By Emma Okonji

The Cisco 2014 Annual Security Report reveals that threats designed to take advantage of users’ trust in systems, applications and personal networks have reached startling levels.

According to the report, a worldwide shortage of nearly a million skilled security professionals is impacting organisations’ abilities to monitor and secure networks, while overall vulnerabilities and threats reached their highest levels since 2000.

The report’s findings offer a picture of rapidly evolving security challenges facing businesses, Information Technology (IT) departments and individuals.

Attacker methods include socially engineered theft of passwords and credentials, hide-in-plain-sight infiltrations, and exploitation of the trust required for economic transactions, government services and social interactions.

According to the report, which was released recently, there is increased sophistication and proliferation across the threat landscape.

Simple attacks that caused containable damage have given way to organised cybercrime operations that are sophisticated, well-funded, and capable of causing significant economic and reputational damage to public and private sector victims.

The report identified increased complexity of threats and solutions due to rapid growth in intelligent mobile device adoption and explained that cloud computing would continue to provide a greater attack surface than ever before. New classes of devices and new infrastructure architectures offer attackers opportunities to exploit unanticipated weaknesses and inadequately defended assets, the report added.

It further explained that cybercriminals have learned that harnessing the power of Internet infrastructure yields far more benefits than simply gaining access to individual computers or devices.

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