Heimdal Security Blog

10 Alarming Cyber Security Facts that Threaten Your Data [Updated]

The cyber security industry is growing as you’re reading this. More specialists join the ranks, more malware is being launched every day than ever before: 230,000 new malware samples/day according to the latest statistics. Naturally, more resources are being deployed to counter cyber attacks. That’s why I thought it would be helpful to sum up 10 cyber security facts that define the current information security landscape.

One of these essential facts is the estimated annual cost for cyber crime committed globally which has added up to 100 billion dollars! And don’t think that all that money comes from hackers targeting corporations, banks or wealthy celebrities. Individual users like you and me are also targets.

Source: 2015 Cost of Cyber Crime Study: Global by Ponemon

As long as you’re connected to the Internet, you can become a victim of cyber attacks.

So that’s why we wanted to walk you through some of the most shocking cyber security facts that you maybe wish you’d known until the present moment.

These will give you a much more accurate idea of how dangerous it really is to go online without proper protection.

1.The most wanted cyber criminals in the world


On FBI’s Most Wanted List for cyber criminals you will currently find 19 individuals, each being responsible for consumer losses ranging from $350,000 to more than $100 million. They are from all over the world and huge rewards are offered for their capture.

For example, FBI’s most wanted cyber criminals at this moment are the JABBERZEUS subjects, a group of individuals involved in a wide-ranging racketeering enterprise and scheme that installed, without authorization, malicious software known as Zeus on victims’ computers. This type of financial malware was used to capture bank account numbers, passwords, personal identification numbers, and other confidential information necessary to log into online banking accounts.

Starting in September of 2011, the FBI began investigating a modified version of the Zeus Trojan, known as GameOver Zeus (GOZ), which we covered in depth. Thousands of corporations were infected with GameOver Zeus and as many as 1.2 million computers were infected prior to the take down of Zeus. It is believed GameOver Zeus is responsible for financial losses of more than $100 million USD.

How it affects you and what can you do to get protected:

2. The most expensive computer virus of all times

Ever wondered how much damage a computer virus can do? Let us give you a compelling example through this next cyber security fact. MyDoom is considered to be the most expensive virus in the world and in cyber security history, having caused an estimated financial damage of $38.5 billion!

MyDoom was first spotted in January 2004 and it became the fastest-spreading email worm ever, exceeding all previous records. The virus’s origins are believed to be in Russia, but its author was never discovered.

Mydoom was mainly transmitted by email, disguised as spam email. A user might inadvertently open the attachment in the email and the worm would re-send itself to every address it could find. The original version contained a payload that did two things: it opened a backdoor into the user’s computer, allowing remote control of it, while also conducting a DDoS attack (Direct Denial Of Service) against SCO group’s website.


How it affects you and what can you do to get protected:

3. Social media – a hackers’ favorite target


Currently, according to in depth statistics, there are more than 1.6 billion social network users worldwide with more than 64% of internet users accessing social media services online. Moreover, social networking is one of the most popular ways for online users to spend their time, and a preferred way to stay in contact with friends and families.

This is precisely why cyber attackers love social media as well! Users that spend a lot of time on social networks are very likely to click links posted by trusted friends, which hackers use to their advantage. Here are some of the most popular types of cyber attacks directed at social media platforms:

Why are cyber attacks on social media so frequent?

Because social media users usually trust their circles of online friends. The result: more than 600.000 Facebook accounts are compromised every single day! Also, 1 in 10 social media users said they’ve been a victim of a cyber attack and the numbers are on the rise. Now this is a cyber security statistic which we don’t want you to become part of.

How it affects you and what can you do to get protected:

4. 99% of computers are vulnerable to exploit kits


Cyber security fact: Oracle Java, Adobe Reader or Adobe Flash is present on 99% of computers. That means that 99% of computer users are vulnerable to exploit kits (software vulnerabilities).

Why? Because the vulnerabilities that these types of software often present are extremely critical: all it takes is one click on an infected advertising banner to give a hacker full access to your computer.

Adobe Flash has a huge number of vulnerabilities, so cyber criminals target it in the majority of their attacks. By using these security holes in Flash, attackers can infect your computer with ransomware, such as various CryptoLocker variants or Teslacrypt and CTB-Locker.

The rise of exploit kits-as-a-service and the increasing use of automation has led to more sophisticated and aggressive attacks. Without adequately protecting your browsers and your entire system, you’ll leave yourself vulnerable to a huge range of cyber threats.

How it affects you and what can you do to get protected:

5. Security warning: inside jobs


Maybe you’ll be surprised to find out that a shocking 59% of employees steal proprietary corporate data when they quit or are fired. But there are more types of insider threats to get protection against:

These types of security risks is being acknowledged by companies everywhere, and strategies are put together to mitigate them:

“Almost half of European organizations believe that insider threats are now more difficult to detect, with senior IT managers being very worried about the things their own users can do with corporate data”

said Andrew Kellett, principal analyst at Ovum.

How it affects you and what can you do to get protected:

6. Social engineering – cyber criminals’ favorite way to manipulate victims


People are the weakest link when it comes to cyber security, which is why psychological manipulation of cyber attack victims is so common.

According to the definition, social engineering, in the context of information security, refers to psychological manipulation of people into performing actions or divulging confidential information. This is a type of confidence trick for the purpose of information gathering, fraud, or system access, and the first type of attack of this kind known in history is the Trojan horse itself (not the computer virus, but the Greek mythical event).

For example, in a recent attack, an international cyber crime ring based out of Eastern Europe managed to steal $1 billion in 2 years from 100 different banks in nearly 30 countries using spear phishing emails targeting bank employees. The spear phishing technique is, by far, the most successful on the internet today, accounting for 91% of attacks!

How it affects you and what can you do to get protected:

7. Your government is making you more vulnerable


Cyber security fact: governments around the world are creating malware and using it as digital weapons or in espionage programs. In the past 5 years, more than a handful of government malware have been discovered (such as Stuxnet), but their origins have yet to receive full attribution.

Besides civilians and private organizations becoming collateral damage, there are also other severe consequences.

In an article on Dark Reading, some key points are made as to how governments are making all of us more vulnerable to cyber attacks:

Source: McAfee Labs Threats Report, August 2015

How it affects you and what can you do to get protected:

8. There is a real-time map that shows cyber attacks in action


Ever wondered how cyber attacks look at a global scale? Now you have the chance to do it with this real-time map put together by Norse.

You might notice that the U.S. is one of the favorite targets for cyber criminals. For example, Chinese attackers alone caused more than $100 million worth of damage to U.S. Department of Defense networks according to leaked documents from Edward Snowden. Back in 2012, the same department used to suffer more than 10 million cyber attacks per day, and, given the evolution of cyber criminals, we can assume that these figures have climbed dramatically since then. For example, the U.S. Navy, which receives 110.000 cyber attacks every hour.

9. Hacktivism is the main motivation that drives cyber attacks

Hacktivism accounts for half of the cyber attacks launched in the world. The term represents a subversive use of computers and computer networks to promote a political agenda. With roots in hacker culture and hacker ethics, its ends are often related to the free speech, human rights, or freedom of information.

Although it may seems like the terms has a positive spin, it really depends on who is using the term. Hacktivism can be a politically motivated technology hack, a constructive form of anarchic civil disobedience, or an undefined anti-systemic gesture. It can signal anticapitalist or political protest; it can denote anti-spam activists, security experts, or open source advocate.

Hacktivists use code, website mirroring, geo-bombing and anonymous blogging to achieve their objectives, the oldest events of this type dating back to 1989. Anonymous may be the most widely known hacktivist group in the world, but there are many others that carry on cyber attacks of this kind.

How it affects you and what can you do to get protected:

10. 68% of funds lost as a result of a cyber attack were declared unrecoverable

Cyber crime is not only costly, but poses other problems as well for organizations worldwide.

It’s becoming increasingly difficult to detect cyber attacks and resolve the security issues created by them: the average time to detect a malicious or criminal attack by a global study sample of organizations was 170 days (according to a research conducted by the Ponemon Institute). Moreover, no industry is safe: all business sectors are affected to a higher or lower degree.

The same research conducted by the Ponemon Institute found the average annualized cost of cyber crime incurred by a benchmark sample of U.S. organizations was $12.7 million, representing a 96% increase since the study was initiated 5 years ago.

As a result, organizations experienced a 176% increase in the number of cyber attacks, with an average of 138 successful attacks per week, compared to 50 attacks per week when the study was initially conducted in 2010.

And what’s more worrisome is that 68% of all these funds that were lost as a result of a cyber attack were never recovered and will probably never be.

How it affects you and what can you do to get protected:

No threat is too small, no protection is too strong

However big or small, cyber security threats should be treated with caution. You may not be a millionaire (yet) or a C-level manager, but that doesn’t mean that you’re protected against a potential hacker attack. Don’t spare any precautions you can take and try to develop your own protection system with the tools and information you find online, such as this list of cyber security facts.

We recently published a guide to help you choose the best antivirus solution for you and there are plenty more security guides you can use to secure your social media accounts, your email, your operating system and more. Use them and navigate the web with a lot more peace of mind.

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*This article was initially published in March 2015, and updated in May 2016.