Anyone following cybersecurity news has likely heard about the infamous Colonial pipeline ransomware attack in May 2021.
A compromised password allowed hackers to gain access to the company’s network and launch a ransomware attack, leading to a shutdown of services for about five days. The attack prompted Colonial to shut down gas pumping through its pipelines for days, and led the company to pay nearly $5 million in ransom. Law enforcement later recovered about $2.3 million of the ransom — but the damage was done, with no way to mitigate it after the fact.
If you thought a ransomware attack like this is rare, you’re in for a shock.
Cyber-attacks and data breaches have increased at alarming rates since 2020, including high-profile attacks such as the Microsoft Exchange mass cyber attack, and the Accellion supply chain attack, just to name a few.
Nor are hackers only pursuing large businesses. The rate of cybercrime has risen by 600 percent since the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, according to various reports.
Cybercriminals are getting bolder and more sophisticated, probing for any opportunity they can find to gain illegal access to your systems. The sudden shift towards a massive remote workforce also provided new endpoint vulnerabilities that hackers have been quick to exploit.
All that said, it is possible to keep your operating systems protected if you take the proper steps to strengthen your security and assure that best practices are carried out.
After all, 95 percent of all data breaches are caused by human error, and about 92 percent of malware is delivered by email. Cybersecurity is important, so take security seriously, identify your vulnerabilities, and implement proper precautions.
This post will help guide you on that path by sharing some of the most common threats to your security posture and some simple risk mitigation strategies.
Common Types of Cyber Threats
Any attempt by an unauthorized person to steal data, manipulate data, or disrupt digital services can be called a cyber-attack — and there are many ways a hacker might try to perform one.
In recent times, the following have emerged to be the most popular kinds of cybersecurity threats.
Malware is any malicious code or software installed on your system that causes a service disruption or data corruption. Ransomware is probably one of the most popular types of malware, estimated to occur every 11 seconds in 2021.
There are also serious concerns over spyware being installed on users’ mobile devices from certain suspicious mobile applications.
Recently, Google banned several web applications that were found to be collecting and tracking private data.
Other types of malware include viruses and worms. Malware is usually activated when an unsuspecting user clicks on a malicious link in an email or social media or from downloading an attachment.
A denial-of-service attack happens when an organization’s web server or network is flooded with fake requests, leaving the business unable to respond to genuine requests. (Imagine attackers calling a phone number over and over, so that legitimate callers can never reach the other person.) DoS attacks are often performed with the help of Botnets that target a particular system and overload it with requests beyond its processing power.
Sometimes the attacker may also send queries that could potentially crash the system, leading to a complete shutdown. DoS attacks are usually handled by detecting and blocking suspicious requests and making sure exception handling is adequately cared for.
Phishing attacks are fake emails, messages, or phone calls that pretend to be genuine communication. The attacker attempts to gather sensitive information by tricking the user into sharing confidential data.
For instance, phishing emails might tell the recipient to visit a well-known, trusted website, but the actual URL included in the message directs the person to a fake website modeled after the original. When the user submits his or her login details, that data is captured by the hacker and used to gain access to the genuine site.
To combat phishing attacks, businesses must train employees about what a genuine and secure email looks like, and to take due diligence when sharing company information.
Best Ways to Mitigate Cyber Risks
Now that we’ve covered some of the most common cyber attacks, here are several ways you can mitigate cyber risk and protect sensitive information or intellectual property in your organization.
Identify Your Security Risks
The first step to securing your systems and data is to know what exactly your risks are. Different operations and processes expose businesses to risk on different levels.
Understand your business; identify the essential operations that someone might exploit. Once you’ve done that, you can develop proper incident response plans.
For instance, if you are an e-commerce website, your customer data and any payment-related information could be one of the critical data that needs to be secured. Therefore you might encrypt that data, back it up in a siloed, secure location, and have plans in place to stop an intrusion and restore your files in the event of a breach.
Perform a complete risk assessment to list all your risks, potential threats, and vulnerabilities.
You should conduct a thorough investigation on how your data is collected, where it is stored, who can access it, the various access methods, devices used, the authentication methods you use, your work policies, and so on.
Identify Your Internal and External Threats
Conduct threat analysis and see which kind of cyber-attacks you could be more susceptible to. For instance, if you have to deal with several external email chains, it could be a way for the attacker to sneak in malware mail.
Remember to factor in both internal and external resources when you investigate possible threats. For example, many hacking incidents are often caused by either an error by an employee or by a disgruntled employee themselves.
Insider threats can also be driven via social engineering by hackers (such as the phishing attacks mentioned above, duping employees into sharing confidential information). So make sure your staff has the necessary security awareness and is educated on the possible cyber attacking attempts.
Assess Your Existing Security Framework
Few businesses have zero security in place. Most likely, you have already employed basic security steps such as anti-virus software, firewalls, or even advanced security tools for active real-time monitoring and threat detection.
Do assess (or formally audit) all the security tools and practices your organization uses. This helps you identify and fix hidden vulnerabilities before a hacker can exploit them.
You can conduct regular penetration testing or seek help from security experts and specialists to evaluate your company’s security framework.
Prepare Your Security Strategy and Contingency Plans
Once you have identified the security flaws in your systems, take the right actions to strengthen your security.
Update your security policies, provide the necessary staff training, weed out your liabilities and plan on the proper steps to take in case of an attack to mitigate the impact.
Best Practices for Your Cybersecurity Policy
Here are some standard best practices that should be part of your security policy:
- Keep your software updated and all security patches applied.
- Install the latest anti-virus protection software and keep it up to date.
- Employ a backup and disaster recovery solution and maintain regular backups for your critical data.
- Make use of multifactor authentication, VPN, and similar security controls to block unauthorized access.
- Make a security plan and update it as you discover new threats and vulnerabilities.
- Establish a proper IT security team to take accountability for security management.
- Define the various user roles and access control mechanisms. Security needs continuous attention, and you should use the best tools that make that work easy for your IT and information security team.
- Train your employees on security best practices like using strong passwords and changing their passwords frequently. Don’t use the same password for multiple sites and services. Using different passwords for different sites can mitigate cybersecurity risk significantly.
- Seek the help of expert cybersecurity and compliance partners such as ZenGRC. They can assure that you are protected thoroughly from risk according to best practices.
ZenGRC Keeps Your Data & Network Safe
Here are some other ways ZenGRC helps you secure your systems:
- Helps maintain a system of record for a single source of truth. ZenGRC’s SaaS platform provides you with a single location to store and access all your compliance and regulatory documentation.
- Provides a uniform, integrated experience for your entire IT security and compliance team.
- Lets you perform a thorough risk analysis.
- Simplifies audit and compliance management with the help of 360-degree views on control environments.
- Provides easy access to all security-related information required for program evaluation.
- Allows for continuous compliance monitoring in real-time.
- Automated evidence collection.
- Supports one control mapping to many frameworks.
- Allows you to assess workflows in a controlled environment.
- Powerful reporting and insights capabilities allow for future gap analysis, benchmarking, and better audit and compliance.
- Gives you access to state-of-the-art security expertise via GRC experts who have deep experience in data and network security tools and protocols.
- Allows you to implement custom programs for improved security.
Contact us to learn more.