Annual report notes "remarkable" malware spike in targeted industries

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CISCO's Annual Security Report tracked a noteworthy spike in malware threats to industrial sectors last year, particularly those targeting the agriculture and mining industry.

Within the 81-page report (PDF), CISCO researchers illuminated the “remarkable growth” in malware encounters impacting mining and agriculture facilities, which were “formerly a relatively low-risk sector,” the report said.

“[Researchers] attribute the increase in malware encounters for this industry to cyber criminals seizing on trends such as decreasing precious metal resources and weather-related disruptions in the food supply,” the report said.

In the study, Cisco pegged the median malware encounter rate for companies at 100 percent, meaning a company with a 190 percent encounter rate was at a 90 percent increased risk higher than the median.

In 2013, the agriculture and mining sector earned a 600 percent malware encounter rate, putting it at 500 percent above the median rate.

To track the threats to specific industries, Cisco analyzed organizations that proxy through its Cisco Cloud Web Security service.

Of note, the electronics industry, along with the pharmaceutical and chemical sector, earned high threat reports above the 600 percent mark.

The report found that malware attacks targeting the electronics industry were often launched to help attackers steal intellectual property, “which they in turn use for competitive advantage or sell to the highest bidder.”

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