Myth #1: No-one will attack us


Guess what the following organisations have in common: a game host in the USA; a pizza chain in India; a news aggregator in Mexico; and a festival organiser in Ireland.  Answer: they were all the victims of a data breach during the first three weeks of September 2012.  According to the OSF Data Loss DB, they were just four of the 27 organisations that publicly disclosed that they’d been breached in those three weeks.  The number of undisclosed breaches is probably orders of magnitude greater.

Many organisations feel that they are safe because they don’t believe that anyone is interested in their data.  Even more feel safe because they believe that they’ve never been attacked.

Unfortunately the truth is somewhat more uncomfortable.

Every organisation’s data is interesting to someone: hackers, competitors, hactivists, even nation states; and if you are connected to the Internet you have been attacked, and unless very lucky or very careful, you’ve been compromised.

But who sets out to steal the corporate secrets of a pizza chain?  This is the wrong question.  The question implies that the target was selected first, then the attack happened second.  In reality in today’s Internet it’s much more likely that the opposite happened, that the entire internet was attacked, and the targets selected that were vulnerable.  Including the pizza chain.

But is this plausible?  The Internet is big!  You might think that it’s a long way to the corner shop, but that’s nothing compared to the Internet.  The IPv4 Internet can have a maximum of 2 billion directly addressable hosts, and as of July 2012 ISC reported that about 900 million were connected.  That is still a lot of address space to attack!  Today automation, fast links, and cloud computing have turned an impossible task into something that can be done for a few dollars in a few days.

So every service published on the Internet will be found.  And if they are vulnerable they will be attacked.  This week.

If you still think that you have weeks to patch your Internet facing hosts, you are amongst the good company of those who have been compromised but just don’t know it yet.

If you needed an excuse to get your IPv6 migration started, I can’t think of a better one, as it moves scanning the entire Internet back into the impossible category.

Then there are targeted attacks…

This myth is completely busted.

Phil Kernick Chief Technology Officer

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