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The Rise and Rise of Targeted Threats

At Infosecurity Europe this year, it’s an interesting time. The idea of cloud services has become ubiquitous, which means there’s little need to talk about it, at least not in the way it’s been positioned over the last few years.

InfoSecurity Europe

2014 is the last time that InfoSec will be hosted in Earls Court and the venue isn’t the only thing that’s changing

It leaves the way open for new trends…I’ve already explored one in my previous blog post – the change in emphasis from external to internal threats.

In addition, one other noticeable trend is the rise of targeted attacks.

It’s an area made all the more significant with the recent news of the security flaw in most versions of Internet Explorer. It appears the flaw could make users vulnerable to spear phishing attacks if they click on a link within an email (or IM message) to a malicious website designed to exploit this vulnerability in IE. Ultimately, the exploit could make the whole user’s system vulnerable.

Spear phishing is similar to standard phishing, in that it uses social engineering in emails to persuade end users to act, usually by clicking on a link in the same email. The emails look like they come from a specific trusted sender, but the content is far from safe. The URL is generally a drive-by attack malware site that will attempt to install malicious code on your computer, as well as persuade you to give up valuable user credentials – it’s a growing threat to enterprise-sized organizations in particular, and is fast becoming the attack vector of choice for hackers looking to gain access or compromise an organization.

This technique, like many other targeted attacks, relies on the attacker knowing details about the target such as their name, address, job and e-commerce sites which they regularly use.

Data, both corporate and personal, is the soft under belly that’s now ruthlessly being exploited by criminal gangs. I wanted to specifically say criminal gangs because it’s sometimes easy to forget that the perpetrators of these attacks are…well…not pretty, but behave in many ways like a normal business operation. Many even have employee healthcare plans.

It was refreshing to see and hear first-hand how ugly it gets at InfoSec from the likes of Jason Hart, ex-ethical hacker, Safenet, who hacked the attendee’s mobile devices as he spoke, and Thomas Olofsson, Intelliagg, who profiled a prolific spear phishing gang from Nigeria. These guys truly got under the skin of what motivates these attackers in their presentations.

As the culprits of these attacks become more sophisticated and extreme, the industry will have to change its way of planning to prevent these attacks, as well as effectively clean up afterwards. As Jason mentioned in his presentation – ‘think like they do – they’re after your data’. It’s sage advice as we gear up for a new front opening up in the battle to protect ourselves online.

If you’d like to talk about this or other security trends and are attending InfoSec in London today, do drop by our stand F86 where we can also explain how our new service Targeted Threat Protection can help protect your business from spear phishing attacks.