Cyber security crimes are on the rise – five out of six corporate networks were hacked in 2014, representing a 40 percent spike from 2013 – according to a new Wymantec Internet Security Threat Report. What accounts for the spike in numbers? As it turns out, human nature is becoming a dominant factor in cyber attacks.

While the methods themselves have become more sophisticated, hackers are increasingly resorting to strategies that rely on social engineering to target top tier corporate and infrastructure networks. They use unsuspecting individuals within the networks to carry out their schemes for them.

"Attackers don't need to break down the door to a company's network when the keys are readily available," said Symantec Security Response Director Kevin Haley.

"We're seeing attackers trick companies into infecting themselves by Trojanizing software updates to common programs and patiently waiting for their targets to download them — giving attackers unfettered access to the corporate network."

Today's cyber attackers are seeking data, financial information and access to protected accounts and networks. It's not just a matter of breaching a network, grabbing the data and running — hackers are employing a wide range of attack approaches.

These cyber criminals dismantle networks and systems while entrenched in an organization's computing infrastructure in stealth mode. Last year's Symantec report describes cyber crime as boasting "far-reaching vulnerabilities, faster attacks, files held for ransom and far more malicious code than in previous years."

The report notes that more than 317 million new malware threats were created in 2014 alone, that ransomware attacks spiked by 113 percent and 70 percent of social media attacks used victims as conduits to spreading a network and system threat.

"We do the work for them," Haley said. "They only have to infect one of us and it quickly cascades to our friends and their friends, and so on."

Crypto-ransom incidents – in which hackers steal data, encrypt it and hold it hostage – actually jumped 4,000 percent last year, according to the report.

"The criminals are getting better," said Haley. "Success breeds success and other criminals want to get into the game, so we need to step up our game in terms of protecting our information and keeping it safe."

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