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Happy Birthday Black Hat – 16 Years of Attacks

Happy Birthday Black Hat – 16 Years of Attacks

July 24, 2013 | Gregory Webb

This year Black Hat turns 16. In honor of its longevity, we’ve produced a new report that chronicles the evolution of cyberattacks and methods over the past 16 years. Looking back, the cyberattacks have used every weapon in their arsenal from malware, to Trojans. The tactics, targets, motives and identities of cybercriminals have changed substantially during this period, and we take a look at how what began as a way for computer geeks to gain notoriety has become a worldwide industry with far-reaching national defense and economic ramifications. The attacks have become increasingly nefarious, complex and frequent.

The graphic below highlights the evolution of cyberattacks since 1997, the year Black Hat launched. As IT footprints have expanded, so too have the type and variety of attacks, forcing all IT-dependent organizations to contend with diminished trust.

In addition to chronicling the evolution of cyberattacks, the piece also discusses intelligence trends that can help readers shape effective cyber-defense strategies, as well as a few tricks that have not changed much over the years. The means by which digital smart weapons are guided into their targets and authenticate within target networks has, however, changed dramatically. One of the most dramatic developments is the corruption and weaponization of online trust, established by digital certificates and cryptographic keys.

As business and government have responded, our reliance on cryptographic keys and certificates has increased. Yet the criminals have turned our strength against us, using digital certificates and cryptographic keys—the fundamental components for digital security and trust—to compromise systems, trick people, and gain access to sensitive data. And why not? Keys and certificates are the perfect vehicle for exploitation.

According to McAfee, last year alone malware signed by stolen digital keys grew by a factor of ten as criminals took advantage of the difficulty of detecting and responding to compromised keys and certificates. Most organizations are not able to identify an attack until after the fact, they cannot respond to an attack, and most have failed to deploy effective controls that can stop cybercriminals from attacking either of these technologies.

As global enterprises and government agencies continue to expand their digital presence by connecting literally everything to the Internet, the size of their attack surface will grow, opening up more opportunities for cybercriminals.

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Gregory Webb
Gregory Webb
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