Cybersecurity threats are constantly evolving and knowing how to protect and the latest threat facing your organization is an ongoing battle. Your security department should stay on top of any security research and adapt and make sure it has the defenses, tools, solutions, products, and strategy it needs to keep your organization safe.
In this article, we’ll go over key threats you should be aware of and how to ensure you’re keeping your data and assets secure.
Additional Chapters on Cybersecurity Threats
The remaining chapters of this guide cover various cybersecurity threat topics. See the articles and resources listed below by category.
- Employee Data Theft
- What is an Insider Threat?
- Malware Trends Report (March 2021)
- The Complete Guide to Phishing
- What is a Man In The Middle Attack?
- What is a DoS attack?
- Understanding SQL Injection Attacks
- Zero Day Vulnerabilities Explained
- What is an Advanced Persistent Threat?
- What is a Brute Force Attack?
How to Defend Against Cybersecurity Threats
- Malware Protection Guide
- 11 Best Malware Tools
- 10 Cybersecurity Myths to Know
- A Guide to Data Security
- Building a Security Culture
- How to Prevent Ransomware: The Basics
Solutions to Consider
- Understanding Password-based Authentication
- Threat Detection & Response
- The Zero Trust Cybersecurity Model
- Data Protection
- Cloud Data Protection
Top Cybersecurity Threats to be Aware of
Cybersecurity threats are always changing and it’s important to spot trends to ensure your organization doesn’t have a glaring vulnerability. Depending on the cybersecurity threat, different aspects of your organization will be at risk.
Your employee’s data may be stolen, your assets may be sold on the dark web, or a nation-state hacker group may be lurking in your environment, waiting for the right moment to bring your network down.
Knowing which threats lead to which issues is important and will help you prioritize what data and assets you need to protect.
Malware cybersecurity threats are what you traditionally think of when picturing a virus, and they are some of the oldest threats around. However, if these malware attacks successfully reach your network and organization, they can be severely damaging.
Some malware is designed to steal information, monitor activity undetected, or bring down entire networks. Malware comes in many forms such as ransomware, trojans, worms, adware, and more.
Ransomware is a significant enough threat that it’s worth highlighting here as well. Ransomware is a subset of malware that, when successful, can lock an organization out of its files, its network, or its entire system. Attackers promise to restore functionality or access if the organization pays the “ransom”.
This is a debilitating attack and hackers target hospitals, schools, and industrial organizations that can’t afford even one hour of downtime and are desperate enough to pay a handsome sum to get their systems back online.
Phishing attacks rely on communicating with an employee via what seems to be a legitimate email (or text/video message). The message then prompts the employee to click on a malicious link or download a malicious file.
Once the employee does, the payload has been delivered, and an organization has been successfully infiltrated.
Variations of phishing attacks include smishing and vishing, which are carried out via text message and video message channels, respectively. Spearphishing also refers to a form of phishing that targets a specific mark.
Phishing is often most successful because it relies on impersonating employees, raising urgency, and targets employees who may be unsuspecting of an attack.
Some cybersecurity threats take advantage of the vulnerabilities found in your hardware. This could include hard-coded devices such as routers, security cameras, modems, and other network devices with default passwords that weren’t changed.
For many of these devices, vulnerabilities are constantly discovered so make sure you’re on top of any patches and are up-to-date with the latest versions.
These threats also refer to employees’ devices, who carry their own risks if they’re not properly secured or if your organization doesn’t have a BYOD security policy.
These attacks intercept a two-way communication channel, often undetected, in hopes of stealing the content of the communication across parties. MitM attacks can also steal any files sent across the parties or even pose as one of the parties.
Insider threats are employee, partner, or third-party-based threats that leverage their own relationship against you. Not all of these threats have malicious intent – some may be accidentally compromised by a hacker or were negligent in their own security.
However, some insider threats may be working for a malicious party or, in the case of a disgruntled employee, may just want to cause havoc within their organization.
Denial of Service (DoS)
DoS attacks aim to bring down a site, network, or server by overwhelming it with an amount of traffic that’s impossible to handle. This can prevent the website or server from functioning properly, or at all.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks leverage botnets and a large number of infected devices to increase the amount of traffic used to carry out the attack.
An SQL (Structured Query Language) injection attack is among the most common affecting web applications and sites. SQL injections are particularly dangerous because they can be carried out on a public-facing web page.
SQL injection attacks can occur via form fills, cookies, and even HTTP headers. Depending on the malicious code, an SQL injection attack can lead to stolen passwords, customer financial information, and more.
Most hardware and software updates are often security updates, as companies release fixes for new vulnerabilities discovered by security researchers. However, some hacker organizations discover and find vulnerabilities before companies do, meaning there’s no fix.
These create zero-day vulnerabilities and are extremely dangerous if the vulnerability is disclosed across hacker communication channels. This puts the affected company at risk as well as its customers using the company’s product.
Advanced Persistent Threats (APT)
Advanced persistent threats refer to an attack where a hacker or malicious attacker accesses a system, network, or database (without authorization) and lurks undetected.
Depending on the motive, the attacker may stay within your network or system as long as possible to steal important information or they may be biding their time until it’s time to strike and bring your system or network down.
In order to access accounts, databases, or systems, malicious hackers may try to brute-force their way in, via password stuffing or by leveraging leaked password data.
Credential-based attacks are one of the most common attacks and are still successful due to hardcoded passwords, poor password hygiene, and lack of multi-factor authentication (MFA).
As more and more cloud-based servers and databases are used, they may not always be properly secured, meaning they’re accidentally exposed on the internet, putting the information at risk.
Because it wasn’t correctly secured, the attacker doesn’t even need a password or other form of authentication and can easily access it if they know how to look.
These servers can contain employee information, payroll data, customers’ personal details, financial information, or other kinds of sensitive data.
Defending Against Cybersecurity Threats
Just like attackers can leverage these threats in conjunction with each other, many of the defense and security options available to organizations can work together to defend against the significant number of cybersecurity threats facing organizations today.
Security departments should leverage security tools, solutions, processes, and systems to reduce the risk that these threats successfully reach their organization. They should also look to incorporate tools and solutions that reduce the damage if they do suffer a security incident.
Here are a few ways you can prevent these threats from doing too much damage to your network or organization:
Consider the Zero Trust Model
Zero Trust is a relatively new cybersecurity framework that, as its name suggests, treats all devices, software, applications, users, etc as threats. Rather than using deterministic methods that categorize threats from trusted entities, Zero Trust is much more proactive.
By leveraging Zero Trust, you can instead rely on processes, analytics, visibility, and access tools that verify, in real-time, whether any user, application, or device should access or be trusted. This is designed around the traditional cat-mouse dynamic between security experts and hackers, where new threats constantly emerge.
Stay on Top of Security Updates
Following manufacturer updates, keeping track of CVE alerts, and establishing an update policy for your entire organization and network (ideally, updates should be installed as soon as they’re released) can help ensure you’re not leaving yourself open to known vulnerabilities.
Run Regular Vulnerability and Visibility Assessments
Your attack surface and network is constantly changing so it’s important to ensure you haven’t left yourself at risk and that you’re aware of your entire network and assets. Running regular assessments should alert you to any vulnerabilities or new assets you may not have secured.
Leverage Monitoring Tools
Your monitoring tools and solutions should be monitoring network access and behavior, provide visibility into your assets, and alert you to any suspicious behavior. This could include data exfiltration or alerts telling you when unknown users or IP addresses are trying to access your system.
The right monitoring tools should be able to identify this suspicious behavior and determine when behavior or actions are a sign of an intrusion.
Leverage Access and Permission Controls
Much of the risk organizations are exposed to are due to employees, partners, or vendors, having unnecessary access to critical data or assets.
Leveraging access and permission controls, using a principle of least-privilege process, and/or defining access controls by role can drastically reduce the risk exposed by employees and third parties.
Use Firewall, AV, and Malware Prevention Tools
Traditional security solutions like Microsoft Defender can help provide a security and prevention foundation that will catch many automated attacks, flag threats, and known malware and malicious attachments but they often need complementary products for stronger security.
Use MFA/2FA as Often as Possible
MFA goes a long way to prevent hackers from using leaked credentials, successfully using credentials phished from employees, or just brute-forcing their way into accounts.
By ensuring there’s an additional form of authentication (such as an owned-device prompt or biometric authentication), you can prevent a common attack method from doing damage.
Engage in Security Awareness Training
Many hackers know that employees are extremely vulnerable and often targeted because of that. However, if you employ the right form of security awareness training on an ongoing basis, you can prevent many of the common email-based attacks that employees face regularly.
Know Your Threats So You Can Defend Against Them
Cybersecurity is a constant battle with new threats and vulnerabilities emerging nearly everyday, especially for growing organizations. Your responsibility is to know the cybersecurity threats your organization faces, across what attack surfaces and vectors, and employ the right tools, processes, solutions, and systems to combat them.
To learn more about how Varonis can help you secure your data, your employees, and your organization, check out our threat detection & response solution and learn about their data protection solution.
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Josue Ledesma is a writer, filmmaker, and content marketer living in New York City. He covers information security, tech and finance, consumer privacy, and B2B digital marketing. You can see his writing portfolio on https://josueledesma.com/Writing-Portfolio