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Cybercrime is neither rare nor isolated these days. You no longer need to be a major bank, retailer, credit card company, social media site, or government to become a target. Every company with an online presence, or even a connection to the Internet, has become fair game.

Symantec has reported that, year over year, malicious Internet attacks are steadily increasing. Their most recently released report (2012), showed that in 2011, these attacks had increased by over 81 percent, and unique malicious software (“malware”) variants increased by 41 percent, compared with 2010. It is no longer a question of whether a company will be hacked, but when. Attacks are also increasingly “targeted.” For example, in January The New York Times was targeted through a technique called “spear-phishing,” where innocuous-looking email or social media messages were tailored to individual employees and designed to install code that could access, monitor, or steal information.

Obvious targets, such as financial institutions, credit card companies, and defense contractors, have often already “hardened” their defenses. Thus, cyberattacks have steadily increased against other targets, such as cloud services providers—where reams of data can be accessed through a single attack—less obvious commercial targets holding valuable information, and companies in the supply chain with access to a primary target’s systems through authenticated connections. Becoming an attack vector against a primary target can be extraordinarily costly, with significant reputational implications.

Given the potential loss of the most sensitive assets, information, and trade secrets, and the collateral risks of such an incident, companies must develop an integrated, proactive strategy involving technological features, law enforcement partnerships, and private legal enforcement, to prevent, respond to, and deter the massive and growing problem of cybercrime.

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