Retailers face up to targeted attacks this Christmas but budgets remain small

Research highlights retail sector as one of the biggest targets for targeted attacks 


Marlow, 10th December 2012, Retailers are being warned to keep their guard up this Christmas after new research* from Trend Micro highlighted the sector as one of the biggest targets for difficult-to-spot Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) also known as targeted attacks.

The Festive period is the busiest time of the year for retailers across Europe, but research suggests that they ignore at their peril the threat of sophisticated, specially crafted attacks designed to steal valuable IP for financial gain or commercial espionage.

Trend Micro surveyed leading retailers across the UK, Germany and France and found that three-quarters said they had knowingly been a target of an APT or targeted attack, second only to the pharmaceutical industry. The key here is the term ‘knowingly’, because targeted attacks are specially crafted to evade detection for as long as possible, sometimes sitting inside a victim’s network for months or even years on end, exfiltrating business-critical data. As if to bear this out, around 63 per cent said they had found malware running on the network that existing security procedures had not flagged.

However, talking about future investments, a sizeable 40% of retailers said they would allocate only a small amount – less than 10% - of their security budget to protecting against targeted attacks. All other sectors seemed to be devoting more financial resources to tackle this growing menace. Out of the eight sectors studied for this report, retail came out second top in terms of the percentage of firms claiming to have ‘regularly’ been a victim of the threats covered in the study including zero day malware, encrypted malware and zero day exploits.

All of the above are tell-tale signs of targeted attacks, which retailers said had the biggest impact on their business in terms of the loss of regulated financial data that resulted. Another recent Trend Micro study found that some 91% of targeted attacks came in the form of spear-phishing emails, of which 96% used malicious attachments.

The next most serious concern for retailers was the possible reputational damage followed by loss of regulated personal data and potential fines, although the cost of remedial action, lost IP and damage to reputation cannot be ignored either. Trend Micro expects the loss of regulated data and the associated risk of fines to increase considerably as we approach 2014/2015, when a new European Data Protection Regulation comes into force. Elements of this new draft regulation presently include fines of up to 2% of global turnover, forced disclosure, and the ability for individuals to be able to sue for damages.

“Companies need to start evaluating and deploying technology that helps prevent data breaches from these targeted attacks that bolster their present anti-malware solutions”, said James Walker, Enterprise Product Manager at Trend Micro. “Businesses also need to consider other technologies like data leakage protection, encryption, application control and file integrity monitoring to protect their data in line with regulations of the new UK directive.”

Only 30 per cent of retailers said they had deployed technologies specifically to counter the threat from APTs and targeted attacks, (which put them middle of the bunch when compared to other sectors). However, encouragingly, more retailers than any other type of business (30%) said they were evaluating such tech. These evaluations need to turn into concrete deployments if retailers are to mitigate the growing risk of an APT-style targeted attack.

*Research conducted by Quocirca in Q4/2012 across UK, France and Germany surveying 300 enterprises with more than 2,500 employees.

About Trend Micro
Trend Micro Incorporated (TYO: 4704), a global leader in security software, strives to make the world safe for exchanging digital information. Our solutions for consumers, Trend Micro™ Smart Protection Network™ provide layered content security to protect information on mobile devices, endpoints, gateways, servers and the cloud. Trend Micro enables the smart protection of information, with innovative security technology that is simple to deploy and manage, and fits an evolving ecosystem. Leveraging these solutions, organizations can protect their end users, their evolving data center and cloud resources, and their information threatened by sophisticated targeted attacks.

All of solutions are powered by cloud-based global threat intelligence, the Trend Micro™ Smart Protection Network™, and are supported by over 1,200 threat experts around the globe.

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