Cyberattacks on the Government Sector Doubled in 2016

Cyberattacks on the government sector doubled in 2016, hiking to 14% from 7% of all cybersecurity attacks in 2015, according to the Executive’s Guide to the NTT Security 2017 Global Threat Intelligence Report.

Attacks on the finance sector also rose dramatically from just 3% in 2015 to 14% of all attacks in 2016.

The manufacturing sector came in at third place at 13%, while the retail sector, which topped the list of all cybersecurity attacks on all sectors in 2015 moved down into fourth place (11%).

The report, which was compiled from data collected by NTT Security and other NTT operating companies including Dimension Data, from the networks of 10,000 clients across five continents, 3.5 trillion security logs, 6.2 billion attempted attacks, and global honeypots and sandboxes located in over 100 different countries.

The report pinpoints a number of global geo-political events which could have contributed to the government sector being a cybersecurity attack target. These include a new US administration with a more aggressive stance toward China and North Korea; and China adopting a more aggressive policy stance in securing its vital ‘core interests.’

US and European Union-led economic sanctions against Russia may have also contributed to the rise in attacks. Other factors include Russian state-sponsored actors continuing cyber operations against Western targets; and growing negative sentiment in the Middle East against the West’s aggression towards Syria.

“Governments all over the world are constantly under the threat of sophisticated attacks launched by rival nation-states, terrorist groups, hacktivists, and cyber criminals,” says Matthew Gyde, Dimension Data’s Group Executive – Security.

“That’s because government agencies hold vast amounts of sensitive information – from personnel records, budgetary data, and sensitive communications, to intelligence findings. What’s interesting is that this year we saw numerous incidents involving insider threats.”

Commenting on the financial services industry, Neville Burdan, General Manager – Security, Dimension Data Asia Pacific said, “The ongoing attacks in the financial services industry are no surprise. These organizations have large amounts of digital assets and sensitive customer data. Gaining access to them enables cybercriminals to monetize personally identifiable information and credit card data in the underground economy.”

The report also highlights that 63% of all cyberattacks originated from IP addresses in the US, followed by the UK (4%), and China 3%. The US is the predominant location of cloud-hosted infrastructure globally.

Threat actors often utilize public cloud to orchestrate attacks due to the low cost and stability of this infrastructure.

The Internet of Things (IoT) and operating technology (OT) devices must be considered as both a potential source and target of attack.

Of the IoT attacks detected in 2016, some 66% were attempting to discover specific devices such as a particular model of video camera, 3% were seeking a web server or other type of server, while 2% were attempting to attack a database.

The top cybersecurity threats facing digital businesses are phishing, social engineering, and ransomware; business email compromise; IoT and distributed-denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks; and attacks targeting end-users.