While healthcare organizations in the UK were particularly hit by this weekend’s ransomware attacks, a new study shows that government and the finance sector are especially vulnerable to hackers.

The number of cyberattacks on the government sector doubled in 2016, according to Dimension Data’s “Executive Guide to the NTT Security 2017 Global Threat Intelligence Report.” The findings were compiled by NTT security and NTT operating companies from the networks of 10,000 clients in five continents.

Attacks on the government sector increased to 14 percent of all incidents in 2016, up from 7 percent the year before. Likewise, the finance sector also experienced 14 percent of all attacks, up from 3 percent in 2015.

The manufacturing sector came in third place at 13 percent, and the retail sector, which topped the list of all cybersecurity attacks in 2015, moved down to fourth place at 11 percent.

A number of geo-political events were cited as contributing to the targeting of government agencies. These included:

  • The US presidential election campaign
  • A new US administration with a more aggressive stance toward China and North Korea
  • US and European Union-led economic sanctions against Russia
  • Russian state-sponsored actors continuing cyber operations against Western targets
  • Growing negative sentiment in the Middle East against the West’s aggression toward Syria

“Governments all over the world are constantly under the threat of sophisticated attacks launched by rival nation-states, terrorist groups, hacktivists and cyber criminals,” noted Matthew Gyde, Dimension Data’s group executive. “That’s because government agencies hold vast amounts of sensitive information – from personal records, budgetary data and sensitive communication, to intelligence findings. What’s interesting is that this year we say numerous incidents involving insider threats.”

Commenting on the financial services industry, Gyde said the ongoing attacks in the financial services sector is no surprise.

“These organizations have large amounts of digital assets and sensitive customer data,” Gyde said. “Gaining access to them enables cybercriminals to monetize personally identifiable information and credit card data in the underground economy.”

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