Cyberespionage: Most Attacks Originate in China

Dennis Faas's picture

According to a new study from Verizon, almost one in three of the world's cyber attacks originate in China. The study also revealed that Chinese attackers are more interested in cyberespionage than stealing money.

The figures are part of Verizon's annual Data Breach Investigations Report. The report aims to bring together data from cybercrime experts from around the world.

This year the data covers a total of 47,000 "security incidents," though the vast majority of these incidents appear to have been failed attacks. Only 621 cases are known to have involved an actual breach of security with hackers accessing data or gaining control of systems.

Of all the attacks, 30 per cent could be traced back to China. Almost as many attacks originated in Romania (28 per cent), while 18 per cent of attacks were based in the United States. This means those three countries alone accounted for 75 per cent of all cyber attacks. (Source:

Information, Not Money the Focus in China

The figures did show a particularly surprising pattern. With every country but China, either the vast majority or practically all the recorded security incidents involved attempts to steal data for financial gain. This frequently involved accessing credit card numbers.

Of the Chinese-based attacks, however, 96 per cent were linked to espionage involving the theft of confidential data about businesses or government agencies.

Verizon admits this doesn't necessarily mean China has a disproportionate interest in cyber-spying. It says criminals around the world may be taking advantage of relatively lax regulations there in order to route attacks through China.

Verizon also suggests these loose regulations can explain the apparent imbalance in the cybercrime-to-spying ratio.

It may be that the type of people taking advantage of China's regulations for spying purposes either aren't as skilled in covering their tracks as those in other countries, or that they simply care less about remaining under the radar.

'Hacktivists' Less Data Hungry

The report also noted a couple of other significant trends. First, although the total number of 'hacktivist' attacks -- which involve people trying to disrupt websites as a form of political protest rather than for personal gain -- has remained steady, the amount of data compromised this way has dropped.

Verizon's report also reveals that the size of organizations falling victim to hacking ranges widely. Therefore, it's no longer safe to assume that hackers are solely interested in high-profile targets, like major corporations and government agencies. (Source:

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