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Which industry has the most cyber attacks?

Cyber attacks have become increasingly common in recent years, impacting organizations across all industries. However, some sectors tend to be targeted more frequently than others. In this article, we will explore which industries are most affected by cyber attacks and examine the reasons behind their vulnerability.

The Most Targeted Industries

According to various cybersecurity reports and analysis, the top 5 industries most targeted by cybercriminals are:

  1. Finance and Insurance
  2. Healthcare
  3. Manufacturing
  4. Retail
  5. Government

Below we’ll take a closer look at each of these sectors and the cybersecurity challenges they face.

1. Finance and Insurance

The finance industry suffered the highest number of publicly disclosed cyber attacks in recent years, accounting for over 20% of all breaches. This includes banks, credit unions, investment firms, insurance companies, and other financial services.

Financial organizations are highly appealing targets for hackers because they hold sensitive customer data, including names, addresses, account numbers, social security numbers, and financial information. Cybercriminals can sell this data or use it themselves for identity theft and financial fraud.

Major cybersecurity challenges for the finance sector include:

  • Sophisticated phishing and social engineering attacks aimed at employees
  • Attacks seeking to disrupt critical systems and operations
  • Increasing migration to cloud environments and digital platforms
  • Highly complex IT systems and legacy infrastructure
  • Stringent regulatory compliance requirements

2. Healthcare

The healthcare industry has also become a prime target, with attacks increasing in both frequency and impact. Medical records contain a wealth of sensitive data and are highly valuable on the black market.

Key risks include:

  • Ransomware attacks that can cripple hospital systems and operations
  • Data breaches exposing patient health information (PHI)
  • Attacks on medical devices and equipment
  • Lack of security awareness among employees

Healthcare organizations often struggle to keep pace with rapidly evolving cyber threats. Many use outdated IT systems and medical devices which have security flaws. The highly distributed nature of healthcare networks also creates vulnerabilities.

3. Manufacturing

The manufacturing industry has seen substantial increase in cyber attacks aimed at stealing intellectual property and disrupting production systems. Key risks include:

  • Theft of proprietary design, process, and formula data
  • Sabotage of production lines, machinery, and equipment
  • Compromising Industrial Control Systems (ICS) that manage manufacturing operations
  • Ransomware attacks on production facilities and assembly lines

As manufacturing facilities become more automated and connected to the Internet of Things, their exposure to cyber attacks grows dramatically. Many lack visibility into threats across IT, OT, and production networks.

4. Retail

Major retailers have been the victim of increasingly sophisticated cyber attacks aimed at stealing payment card data, customer information, and intellectual property. Key retail sector risks include:

  • POS system malware scraping payment card data
  • Supply chain and vendor attacks impacting point-of-sale systems
  • Ransomware or data destruction attacks on headquarters and stores
  • Skimming devices installed on payment terminals

Retailers often have highly complex networks with distributed endpoints at hundreds or thousands of stores. This broad attack surface is difficult to monitor and defend. They also hold enormous amounts of sensitive customer data.

5. Government

Government agencies have become a major target of nation-state actors, hacktivists, and cyber terrorists seeking access to classified information and systems disruption. Key risks include:

  • Cyber espionage to steal classified data and surveillance
  • Disinformation campaigns using hacked and leaked data
  • Ransomware or wiper malware aimed at crippling operations
  • Attacks against critical infrastructure systems

Government networks contain extremely sensitive information related to national security, public infrastructure, personnel records, and more. Attackers are drawn to this high-value data.

Why These Industries are Highly Targeted

While cyber attacks affect organizations across all sectors, the industries above face greater risk due to several key factors:

  • High-value data – The sectors at greatest risk hold sensitive data like financial accounts, healthcare records, trade secrets, classified information, and intellectual property that is highly valuable to cybercriminals.
  • Lucrative targets – Critical infrastructure and core operations in banking, hospitals, manufacturing plants, and government agencies offer opportunities for high-impact attacks that can yield bigger payouts for attackers.
  • Interconnected networks – Extensive networks with numerous access points, third-party vendors, remote locations, and complex connections create a broad attack surface.
  • Legacy systems – Many organizations in these sectors rely on aging, legacy IT systems and operational technology which lack modern security controls.
  • Regulatory pressures – Stringent data protection and compliance requirements in finance and healthcare impact security strategies and resource allocation.

Understanding these inherent vulnerabilities allows organizations to better prioritize cybersecurity programs, user education, and risk mitigation strategies tailored to their industry.

Most Common Attack Vectors and Threats

While cyberthreats are constantly evolving, there are several prevalent attack vectors and threats impacting these high-risk industries:

Phishing and Social Engineering

Phishing uses spoofed emails, texts, calls, and pages to trick users into revealing credentials or sensitive data. Social engineering manipulates human psychology to gain access.


Ransomware is one of the fastest growing cyber threats, encrypting files and systems and demanding ransom payments for decryption keys. Healthcare has been especially impacted.

Supply Chain Attacks

By compromising vendors, suppliers, and business partners, attackers can more easily penetrate target organizations through trusted third-party relationships.

Insider Threats

Employees, contractors, and partners with legitimate access can abuse privileges, intentionally or accidentally cause breaches, or become unwitting accomplices.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

DDoS attacks overwhelm systems and servers by flooding them with junk data traffic, causing outages and disruption.

Web Application Attacks

Vulnerabilities in public-facing websites and web apps are exploited to gain access, steal data, or hijack user sessions.

Malware and RATs

Trojans, spyware, bots, viruses, and remote access tools are deployed to gain persistent footholds on systems and exfiltrate data.

Legacy System Exploits

Unpatched vulnerabilities in older technology provide backdoor access to compromised networks. This is exacerbated by lack of visibility into legacy environments.

Most Impactful Recent Attacks

Some of the most damaging recent cyber attacks further illustrate the risks facing these vulnerable sectors:

  • Anthem Breach (Healthcare) – Hackers gained access to Anthem’s network in 2015 and stole 78 million customer records with sensitive medical and personal data.
  • Colonial Pipeline Attack (Critical Infrastructure) – This 2021 ransomware attack forced the shutdown of a major U.S. fuel pipeline for nearly a week, causing widespread gasoline shortages.
  • Office of Personnel Management Breach (Government) – Chinese state hackers perpetrated this breach which compromised over 21 million federal employee records, including extremely sensitive SF-86 security clearance forms.
  • Target Data Breach (Retail) – Malware installed on POS systems allowed hackers to steal 70 million customer credit cards and personal records in 2013, one of the largest breaches at the time.
  • WannaCry Ransomware (Healthcare) – This 2017 worm ransomed hundreds of thousands of systems worldwide, severely impacting hospitals, medical services, and critical equipment like MRI machines.

Best Practices to Improve Cybersecurity

Organizations in the most targeted sectors can take proactive steps to enhance cyber defenses, such as:

  • Implementing robust cybersecurity awareness training to educate all employees.
  • Performing regular risk assessments to identify vulnerabilities across the environment.
  • Deploying advanced endpoint, network, and email security solutions with AI/ML detection of threats.
  • Establishing an Incident Response Plan with procedures for rapid containment and remediation.
  • Mandating multi-factor authentication and privileged access management.
  • Developing cybersecurity policies and procedures aligned with best practices like NIST or ISO.
  • Conducting regular penetration testing and attack simulations.
  • Monitoring third parties and ensuring security of the supply chain.
  • Providing specialized training for security teams to hone skills.


In summary, the finance, healthcare, manufacturing, retail, and government sectors face the highest level of cyber risk today due to the high value of their data and systems, extensive interconnected networks, prevalence of legacy infrastructure, and other environmental factors.

Phishing, ransomware, supply chain compromise, and system exploits are among the top threats exploiting inherent vulnerabilities in these industries. Prioritizing security strategies tailored to sector-specific challenges and adopting cyber best practices can help organizations in the most targeted industries manage risks more effectively.

With cyber incidents rising dramatically year after year, learning from past attacks, increasing threat visibility, and dedicating sufficient resources to cybersecurity preparedness is critical for the industries that find themselves most squarely in attackers’ crosshairs.