Targeted cyberespionage attacks aimed at stealing intellectual property were up 42 percent last year, with consequences felt most acutely by manufacturers and small businesses (businesses with less than 250 employees represent more than 30 percent of targeted attack victims).

These new stats were published by Symantec in its Internet Security Threat Report (ISTR), which also states that small businesses are attractive target due to unsophisticated security.

Symantec's analysis concludes that in 2012, the manufacturing industry unseated government as the most targeted industry. Contractors and subcontractors in the manufacturing supply chain are seen as rich targets due to their access to intellectual property. The ISTR also reveals that knowledge workers are now the most commonly targeted kind of employee, rather than high-ranking executives, who previously topped the list.

“The sophistication of attacks coupled with today’s IT complexities, such as virtualization, mobility and cloud, require organizations to remain proactive and use ‘defense in depth’ security measures to stay ahead of attacks,” said Symantec CTO Stephen Trilling.

The most common attacks perpetrated against the public sector last year were malicious email -- nearly one in 70 emails directed to government email accounts was classified as malicious in nature. 2012 also saw a significant increase in mobile malware, which grew by 58 percent. Nearly one third of mobile attacks tried to steal personal data like phone numbers and email addresses.

The ISTR is compiled using data from Symantec's Global Intelligence Network, used by company analysts to track worldwide activity relative to phishing, spam, malicious code and attacks.

Image courtesy of Shutterstock/Maksim Kabakou