In today’s digital landscape, cybersecurity plays a critical role in safeguarding our personal and professional lives. As we navigate the online realm, cybercriminals continuously seek opportunities to exploit vulnerabilities for their own gain.
This article explores the various types of threat actors and their methods of exploiting digital vulnerabilities.
Threat actors, commonly known as hackers, exhibit diverse motivations and profiles. Criminal gangs are driven by financial gain and operate similar to businesses, specialising in cybercrimes like phishing, ransomware, and identity theft.
Nation-states focus on intellectual property theft and espionage. Hacktivist groups aim to cause disruption or embarrassment for political or social reasons. Insiders, including disgruntled employees or moles, may exploit their legitimate access for personal gain or as a result of blackmail. Additionally, individual hackers seek recognition, fame, or engage in activities for personal enjoyment.
Phishing is the most popular method of gaining initial access to a company’s network. It exploits one of the weakest links in its defence, its users. Phishing is primarily done via email, trying to trigger an emotional response, threatening you, exciting you, making you angry, or curious and demanding immediate action. The main objective of criminals who conduct phishing campaigns is to steal usernames and passwords, commit financial fraud or inject ransomware into your network.
An area often overlooked is how hackers leverage social media to phish you and your customers. Criminals might spoof your businesses on social media like Instagram and target your customers directly. They also might befriend you via LinkedIn and trick you into downloading a malicious file or clicking on a malicious link via private messages.
The UK government ranked ransomware as a tier-one national security threat, with a quarter of UK businesses experiencing some kind of attack from ransomware.
Ransomware systematically encrypts all your business files and is often not detected or stopped by anti-virus, usually because a user has authorised the program to run by opening the downloaded file with the hidden malicious code inside. The hacker or hacker’s organisation will then contact your organisation and demand payment to decode the encrypted files.
Conti and Ryuk are the most notorious strains. These attacks have already affected 149 businesses and cost at least 27 million pounds in ransom payments. However, the monetary impact is just the tip of the iceberg.
The downtime caused by these attacks is often significant and can have a detrimental effect on a business’s operations. Additionally, if any data is leaked, the company may face fines from the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), not to mention third-party fees associated with hiring a cyber incident squad to investigate the attack.
But perhaps the most damaging aspect of a ransomware attack is the impact on a company’s reputation. How will stakeholders, shareholders, and customers react to the news? It’s crucial to have a crisis management plan in place and to prepare your media and public relations teams accordingly.
The COVID-19 pandemic saw a massive change in how the world approaches work, with many people still working from home or in a hybrid situation. Companies that have migrated to the cloud have a larger attack surface. Creating new opportunities for hackers. It is important to secure all public-facing logins with strong password policies, multi-factor, and VPNs. VPNS are encrypted tunnels between your machine and your corporate environment. Give home users simple-to-follow security guidance for their home equipment. Train users to spot phishing emails and not share any MFA code or passwords with anyone.
Shared or public Wi-Fi access points should be considered and unsecured, and therefore company devices should never be connected to them. Hackers can scan these networks and intercept data, including passwords, see what you are browsing and download malware to your device. Hackers can also set up their Wi-Fi access points, spoofing the name of the hotel or café you’re in and getting you to connect to their access point instead of the legitimate access point, then redirecting you to a malicious web page instead of the real web pages you’ve asked for.
There are several key takeaways for you and your organizations to consider.
- First, secure all logins with good password policies and multi-factor and VPNs.
- Second, train staff face-to-face to know how threat actors operate and how inventive they can be.
- Third, use managed detection and response like the Falanx SOC to help identify a breach quickly.
- Fourth, regularly test your environment, and backup and recovery have good policies in place and practice recovery.
- Fifth, document and practice cyber incident responses with your IT department and other key departments like PR and marketing.
- Finally, patching and updating ensure that your IT department has a good patch policy in place.
Threat actors are always looking for ways to exploit our vulnerabilities, so it’s essential to understand their motivations and methods. Organisations must always be vigilant, educate their users, and implement comprehensive security measures to protect against cybercriminals. With the right security measures in place, organisations can mitigate the risk of cyberattacks and protect their most valuable assets.