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Cyber attacks against financial services firms skyrocket, study says

Cyber attacks against banks and financial services firms have gone into hyperdrive, according to a report by a security services firm that specializes in defending against Distributed Denial of Services (DDOS) attacks.

The security company, Prolexic, said its security engineering and response team logged three times the number of attacks against its financial services clients during the first quarter of 2012 compared to the fourth quarter of 2011, as well as a 3,000 percent increase in malicious packet traffic. The company said on April 11 that it had also mitigated more attack traffic in the current quarter than it did during all of 2011.

“This quarter was characterized by extremely high volumes of malicious traffic directed at our financial services clients,” said Neal Quinn, Prolexic’s vice president of operations. “We expect other verticals beyond financial services, gaming and gambling to be on the receiving end of these massive attack volumes as the year progresses.”

During Q4 2011, the company said over 168 trillion bits of data and 14 billion packets of malicious traffic were identified as targeting financial services clients. This quarter, 5.7 quadrillion bits of data and 1.1 trillion malicious packets were identified and successfully mitigated, representing a 3,000% increase in malicious packet traffic over Q4 2011, it said

There were other alarming statistics in the report. Compared to the first quarter of 2011, the company said there was a 25 percent increase in DDOS attack and a 25 percent increase as well against application layer attack. Attacks were shorter in duration, it said, lasting 28 and a half hour on average compared to 2011’s 65 hour average.

However, compared to the fourth quarter of 2011, the company said, the overall number of attacks was “virtually unchanged.” During the same period, attack length decline from 34 hours in the fourth quarter of 2011 to about 28 hours in the current quarter.

It said China continues to be the primary source for attacks, but Russia and the U.S. moved up the list.