The volume of malware threats is actually on the decline despite the increase in breaches, according to a study from Websense Security Labs.
Websense Security Labs logged 3.96 billion security threats in 2014, which was 5.1 per cent less than 2013. Despite this, the number of high-profile breaches increased.
Hackers have switched from spray and pray tactics to more "quiet, targeted and unique attacks" that Websense reckons are far more effective.
Websense's 2015 Threat Report – published on Wednesday April 8 – also reports that malware authors are consistently reusing the same delivery techniques and infrastructure.
An overwhelming 99.3 per cent of malware uses a command and control infrastructure used by at least one other malware author. An only marginally smaller 98.2 per cent of malware authors used command and control hubs found in five other types of malware.
Around one in three (30 per cent) of end-users click through a malicious URL in an email even though they have been warned of the danger. "End users are increasingly desensitised from the warnings, don’t feel responsible and still lack enterprise-driven education," according to Websense.
Hackers are gaining capabilities through the adoption of cutting-edge tools instead of technical expertise. Hackers are blending old tactics, such as macros, in unwanted emails with new evasion techniques. Old threats are being “recycled” into new threats launched through email and web channels, creating a noxious attack landscape in the process.
Redirect chains, code recycling and a host of other techniques are allowing these actors to remain anonymous, making attribution time consuming, difficult and ultimately unreliable.
Even entry-level threat actors (AKA script kiddies) can successfully create and launch attacks due to greater access to exploit kits for rent, Malware-as-a-Service and other opportunities to buy or subcontract portions of a complex multi-stage attack, Websense concludes.
In 2014, 81 percent of all email scanned by Websense was identified as malicious. Websense Security Labs identified more than 3 million macro-embedded email attachments in the last 30 days of 2014 alone.
Miscreants are mixing up their tactics by using a variety of email and web-based attacks, leaving various threat metrics pointing in different directions.
For example, suspicious emails were up 25 per cent year-on-year, dropper files fell 77 per cent, call-home activity rose 93 per cent and exploit kit usage dropped 98 per cent, while malicious redirect activity remained flat.