Cyber Criminals Focus Attacks on Universities

An analysis conducted by cyber security firm FireEye of nearly 40,000 attacks launched by cyber criminals in 2013 show that universities and the education sector were the favourite targets, reports the
Financial Times

Elite research universities, particularly those in the US, were most likely to be targeted because of their links to government, which was the fourth most popular target. Financial services and hi-tech industries were second and third respectively.

Ken Geers, senior global threat analyst at FireEye, told the
that universities were being targeted by ‘advanced persistent threats’ and determined hackers, who were often state-sponsored.

“Universities have a very rich intellectual property base, emerging technology, new patents and cutting-edge research in an environment meant to be open to the world and collaboration,” he said. “These are good hackers, thinking in the long term.

“A lot of these universities happen to be doing research today that will be classified in five years if the navy or the air force picks up the research. So you can see why the advanced persistent threats might be thinking that far ahead to support their mission.”

FireEye’s research shows that there were more than 5,000 attacks from advanced persistent threats in 2013 and in total more than 100 attacks a day by all hackers. The US was the most frequent target of attacks last year, followed by South Korea, Canada, Japan and the UK, all intellectual property-rich countries.

Hackers launched more attacks through the web than through email, although both methods were widely used. They also used ‘zero days’, previously unknown vulnerabilities in software such as Java and Internet Explorer that can be used to access a network, including against the US government.


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