a senior executive within the organization.

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In October, a blind survey of 200 security professionals dealing with malware analysis, conducted by Opinion Matters for ThreatTrack, shows that 66 percent of them have had to deal with a security incident that later went unreported by the company. Further, the source of the incident can be tracked back to a senior executive within the organization most of the time, and many of the problems could have been avoided.

When it comes to how these easily avoided incidents occur the study’s respondents cited policy violations and careless behavior as the most common reasons. For example, installation of a malicious mobile application (33 percent); allowing a family member to use the company-owned device (45 percent); phishing (56 percent); or accessing pornographic websites (40 percent), were the top reasons listed.

Criminals target people first and platforms second, and in IT it’s an unfortunate reality that most executives are exempt from policy enforcement and security restrictions. So it comes as no surprise to see phishing as the top source of infection, followed by allowing unauthorized users on company devices. When people become low-hanging fruit easy for the picking due to blatant disregard for, or an absence of, security policy — criminals have a readymade attack surface to exploit.

In Q3-2013, criminals targeted some of the world’s largest brands and most popular news sources as a means to lure victims into their malicious nets.

According to Malcovery, a company that focuses phishing trends and protection, Facebook, WhatsApp, UPS, Wells Fargo, and Companies House (UK), HMRC were the top five brands targeted by phishing campaigns this last quarter. In one case, people infected by the malware delivered by HMRC related phishing emails in the morning, were sending entirely different malware and phishing emails by the afternoon.

“We quickly discovered that malware delivered by one spam campaign early in the morning was generating spam which was delivering a different malware shortly thereafter,” Malcovery’s Brendan Griffin told CSO.

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“We found it interesting for a couple of reasons, but most notably because it sheds light on the sort of effect your infected machine can have on others as well as how valuable that compromised machine is to the bad guys.”

In their Q3-2013 report, Commtouch noted that global news events were being exploited by criminals within 22 hours of their announcement, including real-time malware campaigns focusing on news of the royal baby Prince George, NSA whistleblower Edward Snowden, and the ongoing crisis in Syria.

Commtouch also noted that Phishing common brands, such as PayPal, was a regular occurrence last quarter. In fact, PayPal phishing alone accounted for the development of 750 new phishing websites per day. In Q3-2013, the average daily amount of spam for the quarter was 69 billion messages. Of those, 2 billion had malware attached directly.

“Malware analysts and CISOs face enough challenges trying to protect their companies’ networks from external threats. They certainly don’t need internal forces hindering those efforts,” the ThreatTrack report concludes.

“Yet that seems to be what’s happening, with senior executives who let family members use corporate PCs and can’t keep away from pornographic websites. And then there are the undisclosed data breaches. Not only are unreported compromises doing a disservice to customers, they may even be inhibiting proper attention that needs to be placed on the cybersecurity industry in general.”