Most Damaging Computer Attacks Rely on Stolen Logins

Keep on Guard!


A sterling case for two factor authentication if I ever saw one.

The rule is use two of the 3 methods of authentication, if possible use all 3.

  1. What you have (A USB key or Token)
  2. What you are (Biometrics – Fingerprint or Iris scan)
  3. What you know (A password or passphrase)

More than 8 out of every 10 computer attacks against businesses could be stopped if enterprises checked the identity of not only the user, but also the machine logging onto its network, a report released Monday claimed.

The study, conducted by a California research firm and paid for by BIOS maker Phoenix Technologies, used data from cases prosecuted by federal authorities between 1999 and 2006 to reach its conclusions.

“We wanted to get an honest viewpoint that wasn’t opinion- or survey-based,” said Dirck Schou, the senior director of security solutions at Phoenix. The problem with acquiring data on computer attacks, including the amount of damage done, is that companies are often hesitant to admit to a breach. “That’s the beauty of this [data],” said Schou. “It’s only looking at those who have actually suffered an attack.”

Their point of view is implementing checking of the physical machine, or perhaps logically checking that it should be part of the network? Some unique ID for each machine generated from hashes of the parts perhaps.

According to the report, attacks based on logging in with stolen or hijacked credentials cost businesses far more, on average, than the typical worm or virus assault. When a privileged account is penetrated by an unauthorized user, the average damage runs to $1.5 million, the report said. The average cost from a single virus attack was much smaller: under $2,400.

“Cyber criminals who accessed privileged accounts obtained IDs and passwords through many means,” the report said. “Network sniffing, use of password cracking programs, and collusion with insiders. It was also common for employees to share their IDs and passwords with coworkers who later left the organization and used that knowledge to gain access.”

All common and fairly easy methods, perhaps it’s time people really took some effort to understand information security and the issues at hand.

Source: Information Week

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