The world of cybersecurity is ever-changing and new cybersecurity threats surface almost daily. The results of a successful cybersecurity breach results in significant damages to businesses of all sizes.
It is more important than ever for companies to protect their sensitive information from phishing attacks and data breaches. Cybersecurity risks must be assessed and countered to preserve business integrity worldwide. As a result, learning about current and potential future cyber threats is essential.
What Is Cybersecurity?
Cybersecurity protects networks, data, and devices from unauthorized access or unlawful use. The process of providing cybersecurity services involves preventing and detecting cyber threats and responding to cyber attacks. The Cyber Security and Infrastructure Security Agency describes cybersecurity as an art, and this may well be the case.
With the dynamic nature of new cybersecurity threats, cybersecurity itself has to remain a step ahead of cyber criminals and their attacks. Today, almost everything businesses do happens online, and as a result, cybersecurity efforts have to cover a broad spectrum of subdomains.
There are cybersecurity threats for businesses small and large. If there is a weakness anywhere in a company's overall protection, all its sensitive information becomes vulnerable. An excellent place to start when it comes to such a pervasive threat is a cyber risk assessment.
Top Cybersecurity Threats in 2023
It's very clear the cyber threats are not on the decline. In fact, new cyber threats surface every day, and cybercriminals will always find new ways to hack into systems and steal information. Cybersecurity is becoming increasingly important for this very reason, and companies must know about existing threats in order to understand how to better protect their organization. Here are 10 of the latest cybersecurity threats we will likely see more of in the coming year.
1. Phishing and Smishing
Phishing is one of the most reported cyber crimes around the world., resulting in countless financial losses yearly. The goal is to steal sensitive data and credentials, such as login or credit card details, and trick individuals into allowing the installation of malware. Phishing methods can disengage security controls while the attacker browses the company's data undetected.
Smishing follows the same principles as phishing, but the bait messages are sent over SMS instead of email. The attacker assumes a trustworthy identity and targets mobile devices to gain access to sensitive information. When these mobile devices are connected to the company network, the attacker gains access, stealing customer and employee data and leaking an organization's source code.
Phishing and Smishing Solutions
There are a variety of ways an organization can protect itself and its employees from phishing attempts, including the following:
- User education: Employees must be able to recognize phishing attempts and understand they should not respond to any communication requests. Organizations must encourage employees to report any suspicious activity so that further security measures are implemented when needed.
- Intrusion detection systems and spam filters: Having these systems in place will help identify and block unauthorized emails from reaching their intended recipient in many cases.
- Strong authentication tools: Multi-factor authentication and strong, regularly updated passwords can slow down would-be attackers.
Ultimately, there is no standard solution for phishing or smishing, as each business has its own weak points. As a result, many companies opt for a professional cybersecurity threat assessment to provide a tailored solution to individual enterprises, depending on their needs.
Malware — short for malicious software — comes in many forms. Attackers design malware to have hard-to-detect and constant backdoor access to a business's devices. Then, they can control the machine remotely and use it to steal data, investigate the local network or send spam from the infected machine. A staggering 91% of cyberattacks begin with a phishing email, so phishing and malware often go hand-in-hand.
Infections are relatively common and can heavily impact a network by stealing data and passwords, slowing the systems down and deleting files completely. The equipment infected with malware is often rendered unusable, resulting in the expense of replacement equipment, which can be crippling for small and medium businesses.
Malware is not restricted to the original computer. It spreads through an organization's network rapidly, which means the entire organization can be threatened in no time.
Due to the pervasive nature of malware attacks, the prevention of malware attacks must be approached from several angles. A cybersecurity risk assessment is one of many preventative measures you can take, which might include the following:
- Security software: Advanced, up-to-date anti-virus and anti-malware software is a must for employee devices.
- System updates: Malware attacks change daily, so ensuring your system is always up-to-date and able to handle new challenges can protect your organization from evolving threats.
- Network security: Networks must be assessed regularly to identify weak points and scan for malware. Security must be upgraded periodically for maximum threat mitigation.
- Employee security training: Data security breaches are often the result of human error. Educating employees about malware and how it enters your computer systems will help them understand the risks and recognize malware attempts.
This form of malware can result in catastrophic business losses. Once the malware is in your system, it locks it up and denies you access to critical data until you pay a ransom to retrieve your sensitive information and regain control of your systems.
Ransomware leaves businesses with a tough choice — pay their attackers or lose their data and access. Many companies choose to pay the hackers, but even when business owners pay the ransom, they do not always receive access to their data.
As ransomware has evolved, hacker efforts have transformed to target more extensive operations in a more sophisticated manner. But smaller businesses are no exception for hackers. Attackers know that smaller companies do not always have the resources to back up their data effectively and are likely to pay the ransom to ensure their continued operation.
Since ransomware is a type of malware, it enters your systems similarly, so the same preventative measures are needed from the beginning. Aside from these, some other ransomware prevention methods include the following:
- Up-to-date systems: Hackers find holes in older systems quickly, but cybersecurity improvements roll out frequently and will help you to stay one step ahead of the hackers.
- Separate backup systems: Ensure your data is backed up often and keep it unattached from your network. Attackers will have more trouble accessing it if it's stored separately.
- Good cyber hygiene: Have an inventory of all the machines connected to your network to identify malware exposure.
- Virtual private network services: Virtual private networks (VPNs) are essential when connecting to public Wi-Fi networks, as they put your data at risk.
- Incident response plans: Plan ahead to try and ensure business continuity in the face of an attack. Test your incident response and identify weak points so you can make adjustments before a genuine ransomware attack.
4. Business Email Compromise
Also known as email account compromise, business email compromise (BEC) is one of the most costly cyber crimes. When it occurs, attackers compromise business emails to defraud the company. The process starts with criminals hacking into business systems to gain access to information about their payment systems. They then deceive employees and encourage them to make payments into their bank accounts instead of the genuine alternative.
False payment requests can be challenging to identify, as they are almost identical to genuine requests. Attackers might make minor changes to email addresses, use malware, or send phishing emails to gain their victim's trust. BEC can result in massive financial damage to businesses, and it can take months for payment amounts to be traced and returned, if at all.
Business Email Compromise Solutions
BEC can happen so fast that it is imperative for all staff members to be educated and pay close attention when processing payment requests and observe cybersecurity best practices. In addition, organizations can implement some of the following cybersecurity best practices:
- Strong passwords: Passwords should be changed regularly, and staff must be mindful of what they share on social media. Common passwords include pet names and birthdays, which makes them easier to crack.
- Effective software: Firewalls, anti-virus, and anti-malware will make targeting victims more challenging for cyber criminals.
- Verification processes: Telephonic or in-person verification is essential when a payment request is made. Address any changes to account details or payment processes directly with the recipient. Check all email addresses carefully for slight variations.
- Multi-factor authentication (MFA): Prevent hackers from gaining access unless they also have the phone or authentication app to verify the email address.
5. Trusted Insider Threats
Many people inside your company have access to sensitive information. Whether current or former employees, associates or contractors, 25% of data breaches come from insider threats. Bad actors act out of greed or sometimes disgruntled employees act out of bitterness. Either way, their dissemination of critical information can cause significant financial damage.
Trusted Insider Threat Solutions
Insider threats are complex — they are based on human nature and do not follow an identifiable pattern. Most insider threats are motivated by financial gain, although various other reasons for affiliates to engage in this behavior exist. Some possible prevention methods are:
- Culture changes: A robust security awareness culture is vital to mitigate the potential damage caused by insider threats. Employees will be less likely to cause accidental threats and more aware of suspicious behavior in others.
- Protection of critical assets: In many cases, data must be available to several employees. Take digital precautions to protect both proprietary assets and customer data. Whenever an employee departs the company, take the proper steps to revoke their access to sensitive data as soon as possible.
- Behavior tracking: Increase visibility within your organization so it's clear what employees are doing. Behavior analytics and machine learning provide an aggregate of average data accessing activities within the organization, so it is easier to flag unusual activity.
6. Unintentional Disclosure
Employees do not have to be malicious or avaricious to share sensitive information — they can do so accidentally and still cost your company financially. The error can be as simple as accidentally sending an email to everyone in the company. Companies with many employees are particularly at risk if they have access to your primary databases.
Unintentional Disclosure Solutions
This threat stems from human error, making it difficult to plan for and protect your company against. There are some methods by which you can limit the chances that accidental disclosure will occur, including:
- Limited access: Consider the number of employees who require access to your database and limit the access of those who do not.
- Activity monitoring software: The addition of this software provides several solutions to tackle unintentional sharing and allows organizations to monitor their data and any associated risks.
7. Storage Reconnaissance
Businesses store massive amounts of data in the cloud, and many assume it is automatically protected. However, this is not always the case. Cybercriminals scout for unprotected cloud storage so they can gain access and make use of the data. Cloud interfaces are not always backed up by secure systems, making them easy prey for cybercriminals.
Possibly the most famous example of this is the hack of the unprotected S3 cloud bucket containing a massive amount of classified National Security Agency data. The data was hacked in 2017, and there were severe consequences. Companies must be aware that storing sensitive information in the could be risky if the appropriate measures aren't taken.
Storage Reconnaissance Solutions
Leaving your cloud storage unprotected could result in losing all of your data and it easily ending up in your competitors' hands. Companies can make excellent use of cloud storage if they take these precautions:
- Encryption: A secure cloud service encrypts the information in the cloud and on your computers, ensuring unauthorized entities have no access to private information.
- Strong passwords: Many cloud breaches can be avoided with strong passwords. Change your passwords regularly for extra security.
- Information choice: Both organizations and individuals should refrain from storing sensitive information in the cloud, such as proprietary data and banking details.
- Immediate updates: If your cloud system requires an update, install it immediately. Providers often roll out updates to correct security weaknesses.
8. Zero-Day Attacks
A zero-day attack exploits previously unknown vulnerabilities in cybersecurity on a macro level and takes advantage of the fault before the developers even know a problem exists. This can have a detrimental effect on companies using flawed systems. Once hackers have identified the vulnerability, they can write exploit code to take advantage of it.
Zero-day cybercrime is especially dangerous because the attacker is often the only one with knowledge of the vulnerability. They may choose to act on this advantage immediately, but they could also keep it until a more profitable time.
Zero-Day Attack Solutions
Minimize the chances of a zero-day event happening to your business by observing the following cybersecurity best practices:
- Firewalls: Ensure firewalls are configured correctly and only allow necessary transactions.
- Immediate updates: Developers often address weaknesses in their security systems with updates, so choosing not to install them immediately puts your sensitive information at risk of zero-day attacks.
The most effective method of preventing zero-day attacks is constant system monitoring. A business that specializes in cybersecurity solutions can provide this type of always-on cybersecurity service.
9. Social Engineering
Cybercriminals often have to gain the trust of their victims, so they can elicit the information they need to complete the transaction. They create fictitious personas and social media profiles to establish fake relationships with their targets. They then leverage these relationships to achieve their goals — phishing and installing malware to sabotage business efforts or reap financial benefits.
Any form of social interaction engineered with the end goal of defrauding a business can be classified as social engineering. This grooming process can trick staff members into committing human errors and allowing hackers access to the company's networks and data.
Social Engineering Solutions
Consider these strategies to prevent social engineering instances:
- User education: Social engineering centers on scamming members of your organization. Make sure that team members are aware of recent scams and educate them on handling and reporting suspicious incidents.
- VPN usage: A VPN can prevent people from intercepting your network on mobile or other devices.
- Monitoring procedures: Constant monitoring can assist in detecting and mitigating the effects of social engineering.
10. Data Exfiltration
Data exfiltration refers to any unsanctioned data removal from personal or business devices. The process can be accidental or deliberate but is always inappropriate and unauthorized. It can involve moving, stealing, or leaking data and lead to severe reputational and financial damage.
Deliberate attempts to exfiltrate data involve many of the above mentioned threats, including phishing and social engineering. To detect the presence of data exfiltration within your organization, you must have tools to monitor unusual and potentially malicious traffic at all times.
Data Exfiltration Solutions
Once you have discovered the potential danger, prevent the threat from escalating by implementing some of the following measures:
- Threat management: A dedicated threat management platform allows businesses the option of monitoring data access and usage.
- Keystroke logging: Monitoring the keystrokes on a user's machine allows you to track unauthorized data movements and pinpoint the potential human source.
- Firewalls: Installing firewalls is integral to blocking unauthorized access to sensitive information.
Contact BDO UAE for Innovative Cybersecurity Services
“No matter the size of an organization, every organization that depends on information technology to conduct any part of its business should have a cybersecurity program. Senior management should ask detailed report on how the company is progressing against specific milestones in its cybersecurity program.”
— Madan Mohan, Director, Technology Advisory Services, BDO UAE
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