Cyber surveillance
Reports of espionage hacking increased significantly in 2013, with a growing proportion of attacks attributed to Eastern European governments.
Reuters file photo

A comprehensive study on global cybersecurity has revealed that hacking for the purposes of spying grew significantly in 2013, partly as a result of increased cyber-espionage from eastern Europe.

The Data Breach Investigations Report, an annual security study by US telecoms firm Verizon, detailed more than 63,000 confirmed security incidents reported by 50 major organisations.

Almost half of all spying intrusions were blamed on east Asian nations including China, but one of the key findings of the report was that hackers operating in eastern Europe accounted for a growing proportion of espionage-related security breaches.

"The percentage of incidents attributed to east Asia is much less predominant in this year's dataset," the report stated. "The 2013 dataset shows much more activity attributed to Eastern European actors, Russian-speaking ones in particular."

Russian-speaking nations accounted for 21% of spying incidents. The majority of them were attributed to "state-sponsored actors".

Government acts of electronic spying, however, did not account for all espionage attacks in 2013. The report revealed that 11% of such breaches came from organised criminals.

"The most noticeable shifts in the 2013 dataset were an increase in insider espionage targeting internal data and trade secrets, and a broader range of tactics," the report stated.

Reported incidents triple

The total number of cyber-espionage incidents reported in 2013 was 511, three-times more than the previous year.

A portion of the increase is believed to have come from the addition of new data sources and increased visibility from Verizon's partners in the investigation, which include Intel and security firm Kaspersky.

However, even with the new data sources, the report's authors were "surprised" to see such a significant growth of incidents.

"We knew it was pervasive, but it's a little disconcerting when it triples last year's already much-increased number."