Summary of Findings

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Greetings! Welcome to Verizon’s 2024 Data Breach Investigations Report (DBIR). This year marks the 17th edition of this publication, and we are thrilled to welcome back our old friends and say hello to new readers. As always, the aim of the DBIR is to shine a light on the various Actor types, the tactics they utilize and the targets they choose. Thanks to our talented, generous and civic-minded contributors from around the world who continue to stick with us and share their data and insight, and deep appreciation for our very own Verizon Threat Research Advisory Center (VTRAC) team (rock stars that they are). These two groups enable us, to examine and analyze relevant trends in cybercrime that play out on a global stage across organizations of all sizes and types.

Our ways-in analysis witnessed a substantial growth of attacks involving the exploitation of vulnerabilities as the critical path to initiate a breach when compared to previous years. It almost tripled (180% increase) from last year, which will come as no surprise to anyone who has been following the effect of MOVEit and similar zero-day vulnerabilities. These attacks were primarily leveraged by Ransomware and other Extortion-related threat actors. As one might imagine, the main vector for those initial entry points was Web applications.

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Roughly one-third of all breaches involved Ransomware or some other Extortion technique. Pure Extortion attacks have risen over the past year and are now a component of 9% of all breaches. The shift of traditional ransomware actors toward these newer techniques resulted in a bit of a decline in Ransomware to 23%. However, when combined, given that they share threat actors, they represent a strong growth to 32% of breaches. Ransomware was a top threat across 92% of industries.

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We have revised our calculation of the involvement of the human element to exclude malicious Privilege Misuse in an effort to provide a clearer metric of what security awareness can affect. For this year’s dataset, the human element was a component of 68% of breaches, roughly the same as the previous period described in the 2023 DBIR.

In this issue, we are introducing an expanded concept of a breach involving a third party that includes partner infrastructure being affected and direct or indirect software supply chain issues—including when an organization is affected by vulnerabilities in third-party software. In short, those are breaches an organization could potentially mitigate or prevent by trying to select vendors with better security track records. We see this figure at 15% this year, a 68% increase from the previous year, mostly fueled by the use of zero-day exploits for Ransomware and Extortion attacks.

Our dataset saw a growth of breaches involving Errors, now at 28%, as we broadened our contributor base to include several new mandatory breach notification entities. This validates our suspicion that errors are more prevalent than media or traditional incident response-driven bias would lead us to believe.

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The overall reporting rate of Phishing has been growing over the past few years. In security awareness exercise data contributed by our partners during 2023, 20% of users reported phishing in simulation engagements, and 11% of the users who clicked the email also reported. This is welcome news because on the flip side, the median time to click on a malicious link after the email is opened is 21 seconds and then only another 28 seconds for the person caught in the phishing scheme to enter thier data. This leads to an alarming finding: The median time for users to fall for phishing emails is less than 60 seconds.

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Financially motivated threat actors will typically stick to the attack techniques that will give them the most return on investment.

Over the past three years, the combination of Ransomware and other Extortion breaches accounted for almost two-thirds (fluctuating between 59% and 66%) of those attacks. According to the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) ransomware complaint data, the median loss associated with the combination of Ransomware and other Extortion breaches has been $46,000, ranging between $3 (three dollars) and $1,141,467 for 95% of the cases. We also found from ransomware negotiation data contributors that the median ratio of initially requested ransom and company revenue is 1.34%, but it fluctuated between 0.13% and 8.30% for 80% of the cases.

Similarly, over the past two years, we have seen incidents involving Pretexting (the majority of which had Business Email Compromise [BEC] as the outcome) accounting for one-fourth (ranging between 24% and 25%) of financially motivated attacks. In both years, the median transaction amount of a BEC was around $50,000, also according to the FBI IC3 dataset.

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