Cybercriminals target companies

2012-03-28 22:48
Kaspersky Lab's Sergey Novikov has said criminals are targeting companies to steal information. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

Kaspersky Lab's Sergey Novikov has said criminals are targeting companies to steal information. (Duncan Alfreds, News24)

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Cape Town - Criminals have changed focus from hacking home users to corporates in an effort to make money from cybercrime activities, a security company has said.

"Cybercriminals have switched from home users to corporates and in the last 15 months, maybe a year-and-a-half; they are more interested in attacks on corporates and small and medium companies," Sergey Novikov, head of Kaspersky Lab's global research and analysis team, told News24.

The company has observed a trend of targeted attacks, specifically aimed at corporates to steal data. But Novikov also said that hackers target company officials personally to steal critical information.

"They collect information about employees, for example, social networks and any local information."

One strategy employed is that hackers send "bait e-mail" such as links to porn or financial reward websites.


These are set up to deliver malware to computers that may steal information related to company human resources, financial records as well as user logon information.

Novikov said that corporate users may be unaware of these attacks and could fall victim and compromise the entire company network.

"They send mail to executives, HR [human resources] guys, financial guys who are less technical, with some interesting PDF file or Excel file, trying to give you some interesting information.

"Non-very-technical people open it and infect their computers and then it propagates inside the network," said Novikov.

Advanced persistent threats (APT) are becoming more common as criminals attempt to use stolen certificates to spread malware through networks.

In September 2011, the FBI arrested six Estonian nationals for running a sophisticated cyber ring designed to manipulate the online advertising industry.

The malware that was used to infect computers was designed to be "invisible" to users and also allowed infiltration of other viruses.

Real-world threat

The FBI highlighted the real-world threat posed by malware.

"I believe the cyber threat is an existential one, meaning that a major cyber attack could potentially wipe out whole companies. It could shut down our electric grid or water supply. It could cause serious damage to parts of our cities, and ultimately even kill people," FBI executive assistant director, Shawn Henry, said in October 2011.

He said that the global cost of cybercrime was escalating and thieves were making increasing use of cyber techniques to steal money rather than physically breaking into banks or companies.

"The 2011 Norton Cybercrime Report put the global cost of cybercrime at nearly $400bn a year, and found that there are more than one million victims of cybercrime every day," said Henry.

Kaspersky Lab advises that corporate users adopt a complex security policy, including the use of multiple vendors to limit hackers' ability to compromise sensitive systems.

"Talking about corporates, it's important to use a complex approach to security," said Novikov.

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