Information Security Threats

Chris Swagler | March 8th, 2024

 

In the field of cybersecurity, security incidents and security threats have distinct meanings, despite their similarities. A malicious act that attempts to corrupt or steal data or compromise companies’ systems are considered a security threat. Incidents that could have exposed companies’ data or networks are referred to as security events. Companies’ IT teams need to be on the lookout for evolving and more sophisticated cybersecurity threats to ensure the security of their networks and data. Companies must comprehend the various security risks and potential cyberattacks they’re up against. The following are the top 10 types of information security threats that IT teams need to know.

  1. Insider Threats – When someone close to companies with authorized access to its networks misuses that access, intentionally or accidentally, to compromise companies’ vital information or systems, is considered an insider threat. Insider threats are created by negligent workers who disregard the companies’ business rules and policies. For instance, they might unintentionally forward clients’ information to third parties by email, click on phishing links in emails, or divulge their login credentials to unauthorized individuals. Other insider threats come from contractors, business partners, and third-party vendors. To increase productivity or just for convenience, some insiders willfully bypass security measures. Malicious leaders purposefully evade cybersecurity protocols to delete data, steal data to sell or for exploitation, disrupt business operations, or cause other harm to companies.

Preventing Insider Threats – The following are some actions companies can take to reduce the risks posed by insider threats.

  • Restrict access to the resources that are necessary for employees to perform their duties.
  • Before giving new hires and contractors access to networks, teach them about security awareness. Regular security training should include knowledge regarding malicious and inadvertent insider threat awareness.
  • Provide temporary accounts to contractors and other freelancers that expire on certain dates, including the dates their contracts end.
  • Use two-factor authentication, which asks for a second piece of identity from each user in addition to their password.
  • Install employee monitoring tools to help uncover negligent, resentful, or hostile insiders and help lower the risk of data breaches and intellectual property theft.
  1. Viruses and Worms – Malicious software programs, often known as viruses and worms, are designed to compromise companies’ networks, data, and systems. A computer virus, a malicious code, can replicate by copying itself to host files, systems, or other programs. It stays dormant until someone intentionally or unintentionally sets it off, which spreads the virus without the user’s or system administrator’s knowledge or consent. A computer worm is a self-replicating program, that doesn’t need human interaction or host programs to spread. Worms frequently spread by utilizing user-invisible, automated OS components. Its primary function is to remain active on infected systems while infecting other computers. Worms frequently propagate by utilizing user-invisible, automated OS components. A worm quickly begins to replicate itself once it gets inside a system, infecting unprotected computers and networks.

Preventing Viruses and Worms – Companies should install antivirus and antimalware software on all their systems and networked devices and maintain that software up to date to lower the risk of all information security threats caused by viruses or worms. Additionally, companies need to teach users to avoid downloading free software from untrusted websites, open attachments from unfamiliar senders, and click on links in emails. Users need to exercise extreme caution when using P2P file-sharing services and refrain from clicking on advertisements, especially from unknown brands and websites.

  1. Botnets – A botnet is a collection of Internet-connected devices, including servers, PCs, smartphones, and Internet of Things devices, that have been infected and are under the control of a common type of malware. The botnet malware typically searches the internet for vulnerable devices. Threat actors who built the botnets want to infect as many connected devices as they can, then exploit the devices’ resources and processing power for automated operations that are typically hidden from the devices’ users. The botnets are managed by threat actors, who are frequently cybercriminals. They are used to send spam emails, carry out click-fraudulent activities, and produce malicious traffic for DDoS attacks. 

Preventing Botnets – Companies have several ways of preventing botnet infections,

  • Monitor network activity and performance to identify any unusual network behavior.
  • Maintain OS updates.
  • Update all software and apply any security patches that are required.
  • Teach users to avoid doing any actions that could lead to bot infections or other malware, including opening attachments, clicking links from strange sources, or opening emails or messages.
  • Put antibotnet tools to use so they can detect and stop bot viruses. Additionally, basic tools for identifying, stopping, and eliminating botnets are included in most firewalls and antivirus programs.
  1. Drive-By Download Attacks – Malicious code is downloaded from a website using browsers, applications, or integrated operating system (OS) in drive-by download attacks without users’ awareness or consent. Nothing needs to be clicked by the users for the download to begin. Downloads can begin simply by opening a website or browsing it. Drive-by downloads can be used by cybercriminals to infect endpoints with malware or exploit kits, steal, and gather personal data, and insert banking Trojans.

Preventing Drive-By Download Attack – Regularly updating and patching systems with the most recent versions of software, applications, browsers, and operating systems is one of the best ways companies can prevent drive-by download attacks. Additionally, users need to be cautioned against visiting insecure websites. Protecting endpoints against drive-by downloads can be achieved by installing security software that actively analyzes web pages.

  1. Phishing Attacks – Phishing attacks are a particular kind of information security threat that uses social engineering to deceive users into compromising standard security procedures and divulging private information, including credit card numbers, addresses, Social Security numbers, names, and other financial data. Threat operators typically send out fake emails that appear to be from reliable sources, including financial institutions, eBay, PayPal, friends, and coworkers. Threat operators conduct phishing attacks to try and persuade people to do certain recommended actions, including clicking on links in emails to fake websites that request personal information or infect devices with malware. By opening attachments in emails, users run the risk of infecting their devices with malware that is intended to send emails to their contacts, collect confidential data, or grant remote access to their machines.

Preventing Phishing Attacks – Companies should instruct employees not to open attachments from unfamiliar senders, click on links in emails, or download free software from untrusted websites.

  1. Distributed Denial-of-Service Attacks (DDoS) – A distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack involves the simultaneous attack on targets, including servers, websites, or other network resources, by numerous compromised machines, rendering targets completely inoperable. The target systems are forced to slow down, crash, or shut down due to an overload of connection requests, inbound messages, or malformed packets, depriving legitimate users or systems of service.

Preventing DDoS Attacks – Companies need to take the following steps to prevent DDoS attacks.

  • Use tools and technology to visually monitor networks and determine the average bandwidth used by each site. Administrators who are familiar with the typical behaviors of their networks will be better equipped to identify DDoS attacks since they provide visual clues.
  • Make sure servers are equipped with the tools needed to mitigate security issues and have the capacity to manage sudden traffic increases.
  • Network security software and firewalls should be updated and patched.
  • Establish procedures that specify what should be done in the event of a DDoS attack.
  1. Ransomware – Ransomware attacks prevent victims from utilizing the device or any saved data by locking victims’ computers, usually using encryption. Victims are required to pay threat operators a ransom, usually in the form of virtual currency like Bitcoin, to recover access to the devices or data. Malicious email attachments, compromised websites, corrupted external storage devices, and compromised software applications are among the ways that ransomware can proliferate.

Preventing Ransomware – Users should routinely back up their computers and other devices and update all their software, including antivirus software, to protect against ransomware attacks. Users shouldn’t open email attachments from unknown sources or click on links in emails. The best course of action for victims is to avoid paying the ransom. Companies should combine a program that analyzes web content and concentrates on websites that can deliver malware with a traditional firewall, which prevents unwanted access to computers or networks. Additionally, divide the network into separate zones that each require unique credentials to access to restrict the amount of data that cybercriminals can access.

  1. Exploit Kits – Exploit kits are programming tools that allow people with no prior writing software code skills to create, customize, and distribute malware. Numerous terms, including infection kit, crimeware kit, DIY attack kit, and malware toolkit, are used to refer to exploit kits. The toolkits are used by cybercriminals to target systems’ vulnerabilities to propagate malware or carry out other malicious operations, including stealing company information, executing denial of service attacks, or creating botnets.

Preventing Exploit Kits – Companies should implement antimalware software and a security program that continuously assesses if its security controls are effective and provide protection against exploit kits. Because many exploit kits use phishing or compromised websites to penetrate the network, companies should also deploy antiphishing tools.

  1. Advanced Persistent Threat Attacks – Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) are targeted cyberattacks in which unauthorized intruders enter networks and stay hidden for a long time. The APT attacks’ objective is to observe network activities and steal data to gain access, including exploit kits and malware as opposed to causing harm to a system or network. APT attacks are commonly employed by cybercriminals to target high-value targets, including significant corporations and nation-states, with the goal of long-term data theft.

Preventing APT attacks – System administrators may find that the best approach to find out if their networks have been compromised is to look for anomalies in outgoing data. APTs can be identified by the following indicators.

  • Anomalous Behavior on Users’ Accounts
  • Widespread usage of Trojan horse backdoor malware, a technique that allows APTs to keep access.
  • Strange database behavior, including an abrupt spike in database operations involving large volumes of data.
  • Unusual data files may be present, which could mean that data has been combined into files to help with the exfiltration process.

Companies should implement a software, hardware, or cloud firewall to protect against APT attacks to counter information security threats. By examining HTTP traffic, web application firewalls can also be used by organizations to identify and stop attacks that originated from web applications.

  1. Malvertising – Cybercriminals employ malvertising to inject malicious code into trustworthy online ad networks and websites. Usually, the code infects computers or mobile devices with malware or reroutes visitors to malicious websites. Even though users don’t click on anything to initiate the download, their computers could still become infected. Malvertising is a tool that cybercriminals can employ to spread various malware that makes money, including banking Trojans, ransomware, and cryptomining scripts. Malicious advertisements have unintentionally been placed on the websites of some well-known companies, including Spotify, The New York Times, and the London Stock Exchange, endangering users.

Preventing Malvertising – Ad networks should include validation to stop malvertising reducing the possibility that users could be compromised. Validation could take the form of requiring two-factor authentication, screening possible advertisements for dangerous content before posting them, converting Flash ads to animated GIFs or other content types, or screening potential consumers by requiring legal company papers. Web hosts should routinely check their websites from unpatched systems and monitor the systems to detect any malicious activities to reduce malvertising attacks. Any harmful ads should be turned off by the web hosts. Companies’ security teams should make sure to implement network antimalware technologies and keep software and patches updated to lower the risk of malvertising attacks.

SpearTip’s service offerings were created with client journeys in mind. Whether your organization has never utilized any cybersecurity services, or you’re the most thorough organization when it comes to cyber maturity, we have solutions to meet your specific needs. Everything we do at SpearTip is focused on protecting our clients from cyber threats and cybercriminals who attempt to victimize our clients and their organizations. We approach cybersecurity by leveraging proven cyber strategies in delivering our engagements. Our investigative approach and analysis go beyond simple, automated alerts or the latest technology. Our highly technical teams dig deep into malicious activity and vulnerabilities inside our clients’ environments to identify the threat actors behind the activity. If you understand your adversary, you can outmaneuver your adversary. SpearTip’s ShadowSpear Platform is a proven resource that protects against cyber threats and attacks impacting your organization. The Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) architecture Platform optimizes visibility without intensive and overbearing resource requirements. ShadowSpear is lightweight, stable, and able to enhance the cyber posture of any organization. SpearTip is a trusted provider of breach coaches and carriers. Our team specializes in incident response capabilities and handling breaches with industry-standard response times. Our onsite Security Operations Center is staffed 24 hours a day, working in a continuous investigative cycle, ready to respond to events at a moment’s notice.

If your company is experiencing a breach, call our Security Operations Center at 833.997.7327 to speak directly with an engineer.

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Frequently Asked Questions

What specific measures can IT teams take to mitigate the risk of insider threats mentioned in the article?

In order to mitigate the risk of insider threats, IT teams can implement measures such as robust access controls and user authentication protocols, monitoring and logging user activities, conducting regular security awareness training for employees, and implementing data loss prevention technologies. These measures can help detect and prevent malicious actions by insiders and protect sensitive information.

How can IT teams identify and address the emerging threat landscape, particularly in relation to cloud computing and the Internet of Things (IoT)?

To address the emerging threat landscape, IT teams can adopt proactive security strategies. For cloud computing, they can ensure proper configuration and security controls are in place, encrypt data in transit and at rest, regularly update and patch cloud systems, and perform thorough vendor risk assessments. Regarding IoT, IT teams can implement strong network segmentation, secure device authentication and authorization, regularly update firmware and software, and monitor for any abnormal behavior or vulnerabilities in connected devices.

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