The traditional boogeymen of the data center—hacking, social engineering and malware—are in long-term decline. Taking their place are phishing attacks, use of stolen credentials and vulnerabilities caused by human error. According to the DBIR, over 80% of breaches categorized as hacking involve brute force attacks or use of lost or stolen credentials.
Verizon researchers believe that's because cyber criminals have turned their attention to credential theft with the belief that they can enter a system through the front door, instead of leaving through an open back door using malware.
Of particular concern to on-premises data center operators is the prevalence of web application hacks, which exploit vulnerabilities in the software used to run websites, and account for nearly 90% of the top hacking vectors in successful breaches, according to the DBIR. Given the growing use of e-commerce applications today, it's unlikely that these vulnerabilities will become any less serious.
Fortunately, the steps to protect against exploits are well known. Multi-factor authentication, which requires users to present a second identification method beyond a password, is rapidly gaining traction. It's a simple and relatively inexpensive technique that can prevent more than 99% of account hacks, according to Microsoft.
Stolen credentials also account for most web application attacks, according to Verizon researchers. The other main vulnerability is unpatched server software. Researchers discovered that websites susceptible to one unpatched vulnerability were also likely to be open to many more, making them easy pickings for attackers. Again, the solution is well known: have a systematic approach to applying patches in the priority of their importance.