Opinion

Opinion: Why are web site attacks on the rise?

By Steve Pao, VP of product management and Oliver Wai, product marketing manager at Barracuda Networks.

Recent high-profile Web security breaches have caused organisations in both the private and public sectors to take a deeper look into the security measures they have in place as well as to question why there is such a recent concentration of attacks. We believe there are a few trends underlying the recent increase of attacks:

•    The first is the prevalence of hacking tools and "how-to-guides" that are now available online on how to launch attacks. Whereas attacks used to be perpetrated by sophisticated hackers, now almost anyone can launch attack using these resources and automated tools. Just Google "how to hack [system]", "hacking tools" and you will find a plethora of tools and tips on how to accomplish these objectives.

•    The second trend is economics. Traditional money making scams and threats like spam are increasingly ineffective as tools to protect against these threats have increased ion use among organisations. On the other hand, there is a thriving black market for stolen credit cards, emails, identities, zombie computers, etc. so data breaches are extremely profitable for hackers, and as a result, they are turning more attention to profitable endeavours like hacking Web sites.

•     The final trend is an increase in web attacks for strategic purposes. Many of the most recent attacks like the ones on defense contractors, RSA/EMC, and Gmail are extremely sophisticated and seem to have a strategic purpose or sponsorship to them.

Unfortunately, many of these attacks are happening because the right security measures are not in place at many organisations. This is not because there are not very effective solutions available, but instead there is a general lack of awareness and education about how these solutions can protect against such attacks. In many cases, a breach itself serves as the defining lesson for why Web application security tools - such as a WAF (Web Application Firewall) should be in place. In addition, the need for security layers within any organisation's infrastructure is also very important.

Overall, organisations need to know of the importance of having the right technology at each layer to protect their resources and the recent attacks can serve to reinforce this need:

•    "Protect your email infrastructure with an email filtering solution or service
•     "Secure your Web sites and Web applications with a WAF
•    "Reinforce your network perimeter with a next generation firewall
•    "Strengthen your network against malware, drive-by-downloads and other threats with a Web filtering device or service
 

This was first published in June 2011

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