The SANS Institute has just released the results of a comprehensive study on the topic of cyber security risks. The study is based upon prevention systems in 6,000 organizations and vulnerability data from 9 million systems. The study indicates that there are two major risks out there to organizations, both of which could be mitigated.
Cyber attacks are a growing issue to organizations of all sorts, with new and sophisticated attacks being created every day. Though organizations may have difficulty keeping up with the threat landscape, this study found that organizations are not doing what they could to mitigate the two largest risk areas. Specifically, client-side software is remaining un-patched and websites are not being scanned for common flaws that criminals use to exploit visitors to those sites.
Waves of targeted email attacks, often called spear phishing, are exploiting client-side vulnerabilities in commonly used programs such as Adobe PDF Reader, QuickTime, Adobe Flash and Microsoft Office. This is currently the primary initial infection vector used to compromise computers that have Internet access.
The ultimate goal of attackers is to steal information and to install "back doors" so that the attacker can return to further exploit organizational systems. The study found that major organizations take at least twice as long to patch client-side vulnerabilities as they do to patch operating system vulnerabilities. Addressing this single issue could drastically reduce your risk of being exploited. What this also means is that the question of Mac vs PC is not going to be your solution to mitigating risk, as these risks come from cross-platform applications and from the Internet.
The report, which is available here, targets major organizations who want to ensure their defenses are up to date. The report shows some interesting patterns to data and includes a tutorial on how some of the most damaging attacks actually work. You may find it handy to print this report off to study the graphs in detail.