Cyber-security report: Advanced Cyber Attacks Reliant on Privileged Credential Exploitation

CyberArk-CyberArk-DNANew Delhi, India. June 12, 2014: A new cyber-security report reveals that while new and sophisticated malware variants were continually developed to exploit systems in 2013, criminals, hacktivists and advanced attacks continue to do the most damage by exploiting privileged accounts.  Compiled by CyberSheath’s advanced security investigations team and commissioned by CyberArk, “The Role of Privileged Accounts in High Profile Breaches,” also includes a detailed case study covering a Fortune 500 company’s struggle with, and eventual remedy for, a dramatic reduction in recorded breaches.

CyberSheath’s analysis of 10 of 2013’s most notable cyber attacks, including the NSA leak by insider Edward Snowden, point of sale (POS) breaches like the many attacks on retailers, and the attack on the New York Times –found that privileged accounts were on each attacker’s critical path to success 100 per cent of the time, regardless of the perimeter attack vector. The research uncovered that increased visibility and actionable intelligence on privileged accounts within an organisation’s IT environment greatly increased the ability for those organisations to successfully detect and disrupt an attack.

Highlights from “The Role of Privileged Accounts in High Profile Breaches” report include:

A Case Study: The True Cost of a “Do-Nothing” Approach
The exploitation of privileged accounts detailed in this case study directly led to more than 200 compromised machines, more than 10,000 man hours of overtime, and a total breach cost exceeding $3 million dollars in a six-month span. This real-world example explores one organisation’s privilege account problem and highlights lessons-learned throughout the remediation process.

High Profile Attacks in 2013 Leveraged Privileged Accounts
CyberSheath researched and analysed 10 benchmark attacks throughout 2013, including the NSA leak, POS breaches, the attack on the New York Times, MacRumors, U.S. banking institutions, the Department Of Energy (DOE), South Korean banking and broadcast networks, the Washington Post and attacks revealed by Mandiant’s APT1 report. Each of these attacks happened as a result of privileged account exploitation. The research showed that protecting, managing, and monitoring these accounts, organisations could have stopped these attacks before significant damage was done.

Strategic Takeaways For CISOs
Looking closely at the advanced attack patterns leveraged in these 10 benchmark breaches reveals that the theft, misuse, and exploitation of privileged accounts is a critical step in attack methodology. Key takeaways for CISOs from the CyberSheath report include:

  • The attacks that matter to business exploit privileged accounts 100 per cent of the time.
  • Big company or small, organisations have more privileged accounts than they know about and the risk of exposure they represent makes them urgent priorities.
  • Protecting privileged accounts gives CISOs an opportunity to quantify risk reduction and deliver results that can be measured.
  • Privileged accounts represent a clear case for providing a return on investment and reduce risk.
  • Protecting privileged accounts is an opportunity to become a challenging target and take back ground in the fight against advanced threats.
  • Automated privileged account security solutions reduce human error, overhead and operational costs.

For a full copy of the report, please visit:

CMO of CyberArk John Worrall said, “Advanced attacks follow a common, multi-stage approach to breaching defences, gathering and exfiltration critical data. It’s clear that privileged access is required to gain access to target systems and move laterally from system to system. The faster the industry takes notice of the privileged connection to these attacks, the more quickly better defences can be mounted.”

CEO of CyberSheath Eric Noonan said, “Companies of all sizes today face an unprecedented number of cyber-attacks from organised, patient and well-funded groups. We’re starting to see CISO’s shift from band aid point-solution purchases to integrated technologies built on intelligence-gathering features to combat advanced threats.”

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