Need another reason to – somehow, if possible – go off the grid?

Ransomware is a major story these days but there actually is a bigger threat confronting businesses and enterprises: Business email compromise attacks, or BEC. So says tech giant Cisco in a new cybersecurity report. Plus, a new threat is emerging – “destruction of service” attacks which are linked to the growing Internet of Things universe.

First: Let’s define a BEC.

Says Cisco: “Business email compromise (BEC), a social engineering attack in which an email is designed to trick organizations into transferring money to attackers, is becoming highly lucrative.”

Citing data from the Internet Crime Complaint Center, Cisco points out that BECS resulted in the theft of $5.3 billion over a 39-month period ending in December 2016.

Ransomware attacks netted some $1 billion in 2016.

“Ransomware has been grabbing headlines and reportedly brought in more than $1 billion in 2016, but this may be misdirecting some organizations, who face an even greater, underreported threat (BECs),” Cisco reports.

Cisco also points out that old enemies spam, spyware and adware are still around – and remain substantial threats.

“Spam volumes are significantly increasing, as adversaries turn to other tried-and-true methods, like email, to distribute malware and generate revenue. Cisco threat researchers anticipate that the volume of spam with malicious attachments will continue to rise while the exploit kit landscape remains in flux,” the report warns.

“Spyware and adware, often dismissed by security professionals as more nuisance than harm, are forms of malware that persist and bring risks to the enterprise. Cisco research sampled 300 companies over a four-month period and found that three prevalent spyware families infected 20 percent of the sample. In a corporate environment, spyware can steal user and company information, weaken the security posture of devices and increase malware infections.”

The next wave

As businesses and consumers add millions more devices to the Internet of Things, security threats are increasing with Cisco forecasting “destruction of service” or DeOS assaults. They could be catastrophic.

Notes Cisco: “These could eliminate organizations’ backups and safety nets, required to restore systems and data after an attack.”

And the IoT is opening doors as “key industries are bringing more operations online, increasing attack surfaces and the potential scale and impact of these threats.”

Makes you want to get off the grid, doesn’t it?

Or just say “no” to more IoT.

“The Internet of Things continues to offer new opportunities for cybercriminals, and its security weaknesses, ripe for exploitation, will play a central role in enabling these campaigns with escalating impact,” Cisco warns.

“Recent IoT botnet activity already suggests that some attackers may be laying the foundation for a wide-reaching, high-impact cyber-threat event that could potentially disrupt the Internet itself.”

  • VIDEO: Watch a video overview of the new Cisco report at

“As recent incidents like WannaCry and Nyetya illustrate, our adversaries are becoming more and more creative in how they architect their attacks,” says Steve Martino, Vice President and Chief Information Security Officer of Cisco, about the report’s findings. “While the majority of organizations took steps to improve security following a breach, businesses across industry’s are in a constant race against the attackers. Security effectiveness starts with closing the obvious gaps and making security a business priority.”

What can companies do?

Cisco Security advises that companies be proactive in fighting cyberthreats. The six recommendations in the report are:

  • Keeping infrastructure and applications up to date, so that attackers can’t exploit publicly known weaknesses.
  • Battle complexity through an integrated defense. Limit siloed investments.
  • Engage executive leadership early to ensure complete understanding of risks, rewards and budgetary constraints.
  • Establish clear metrics. Use them to validate and improve security practices.
  • Examine employee security training with role-based training versus one-size-fits-all.
  • Balance defense with an active response. Don’t “set and forget” security controls or processes.

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Cisco operates one of its largest corporate campuses in RTP.