Cybercrime has emerged as a lucrative enterprise with proficient criminal organisations employing advanced technological expertise. This has led to major corporations recruiting specialised teams to combat cyberattacks. The field of cybersecurity extends beyond the realm of security experts.
In the realm of cybersecurity, every individual has a part to play, be it system administrators or regular users, and being well-informed is crucial in safeguarding against potential threats. By gaining a comprehensive understanding of the mechanics behind cyber attacks, one can effectively ward off and minimise the impact of ransomware and data breaches. If you are located in the Hampshire area and need help to shore up your organisation’s cyber security measures, check out cyber security Hampshire.
Unravelling the Mechanics of a Cyber Assault
The structure of a cyberattack consists of six main parts: gathering information, gaining initial entry, launching the attack, spreading the attack, receiving payment, and cleaning up. Throughout each stage, both companies and individual users have the opportunity to actively safeguard their devices and IT systems.
In the realm of cyber attacks, thorough research and reconnaissance serve as the initial steps undertaken by criminal groups. These malicious actors focus on gathering information about the targeted organisation, including IP addresses, network ranges, domain names, and email addresses associated with key personnel such as IT professionals, CFOs, and CTOs.
In addition, cybercriminals might collect email addresses of employees to exploit them in phishing attempts at a later time. Subsequently, these attackers meticulously search for weaknesses in computer networks, a task that can span over several months. Here are a few methods employed by cybercriminals to gather valuable information.
- Evaluating Business Websites
Corporate websites offer a vast amount of information, making them a primary target for hackers. When structural weaknesses are present, hackers can exploit these vulnerabilities as an entry point and then proceed to exploit potential weaknesses in other systems.
It is essential for companies to regularly update their websites, plugins, and firewalls, and to ensure they have a reliable hosting provider. Additionally, access to the site at the administrator level should be restricted to authorised users only.
Corporate websites are also exploited by criminals to collect data about employees mentioned on the platform. This functions as a directory of individuals, enabling them to carry out phishing and social engineering attacks more effectively.
Evaluating the Online Presence of the Company
Another avenue for spear-phishing and whaling attacks can be found on popular social media platforms such as LinkedIn. Spear phishing entails the use of realistic emails specifically customised for the intended recipient. Whaling follows a similar pattern but targets individuals holding higher positions within the organisation, such as the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or Chief Executive Officer (CEO).
To ensure the prevention of any potential problems, it is advisable for companies to regularly monitor their social media accounts, specifically those associated with the corporate brand. This monitoring should specifically target and address any sensitive information that may be shared and potentially lead to issues. Additionally, it is crucial for employers to take appropriate measures to safeguard and secure any data that could pose a threat. Moreover, it is equally important to provide employees with adequate training regarding the potential risks posed by social media platforms. This training should include guidelines on how to adhere to security protocols and minimise any potential threats or negative consequences that may arise.
Evaluating the Connectivity of Your Business Network
Cyber attackers assess the robustness of your network. Given the prevalence of remote workers, ensuring endpoint security has become a concern, as security weaknesses can manifest whenever a device establishes a connection to the organisation’s network.
To ensure the security of their systems, companies should make a considerable investment in reliable cybersecurity measures. These measures should encompass firewall security, email security, as well as antivirus and anti-malware protection systems for both the network and the devices that have access to it.
In order to breach an organisation’s network, a cybercriminal aims to obtain access privileges. To achieve this, they employ different forms of phishing techniques to acquire credentials, thereby increasing their level of access to administrator privileges.
After infiltrating the desired network, hackers dedicate considerable time to silently examine the systems in place. They carefully evaluate various aspects such as security measures and confidential databases, and explore potential avenues for further penetration. This initial phase of gaining access can persist for several months, and in some cases, extend over a period of years.
Cybercriminal groups frequently identify vulnerabilities by exploiting weaknesses in third-party entities or interconnected systems within the target organisation’s network environment.
Cyber attackers have the ability to initiate their attacks through various points within operational networks, including office maintenance systems, fire alerting systems, and air conditioning systems. With the goal of remaining undetected, these criminals exploit a single point of entry to gain initial access and then navigate through the network without being noticed.
When hackers initiate a comprehensive attack, this alarming phase commences. This assault may include actions like extracting information from your company’s network (known as exfiltration), causing disruptions to services, or utilising the increasingly popular method of ransomware.
Ransomware, a form of malicious software, is propagated by malware to encrypt a victim’s data. Subsequently, hackers demand a ransom in exchange for providing an unlock code to release the data. This persistent threat of encryption-based malware continues to pose significant risks to businesses in the ever-evolving realm of technology.
Once ransomware is effectively implemented, organisations face a difficult decision: whether to acquiesce and pay the demanded ransom or run the risk of losing vital data. Adding to the peril, even if the ransom is paid, there remains a significant possibility that the data will still be lost. The daunting reality is that the majority of businesses impacted by ransomware attacks are unable to fully recover their valuable data.
Ransomware commonly infiltrates computer networks by exploiting hyperlinks embedded in deceptive emails. Phishing attempts, which encompass fabricated texts, emails, and websites, manipulate unsuspecting individuals into divulging confidential data such as passwords, login details, and credit card information. Furthermore, phishing emails have the potential to distribute malware and viruses capable of disrupting the entirety of your business operations.
During a cyberattack, there is a phase called expansion where malicious software is utilised by hackers to infiltrate all the interconnected systems within a network. These software programs allow the attackers to hide themselves within different systems and regain access to the network, even if their presence is detected.
If, for instance, the unauthorised individual manages to obtain entry to customer or third-party vendor accounts linked to the company network, this paves the way for compromising those third-party networks.
Since these compromised external user and vendor accounts are integral components of the network system, the hacker doesn’t require elevated privileges to breach the network.
Ransomware is a prevalent cybersecurity threat that targets mobile devices or workstations by infecting them with malicious software. This attack effectively locks the user out of their data by encrypting it, making it inaccessible.
As ransomware infiltrates an organisation’s network, it gradually extends its impact to other computer systems within the company. This leads to the propagation of the same detrimental effects across all devices, encompassing servers and data backup storage systems. Consequently, cybercriminals reap significant gains from this malicious endeavor.
The targeted individual may eventually receive a request to communicate with the perpetrator via email or, in some cases, through a designated webpage. They will then be instructed to make a payment in exchange for the decryption of their data. Typically, the demanded payment is made using a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin, as it offers anonymity and cannot be easily traced.
The company has the option to opt for paying the ransom, but it does not ensure the retrieval of the files. Often, the files of the victims remain unrecovered. In certain cases, the intention behind the act is data theft and there is no ransom involved. The perpetrators are aware that they can earn profits by selling confidential information on the dark web.
Sophisticated cyber attackers ensure that the final stage of their attack involves cleaning up any traces of their presence within the victim’s network and systems. This meticulous process involves removing any evidence that could potentially lead to their identification.
The individuals thoroughly eliminate any evidence of their activities by erasing log files. By Covering their tracks in this manner, they are able to escape detection. Moreover, this strategy also enables them to potentially infiltrate the network again in the future.
To mitigate this issue, it is crucial for companies to prioritise cyber security alerting and logging practices. Implementing a comprehensive logging system enables organisations to promptly identify and respond to security incidents. Moreover, it allows the security team to thoroughly assess the status of all devices, ensuring they are up-to-date and aligned with security protocols.
Safeguarding Against Cyber Attacks: Effective Prevention Techniques
While facing increasing difficulty in defending against cyberattacks, organisations have various strategies at their disposal to minimise the impact such attacks can have.
Having a robust backup strategy is crucial for companies to include in their plans for business continuity and disaster recovery. In case security measures fail and ransomware infiltrates the system, having backups in place significantly improves the organisation’s prospects of restoring operations.
To ensure data security, IT teams need to regularly perform both daily and monthly backups and save them in multiple locations. It is crucial that At least one of these locations is an offsite physical site, completely separate from the company’s network. At Securus, we strongly advise implementing an unchangeable backup solution.
Enhancing Email Filtering and Notification Systems
Ransomware typically infiltrates a network by means of a phishing email, which includes either a link or an attachment. When An employee clicks on the link, it results in the release of ransomware.
Email filtering is a viable approach to addressing this issue. Although it is a feature present in most contemporary email platforms, it may not always be effectively activated or customised. Essentially, Email filtering software evaluates incoming emails, identifying and highlighting possible instances of spam and phishing content, requiring security administrators to make necessary adjustments.
Ransomware-Proof Antivirus Software
Typically, EPP software suites and many antivirus software utilities come with built-in ransomware protection, particularly considering the increasing prevalence of ransomware attacks. It is crucial to ensure that your EPP or antivirus software solution is regularly updated both network-wide and on each individual device.
Bear in mind that this encompasses devices that have limited security measures in place, such as personal devices that are not official company-issued, bring your own device (BYOD) arrangements, and Internet of Things (IoT) devices that may not have adequate security features pre-installed.
Promoting Employee Safety Through Education and Awareness
Cyberattacks occur when individuals click on harmful links or unknowingly divulge their access credentials through methods like phishing or other forms of social engineering attacks.
It is crucial for employees to undergo comprehensive cybersecurity training in order to effectively identify phishing emails and manage sensitive information. Although the upfront cost may appear to be high, the long-term benefits outweigh the potential consequences of a major ransomware attack.
Keeping your operating systems, devices, and applications up to date by applying the latest patches is vital in any security protocol. Patches are regularly released by software suppliers to fix specific vulnerabilities, which they typically announce through security news updates.
The disadvantage is that this also alerts hackers to these weaknesses. If your company fails to promptly install a patch, it becomes susceptible to exploitation by hackers as soon as the vulnerability is discovered (commonly known as day zero attacks).
Building a Robust Plan for Disaster Recovery (DR)
A robust disaster recovery (DR) strategy guarantees the uninterrupted operation of a business in the face of a security breach. Data protection plays a vital role in any DR plan, as it mitigates the effects of ransomware attacks and facilitates the prompt restoration of business operations.
Businesses need to prioritise cybersecurity as it plays a vital role in safeguarding critical information. Effective Data protection is an integral component of any comprehensive cybersecurity plan. To ensure the security of enterprise networks, it is essential to have a solid grasp of the different aspects involved in a cyberattack. This understanding serves as the initial stage in devising appropriate measures to protect against potential threats.
At every stage of the assault, there are measures that companies can implement to either preempt or lessen the harm. It may be tempting to rely on backups as a final defence, but well-established ransomware attackers are capable of encrypting that backup data as well. Thus, we believe that an unalterable backup holds the key to future-proof backup solutions.