August worst month for hacker exploits

by Karl Cushing, © 2002 ComputerWeekly.com Ltd. All rights reserved

The number of worldwide hacking attempts and electronic attacks in August was the highest since records began in 1995. And more than 50% of all serious attacks in the UK were suffered by the financial services sector, according to the latest monthly intelligence briefing from security company mi2g.

Wednesday, 4 September 2002 - mi2g said the figure for August was 5,580 attacks, outstripping the monthly average for reported digital attacks, which have totalled 30,839 so far this year. The figure is also close to matching the total number of attacks for the whole of 2001.

On one day alone, 18 August, the organisation received reports of 1,120 attacks. mi2g chairman and chief executive DK Matai said, based on the current situation, the number of attacks for 2003 could reach between 70,000 and 75,000 - equivalent to the total number of reports the organisation has received since 1995.

The figures are based on reports of overt digital attacks held in mi2g's security intelligence products and systems database, which records incidents from across the globe.

Explaining the dramatic rise in the number of reported attacks, Matai said cyber terrorists are becoming more sophisticated at gathering critical intelligence on economic targets. They are also becoming better organised, forming "macro hacking groups" and syndicates.

Matai added that organisations are compounding matters by failing to adopt layered authentication procedures, patch vulnerabilities promptly, monitor temporary staff and deal with disgruntled employees effectively.

"The biggest danger to an organisation is its employees - no external hacker can cause severe damage without support from an employee or ex-employee," he said.

Companies need to become more vigilant in areas such as personnel vetting and monitoring voice and data traffic around known weak spots to combat the risk of internal co-operation through insider social engineering, Matai said.

Financial bodies are most at risk, he added, being targeted by more than half of the reported attacks.

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