The threat of attack: as attackers become increasingly sophisticated, organizations must be prepared to address cyberrisks.

Author:Bell, Greg
Position:Eye on Business - Column

According to the Ponemon Institute, the number of successful cyberattacks on companies more than doubled over a two-year period, and the resulting financial impact increased nearly 40 percent. What kind of growth in attacks are your clients experiencing?

NORTON Clearly, many companies are seeing a greater degree or intensity of attacks. The focus of the attack may differ by industry (e.g., credit card data in retail, intellectual property in technology, and exploration data in oil and gas) and the nature of the attack may differ by targeted outcome (e.g., theft of sensitive data or disruption of operations); however, the risk is pervasive. I have noticed a specific uptick in concern over intellectual property theft.

BELL Our clients are seeing a similar increase in both attempts and in the recognition of successful cyberattacks. Even more alarming is the target of these attacks. While the traditional focus of identity theft (e.g., personal financial or health information) and financial fraud (e.g., credit card numbers, bank accounts) continues to be a concern, we also are seeing an increase in the targeting of very strategic information, including intellectual property, unreleased financial statements, operational and pricing data, and competitive insight such as data regarding mergers, acquisitions, or product launches.

Are your clients more concerned with internal or external attacks?

BELL The general focus over the past 24 to 30 months has been largely on external attacks such as those driven by multinational criminal enterprises, foreign national threats, or "hacktivist" organizations. However, the recent six to nine months have seen an increase in reconsidering the insider threat of trusted employees and business partners, largely driven by the Edward Snowden situation.

NORTON It's both. The line between internal and external attacks is blurring as attackers increasingly leverage stolen credentials and remote access systems to obtain sensitive information. Organizations need to focus on building a secure infrastructure, vigilant monitoring capability, and resilient program that enable rapid identification, response, containment, and recovery, regardless of the source of the attack.

Are your clients focusing their security efforts in the best direction? Is it possible to totally protect an organization from cyberattacks?

NORTON There is no single, best direction. Each company should understand its ecosystem, the threats facing the...

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