4 Industries Under Attack by Cybercriminals That May Surprise You

When you think of hot industry targets for cybercriminals, there are obvious ones that come to mind - and for good reason. Sectors like finance, health care, retail and government are all lucrative marks for attackers because of the widespread customer information that they handle, process and store.

Yet with time - and no shortage of headline-grabbing data breaches and notable compliance imperatives to help push them along - these industries have become more mature when it comes to their security programs, shoring up weaknesses that made them so desirable in the first place. Of course, intruders still consider these businesses prime prey (as our annual Global Security Reports point out) because of the sheer amount of data under their watch, but crooks have begun casting a wider net thanks to several factors.

Here are four less heralded industries under attack by cyberthieves, and the reasons why intruders are also flocking their way.

1) Manufacturing

Steadily moving up the ranks in terms of criminal attractiveness, manufacturing businesses have long been considered behind the curve in terms of security readiness. Aside from their potential vulnerability, enemies are also drawn for two other reasons: First, manufacturing entities - which include automotive plants, pharmaceutical companies and defense manufacturers - are heavy into research and development, thus they hold ample intellectual property and trade secrets that can offer a dream scenario for industrial espionage (which continues to be a soaring risk). Second, manufacturing is increasingly reliant on network-connected devices and industrial control systems that may not have adequate built-in protection.

2) Legal

The first of two industries sought after because of their client connections, law firms represent a soft target for miscreants wanting an easier way to access the sensitive information they handle on behalf of customers, such as financial data, patents and planned merger-and-acquisitions.

3) Public Relations

Another industry that is client-focused, PR agencies present an inviting target because they prepare communications on behalf of organizations that - if news of their activity is leaked prematurely - can yield a big payday for hackers. In fact, two foreign intruders recently were indicted on charges they gained access to press releases not yet announced and flipped stock shares based on the news.

4) Gaming

Today's video games are not your father's video games. As gaming consoles move to web-based portals, cybercriminals have jumped at the opportunity of infiltrating a booming marketplace brimming with personal information that can be stolen to conduct fraud and account "assets" - such as game currencies and game weapons - that can be sold for real money in online trading stores.

It bears repeating that while we're trying to draw attention to specific industries, we have long known that no company or sector is off limits. As a result, no matter what your organization does, you should ensure you are progressing your security maturity level forward. Best practices to accomplish that include: 

  • Risk Assessments: These evaluations help you better understand your exposure to threats and vulnerabilities, through risk identification and risk mitigation prioritization for your key assets and systems, policies, procedures and controls across business units.
  • Security Testing: This involves basic vulnerability scanning but also deep-dive penetration testing. This comprehensive process helps uncover low-hanging weaknesses and exposes your security controls through real-world attack scenarios.
  • Threat Detection and Response: This is a category that includes monitoring and alerting, threat hunting, and reacting and investigating. The concept is critical because it accepts the prospect that digital trespassers will infiltrate your organization, but affirms that you can be proactive to counter them as a way of significantly curtailing the consequences of an attack, compromise or breach.

Dan Kaplan is manager of online content at Trustwave and a former IT security reporter and editor.

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