What you’ll learn
- Current and emerging cyber threats individuals & organizations should be aware of
- Methods used by cybercriminals to threaten organizations
- Best practices that can help mitigate these threats
Cybersecurity is rapidly evolving to face a field of new threats. With technology a fundamental part of society, malicious actors can wreak havoc on personal privacy, financial stability, and national security.
Attacks against individuals and businesses might lead to personal and financial destruction. Public safety is at risk when critical infrastructure, such as power grids and transportation systems, is threatened.
Preventing scammers' efforts requires ongoing education tailored to match specific needs. For instance, a global healthcare company dealing with sensitive patient data and intellectual property on a large scale will need more intensive security than a local firm with limited data exposure. The healthcare company is likely to be a high-priority target for cybercriminals due to the potential for financial gain and access to valuable information. Keeping up with the latest protocols requires time and resources and vigilant monitoring for fresh vulnerabilities.
Type of Security Threats
Malware: Cybercriminals deploy an array of malicious software, such as viruses, worms, trojans, and ransomware, to infiltrate systems and networks. Ransomware, in particular, has seen a meteoric rise over the last 5 years (168% to be exact), leaving organizations grappling with the ethical dilemma of paying or risking data loss.
Social Engineering: Humans are often the weakest link in the cybersecurity chain, and cyber attackers have mastered the art of deception to lure unsuspecting victims into divulging sensitive information. It’s anticipated that 33 million data records will be compromised due to phishing attacks in 2023 alone.
If a cyber attack succeeds, a data breach is likely. Data breaches occur when unauthorized sources discover confidential data.
Methods Used by Cybercriminals
Cybercriminals are resourceful and adaptive, constantly evolving their tactics to stay one step ahead of security measures. Being educated on the latest and most common methods used by cybercrimals is vital to ensuring a secure organization.
Vulnerabilities are weaknesses or flaws in software or network configurations that cybercriminals can exploit to gain control over systems or data. Cybercriminals actively search for these vulnerabilities. They can stem from programming errors, unpatched software, or misconfiguration.
Brute Force Attacks
Brute force attacks can compromise your system even without glaring vulnerabilities. The criminal uses automated tools to try as many password combinations as possible until they find the right one. If the password is simple, such as apple123, it might get uncovered in seconds.
Another brute force-style attack is called credential stuffing. In credential stuffing attacks, usernames and passwords leaked from previous data breaches are attempted on new websites.
Real-World Examples of Cybersecurity Threats
In May 2021, a major fuel pipeline operator in the United States, the Colonial Pipeline, was hit by a ransomware attack. The attackers infiltrated the company's network via a compromised VPN account and deployed ransomware known as DarkSide.
DarkSide encrypted systems and disrupted the pipeline's operations, causing significant uncertainty in the industry.
The Colonial Pipeline attack highlighted the danger of cyberattacks on infrastructure. It underscored the importance of securing remote access points and ensuring robust network segmentation to limit the radius of such attacks.
Following the Colonial Pipeline attack, efforts to enhance the resilience of critical infrastructure have been made by various entities, including government agencies, private organizations, and industry stakeholders. Some examples include increased investment in cybersecurity measures and a renewed focus on collaboration between industry and government stakeholders.
The SolarWinds hack, discovered by cybersecurity firm FireEye in late 2020, was a highly sophisticated cyberattack targeting the software supply chain. The attackers compromised the software update mechanism of SolarWinds, a prominent IT management software provider, allowing them to distribute malicious updates to customers. The result was the insertion of a backdoor called "Sunburst" into numerous organizations' networks, including government agencies and major corporations.
The SolarWinds hack showed the importance of robust supply chain security and the need to work with secure vendors. One compromised vendor can have an outsized effect on the industry.
Following the SolarWinds attack, organizations and governments have increased scrutiny of software supply chains and implemented more stringent security standards. These actions aim to prevent similar supply chain attacks and enhance the overall security posture of software development and distribution processes through:
- Supply Chain Risk Assessments
- Enhanced Vendor Due Diligence
- Third-Party Security Audits
- Incident Response Planning
- Zero Trust Architecture
- And Continuous Monitoring and Threat Detection
- Best Practices for Mitigating Cybersecurity Threats
Threat Mitigation Tips to Consider
Use Strong Passwords and Two-Factor Authentication
- Avoid using predictable passwords like your last name or "password123!"
- Use a combination of letters, numbers, and special characters in any order.
- Use a password manager to create and store unique passwords for every application.
- Enable two-factor authentication (2FA) wherever available, especially for sensitive accounts.
2FA adds an extra layer of security by asking for a second verification factor, such as a unique code sent to the user’s phone and a password. The extra step protects against phishing attacks, as even if an attacker obtains the password, they still can't log in.
Keep Software Up to Date
Out-of-date software is dangerous if it holds sensitive data. Software updates often include security patches addressing vulnerabilities discovered by the developer or manufacturer. Enable automatic updates whenever possible or regularly check for updates to ensure you're always up-to-date.
Back Up Data Regularly
If an attack does occur, you can mitigate the damage in advance with data backups. Regular data backups store information so it's recoverable even if lost in a breach or encrypted by ransomware.
Remember to store the backup securely.
Train Employees on Cybersecurity Best Practices
Provide comprehensive cybersecurity training to employees to raise awareness of common types of cyberattacks. Employees should know how to recognize suspicious emails and links.
It's also a good idea to promote the practice of regularly updating passwords or using hardware keys like a YubiKey.
As the cybersecurity landscape continues to evolve, organizations and individuals must remain vigilant in their efforts to combat the myriad of threats. The risk of attack can be reduced with a combination of security best practices and a knowledge of the tactics utilized by cybercriminals.
Keeping up with cybersecurity news, taking proactive steps to protect against attacks, and being prepared to respond if an attack does occur are elements of strong cyber defenses. However, the nature of technology means that achieving a secure network will always be an ongoing process. New vulnerabilities and attack vectors are constantly introduced.
Contact SafeBase to schedule a free demo and explore how our platform can help you showcase your organization’s security policies that protect your customers against malicious actors.