By Caitlin Counihan, Digital Forensic Analyst

 Verizon recently released its highly anticipated 15th annual Data Breach Investigations Report (“DBIR”), with a valuable data-driven review and analysis of the past year’s major security events. As a leader in the field of cybersecurity services and incident response, bit-x-bit is pleased to have contributed to the DBIR again this year. This information is intended to raise awareness and assist in identifying the security needs of your business. Reflecting on the methods commonly used by attackers can help to better defend against them.

The DBIR is the result of the analysis of more than 23,000 (anonymized) incidents, including 5,200 confirmed data breaches. Your organization can leverage this information to raise awareness and assist in identifying important security needs. We recommend that our clients utilize the DBIR to reflect on the methods commonly used by attackers, which can help organizations anticipate, mitigate, and remediate these threats.

Some important takeaways from the DBIR to consider:

  • This year Ransomware has continued its upward trend with an almost 13% increase–a rise as big as the last five years combined. Ransomware is a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money (ransom) is paid. The most common way ransomware is spread is through desktop sharing software (remote access tools), followed closely by phishing emails that contain malicious attachments or links:

  • Incidents are driven by four main types of access to the victim’s estate: credentials, phishing, exploiting vulnerabilities, and botnets.
    • Credentials – attackers will use a victim’s credentials to gain access to computer systems.
    • Phishing – attackers will send phishing emails which often contain malicious attachments or links. Others will simply trick the user to take an action that weakens or compromises the security of their system.
    • Exploiting Vulnerabilities – attackers will find issues in software, then use those weaknesses to their advantage to gain access to systems.
    • Botnets – this is a network of internet-connected devices which can be used to steal data, send spam and allow an attacker to access devices.
  • The Human Element is still a pervasive issue across the breach landscape. This year 82% of breaches involved the human element. Whether it is the use of stolen credentials, phishing, misuse, or simply an error, people continue to play a very large role in incidents and breaches alike. Security awareness training – which should be iterative, consistently provided, and adapted based on the learning needs of the target community — is a key component to addressing the human element of security breaches. Training can be provided online, and can be adapted based on the subjects’ grasp of the concepts in the various modules.
  • External actors are consistently more common than Internal, with 80% of breaches being caused by those external to the organization. Vulnerability scanning can be a useful method of detecting potential points of exploit on a computer or network to identify security weaknesses that should be addressed.

As a member of the Center for Internet Security (“CIS”), bit-x-bit helps clients mitigate the risk of cyberattacks through the assessment of CIS controls. Within that control environment, we can provide security awareness training, vulnerability scanning and other helpful services to reduce the likelihood of a successful attack. To obtain a more in-depth view of this year’s key findings, the full DBIR report is available on Verizon’s website at:

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