Cisco Annual Security Report Exposes Widening Gulf between Perception and Reality of Cyber Threats

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Cisco Unveils "Security Manifesto" as a Foundation for Organizations in UAE To Better Understand and Respond to the Cybersecurity Challenges of Today's World

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates – February 1, 2015 – The Cisco 2015 Annual Security Report released today, which examines both threat intelligence and cybersecurity trends, reveals that organizations must adopt an 'all hands on deck' approach to defend against cyber attacks.

Attackers have become more proficient at taking advantage of gaps in security to evade detection and conceal malicious activity. Defenders, namely, security teams, must be constantly improving their approach to protect their organization from these increasingly sophisticated cyber attack campaigns. These issues are further complicated by the geopolitical motivations of the attackers, conflicting cross-border data localizations and sovereignty requirements.

Cisco's "Security Manifesto"

The report findings conclude that it is time for corporate boards to take a role in setting security priorities and expectations. Cisco's "Security Manifesto", a formal set of security principals as a foundation to achieving security, can help corporate boards, security teams and the users in the organization, to better understand and respond to the cybersecurity challenges of today's world. It can serve as a baseline for organizations as they strive to become more dynamic in their approach to security and more adaptive and innovative than adversaries.

The principals are:

  • Security must support the business.
  • Security must work with existing architecture – and be usable.
  • Security must be transparent and informative.
  • Security must enable visibility and appropriate action.
  • Security must be viewed as a "people problem."


Online criminals are expanding their tactics and morphing their messages to carry out cyber-attack campaigns and make it harder to detect them. The top three trends that Cisco's threat intelligence uncovered are:

  • Snowshoe spam: Emerging as a preferred strike method, attackers are sending low volumes of spam from a large set of IP addresses to avoid detection.
  • Web Exploits Hiding in Plain Sight: Widely used exploit kits are getting dismantled by security companies in short order. As a result online criminals are using other less common kits to successfully carry out their tactics – a sustainable business model as it does not attract too much attention.
  • Malicious Combinations: Flash and JavaScript have historically been insecure on their own, but with advances in security, attackers are combining the weakest of the two parts. Flash malware can now interact with JavaScript to hide malicious activity by sharing an exploit between two different files: one Flash, one JavaScript. This type of blended attack is very hard to detect.


Users are caught in the middle. Not only are they the targets, but end-users are unknowingly aiding cyber attacks. Throughout 2014, Cisco threat intelligence research revealed that attackers have increasingly shifted their focus from servers and operating systems as more users are downloading from compromised sites leading to a 280% increase in Silverlight attacks along with a 250% increase in spam and malvertising exploits.


Results from Cisco's Security Benchmark Study, which surveyed Chief Information Security Officers (CISO's) and Security Operations executives at 1700 companies globally reveals a widening gap in defender intent and actions. Specifically, the study indicates that 75 percent of CISOs see their security tools as very or extremely effective. However, less than 50 percent of respondents use standard tools such as patching and configuration to help prevent security breaches and ensure that they are running the latest versions. Heartbleed was landmark vulnerability last year, yet 56% of all OpenSSL versions are over 4.5 years old. That is a strong indicator that security teams are not patching.

While many defenders believe their security processes are optimized–and their security tools are effective–in truth, their security readiness likely needs improvement.

About the Report

The Cisco 2015 Annual Security Report is one of the preeminent security reports that examines the latest threat intelligence gathered by Cisco security experts, providing industry insights, trends and key findings revealing cybersecurity trends for 2015. The report also highlights data results from Cisco's Security Capabilities Benchmark Study which examines the security posture of enterprises and their perceptions of their preparedness to defend themselves against cyber attacks. Geopolitical trends, global developments around data localization and the importance of making cyber security a boardroom topic are also discussed.

Supporting Quotes

Security is now the responsibility of everyone within an organization, from the board room to individual users. Security leaders and practitioners need the support of the entire business to combat malicious actors who are increasing in their proficiencies to exploit weakness and hide their attacks in plain sight. To protect organizations against attacks across the attack continuum, CISOs need to ensure that their teams have the right tools and visibility to create a strategic security posture, as well as educate users to aid in their own safety and the safety of the business, said Rabih Dabboussi, General Manager, Cisco UAE.

Attackers have become more proficient at taking advantage of security gaps. At any given time, we should expect for one percent of high-urgency vulnerabilities to be actively exploited while 56 percent of all OpenSSL versions are still vulnerable to Heartbleed. Despite this, we see less than half of the security teams surveyed using standard tools like patching and configuration management to help prevent security breaches. Even with leading security technology, excellence in process is required to protect organizations and users from increasingly sophisticated attacks and campaigns, Rabih Dabboussi concluded.

About Cisco

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