Data Breach Report: Small Businesses and C-Level Executives Were Top Targets in 2018

May 13, 2019 @ 12:35 PM
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2 min read

The prospect of financial gain drove 71 percent of cyberattacks in 2018, followed by the potential to conduct espionage or gain some other strategic advantage, according to a new data breach report.

Based on an analysis of more than 41,000 security incidents and more than 2,000 data breaches, Verizon’s “2019 Data Breach Investigations Report” revealed that small businesses accounted for 43 percent of all attacks, while healthcare and financial services organizations made up only 15 percent and 10 percent, respectively.

Meanwhile, top executives were targeted at a much higher rate than in previous years, and although the majority of perpetrators were outside actors (69 percent), 34 percent involved rogue employees or other internal actors.

Data Breach Report Shows the C-Suite in the Crosshairs

According to this year’s data breach report, senior executives were 12 times more likely to be targeted by cybercriminals than in the previous year. Due to their higher level of access to sensitive information, C-level executives were also nine times more likely to receive social engineering campaigns such as phishing emails.

Although phishing schemes based on simulations for data partners dropped from a 24 percent click-thru rate over the last seven years to 3 percent in 2018, 18 percent of tests showed phishing links were activated via mobile devices. This is concerning given how often C-suite executives may need to work outside the office and that ransomware still accounts for 24 percent of all attacks involving malware.

What’s Being Stolen and Who’s Stealing It?

While chief information security officers (CISOs) and their teams have been warning about password hygiene for years, the research showed 29 percent of incidents involved stolen credentials.

In addition, organized crime groups carried out 39 percent of data breaches, followed by state-affiliated organizations at 23 percent. Although more than half (51 percent) of security incidents involved hacking, internal errors accounted for 21 percent of data breaches.

How to Get Ahead of a Data Breach

The variety and volume of security threats make it difficult for organizations to keep up; the data breach report noted that 56 percent of data breaches took months or longer to discover.

Security experts suggest conducting penetration testing and red team exercises to improve the organization’s preparedness to prevent and respond to data breaches.

Shane Schick
Writer & Editor
Shane Schick is a contributor for SecurityIntelligence.