Aug 5, 2019 - Technology

Hackers have tripled their use of destructive attacks

IBM charts a 200% rise in destructive malware attacks on business networks in the first half of 2019 over the last half of 2018 in a new report.

Why it matters: Destructive malware damages systems or data. It adds a tremendous burden to companies recovering from attacks; the same IBM report calculates a $239 million average cost to a business to recover from a destructive attack.

Details: There are several reasons that hackers use destructive malware in an attack, Chris Scott, global remediation lead for IBM's X-Force IRIS security division, told Axios.

  • Nations are trying to harm an adversary or project strength — as when North Korea attacked Sony or Iran attacked the Sands casino.
  • Criminals have begun to incorporate network-wiping malware as added motivation in ransomware attacks.
  • Both can use wipers to hide their tracks, making it more difficult to study who was behind an attack or what exactly they did.

More than half the victims operate in the manufacturing sector.

Backing up data can allow an organization to recover after a breach. But recovery isn't as easy as you might think.

  • "A lot of people miss the scale this can get to," said Scott. "The average attack we saw impacted around 12,000 workstations. If it takes 15 minutes to restore each workstation, that's still a long recovery."

There are a few ways to minimize the damage, said Scott:

  • Rehearse and plan for a destructive attack. That means, among other things, make sure a destructive attack on a network would not damage the backups of that network.
  • Empower employees to act quickly. In an extreme example, Scott recalls an employee at a Saudi firm seeing an attack in progress, running to the server room, and pulling the plug on the company's network, saving the company from losing its production data and backups.
    • Scott concedes that may have been too much empowerment; most employees shouldn't be allowed to do that.
    • But it's worth deciding in advance, said Scott, what lengths employees can go to to stop an attack without having to wait for a go-ahead from the higher-ups.
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