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IBM X-Force Mid-Year Report: Security Attacks Focused On Browsers, Mobile, Social

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SPAM aside, IBM’s mid-year X-Force Trend and Risk Report shows a sharp increase in browser-related exploits, renewed concerns around social media password security, and continued challenges in mobile devices and corporate “bring your own device” (BYOD) programs.

Yesterday, IBM released the results of its X-Force 2012 Mid-Year Trend and Risk Report.

The mid-year report is troubling, revealing ongoing challenges and opportunities and the need for continued vigilance in the digital security realm.

The headlines: The latest report shows a sharp increase in browser-related exploits, renewed concerns around social media password security, and continued challenges in mobile devices and corporate “bring your own device” (BYOD) programs.

“Companies are faced with a constantly evolving threat landscape, with emerging technologies making it increasingly difficult to manage and secure confidential data,” said Kris Lovejoy, General Manager, IBM Security Services. “A security breach–whether from an outside attacker or an insider–can impact brand reputation, shareholder value, and expose confidential information. Our team of security threat analysts track and monitor security events and attack activity to better help our clients stay ahead of emerging threats.”

Mobile, Social: New Security Targets Of Opportunity

Since the last X-Force Trend and Risk Report, IBM’s X-Force has seen an increase in malware and malicious web activities:

  • A continuing trend for attackers is to target individuals by directing them to a trusted URL or site which has been injected with malicious code. Through browser vulnerabilities, the attackers are able to install malware on the target system. The websites of many well-established and trustworthy organizations are still susceptible to these types of threats.
  • The growth of SQL injection, a technique used by attackers to access a database through a website, is keeping pace with the increased usage of cross-site scripting and directory traversal commands.
  • As the user base of the Mac operating system continues to grow worldwide, it is increasingly becoming a target of Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) and exploits, rivaling those usually seen targeting the Windows platform.

Emerging Trends in Mobile Security 

While there are reports of exotic mobile malware, most smartphone users are still most at risk of premium SMS (short message service, or texting) scams.

These scams work by sending SMS messages to premium phone numbers in a variety of different countries automatically from installed applications. There are multiple scam infection approaches for this:

  • An application that looks legitimate in an app store but only has malicious intent
  • An application that is a clone of a real application with a different name and some malicious code
  • A real application that has been wrapped by malicious code and typically presented in an alternative app store

One game-changing transformation is the pervasiveness of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) programs. Many companies are still in their infancy in adapting policies for allowing employees to connect their personal laptops or smartphones to the company network.

To make BYOD work within a company, a thorough and clear policy should be in place before the first employee-owned device is added to the company’s infrastructure.

Improvements in Internet Security Continue 

As discussed in the 2011 IBM X-Force Trend and Risk Report, there continues to be progress in certain areas of Internet security. IBM X-Force data reports a continuing decline in exploit releases, improvements from the top ten vendors on patching vulnerabilities and a significant decrease in the area of portable document format (PDF) vulnerabilities.

IBM believes that this area of improvement is directly related to the new technology of sandboxing provided by the Adobe Reader X release.

Sandboxing technology works by isolating an application from the rest of the system, so that if compromised, the attacker code running within the application is limited to what it can do or what it can access.

Sandboxes are proving to be a successful investment from a security perspective. In the X-Force report, there was a significant drop in Adobe PDF vulnerability disclosures during the first half of 2012.

This development coincides nicely with the adoption of Adobe Reader X, the first version of Acrobat Reader released with sandboxing technology.

New IBM Security Operations Center Opens In Poland

To further protect its clients from emerging threats like those reported in the IBM X-Force Mid-Year Trend and Risk Report, IBM yesterday announced the opening of a security operations center in Wroclaw, Poland.

This newest IBM Security Operations Center is the 10th worldwide facility to help clients proactively manage these threats, including real-time analysis and early warning notification of security events.

Data for the bi-annual X-Force report comes from IBM’s security operations centers which monitor more than 15 billion security events a day on behalf of approximately 4,000 clients in more than 130 countries.

About the IBM X-Force Trend and Risk Report 

The IBM X-Force Trend and Risk Report is an annual assessment of the security landscape, designed to help clients better understand the latest security risks, and stay ahead of these threats.

The report gathers facts from numerous intelligence sources, including its database of more than 68,000 computer security vulnerabilities, its global Web crawler and its international spam collectors, and the real-time monitoring of 15 billion events every day for approximately 4,000 clients in more than 130 countries.

These 15 billion events monitored each day, are a result of the work done in IBM’s 10 global security operations centers, which is provided as a managed security service to clients.

To view the full X-Force 2012 Mid-Year Trend and Risk Report go here.

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