One New Zero-Day Discovered on Average Every Week in 2015, Twice the Rate of a Year Ago as Advanced Attackers Exploit, Stockpile and Resell High-Value Vulnerabilities

  • Symantec Report Reveals a Record Nine Mega-Breaches;
  • Half a Billion Personal Records Stolen or Lost in 2015;
  • Crypto-ransomware Attacks Grew by 35 Percent

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif.–(BUSINESS WIRE)–Symantec’s (Nasdaq:SYMC) Internet
Security Threat Report
(ISTR), Volume 21, reveals an organizational
shift by cybercriminals: They are adopting corporate best practices and
establishing professional businesses in order to increase the efficiency
of their attacks against enterprises and consumers. This new class of
professional cybercriminal spans the entire ecosystem of attackers,
extending the reach of enterprise and consumer threats and fueling the
growth of online crime.

“Advanced criminal attack groups now echo the skill sets of nation-state
attackers. They have extensive resources and a highly-skilled technical
staff that operate with such efficiency that they maintain normal
business hours and even take the weekends and holidays off,” said Kevin
Haley, director, Symantec Security Response. “We are even seeing
low-level criminal attackers create call center operations to increase
the impact of their scams.”

Advanced professional attack groups are the first to leverage zero-day
vulnerabilities, using them for their own advantage or selling them to
lower-level criminals on the open market where they are quickly
commoditized. In 2015, the number of zero-day vulnerabilities discovered
more than doubled to a record-breaking 54, a 125 percent increase from
the year before, reaffirming the critical role they play in lucrative
targeted attacks. Meanwhile, malware increased at a staggering rate with
430 million new malware variants discovered in 2015. The sheer volume of
malware proves that professional cybercriminals are leveraging their
vast resources in attempt to overwhelm defenses and enter corporate

Over Half a Billion Personal Records Stolen or
Lost in 2015

Data breaches continue to impact the enterprise. In fact, large
businesses that are targeted for attack will on average be targeted
three more times within the year. Additionally, we saw the largest data
breach ever publicly reported last year with 191 million records
compromised in a single incident. There were also a record-setting total
of nine reported mega-breaches. While 429 million identities were
exposed, the number of companies that chose not to report the number of
records lost jumped by 85 percent. A conservative estimate by Symantec
of those unreported breaches pushes the real number of records lost to
more than half a billion.

“The increasing number of companies choosing to hold back critical
details after a breach is a disturbing trend,” said Haley. “Transparency
is critical to security. By hiding the full impact of an attack, it
becomes more difficult to assess the risk and improve your security
posture to prevent future attacks.”

Encryption Now Used as a Cybercriminal Weapon
to Hold Companies’ and Individuals’ Critical Data Hostage

Ransomware also continued to evolve in 2015, with the more damaging
style of crypto-ransomware attacks growing by 35 percent. This more
aggressive crypto-ransomware attack encrypts all of a victim’s digital
content and holds it hostage until a ransom is paid. This year,
ransomware spread beyond PCs to smartphones, Mac and Linux systems, with
attackers increasingly seeking any network-connected device that could
be held hostage for profit, indicating that the enterprise is the next

Don’t Call Us, We’ll Call You: Cyber Scammers
Now Make You Call Them to Hand Over Your Cash

As people conduct more of their lives online, attackers are increasingly
focused on using the intersection of the physical and digital world to
their advantage. In 2015, Symantec saw a resurgence of many
tried-and-true scams. Cybercriminals revisited fake technical support
scams, which saw a 200 percent increase last year. The difference now is
that scammers send fake warning messages to devices like smartphones,
driving users to attacker-run call centers in order to dupe them into
buying useless services.

From the Experts: Security Tips and Tricks

As attackers evolve, there are many steps businesses and consumers can
take to protect themselves. As a starting point, Symantec recommends the
following best practices:

For Businesses:

  • Don’t get caught flat-footed: Use advanced threat and adversary
    intelligence solutions to help you find indicators of compromise and
    respond faster to incidents.
  • Employ a strong security posture: Implement multi-layered
    endpoint security, network security, encryption, strong authentication
    and reputation-based technologies. Partner with a managed security
    service provider to extend your IT team.
  • Prepare for the worst: Incident management ensures your
    security framework is optimized, measureable and repeatable, and that
    lessons learned improve your security posture. Consider adding a
    retainer with a third-party expert to help manage crises.
  • Provide ongoing education and training: Establish
    simulation-based training for all employees as well guidelines and
    procedures for protecting sensitive data on personal and corporate
    devices. Regularly assess internal investigation teams—and run
    practice drills—to ensure you have the skills necessary to effectively
    combat cyber threats.

For Consumers:

  • Use strong passwords: Use strong and unique passwords for your
    accounts. Change your passwords every three months and never reuse
    your passwords. Additionally, consider using a password manager to
    further protect your information.
  • Think before you click: Opening the wrong attachment can
    introduce malware to your system. Never view, open, or copy email
    attachments unless you are expecting the email and trust the sender.
  • Protect yourself: An ounce of protection is worth a pound of
    cure. Use an internet security solution that includes antivirus,
    firewalls, browser protection and proven protection from online
  • Be wary of scareware tactics: Versions of software that claim
    to be free, cracked or pirated can expose you to malware. Social
    engineering and ransomware attacks will attempt to trick you into
    thinking your computer is infected and get you to buy useless software
    or pay money directly to have it removed.
  • Safeguard your personal data: The information you share online
    puts you at risk for social engineered attacks. Limit the amount of
    personal information you share on social networks and online,
    including login information, birth dates and pet names.

Symantec will host a webinar on this year’s ISTR results on Tuesday,
May 3, at 9:00 a.m. PT.
For more information or to register, please
go here.

About the Internet Security Threat Report

The Internet Security Threat Report provides an overview and analysis of
the year in global threat activity. The report is based on data from
Symantec’s Global Intelligence Network, which Symantec analysts use to
identify, analyze and provide commentary on emerging trends in attacks,
malicious code activity, phishing, and spam.

About Symantec

Symantec Corporation (NASDAQ: SYMC) is the global leader in
cybersecurity. Operating one of the world’s largest cyber intelligence
networks, we see more threats, and protect more customers from the next
generation of attacks. We help companies, governments and individuals
secure their most important data wherever it lives.

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Mara Mort, 650-527-7455
for Symantec
Jenn Foss, 503-471-6804