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2024 Data Breach Investigations Report: Half of the breaches in EMEA are internal

May 2024 by Verizon Business

Verizon Business released the results of its 17th annual Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR), which analysed 8,302 security incidents in Europe, the Middle East and Africa (EMEA), of which 6,005 (more than 72%) are confirmed breaches.

Virtually half of the breaches (49%) in EMEA are initiated internally, suggesting high incidences of privilege misuse and other human errors. Across EMEA, the top reasons for cybersecurity incidents are miscellaneous errors, system intrusion, and social engineering, which account for 87% of breaches. The most common types of data compromised are personal (64%), internal (33%), and credentials (20%).

The human element continues to be the front door for cybercriminals
Most breaches globally (68%), whether they include a third party or not, involve a non-malicious human action, which refers to a person making an error or falling prey to a social engineering attack. This percentage is about the same as last year. One potential countervailing force is the improvement of reporting practices: 20% of users identified and reported phishing in simulation engagements, and 11% of users who clicked the email also reported it.

“The persistence of the human element in breaches shows that organisations in EMEA must continue to combat this trend by prioritising training and raising awareness of cybersecurity best practices. However, the increase in self-reporting is promising and indicates a cultural shift in the importance of cybersecurity awareness among the general workforce” said Sanjiv Gossain, EMEA Vice President, Verizon Business

Zero-day vulnerabilities remain a persistent threat to enterprises
Globally, the exploitation of vulnerabilities as an initial point of entry increased since last year, accounting for 14% of all breaches. This spike was driven primarily by the scope and growing frequency of zero-day exploits by ransomware actors, most notably the MOVEit breach, a widespread exploitation of a zero-day vulnerability.
“The exploitation of zero-day vulnerabilities by ransomware actors remains a persistent threat to enterprises, due in no small part to the interconnectedness of supply chains,” said Alistair Neil, EMEA Senior Director of Security, Verizon Business “Last year, 15% of breaches involved a third party, including data custodians, third-party software vulnerabilities, and other direct or indirect supply chain issues.”

Analysis of the Cybersecurity Infrastructure and Security Agency (CISA) Known Exploited Vulnerabilities (KEV) catalogue revealed that on average it takes organisations 55 days to remediate 50% of critical vulnerabilities following the availability of patches. Meanwhile, the median time for detecting the mass exploitations of the CISA KEV on the internet is five days.
As a possible relief to some anxieties, the rise of artificial intelligence (AI) was less of a culprit vs challenges in large-scale vulnerability management. “While the adoption of artificial intelligence to gain access to valuable corporate assets is a concern on the horizon, a failure to patch basic vulnerabilities has threat actors not needing to rapidly advance their approach and focusing their use of AI on accelerating social engineering,” Chris Novak, Sr. Director of Cybersecurity Consulting, Verizon Business.

Additional key findings:
• About 32% of all breaches involved some type of extortion technique, including ransomware.
• Over the past two years, roughly a quarter (between 24% and 25%) of financially motivated incidents involved pretexting.
• Over the past 10 years, the use of stolen credentials has appeared in almost one-third (31%) of all breaches.

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