Organisations face a variety of cyber threats, so it can be hard to know what defences to prioritise. However, some threats are much more common than others. CSO Online has broken down the five most common attacks.
5. Advanced persistent threats
An advanced persistent threat (APT) is a network attack in which an unauthorised person gains access to a network and stays there for an extended period of time.
Unlike most cyber attacks, criminals generally target specific organisations – usually ones with sensitive personal, political or financial data. Manufacturing companies, governments, national defence contractors and the finance industry are at the greatest risk.
4. Social media threats
A relatively new attack vector, social media offers a number of ways for criminals to trick people. Fake URLs; cloned websites, posts and tweets; and instant messaging can all be used to persuade people to divulge sensitive information or download malware.
Alternatively, criminals can use the data that people post on social media to create highly targeted phishing attacks.
Because many people use the same login details for multiple accounts, criminals who gain access to someone’s social media details will almost certainly try to use that information on other sites.
3. Unpatched software
Companies create patches for a reason: to fix bugs and vulnerabilities in their software that would otherwise allow criminals to conduct an attack. Once an organisation announces that it has released a patch, the vulnerability is made public. Every day you wait to apply that patch is a day that you leave yourself open to an attack.
Patches are common, with security company Bromium reporting that organisations have to issue an emergency patch five times a month on average. In order to make sure no application is overlooked, you should have a patch management policy in place.
Broadly speaking, phishing is any attempt to pose as a trustworthy source in order to get people to hand over personal information.
These attacks are usually delivered by email and are characterised by poor grammar and claims that you urgently need to address something that’s gone wrong. For example, you might be told that your account has been hacked, you need to confirm a card payment or your bank account has been frozen.
Although technology can help filter out phishing emails, Mimecast’s third quarterly Email Security Risk Assessment claims that 24% of all malicious emails pass through spam filters. That means millions of emails reach people’s inboxes every day, and it only takes one employee clicking a malicious link for their entire organisation to be put at risk.
1. Socially engineered malware
The most common cyber attack is socially engineered malware, which has recently been dominated by data-encrypting ransomware. CSO Online writes that this attack vector is most often instigated by criminals tricking users into running a Trojan horse program, usually from a well-known website the user is likely to visit often. The compromised website tells the user to install a new piece of software in order to access the website.
The malware might masquerade as something legitimate (such as a plugin) or download its payload in the background without the user noticing.
Boost awareness in your organisation
You shouldn’t make your organisation’s security awareness programme a simple tick-box exercise. Instead, you need to engage your staff with a variety of learning methods, such as the ones we offer in our Security Awareness Programme.
This programme helps you create tangible and lasting improvements to your organisation’s security awareness. It combines a learning needs assessment to identify the areas that your organisation should focus on with a series of tools and services to address the problems that arise. These tools and services include hands-on support from a specialist consultant, pocket guides and e-learning courses.