Brian Pennington

A blog about Cyber Security & Compliance


Trojan Horse

Breaches caused by either hacking or malware nearly doubled in relative frequency

Beazley, a leading provider of data breach response insurance, today released its Beazley Breach Insights 2016 findings based on its response to over 2,000 breaches in the past two years. The specialized Beazley Breach Response (BBR) Services unit responded to 60% more data breaches in 2015 compared to 2014, with a concentration of incidents in the healthcare, financial services and higher education sectors.

Key data:

  • Breaches caused by either hacking or malware nearly doubled in relative frequency over the past year. In 2015, 32% of all incidents were caused by hacking or malware vs. 18% in 2014.
  • Unintended disclosure of records – such as a misdirected email – accounted for 24% of all breaches in 2015, which is down from 32% in 2014.
  • The loss of non-electronic physical records accounted for 16% of all breaches in 2015, which is unchanged from 2014.
  • The proportion of breaches involving third party vendors more than tripled over the same period, rising from 6% of breaches in 2014 to 18% of breaches in 2015.

Beazley’s data breach statistics are based on 777 incidents in 2014 and 1,249 in 2015.

We saw a significant rise in incidents caused by hacking or malware in the past year,” said Katherine Keefe, global head of BBR Services. This was especially noticeable in healthcare where the percentage of data breaches caused by hacking or malware more than doubled

Ransomware on the rise in healthcare

Hackers are increasingly employing ransomware to lock up an organization’s data, holding it until a ransom is paid in nearly untraceable Bitcoin. Hollywood Presbyterian Hospital in Los Angeles reported suffering a ransomware attack in February 2016 and ultimately paid the hackers $17,000 in Bitcoin. A year earlier, the FBI had issued an alert warning that ransomware attacks were on the rise.

This trend is borne out by Beazley’s data. Breaches involving ransomware among Beazley clients more than doubled to 43 in 2015 and the trend appears to be accelerating in 2016. Based on figures for the first two months of the year, ransomware attacks are projected to increase by 250% in 2016.

Clearly, new malware programs, including ransomware, are having a big impact, said Paul Nikhinson, privacy breach response services manager for BBR Services. Hacking or malware was the leading cause of data breaches in the healthcare industry in 2015, representing 27% of all breaches, more than physical loss at 20%

Healthcare is a big target for hackers because of the richness of medical records for identity theft and other crimes. In fact, a medical record is worth over 16 times more than a credit card record.”

Higher Education

Higher education also experienced an increase in breaches due to hacking or malware with these accounting for 35% of incidents in 2015, up from 26% in 2015.

Colleges and universities are reporting increased “spear phishing” incidents in which hackers send personalized, legitimate-looking emails with harmful links or attachments. The relatively open nature of campus IT systems, widespread use of social media by students and a lack of the restrictive controls common in many corporate settings make higher education institutions particularly vulnerable to data breaches.

Financial Services

In the financial services sector, hacking or malware was up modestly to 27% of industry data breaches in 2015 versus 23% in 2014. Trojan programs continued to be a popular hacking device.

Symantec MessageLabs April 2011 Intelligence Report

Image representing Symantec as depicted in Cru...
Image via CrunchBase

Symantec MessageLabs have released their April 2011 Intelligence Report which as usual makes very interesting reading.

The highlights of the Intelligence Report are below:

  • Spam – 72.9% in April (a decrease of 6.4 percentage points since March 2011)
  • Viruses – One in 168.6 emails in April contained malware (an increase of 0.11 percentage
    points since March 2011)
  • Phishing – One in 242.2 emails comprised a phishing attack (an increase of 0.02
    percentage points since March 2011)
  • Malicious web sites – 2,431 web sites blocked per day (a decrease of 18.2% since March
  • 33.0% of all malicious domains blocked were new in April (a decrease of 4.0 percentage
    points since March 2011)
  • 22.5% of all web-based malware blocked was new in April (a decrease of 1.9 percentage
    points since March 2011)
  • Targeted attacks increase in intensity: What does a recent targeted attack look like?
  • Shortened URLs: Do you know what you’re clicking on?

Symantec MessageLab’s table below shows the most frequently blocked email-borne malware for April, many of which take advantage of malicious hyperlinks. Overall, 55.1% of email-borne malware was associated with Bredolab, Sasfis, SpyEye and Zeus variants, a trend initially reported in the MessageLabs Intelligence Report for February 2011. 

Malware % Malware
Trojan.Bredolab!eml  37.67%
Exploit/FakeAttach  4.54%
HeurAuto-08ba  3.88%
Gen:Variant.Kazy.17074 3.53%
Trojan.Bredolab 3.31%
W32/Bredolab.gen!eml-19251 3.27%
W32/Bredolab.gen!eml 2.83%
Gen:Variant.Kazy.16615 1.80%
W32/Generic-afcd 1.79%
W32/Delf-Generic-ad9e 0.70%

Symantec MessageLab’s table below shows the malware most frequently blocked targeting endpoint devices for the last month. This includes data from endpoint devices protected by Symantec technology around the world, including data from clients which may not be using other layers of protection, such as Symantec MessageLabs Web or Symantec MessageLabs Email

Malware % Malware
W32.Sality.AE  8.10%
W32.Ramnit.B!inf  7.80%
W32.Ramnit!html  6.90%
Trojan.Gen 6.80%
Trojan Horse  6.80%
Trojan.Bamital  5.30%
W32.Downadup.B 4.10%
Trojan.Gen.2  3.80%
Downloader  3.80%
W32.Almanahe.B!inf  2.50%

See entire Symantec MessageLab’s Intelligence Report here

The March report summary can be found here.


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