How to Mitigate the Risk of Targeted Attacks

Almost every organization risks cyber attacks that can cost millions in lost revenue, disruption and stolen data. Mitigating those risks requires a comprehensive strategy that is always ready to adapt to new and emerging threats.

Prevention includes a robust password system designed to be as strong as possible and encrypt network traffic. It also involves accurately inventorying all digital assets and reducing the attack surface, making it harder for attackers to gain unauthorized access.

Passive Attacks

Attackers perform passive attacks to gain information about a system or network they plan on attacking. These attacks don’t involve causing damage or modifying data, so they tend to go unnoticed by security solutions working on the attacked network or system. This makes them the first step in a chain of malicious actions that can be difficult to stop.

Passive attacks can include everything from monitoring a device for information to be used later for unauthorized purposes to scanning for vulnerabilities in a system or network. They can also include activities such as observing communication exchanges without altering anything (like watching someone enter their home through an open window) or sniffing traffic to collect data such as passwords. These activities can be done on a personal computer, cell phone, or other connected device and are often the forerunners to more serious active attacks.

The problem with these types of attacks is that they can be difficult to detect and prevent. While the most obvious preventive action is to train employees not to click on phishing links or act on suspicious attachments, the best way to mitigate this type of threat is with an intrusion prevention system. This technology can detect unauthorized port scans or other attempts to expose vulnerabilities and block the attacks before they have time to gather all the necessary intelligence.

Active Attacks

APT attacks are a sophisticated form of cyber espionage. They are often launched to gain strategic information on a target organization, such as what applications and software it uses, its business structure, or the roles and relationships within the company. This information is used to craft and execute a targeted attack against the organization.

The first step in a targeted attack is reconnaissance or gathering information on the computer network system. This includes identifying vulnerabilities, assessing the potential impact of an attack, and determining how to access the target. This phase of an attack can be difficult for companies to detect, especially when attackers use third-party tools that are hard to identify.

Once threat actors have enough information about your system, they can begin hacking. This is when they can cause more serious damage, including modifying your data, hijacking communication channels, or altering how your system sends data. Examples of active attacks include a masquerade, man-in-the-middle, repudiation and denial-of-service.

The best way to mitigate this risk is to protect your computer network with a multi-layered cybersecurity strategy incorporating anti-malware, firewalls and data security measures. It is also a good idea to set security requirements for the external vendors that your organization works with. This helps to ensure that they are using the latest cybersecurity measures.

Drive-By Attacks

Hackers use drive-by attacks to steal your data from your device. The episodes are triggered when you open an email or visit a website with malware-infected code that runs on your computer or mobile device. Hackers can use this type of attack to install software that will take control of your device, connect it to a botnet or steal your financial information.

The way drive-by attacks work is similar to phishing and other social engineering cyberattacks in that a malicious third party manipulates SQL queries to retrieve sensitive information. The difference is that the victim doesn’t have to click on a link or download an executable to become a victim of this attack. Instead, hackers can inject malicious scripts into web pages or create popup ads on websites that exploit security flaws in the operating systems, web browsers or apps you’re using to access the page.

The type of payload a hacker uses to steal your data will depend on the goal, including connecting you to a botnet to perform DDOS attacks or allowing the attacker to infiltrate your organization’s network. Prevention strategies to prevent these attacks include restricting the programs you can install on a device and ensuring that your web browsers and operating systems are up to date with the latest patches and updates.

IoT Attacks

IoT attacks can devastate organizations, especially if they target business-critical devices. They can expose confidential data, impact business operations and lead to costly outages.

Cybercriminals attack IoT devices for various reasons, including eavesdropping, lateral movement and data monetization. Attackers exploit device vulnerabilities like a lack of security, password complexity requirements and hard-coded passwords to access IoT devices. Once they have a foothold in an IoT device, they can use it as a beachhead to launch attacks on other devices.

Common IoT devices attackers target include routers, printers, digital cameras and DVRs. Many of these devices are connected to networks at the office, for example, as part of BYOD or remote work programs. This means that the apparatus may be used to gain access to corporate networks, steal sensitive data, or conduct other attacks, like distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks.

DDoS attacks are devastating, as IoT devices are often deployed in large numbers and can overwhelm the network. This can cause downtime, lost revenue and damage brand reputation. IoT attacks can also infect devices with malware that can spread to other machines and wreak havoc. For instance, the Mirai malware used to attack the Dyn internet performance management services provider in 2016 was composed of a botnet of IoT devices that were repeatedly triggered to log into a network, consume more energy and shorten their lifespans.