Ransomware, insider threats, and denial of service are the top three threats faced by organisations when it comes to securing sensitive data, a survey has found.

The findings from SANS and network control company Infoblox Inc show 78 percent of respondents reported encountering two or more threats to their data in the past 12 months, while 12 percent actually encountered a breach.

Of those, 43 percent encountered exfiltration of sensitive data through encrypted channels.

User credentials and privileged account information, known as access data, represented the most common data types involved in these breaches, spotlighting the fact that privileged data is prized by attackers – proving more desirable to them than sensitive data being targeted for financial gain or destruction.

“This shows how highly attackers prize access data,” said Sean Tierney, Director of Threat Intelligence at Infoblox.

“It’s proving more desirable to them than sensitive data being targeted for financial gain or destruction because it opens the door to significantly more exploitation opportunities.”

The study also found that 59 percent of respondents are using manual processes to identify sensitive assets – ultimately leaving their networks prone to massively automated attacks.

Mr Tierney added: “Those still relying solely on manual processes are doing themselves a disservice by opening up their networks and customer data to highly automated, targeted attacks.

“In order to counter the chances of compromise, they must know how data should flow and design an in-depth defense strategy to secure assets like user IDs, credentials, roles and directories.

“Automating network processes helps uncover sensitive data in previously unknown areas of the network. It frees up time for IT admins to perform more important, high-level tasks.”

Other key findings from the 2017 SANS Data Protection Survey report include:

Threats to data: Overall, 78 percent of respondents have seen two or more different types of threats over the last 12 months, with 68 percent having seen the same threat types multiple times.

Data exfiltration: 48 percent of those who sustained a breach report that the incident resulted in the exfiltration of sensitive data, with the primary transport of the data being an encrypted channel established by malware with a secondary factor being email.

Challenges in securing data: When asked what their organization’s greatest challenge is when it comes to sensitive data protection, 31 percent of respondents report lack of staffing and resources to be their biggest obstacle.

The cost of compromise: 41 percent of respondents report the most frequent underlying cause for breaches of sensitive data to be hacking or malware-related attacks, with 37 percent indicating insider compromise.

Watch your DNS: While 42 percent of respondents report conducting scans of their DNS infrastructures, only 19 percent conduct regular scans on at least a weekly basis, with a mere 9 percent scanning continuously. 58 percent of respondents do not utilize DNS-based prevention/detection techniques at all or are unaware whether they do.

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