Highlights of Cisco midyear security report

Cisco today shared its midyear security report that examines threat intelligence and cybersecurity trends for the first half of 2014.


Man-in-the-Browser attacks pose a risk for enterprises

Nearly 94 percent of customer networks observed in 2014 have been identified as having traffic going to websites that host malware. Specifically, issuing DNS requests for hostnames where the IP address to which the hostname resolves is reported to be associated with the distribution of Palevo, SpyEye, and Zeus malware families that incorporate man-in-the-browser (MiTB) functionality.

Botnet hide and seek

Nearly 70 percent of networks were identified as issuing DNS queries for Dynamic DNS Domains. This shows evidence of networks misused or compromised with botnets using DDNS to alter their IP address to avoid detection/blacklist. Few legitimate outbound connection attempts from enterprises would seek dynamic DNS domains apart from outbound C&C callbacks looking to disguise the location of their botnet.

Encrypting stolen data

Nearly 44 percent of customer networks observed in 2014 have been identified as issuing DNS requests for sites and domains with devices that provide encrypted channel services, used by malicious actors to cover their tracks by exfiltrating data using encrypted channels to avoid detection like VPN, SSH, SFTP, FTP, and FTPS.

The number of exploit kits has dropped by 87 percent since the alleged creator of the widely popular Blackhole exploit kit was arrested last year, according to Cisco security researchers. Several exploit kits observed in the first half of 2014 were trying to move in on territory once dominated by the Blackhole exploit kit, but a clear leader has yet to emerge.

Java continues its dubious distinction as the programming language most exploited by malicious actors. Cisco security researchers found that Java exploits rose to 93 percent of all indicators of compromise (IOCs) as of May 2014, following a high point of 91 percent of IOCs in November 2013 as reported in the Cisco 2014 Annual Security Report.

Unusual upticks in malware

For the first half of 2014, the pharmaceutical and chemical industry placed in the top three high-risk verticals for Web malware encounters.

Media and publishing led the industry verticals posting nearly four times the median Web malware encounters, and aviation slid into third place with over twice the median Web malware encounters globally.

The top most affected verticals by region were media and publishing in the Americas; food and beverage in EMEAR (Africa, Europe and the Middle East) and insurance in Asia-Pacific, China, Japan and India.

Researchers examined 16 large multinational organizations who controlled over $4 trillion in assets with revenues in excess of $300 billion in 2013.

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