Cyber criminals using tactic to spread to other connected networks, research finds

Cyber criminals who have infiltrated one group’s networks are increasingly using a tactic known as “island hopping” to enter other connected networks, security researchers warned Tuesday.

Researchers for the security firm Carbon Black said in a new report that 50 percent of cyberattacks experienced by its clients during the first quarter of 2019 included the technique, in which hackers will access one network and then spread out by infiltrating other connected networks.

“At this point, it’s become part and parcel of a cyber crime conspiracy,” Tom Kellermann, Carbon Black’s chief cybersecurity officer, said in the report. “They’re using their victim’s brand against customers and partners of that company. They’re not just, say, invading your house — they’re setting up shop there, so they can invade your neighbors’ houses too.”

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Firms working within the financial industry were most likely to report seeing the tactic, with 47 percent reporting incidents of island hopping.

The report also found that companies said a lack of visibility into their networks was the top barrier in responding to cyber incidents.

“More often than not, the adversary is going after the weakest link in the supply chain to get to their actual target,” Thomas Brittain, the head of Carbon Black’s global incident response partner program, said in the report. “Businesses need to be mindful of companies they’re working closely with and ensure that those companies are doing due diligence around cybersecurity as well.”

The threat report also found that hackers are adopting new methods to prevent from being found in compromised networks, with 70 percent of the responding companies saying that the cyber actors are using evasion tactics like turning off protections like antivirus and firewalls.

Fifty-six percent of respondents said they have seen hackers use some kind of counterincident response techniques in general, up 5 percent from last quarter.