5 Costly Hacker Attacks Plaguing Enterprises

Controlling Skyrocketing Security Costs

An analysis of security threats in 2012 conducted by managed security services provider Solutionary found dozens of common costly security weaknesses plaguing large and small organizations. DDoS attacks can cost a firm more than $6,000 an hour, said Don Gray, chief security strategist of the Pittsburgh-based firm. Malware infections can cost $3,000 a day, Gray said. Having the right controls in place and being able to appropriately execute a response plan can help control the costs, he said.

Here's a look at five of the most common security threats Solutionary found, as well as advice on how to reduce security costs.

Costly Web Application Attacks

Web application vulnerabilities continue to be a serious problem. Retailers accounted for the bulk of attacks on Web applications, according to Solutionary, which said cybercriminals are very likely trying to access the databases containing credit card data. A SQL injection attack against a company's custom application source code repository proved extremely costly, according to the study. Identifying, responding to, and investigating the incident cost the firm more than $26,000, Solutionary said. Improved software security processes, robust monitoring and verbosity of logs can help reduce the costs.

DDoS Attacks Masking Larger Problem

Solutionary said it found 75 percent of distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks targeted SSL protected components of Web applications in 2012. This kind of attack, which is slightly more sophisticated than a traditional TCP/UDP-based DDoS attack, is harder to block, the firm said. A 10.5 hour attack on one financial services firm exceeded $65,000 to identify, respond and investigate the incident, Solutionary said. A DDoS attack can also be used as a tool to throw off security teams to the real problem. In some cases, DDoS was used to distract attention from a fraudulent wire transfer, Solutionary said.

BYOD Problems Puzzling Some Firms

Firms that lack a policy on BYOD or fail to have mechanisms in place to effectively enforce BYOD restrictions, can eventually plan to have costly expenses add up, Solutionary said. One organization faced a serious problem when an attacker attempted to blackmail a senior partner by targeting the personal laptop he was using to connect to the corporate network. The firm lacked a BYOD policy. Solutionary said that the company spent an estimated $165,000 in lost productivity, log monitoring and the addition of defensive controls to mitigate the problem as well as security consulting and analysis during the incident.

Automated Toolkits Targeting Older Flaws

Automated attack toolkits remove the skill level needed to carry out attacks, enabling lesser-skilled cybercriminals to set up attack platforms to spread malware and steal data. The report found that an unpatched Java vulnerability cost one firm close to $95,000 for mitigation, lost productivity, additional monitoring, defensive controls and analysis during the incident. The Solutionary analysis found that 81 percent of the exploits identified in attacker exploit kits in 2012 were related to vulnerabilities cataloged in 2011 or earlier. The finding highlights the need for a robust patch management program at organizations.

China Attacks Targeting Intellectual Property

Intellectual property theft, driven by attacks believed to have originated from China, continue to be a serious and growing threat. Over 90 percent of all attacks from China were directed at the business services, technology and financial verticals, according to Solutionary. Attacks on business services are typically used to leverage their infrastructure to distribute malware, the firm said. Product manufacturers are also a high-value target. Cybercriminals increasingly monetize IP theft by using the information to create pirated products, costing some firms millions in lost revenue.