Cisco 2017 Midyear Cybersecurity Report predicts new “Destruction of Service” attacks; scale and impact of threats grow

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Key industries need to improve security posture as information technology and operational technology converge

Riyadh, Saudi Arabia: The Cisco® (NASDAQ: CISCO) 2017 Midyear Cybersecurity Report (MCR) uncovers the rapid evolution of threats and the increasing magnitude of attacks, and forecasts potential “destruction of service” (DeOS) attacks. These could eliminate organizations’ backups and safety nets, required to restore systems and data after an attack. Also, with the advent of the Internet of Things (IoT), key industries are bringing more operations online, increasing attack surfaces and the potential scale and impact of these threats.

Recent cyber incidents such as WannaCry and Nyetya show the rapid spread and wide impact of attacks that look like traditional ransomware, but are much more destructive. These events foreshadow what Cisco is calling destruction of service attacks, which can be far more damaging, leaving businesses with no way to recover.

The Internet of Things continues to offer new opportunities for cybercriminals, and its security weaknesses, ripe for exploitation, will play a central role in enabling these campaigns with escalating impact. Recent IoT botnet activity already suggests that some attackers may be laying the foundation for a wide-reaching, high-impact cyber-threat event that could potentially disrupt the Internet itself.

“As recent incidents like WannaCry and Netya illustrate, our adversaries are becoming more and more creative in how they architect their attacks. While the majority of organizations took steps to improve security following a breach, businesses across industries are in a constant race against the attackers. Security effectiveness starts with closing the obvious gaps and making security a business priority,”said  Steve Martino, Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer, Cisco.

Measuring effectiveness of security practices in the face of these attacks is critical. Cisco tracks progress in reducing “time to detection” (TTD), the window of time between a compromise and the detection of a threat. Faster time to detection is critical to constrain attackers’ operational space and minimize damage from intrusions.  Since November 2015, Cisco decreased its median time-to-detection (TTD) from just over 39 hours to about 3.5 hours for the period from November 2016 to May 2017. This figure is based on opt-in telemetry gathered from Cisco security products deployed worldwide.

“Complexity continues to hinder many organziations’ security efforts. It’s obvious that the years of investing in point products that can’t integrate is creating huge opportunities for attackers who can easily identify overlooked vulnerabilities or gaps in security efforts. To effectively reduce Time to Detection and limit the impact of an attack, the industry must move to a more integrated, architectural approach that increases visibility and manageability, empowering security teams to close gaps,” said Scott Manson, Cyber Security Leader for Middle East and Turkey, Cisco.

Threat Landscape: What’s Hot and What’s Not

Cisco security researchers watched the evolution of malware during the first half of 2017 and identified shifts in how adversaries are tailoring their delivery, obfuscation and evasion techniques. Specifically, Cisco saw they increasingly require victims to activate threats by clicking on links or opening files. They are developing fileless malware that lives in memory and is harder to detect or investigate as it is wiped out when a device restarts. Finally adversaries are relying on anonymized and decentralized infrastructure, such as a Tor proxy service, to obscure command and control activities.