In reporting the most common attacks observed in 2014, Dell has cited increased malware traffic within encrypted (https) web protocols, as well as twice the number of attacks on supervisory control and data acquisition (SCADA) systems over 2013.
According to the tech giant, releasing the results of its annual Threat Report, the industry has seen a 100 percent increase in attacks against industrial control (SCADA) systems, with more companies exposed to attackers hiding in plain sight as a result of SSL/TLS encrypted traffic.
“Everyone knows the threats are real and the consequences are dire, so we can no longer blame lack of awareness for the attacks that succeed,” says Patrick Sweeney, executive director, Dell Security.
“Hacks and attacks continue to occur, not because companies aren’t taking security measures, but because they aren’t taking the right ones.”
According to Dell, the past 12 months has seen more companies exposed to attacks within “secure” HTTPS web protocol.
For many years, financial institutions and other companies that deal with sensitive information have opted for the secure HTTPS protocol that encrypts information being shared, otherwise known as SSL/TLS encryption.
More recently, sites such as Google, Facebook, and Twitter began adopting this practice in response to a growing demand for user privacy and security.
While this move to a more secure web protocol is a positive trend, hackers have identified ways to exploit HTTPS as a means to hide malicious code.
Given that data (or in this case malware) transmitted over HTTPS is encrypted, traditional firewalls fail to detect it.
Without a network security system that provides visibility into HTTPS traffic, organisations run the risk of letting malware from sites using HTTPS enter their systems and go undetected.
Dell’s research also saw a rise in HTTPS traffic in 2014, which could lead to an increase in attacks leveraging encrypted web traffic in 2015:
· Dell saw a 109 percent increase in the volume of HTTPS web connections from the start of 2014 to the start of 2015.
· Encrypted malware attacks have already begun to target mainstream media sources. In December 2014, Forbes’ Thought of the Day interstitial page was hijacked by Chinese hackers to distribute malware over a three-day period.
“Managing threats against encrypted web traffic is complicated,” Sweeney adds.
“Just as encryption can protect sensitive financial or personal information on the web, it unfortunately can also be used by hackers to protect malware.
“One way organisations mitigate this risk is through SSL-based web browser restrictions, with exceptions for commonly used business applications to avoid slowing company productivity.”