A cybersecurity threat is the increased chance of a malicious attempt against an organization’s network and computer security. Cyber threats can exploit a system’s vulnerabilities and cause a breach, system damage, data theft, computer virus launch, and instability within a company’s digital environment.
Cybersecurity threats are not solely outside attackers trying to locate and breach vulnerabilities. They can also be internal threats. Cyber threats have a wide range of sources, from actual deployed threat programs to human error and social engineering.
The chance of a malicious attack, malware, virus deployment, or a threat actor exploiting a vulnerability inside your system.
A weakness in applications, networks, or infrastructure that exposes sensitive data and assets to threats.
Is the potential for damage or loss of data or digital assets, resulting from a cyber threat attack.
Cyber threats come in many different attack styles, from malicious software to exploiting human nature.
One of the most well-known types of cyber threat, malware, is malicious software. This software is designed to be intrusive and capable of stealing data and destroying computer systems. Malware has different versions depending on the attack technique.
One of the fastest growing and longest lasting attack-styles, ransomware attack vectors are popular amongst criminals because it’s very effective and easy to implement. Ransomware infiltrates systems and software and restricts access to data by locking the systems. Instructions are given about payment, however, once the ransom is paid, additional data theft can occur for additional payments. Even if a company complies with the criminals, there’s no guarantee the systems or data will be unlocked or undamaged. Stolen data from ransomware can be exploited repeatedly after a breach has been established.
Spyware software is designed to stay on your computer, gather information about you, and forward that information to a third-party. Not all spyware is malicious, some can monitor your data for commercial usage, like advertising cookie tracking. Criminal spyware surveils activity, creates data breaches, and profits from stolen private data without user consent.
Worms are a type of malware that uses self replication to spread to other computers. Worms stay active while replicating and exploiting automatic portions of an operating system while remaining invisible to the user. This malware’s only goal is to replicate onto as many computer systems as possible. Worms require no human interaction to spread, which is different than how computer viruses spread.
Trojan horse malware hides as a “harmless file” and once engaged it unpacks its payload. There are different ways this type of attack can be used to deliver a variety of harmful attack styles. One of the more successful and often replicated trojan horse attacks was the Zeus trojan horse (or Zbot). This attack was a high-profile cybercrime against the United States Department of Transportation. This particular trojan horse stole data from the US Government and was used to breach online commerce giants as well as some of the biggest financial institutions. Copycat cyberattacks are still carried out because of the scale of success the initial attack achieved.
Social engineering relies on human interaction, deception, and gaining a person’s trust to get access to pertinent systems for an attack. Person-to-person manipulation is the key, finding the right individual with the necessary credentials for the targeted system. There are a number of common attacks that are still very successful.
A cyberattack that mimics a company’s outside partner or supplier can trick that supplier’s customers. They use the already established business relationships and credibility to attack their customers as a group. This is a supply chain attack, an attack that targets the weakness of an entire supply chain rather than individuals or single companies. These attacks compromise a vendor, gain access to their customer list, and launch an attack against them.
This system can use malware to steal data, alter records, delete files, and even spy on customers and deploy harmful software against them.
“Man in the middle” attacks happen when a perpetrator positions themselves between two users or applications. This method passes the data through the criminal in between the communication lines, similar to eavesdropping. Sensitive information is “handed off” to the criminal in the middle, who duplicates it, and then passes it to the reputable recipient.
A Denial of Service attack is used to overwhelm the attack target with a massive influx of internet traffic, which would overload the system and crash it. Denying services through false internet traffic prevents customers and business from resuming transactions per usual. These attacks can be from disgruntled employees or customers, hacktavists making a statement, or criminals looking for extortion or a ransom.
When an attacker forces randomized coding, queries, or programs inputted into an application to cause an unforeseen coding malfunction, this is considered an injection attack. This attack is meant to force open the public facing application (like an online form or log-in box) when a large volume of automated, randomized coding is put into those information boxes. This coding can disrupt the standard entry point and create programming reactions that can cause problems and uncover vulnerabilities that bypass security measures.
This is one of the biggest reasons cybersecurity is bypassed. An insider threat is anyone inside the organization that knowingly or unknowingly helps cyber criminals get through security measures. These insiders already have credentials and access to sensitive data and systems, with the right cyberattack tactics, they can be compromised and manipulated to reach pertinent information.
Organizational cybersecurity strategies tend to keep most of the focus on outside threats. Security professionals have a hard time determining between a malicious insider and normal internal activity. These insiders know the enterprise systems and processes, and as current users they have an advantage because of this knowledge.
An authorized used that intentionally works with an outside cybersecurity attacker is known as a collaborator. They leak sensitive information to external criminals and company rivals to sabotage their organization for financial gain or revenge.
Independently acting, lone wolves aren’t influenced by malicious external manipulation. They’re often very dangerous to an organization since they have higher privilege security access.
A careless insider is an inadvertent security threat. Human error and poor judgement are usually the biggest contributors since these threats are a result of phishing and social engineering. It leads to stolen credentials and unintentional security exposures to external security attacks.
An outsider that has gained security access is known as a mole. This threat actor may pose as a vendor or partner and gain elevated authorization that they are not qualified to have.
The evolution of technology is expanding faster and faster. With this expansion comes an increase of cyber threats looking to exploit the newer vulnerabilities that emerge. Government agencies, public infrastructures, supply chains, IoT and Bluetooth devices are all being increasingly targeted. Multi-threat, advanced attacks are being launched through known and unknown cybersecurity attack methods. These new attack targets include cloud-based systems and peripheral devices.
The pandemic created a bigger, newer way for workforces to collaborate and work remotely. But, with the work from home workforce growing, so are the cybersecurity threats. Vulnerabilities that may not exist in a traditional workspace may now be accessible to cybercriminals. Organizations need to have the right portfolio of cybersecurity solutions and tools to help secure and enforce the right privileged security access.
Internet of Things (IoT) devices have expanded to nearly 5 billion devices, which make up about 30% of all user endpoints. However, these devices may not be properly maintained by manufacturers, which can lead to roughly half of them having critical vulnerabilities. Without the proper layer of security solutions, cyber threats can use these devices’ weaknesses to access organizational networks and data assets.
The Cloud connects organizations and users across any distance. It’s incredibly useful for information storage and sharing but uploading sensitive organizational information on the internet still has risks. Cloud misconfiguration and interface protocols can make it easier for a cyber threat to access pertinent data and damage an organization with widespread malware. Cloud security solutions have to create a multi-layered cybersecurity environment that’s flexible to protect cloud storage, on-site storage, or a hybrid of both.
Cyber threats come from any criminal individual or organization that aims to cause damage to infrastructures, extort companies, or profit from sensitive, private data. These are the bigger cyber threat groups:
Undetected cybersecurity threats can camp out in your system accumulating “dwell time”. Dwell time is the amount of time an unnoticed cyber threat intrusion sits within a compromised system. A cybercriminal that breaches an organization’s system typically has, on average, 249 to 323 days of undetected time to steal data, spread malware, and cause damage. By the time the cybersecurity threat is discovered inside the system, the damage is done. This can result in compliance fines, sensitive data theft and exposure, system functionality damage, and organization credibility loss.
There are multitudes of ways to defend against cyber threats, including good cyber hygiene and basic security best practices. Many of these solutions aren’t complex or expensive. They can be simple yet overlooked methods to keep your organization secure and with smaller or limited IT teams, these can be incredibly helpful resources.
✓ Turn on multifactor authentication. Adding additional hoops to security sign-ins helps deter a cyber attacker.
✓ Strong passwords equal strong security. Numbers, uppercase letters, symbols make it difficult to replicate or guess a password. In the same token, change passwords regularly and do not share them.
✓ Update software, applications, and operating systems regularly. Newer versions close cybersecurity threat holes that may have been discovered.
✓ Don’t get phished, think before you open links. 90% of cyber-attacks are from suspicious links that have been clicked. This isn’t just a warning for email links, scammers can text and voice call as well with this fake information. If you’re in doubt of an email, call, or text legitimacy, ignore, report, block it.
✓ Keep privacy settings at the highest level and do not use location sharing features. The less personal information available, the harder it is for a social engineer or bad actor to mimic an employee.
✓ Error on the side of caution when it comes to any suspicious activity. You can always verify credentials, but you cannot stop a breach after it has happened. It’s better to be secure than sorry.
✓ Check sensitive data and account records regularly and note any unauthorized transactions or changes.
✓ Antivirus, anti-malware, and firewalls detect and block threats, minimizing access and damage.
✓ Back up your sensitive files and data regularly. Should an attacker breach and attempt to steal or hold it for ransom, you’ll have that data saved from damage or restrictions.
✓ Practice principle of least privilege access controls
✓ Manage supply chain risks
✓ Run regular cybersecurity audits, scans, and testing
✓ Cyber attackers use deception, stealth, and fear to extort pertinent information and data. These simple solutions, along with the right cyber threat management portfolio of advanced offensive cybersecurity tools can make it increasingly difficult for a cybercriminal to exploit a cybersecurity threat.
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