Although vulnerability is part of what makes you human, you’ll go the extra mile to protect yourself and your interests from harm, right? Exactly! Of course, it is important to never let your guard down, but it’s equally important to never let down your business’ guard, especially in our digital age. There are cyber criminals out there, and the aim of these bad guys is to damage, steal, and gain unwanted access to sensitive data. The truth is that the first step to dealing with cyber threats is to be able to identify them. This article will walk you through some of the latest cybersecurity threats you should know. You’ll also learn how to deal with these malicious threats and attacks whenever they show their ugly heads. Let’s get started.
Overview of Latest Cybersecurity Threats
So, what exactly are cybersecurity threats?
Cybersecurity or cyber threats are malicious acts that damage or steal sensitive data through a device, computer, or network. Computer viruses are one of the earliest digital threats, but threat actors have increased their efforts. Today, cyber crimes no longer involve targeting a computer directly. It is now possible to use a system as a means to the actual crime. We’ll examine the various tactics that are increasingly becoming popular so that you can protect your business data from vulnerability.
This category of malware has caused a lot of damage to many businesses, and it is the most prominent cyber security threat. The COVID-19 pandemic caused an unexpected increase in remote work, and attackers exploited that many organizations had weak cybersecurity. In 2019, 187.91 million ransomware attacks were recorded worldwide. As of 2021, that value had skyrocketed to 304.64 million. Nonetheless, it still remains one of the top cybersecurity threats in 2023.
Definition and Impact of Ransomware
Ransomware is a kind of malware that prevents an organization or a user from accessing the files on their devices or computers. The dubious actors behind this attack usually encrypt files on the victim’s computer. Then, they demand some form of ransom to get a decryption key. These organizations have no option but to pay the ransom to regain access to the files.
The greatest impact of ransomware is the financial losses for individuals and businesses. The criminals behind this malware can ask their victims for large sums of money that can run into hundreds of thousands of dollars. Consequently, such demands usually mess up a business’s operations and reputation. Furthermore, the financial strain can take its toll on the mental and physical health of the scammed person.
Methods to Protect Against Ransomware Attacks
It’s relieving to know that ransomware attacks can be avoided, or at least the risk of exposure can be minimized. The following are some of the best steps to prevent your business from ransomware threats.
- Cyber Security Training: Sometimes, ransomware can be disguised as a message or an email that leads victims to a malicious page or link. If team members in the organization are properly educated on these tactics by cybersecurity professionals, they can avoid these dubious attacks.
- Data Backups: A ransomware cybercriminal rips people off primarily by requesting a ransom in exchange for the encrypted data. Schedule a routine backup for your organization’s data, especially the sensitive ones. When you do this, you’re unbothered when your files are encrypted because you have another copy elsewhere.
- Use An Anti-ransomware Solution: Ransomware encrypts your company’s data using a unique fingerprint on your system. Installing anti-ransomware can detect this fingerprint, get rid of it, and automatically restore your files.
You don’t wake up one day and start telling personal information to a random stranger because you don’t know who they are or what they can do with such details. This fact is the same for businesses. Whenever an unauthorized person gains access to your firm’s confidential and sensitive data, it puts the company at risk, and it is called a data breach.
Understanding Data Breaches
As technology advances, there is a greater risk of exposure to data. For example, now that the Internet of Things (IoT) provides smarter devices, we see hackers looking for loopholes like careless user behavior to access data. As you can tell from the former statement, data breaches do not only happen through external cybercriminals; an innocent mistake by an insider of the organization can also be responsible.
Preventing and Responding to Data Breaches
Prevention, they say, is better than cure. Data breaches can be avoided if you and everyone in the organization take responsibility. First, every employee should protect their credentials and use multi-factor authentication. At the administrative level, you should ensure that strong antivirus packages like Kaspersky protect every device. Also, you should use high-grade encryption for sensitive information.
However, if a data breach has already occurred, you can prevent further data loss by taking every affected device offline. If the hacker used stolen credentials to access the information, you can change the credentials to prevent additional malicious actions.
Social engineering is a cybercrime that leverages human error to access private data. The malicious perpetrator typically lures unsuspecting people into spreading malware or giving them access to private systems. They exploit their victims’ ignorance to sabotage them and steal from them.
Types of Social Engineering Attacks
In social engineering, the malicious attackers appear trusted and encourage you to expose valuable personal information. Let’s check out some common methods they use.
- Baiting Attacks: It’s easy for you to be interested in a free offer or a service that promises exclusive treatment. This is the tactic behind baiting attacks. The threat actor leverages your curiosity by emailing promising free software or offers. They could even abandon infected USB drives in public places like parking lots or libraries with the expectation that a curious cat could pick it up to use.
- Physical Breach Attacks: Talk about wolves in sheep’s clothing; physical breach attackers pose as legitimate people so they can access private information. You can even find them approaching your business environment, pretending to be employees of trusted vendors. These cyber criminals’ main tactic is to evade questions, but they reveal enough information to earn your trust in them.
- Quid Pro Quo: You can call this attack a favor for a favor. On the other hand, the perpetrator would request that you share your personal information to earn some compensation or reward. They exploit vulnerabilities by getting you excited about something that appears to be valuable. Ultimately, they get your data; sadly, you get no reward.
How to Identify and Prevent Social Engineering Attacks
The only way not to be a victim of social engineering is to practice self-awareness. These attacks are out to prey on your human side to get you to expose yourself. As such, you must always stay calm and think carefully before acting. We’ll examine three ways to spot a potential social engineering attack and simple but powerful actions you can take.
- Heightened Emotions: Humans are prone to impulsive decisions when their emotions are high. Whenever a message gets you unnecessarily elevated emotionally, it is a red flag. Please do not follow the prompt of the message, especially when you can’t verify its legitimacy.
- Odd Details: If you notice that links or messages you are sent have irregular URLs, old company logos, or poor image quality, it is most likely a scammer trying to hack you. Delete the message immediately, or leave the page if it is a website. Also, these cyber criminals can impersonate a friend or co-worker’s account. If you notice something off, call your friend on their phone or talk to them physically before taking action.
- Sounds Too Good To Be True: If you receive a message of a reward that sounds too good to be true, then it probably is. Before sharing your details with anybody, you should ask yourself, ‘Why is someone giving me a huge offer out of the blue?’. It’s still unsafe even if they ask for basic information like your email address. As such, you must stay wary and alert at all times.
According to an FBI report, investment schemes recorded their greatest loss, which amounted to over $10.3 billion in 2022 through phishing schemes. This cybercrime is also the most expensive, and it’s not far-fetched. A successful phishing attempt typically leads to identity theft, data breaches, and ransomware attacks, which cause a huge financial loss of businesses and individuals.
What is Phishing?
Phishing attacks use seemingly urgent text messages, emails, website links, and phone calls to get sensitive information like login credentials or bank account numbers from you. The sense of urgency is to cause you to make rash decisions that will end up being costly. Fraudsters use this method because it’s easier and less expensive to get people to divulge personal information than to hack into a network.
Preventing Phishing Attacks
You can easily avoid phishing attacks if you know how it works. Businesses should teach their employees and team members how to identify phishing content. These messages can ask you to provide personal information to update a profile or make a payment. They can also send unwanted files or threats to coax you into unsafe information sharing. Once you can identify a phishing request, avoid it completely.
Although proper education is vital, even trained individuals can still make mistakes. As such, you can use cybersecurity tools to protect your business in case of errors. You can use spam filters and antivirus software to identify and neutralize phishing emails or files.
Security breaches like distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks have increased with the increased use of IoT devices. Sadly, IoT devices weren’t exactly built with security in mind. In fact, they usually transfer unencrypted information over the internet; thus, IoT security is important so your business is protected from cyber threats.
Risks and Vulnerabilities of IoT Devices
The use of IoT devices raises a lot of security concerns. For example, you can only install security software on some of them. As such, it is difficult for you to protect IoT devices from data breaches or ransomware.
Also, IoT devices are vulnerable to cyber threats because they have weak authorization and authentication features. This fact makes them easy targets for hackers.
Securing IoT Devices
Cybercriminals usually look for loopholes to exploit, so you must ensure adequate security for your vulnerable IoT devices. The only way to successfully protect your business’ smart devices is to integrate them with a solution that makes visibility, protection, and segmentation possible.
The role of visibility is to stay informed and have a map of the exact number of IoT devices you have in your company. Segmentation means you divide your network of devices into different sections; as such, the possibility of a large-scale cyber attack is reduced because the network of devices is localized. Finally, protection implies that you do your due diligence to change the default passwords of your IoT products to stronger ones. You can also add extra layers of security like cameras, physical locks, and multi-factor authentication to them.
Advanced Persistent Threats
As you can already tell from the name, advanced persistent threats (APT) use sophisticated hacking to exploit a business’ security vulnerabilities. APTs do not prioritize small companies because they take a lot of effort to plan. Instead, their targets are larger corporate businesses, and they come with destructive consequences. However, small businesses are not spared from these attacks.
Understanding Advanced Persistent Threats
Advanced persistent threats usually target large corporations and nation-states. If your business falls under this category, you must always be alert. Unlike other touch-and-go cyber assaults, APTs are out to steal a company’s information for long periods.
Recently, APT attackers have evolved to supply chain attacks by using small enterprises as a means of access to larger ones. So, in practice, really, everyone has to be on the lookout.
Detecting and Mitigating Advanced Persistent Threats
Advanced persistent threats are designed to access a company’s information continuously. Their operations are usually subtle so that they can operate for as long as possible. Nonetheless, it is possible to detect them. An APT’s common pointers include odd logins, targeted spear-phishing emails, backdoor trojans, and the movement of large batches of data.
You can comprehensively deal with APTs by working with a cybersecurity company experienced in dealing with the problem. However, it’s never too much for you to take security measures to complement the company’s efforts. Educate your employees on APTs, limit access to sensitive information, and ensure you install all the security patches your business needs.
State-Sponsored Cyber Attacks
State-sponsored cyber attacks (SSA) are aimed at disrupting a nation’s critical and sensitive infrastructure. You might be wondering, ‘How does this affect my business?’. The truth is that trying to hack into a country’s information security requires a lot of effort and resources. As such, businesses with poor infrastructure security can be used as a middle line of attack.
Overview of State-Sponsored Cyber Attacks
A state-sponsored cyber attack is no child’s play. It aims to gather intelligence, exploit people, and exploit vulnerable national infrastructure. These attacks are usually calculated, sophisticated, and well-funded.
Common businesses that are targets of SSAs include:
- Local government businesses.
- High-value companies.
- Enterprises that handle sensitive information.
- Companies that work closely with the government.
However, as a business owner, don’t ever fall into the trap of thinking that you can never be a victim of such an attack. You must always be on guard because it is better to be safe than sorry.
Protecting Against State-Sponsored Cyber Attacks
No business is above state-sponsored attacks, so you must always be prepared, especially if your organization falls under the category of businesses that are natural targets of SSAs.
First, having basic cybersecurity packages is a no-brainer. Your encryption, patch management, backup, antivirus packages, and disaster recovery plan must always be in place. Next, ensure you perform phishing assessments regularly to monitor potential vulnerabilities. Also, isolate and add an extra layer of security to critical and sensitive IT data. Finally, stay updated on the latest cybersecurity news by checking sites like cisa.gov regularly.
The future of your business is up to you. Of course, life would be so much easier if there were no threats to your organization’s success. But there are. So, take the actionable steps we have provided to protect your business from cyber threats. Instead of saying it can never happen to you, why not stay prepared with MIS Solutions cyber security management package? Again, remember, it is always better to be safe than sorry.