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Report: Attackers have their sights set on the cloud

If you want to catch trout, you have to fish where the trout swim. That same logic applies for cyber criminals—they will focus their efforts wherever there is a fair chance of finding targets to prey on. This is underscored by a new report from Alert Logic that reveals a dramatic rise in cloud-based attacks as more businesses and individuals migrate applications and data to the cloud.

Alert Logic deployed honeypots in the cloud to collect information about emerging malware, identify the sources of attacks, and determine common or unique attack vectors. The results of this research combined with data collected from AlertLogic customers around the world were used to create the Spring 2014 Alert Logic Cloud Security Report.

The report was compiled from 232,364 verified security incidents, identified from more than a billion events observed by Alert Logic between April 1 and Sept. 30, 2013. The data was gathered from more than 2,200 organizations across a variety of industries around the world. Cloud environments account for 80 percent of the data collected, while the remaining 20 percent comes from on-premise datacenters.

There was an increase in almost all types of attacks against both cloud and on-premise infrastructures according to Alert Logic. Two concerning trends are a dramatic rise in cloud-based brute force attacks and a spike in vulnerability scans against cloud environments. Brute force attacks climbed from 30 percent to 44 percent, and vulnerability scans jumped from 27 to 44 percent. Alert Logic also noted a rise in botnet attacks directed against cloud infrastructures and services.

The Alert Logic honeypots in Europe experienced four times the number of attacks of the U.S.-based honeypots and twice the number of attacks as in Asia. Alert Logic attributes the discrepancy to the existence of organized cyber crime groups in Russia and Eastern Europe. Malware produced by these syndicates is generally tested locally before being packaged and deployed against targets in other regions.

More than half of the honeypot incidents around the world were directed at Microsoft DS (port 445). Port 445 is used for direct hosted “NetBIOS-less” SMB traffic. It is the protocol used for file sharing in Windows and represents an easy target if left open to the Internet.

Another concering discovery from the Alert Logic report is that 14 percent of the malware samples collected through the honeypot network was undetectable by 51 of the top antimalware vendors. Alert Logic claims these are not necessarily “zero day” threats, but they are variants that have been repackaged in a way that circumvents detection.

The key takeaway from this report is that businesses and individuals need to recognize the risks cloud applications and data are exposed to and be aware of the security threats that exist. Alert Logic stresses that organizations can’t rely on traditional security tools to support or defend a cloud infrastructure. Cloud security requires using solutions developed specifically for the cloud.

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