Symantec: Zero-days doubled in 2015, more companies hiding breach data

Fifty-four zero-day vulnerabilities were discovered last year

Fifty-four zero-day vulnerabilities were discovered last year, according to a report released this morning by Symantec, more than double that of 2014, and the number of mega-breaches of more than 10 million records also hit a record high.

In fact, the number of newly-discovered vulnerabilities stayed between eight and 15 a year since 2006, then jumped to 23 in 2013 and 24 in 2014, leading researchers to hope that it had reached a new plateau.

Instead, last year's 125 percent increase in zero-days was a sign of the increasing professionalization of the industry.

"People figured out that they could make money by finding zero-day vulnerabilities and selling them to attackers," said Kevin Haley, director of security response at Symantec. "So there became a marketplace, and these things started to have value, and people started to hunt for them."

According to Symantec, attack groups exploit the zero-day vulnerabilities until they are publicly exposed, then move on to new ones.

The most attractive zero-days for attackers are those in widely-used software such as Internet Explorer and Adobe Flash.

Last year, four of the five most exploited zero-days were in Adobe Flash.

Overall, Symantec discovered a total of more than 430 million new unique pieces of malware total in 2015, up 36 percent from 2014.

In addition, according to the report, spear-phishing campaigns targeting individual employees increased 55 percent in 2015 and ransomware increased 35 percent.

But there was also some good news. The overall email spam rate last year was 53 percent, down from 60 percent in 2014 and 66 percent in 2013.

symantec large

Generic phishing emails, those not targeted at specific individuals, accounted for just one in 1,846 emails, down dramatically from one in 965 in 2014 and one in 392 in 2013.

The overall email malware rate was one in 220 in 2015, down from one in 244 in 2014.

The number of bots also fell, from 2.3 million in 2013 and 1.9 million in 2014 to 1.1 million in 2015. According to Symantec, this is due to successful law enforcement activity against cyber criminals and increased cybersecurity awareness in general.

One significant exception was China. Even as the number of bots in the United States fell by 67 percent, the number of bots originating in China rose by 84 percent, so that China now accounts for 46 percent of the global population of bots, as a result of increased broadband penetration in that country.

More companies hiding breach data

The total number of personal identities exposed as a result of breaches rose 23 percent to 429 million, the second-highest year on record after 2013.

But 2015 also saw a record-setting nine mega-breaches, and the largest single data breach ever reported, at 191 million U.S. voter records.

More worrisome, however, is that the number of companies choosing not to report the number of records they have lost rose by 85 percent, from 61 to 113.

"More and more companies aren't actually revealing what was breached," said Haley. "They will say attackers came and stole from us, but not saying how many records were lost."

Not all companies have to disclose all the details of every breach, he explained -- the disclosure laws vary by location and industry.

Symantec estimates that the total number of records breached could be more than half a billion.

Join the PC World newsletter!

Error: Please check your email address.

Tags security

Our Back to Business guide highlights the best products for you to boost your productivity at home, on the road, at the office, or in the classroom.

Keep up with the latest tech news, reviews and previews by subscribing to the Good Gear Guide newsletter.

Maria Korolov

CSO (US)
Show Comments

Essentials

Lexar® JumpDrive® S57 USB 3.0 flash drive

Learn more >

Microsoft L5V-00027 Sculpt Ergonomic Keyboard Desktop

Learn more >

Mobile

Lexar® JumpDrive® S45 USB 3.0 flash drive 

Learn more >

Exec

Lexar® JumpDrive® C20c USB Type-C flash drive 

Learn more >

Lexar® Professional 1800x microSDHC™/microSDXC™ UHS-II cards 

Learn more >

Audio-Technica ATH-ANC70 Noise Cancelling Headphones

Learn more >

HD Pan/Tilt Wi-Fi Camera with Night Vision NC450

Learn more >

Budget

Back To Business Guide

Click for more ›

Most Popular Reviews

Latest News Articles

Resources

PCW Evaluation Team

Azadeh Williams

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

A smarter way to print for busy small business owners, combining speedy printing with scanning and copying, making it easier to produce high quality documents and images at a touch of a button.

Andrew Grant

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

I've had a multifunction printer in the office going on 10 years now. It was a neat bit of kit back in the day -- print, copy, scan, fax -- when printing over WiFi felt a bit like magic. It’s seen better days though and an upgrade’s well overdue. This HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 looks like it ticks all the same boxes: print, copy, scan, and fax. (Really? Does anyone fax anything any more? I guess it's good to know the facility’s there, just in case.) Printing over WiFi is more-or- less standard these days.

Ed Dawson

HP OfficeJet Pro 8730

As a freelance writer who is always on the go, I like my technology to be both efficient and effective so I can do my job well. The HP OfficeJet Pro 8730 Inkjet Printer ticks all the boxes in terms of form factor, performance and user interface.

Michael Hargreaves

Windows 10 for Business / Dell XPS 13

I’d happily recommend this touchscreen laptop and Windows 10 as a great way to get serious work done at a desk or on the road.

Aysha Strobbe

Windows 10 / HP Spectre x360

Ultimately, I think the Windows 10 environment is excellent for me as it caters for so many different uses. The inclusion of the Xbox app is also great for when you need some downtime too!

Mark Escubio

Windows 10 / Lenovo Yoga 910

For me, the Xbox Play Anywhere is a great new feature as it allows you to play your current Xbox games with higher resolutions and better graphics without forking out extra cash for another copy. Although available titles are still scarce, but I’m sure it will grow in time.

Featured Content

Latest Jobs

Don’t have an account? Sign up here

Don't have an account? Sign up now

Forgot password?