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Report: ‘Hacktivism’ on the rise

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Michael Bastasch DCNF Managing Editor
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58 percent of all data stolen in 2011 was due to “hacktivism,” according to a recent from Verizon Wireless.

Hacktivists are computer hackers that specifically target companies primarily for political reasons. The Verizon 2012 Data Breach Investigations Report notes that this is a reversal in previous trends of cyber-criminals stealing data primarily for financial gain, which poses new problems for companies who now have to be wary of their political stances.

“Doubly concerning for many organizations and executives was that target selection by these groups didn’t follow the logical lines of who has money and/or valuable information. Enemies are even scarier when you can’t predict their behavior,” the report notes.

Bryan Sartin, author of the report and director of investigative response for Verizon Business  said, “[Anonymous] and Lulzsec seem very different to traditional adversaries committing financial crimes.”

The Wall Street Journal notes the report also says that over half of the hacking victims tend to be large Fortune 2000 companies that are aware of the attack in advance and know who is responsible.

“They usually know down to a four to 20 hour window. Yet still a lot of these attacks are successful,” Sartin told the Journal.

These hacktivists also have favorite targets. Chris Novak, managing principal of investigative response for Verizon, told CSP Daily News that hacktivists focus on issues that grab the public’s attention, including environmental issues.

Watch out oil companies.

“When you hear from the media that gas prices may hit $5 … the more you’re going to see [breaches]. … Hactivists will look for anything that grabs [public] interest,” said Novak.

This doesn’t mean, however, cybercriminals laid low in 2011. In fact, Verizon notes they “continued to automate and streamline their method du jour of high-volume, low-risk attacks against weaker targets.” These less frequent, but damaging attacks, targeted “trade secrets, classified information, and other intellectual property.”

The report also notes that outsiders dominate the corporate data theft arena. External agents were 98 percent of data breaches, and only four percent of data breaches were from internal employees.

Activists, however, still stole more data than any other group, which has changed the hacking landscape in regards to motives. The report noted, “While good old-fashioned greed and avarice were still the prime movers, ideological dissent and schadenfreude took a more prominent role across the caseload.”

In fact, 79 percent of cybercrime was opportunistic lacking the targeted motivations found in hacktivism. Mr. Sartin said ,“There is little evidence of targeted crimes outside of hacktivsim at all. Mostly a criminal stumbles across a vulnerability and then seeks to exploit it.”

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