The Unfolding of a Cybersecurity Attack

Cybersecurity is a continuously evolving discipline. Since there are many types of attacks, you must dedicate the right resources to the best practices in your network’s topology and software stack, as well as deploy state-of-the-art tools that can help prevent, detect, and respond to attacks.

The profile of a hacker is shifting from the old days where they are anonymous amateurs, to today’s world where they are becoming increasingly sophisticated. This brings challenges that differ by industry, from retail to finance to government.

These organizations must equip their human resources with the right skills and tools to combat these attacks. In particular, the need for more cybersecurity skills and tools becomes clear when considering the number of attack vectors, in addition to cybercrime’s infiltration of strategic IT systems.

More than Data and Critical Infrastructure

Data is the lifeblood of an organization. The threat of an attack on the organization’s data is critical to its growth and success, with recent cyberattacks proving that organizations are never fully protected against hackers.

The staggering increase of data in today’s digital society means the rate of data is skyrocketing. Organizations such as financial services firms, hospitality companies, insurance companies, and retailers, for example, are seeing the growth of data in their industries explode.

As a result, modern hackers are turning to sophisticated techniques, including the insertion of malware and Trojan Horses, to penetrate an organization and steal data. According to the FBI, ransomware alone is already a $1 billion dollar market. Cybercriminals are targeting organizations through a sophisticated, cyber-extortion campaign, even and especially if an organization is financially stable. These attacks demand expert-level expertise to pull off.

A hacker doesn’t just have to impact the organization’s network, devices and devices, but can also target internal communications channels and threat intelligence if that allows access.

The modern hacker

Traditional “professional” hackers — which include known cyber-criminals, multi-skilled hackers, script kiddies, and pranksters — will continue to rise, but they are not the ones that are on the rise.

Today’s cybercriminal relies primarily on social engineering and exploit kits to try to hack an organization.

Social engineering is when the attacker takes advantage of the human factor. This is how they trick someone into opening a malicious link or installing a malicious software on their machine or the organization’s network. The basic is to know the software, process, people and circumstances within a targeted organization.

Social engineering can often be easier and more effective than other types of hacking. Today’s hacker is also a globalist, as it becomes increasingly complex to bypass country borders and national jurisdiction.

When compared to traditional hacks, today’s hackers are more likely to be willing to share exploits with other cybercriminals, to further the effort of enhancing their success rate and simply to have fun.

Hackers are becoming much more sophisticated in their specializations

The threat landscape will continue to evolve in a complex world. Therefore, organizations need to ensure that they have the right skills and resources to combat the threats. Organizations must be agile, know how to quickly adapt and learn. Some of the most sophisticated attacks are coming from previously unknown threat actors.

They represent a sort of “new normal” and organizations should be aware of their threat status, and build capabilities to mitigate against the possibility of such attacks. Organizations need to keep their data safe, secure and updated. Doing so can mean the difference between success and failure.

The modern arsenal

Exploit kits are the weapon of choice of today’s hackers. They are the ultimate attack vector. They are the easiest way to breach a system, steal data and attack the company and its network. Typically, organizations are attacked by a social engineering tactic, with a malicious link or email message that opens an exploit kit and allows the hackers to install and gain access to a host of malicious software.

Rootkit malware works by storing files in a folder, including previously installed software, in a specific place. If a user or employee accesses that folder and runs a file, the malware will decrypt and execute it. This is what a hacker wants a victim to do, usually to download a malicious program to the system or a program that they need to open on their computer.

Cryptolocker and its relatives are particularly sophisticated, encrypting files, launching a fake Windows security alert, and asking the user to pay a ransom. Since there is no signature or pattern to a virus, an organization could be infected, for example, if an employee accidentally downloaded one and clicked the link.

The malicious activities of hackers today range from conducting DDoS attacks, to monitoring keystroke logs, financial information, or other data, to doxing (or publishing private information about a target on the Internet), to breaching email accounts.

All of these activities are part of the modern hacker’s arsenal and many organizations are not prepared for an attack. An organization that has a strong set of detection mechanisms, combined with an experienced IT security team is better equipped to protect its data.

Safety education

A website security breach is generally a high priority for an organization that requires the protection of confidential information, and the loss of sensitive data or loss of public trust could have grave consequences. However, the difficulty that this poses to organizations is multi-faceted.

It is not easy for companies to identify who is compromised, who is doing the stealing, and how people are being directed to undertake activities. It takes a lot of time, effort, and technological capabilities to adequately monitor for, detect, prevent, and mitigate cyber threats.

There is the need for businesses to have in place a trained security staff, and people who are knowledgeable of all of the methods that hackers employ. Also, it is necessary to train employees in the latest in internet safety and constantly remind people to exercise extreme caution when they log on.

Yet, the issue of human vulnerabilities is even more alarming. Employees make mistakes, and are eager to click on a link, or access an attachment they have not seen before. They do not realize that they are opening a back door into a network that could be used to steal private data.

The need for a holistic approach to cyber security

We cannot reduce cyber security to simply protection and detection. Organizations need to create a holistic approach to cyber security. It is clear that there is no panacea. It is a combination of actions, technology, and strategy, that will lead to the long-term protection of sensitive data.

Organizations that don’t have a holistic approach are just hunkering down, protecting specific data in specific ways, but doing little to nothing to protect other parts of the organization.

Summary

In today’s digital world, the pace of change is incredible. It’s challenging for organizations to manage the threat landscape and to be able to detect and contain the cyber threats. This makes it even more important for organizations to have an effective, scalable, continuous monitoring, detection and response program.

What organizations must do is analyze their network and be able to monitor and report on current operations. As organizations change their strategies and implement new technologies, they must know what those changes will mean for their cyber-environment.

The Launchpad is committed to helping businesses find cybersecurity partners to ensure they’re secure and risks are mitigated. We offer a collaborative approach to cybersecurity and a leading platform to assess, evaluate, and determine your security options.

If you have additional questions about cyber security, call 800-267-3420 or contact The Launchpad. We can talk about how you can move forward with your cybersecurity program.

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