Public sector most targeted by malicious hackers, MacAfee finds

From 2016 to 2017, hackers around the world most often targeted the public sector in their attacks, according to publicly disclosed incidents compiled in McAfee Labs’ recent quarterly threat report.

According to the report, the health and public sectors comprised 41 percent of all publicly disclosed security incidents in the third quarter of 2017. North America still saw higher attacks on its health care sector than any other, but attacks on the Asian, European, Oceanian and African public sectors made it the top sector for attacks in the latter part of 2017.

“The third quarter revealed that attackers’ threat designs continue to benefit from the dynamic, benign capabilities of platform technologies like PowerShell, a reliable recklessness on the part of individual phishing victims, and what seems to be an equally reliable failure of organizations to patch known vulnerabilities with available security updates,” said Raj Samani, McAfee’s chief scientist. “Although attackers will always seek ways to use newly developed innovations and established platforms against us, our industry perhaps faces a greater challenge in the effort to influence individuals and organizations away from becoming their own worst enemies.”

The third quarter found malware reach an all-time high of 57.6 million new samples, a 10 percent increase over the last quarter. New ransomware samples also grew by 14 percent to reach 12.2 million samples. Known vulnerabilities that organizations simply failed to patch remained a prominent problem.

“Once vulnerabilities are discovered and disclosed ‘into the wild,’ or the hacker community, they present a blueprint for malicious parties seeking to develop sophisticated threats that exploit them,” said Steve Grobman, chief technology officer at McAfee. “The year 2017 will be remembered as the time when such vulnerabilities were exploited to orchestrate large-scale cyber events, including the WannaCry and NotPetya ransomware outbreaks, and high-profile breaches such as at Equifax. Only by investing more in the discovery and remediation of cyber vulnerabilities can technology vendors, governments, and business enterprises hope to gain a step on the cybercriminals working furiously to uncover and take advantage of them.”

Also on the rise were mobile malware, which increased 56 percent over the past four quarters, and Mac OS malware, which grew by 41 percent from the second to third quarters.

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