Cyber security threats can lead to the loss of confidential information, disruption of essential services, and damage to your critical infrastructure. There are many potential cyber security threats, and it can be difficult to protect against all of them. Additionally, new threats are constantly emerging, making it a challenge to keep up with the latest risks. There is no single solution to complex cyber security threats as the best way to improve your security posture depends on the specific threats you are facing. However, some general tips that help include:
- Educating yourself and your staff on cyber security threats and best practices
- Implementing strong cyber security policies and procedures
- Using robust cyber security tools and solutions
- Regularly testing and monitoring your systems for vulnerabilities
Let’s take a look at the top 10 cybersecurity threats you should be aware of:
1. Social Engineering
Social engineering is a threat because it is a way for criminals and bad actors to access sensitive information by tricking people into revealing it. They may do this by pretending to be someone they’re not or creating a false sense of urgency or need. Once they have the information they need, they can use it to commit fraud or other crimes. Social engineering can take multiple forms and requires a holistic approach to detect and prevent.
A holistic prevention strategy for social engineering attacks should include:
- Educating employees about social engineering techniques and how to spot them
- Restricting access to sensitive information to only those who absolutely need it
- Implementing strong authentication measures, such as two-factor authentication
- Monitoring for unusual or suspicious activity
2. Poor Cyber Hygiene
Poor cyber hygiene is a threat because it leads to increased vulnerability to cyberattacks, as well as decreased efficiency and productivity. It can also lead to the spread of malware and other malicious software and reduce your organization’s ability to detect and respond to a cyber attack.
You can improve your cyber hygiene by:
- Having a process to validate you are not vulnerable to the most commonly exploited vulnerabilities
- Aligning to a framework such as the CIS critical control framework or the NIST CSF
- Installing and maintaining anti-virus and anti-malware software
- Keeping operating systems and software up to date
- Using strong passwords and forcing two-factor authentication
- Backing up data regularly
- Restricting access to sensitive data
- Educating yourself and others about cyber security risks
- Measuring and reporting on risk
3. Poor DevSecOps Practices
DevSecOps is a methodology that emphasizes communication, collaboration, and integration between software developers and information security professionals. The goal of DevSecOps is to increase the speed and quality of software delivery while reducing the risk of security vulnerabilities. Without controls and processes in place to check for and prevent releasing vulnerable code or introducing CI/CD system misconfigurations, your organization risks operating an application environment with an unknown attack surface.
During application and code review assessments, Modus Create usually identifies between 5-10 critical DevSecOps-related vulnerabilities that could pose a severe threat. Implementing DevSecOps practices radically reduces this risk, but it’s often difficult to know where to start and what to prioritize.
To help organizations prioritize where to focus their efforts, we recommend leveraging OWASPs DevSecOps maturity model. The model outlines DevSecOps controls aligned to the maturity matrix as a capability maturity model 1-5. This allows for effective organizational planning, so you understand what controls are required across several domains and how those controls are interdependent.
4. No Incident Response Plan
A cyber security incident response plan helps organizations prepare for and respond to a cyber security incident. The plan should include procedures for identifying and responding to incidents and communicating with stakeholders. Having a plan in place enables an organization to recover quickly and efficiently if a disaster occurs. IR/DR/and BCP plans should address all aspects of the organization, including IT, facilities, operations, and the safety of personnel.
To create an incident response plan, you will need to gather a team of people who are familiar with your organization’s systems and procedures. This team will need to identify the potential threats to your organization and the steps needed to mitigate them. The team will also need to create a communications plan to ensure everyone is aware of the incident and knows what to do.
Organizations such as compliance forge offer a plan that you can purchase and then customize to suit your organization’s needs. However, this should be a living document that you routinely review and conduct tabletop exercises against.
We recommend conducting the following tabletop exercise scenarios within your organization with key stakeholders:
- Cyber Extortion
- Information Stealing stolen or leaked information
For more information on conducting tabletop exercises, check out the available resources on CISA.gov
5. Ransomware & Malware
Ransomware is a threat because it can encrypt your files, applications, and infrastructure and hold them hostage until you pay a ransom. This can be a very costly and time-consuming process, and it can also lead to data loss if you cannot decrypt your files.
According to the Verizon data breach investigation report (2021), the year-over-year change in actions and objectives attackers take after they penetrate systems has increased by more than double from the previous year.
To prevent ransomware, consider implementing controls and policies around the previous five discussed threats, prioritizing the following:
- Backing up your data regularly and keeping a recent backup off-site
- Ensuring your applications and supporting infrastructure have the latest patches installed in line with your patch management standard
- Employees are aware of how they should go about reporting malicious emails and that they don’t unnecessarily expose the organization by clicking on unnecessary or unknown links
- Enabling two-factor authentication on all points that grant a remote user access to your environment
6. Distributed Denial of Service Attacks – DDoS
A DDoS attack is a type of cyberattack wherein criminals overload a server or services with requests, causing the service to stop responding and blocking access for legitimate users. This is a serious threat because it can disrupt services for legitimate users and lead to financial losses for businesses.
To prevent DDoS and denial of service attacks, ensure that you build applications to a well-architected framework such as the Amazon Well-Architected Framework or the Microsoft Azure Well-Architected Framework. Also, ensure mitigating controls are in place to prevent common DDoS attacks from impacting your organization. These mitigating controls should include:
- Implementing a WAF such as that offered by F5 or Imperva for on-prem services or AWS shield, or the Azure DDoS prevention service
- A content delivery network such as Cloudflare, or AWS, or Azure’s specific services such as CloudFront or Azure CDN
- A monitoring solutions to that alerts you in case of an attack
7. Physical Damage
Physical damage to a computer or network can cause data loss or corruption and make physical hardware inoperable. This can lead to data breaches, system failures, and downtime. To mitigate the threat of physical damage impacting confidentiality, integrity, and availability of your environment, implement a disaster recovery plan. A disaster recovery plan helps organizations recover from a disaster and minimize the amount of damage. A well-developed plan can also help restore essential services and allow employees to return to work as soon as possible.
CSOonline.com provides some great guidance and recommends the following:
- Inventorying software and hardware
- Define downtime tolerance and risk tolerance for recovery
- Determine who is responsible for what as part of the recovery process
- Create and maintain a communication plan and ensure that stakeholders understand their responsibilities when responding to a disaster, and where employees should go.
- Ensure contracts include an acceptable SLA when you negotiate with your vendors.
- Test your plan and systems regularly to ensure they work when an actual disaster strikes.
8. Insider Threats
An insider threat is a threat to an organization that comes from within, from people who have authorized access to the organization’s systems and data. These types of threats are particularly difficult to detect because the access and steps to access systems and information are authorized. However, instituting these key controls can minimize the impact of an insider threat:
- Implementing strict access controls to sensitive data and systems
- Monitoring employee activity for suspicious behavior
- Conducting regular background checks on employees
- Encouraging employees to report suspicious behavior
- Implement two-person processes to take certain actions that expose critical data or resources, such as accounting issuing large payments to a new vendor or HR releasing W2 records.
Hactivism is a threat because it is a form of activism that uses illegal or unauthorized digital activities to promote a political or social agenda. This can include hacking into websites, defacing them, or launching denial of service attacks. Several organizations have come under hacktivist threats that were once considered relatively safe. One of the most well-known is “Anonymous” which has left no stone unturned, targeting hundreds of businesses associated with Russia as part of their declared cyberwar.
However, hacktivism can pick up potentially any cause and be facilitated by a nebulous network of individuals who simply share a common cause. Our recommendation to reduce the risk of hacktivism is to implement previously mentioned controls while also conducting threat modeling against critical organization systems.
10. Zero Day Vulnerability
A zero-day vulnerability is a security flaw unknown to the party responsible for patching or fixing the flaw. This party may be the vendor of the affected software or hardware or a third party providing security updates for the affected product. Because the party responsible for patching the security flaw is unaware of its existence, they are unable to develop and release a fix for the vulnerability on time. As a result, attackers can exploit zero-day vulnerabilities to gain access to systems or data that would otherwise be inaccessible.
There is no guaranteed way to prevent zero-day vulnerabilities from impacting your organization. However, you can reduce the risk by keeping your software up to date, using security software, training employees on security awareness, and selecting vendors that meet a minimum level of security. You can validate this by ensuring that the contractural language includes a right to audit and review their systems and processes or validate SOC2, ISO, or PCI compliance.
Strengthening cybersecurity is the most popular digital initiative according to our recent report 2022 State of Digital Transformation. Download the complete report here for more insights on emerging digital trends.
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