Unfortunately, this news won’t end anytime soon. Annual cybercrime costs are expected to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025, and while many organizations recognize the importance of security, it can be challenging to tackle.
Building a strategy requires many considerations, including defending networks, applications and endpoints. IT teams must address questions such as: What are our biggest vulnerabilities? How are we detecting and responding to attacks? What technology do we need to safeguard our systems?
But the most pressing question is simple: Where should we start?
To beat hackers at their own game, you need to think like one. The first step is becoming familiar with the threatscape. Let’s take a closer look at some of the primary attack types.
Malware is a general term for software with malicious intent. It comes in a variety of forms, including viruses, worms, Trojans, spyware and adware.
No matter the delivery method, the goal of malware is to circumvent security controls and use the impacted system, network or device for nefarious purposes. It’s commonly downloaded through malicious email attachments, compromised web pages and pop-up advertisements — and once installed, it can steal, modify and destroy sensitive data. This includes Personally Identifiable Information (PII), login information and intellectual property.
One of the most common signs of a malware infection is an exceptionally slow device or internet connection. Malware takes up many resources, causing it to frequently freeze and crash systems. Users may also receive error messages, prompting them to install additional harmful software, and experience unexplained storage loss.
The scary news is: You may not notice anything at all. Malware can go undiscovered for days, weeks and even years, silently collecting information in the background before it’s uncovered. An IBM report found that it takes an average of 212 days to detect a breach.
In May 2021, hackers used a stolen password to attack the largest fuel pipeline in the United States. The five-day shutdown sparked gas shortages across the southeast and forced stations to temporarily close until Colonial Pipeline paid the nearly $5 million ransom.
As the Colonial Pipeline attack proved, the severity of these breaches can have a detrimental effect that ripples beyond the organization itself.
Many businesses are hesitant to pay a ransom, since there’s no guarantee that all data will be recovered. However, when operations are on the line, some will pay up in a desperate attempt to resume business. This is particularly crucial for organizations in the healthcare industry, given they may not be able to provide care if hackers lock access to medical records.
Phishing attacks manipulate users into providing cybercriminals with sensitive information. Unlike other threats, attackers don’t hack into systems — phishing relies on human error to provide the desired data.
In an attack, hackers pose as a legitimate organization to gain a person’s trust. For example, let’s say you receive an email from your company’s IT department, asking you to update your password or else your account will be deleted. You don’t recognize the email address it came from, but you don’t want to lose your account, so you quickly click the link provided and type in your password.
Unfortunately, it turns out the email wasn’t from your IT department — it was a hacker in disguise. And in matter of moments, you’ve potentially exposed troves of sensitive information and opened the door for additional cyberthreats, including malware.
End-user education is critical to minimize the impact of phishing. After all, it only takes one mistake to undo all your security investments. Here are some primary signs that an email may not be legitimate:
While the dangers of external attacks are undeniable, the greatest risks may come from a company’s current and former employees.
In an insider attack, users with authorized permissions deliberately harm a company’s systems, network or data. This can be difficult for IT teams to flag since insiders don’t have to hack into systems. The motivations for these incidents vary, but a few examples may include:
However, not all insider threats have harmful motives. Employee negligence is often responsible, such as accidentally downloading malware through phishing emails or failing to properly secure a company device. These mistakes can be just as destructive as attacks from hackers — if not more. A recent Proofpoint report found that staff negligence cost businesses roughly $6.6 million annually and accounts for 56% of insider attacks.
Fortunately, more organizations are prioritizing cybersecurity. According to the IDG report “The Path to Digital Transformation: Where IT Leaders Stand in 2022”: 36% of businesses report that mitigating risk with stronger cybersecurity programs is a top IT objective in the next year.
Identifying key threats helps businesses assess weaknesses and develop a plan to strengthen their cyber posture. The report outlines several considerations to mitigate risk, including:
With a holistic strategy, you’ll keep your organization from being the next victim to make headlines.