Cybersecurity is a primary concern for big and small businesses, regardless of their industry. Some of the most significant cybersecurity attacks happened in the last two years. Even though the pandemic is still a significant factor in the uptick of cybercrimes, there’s no evidence that the rate of attacks will slow down once COVID-19 enters the endemic phase. We can assume that cybercrimes will increase in frequency from 2022 onwards.
Business owners, executives and entrepreneurs need to be aware of the top cybersecurity threats that can plague businesses today. Internet connectivity is now essential to success, but it also exposes organizations to all kinds of malicious attacks.
Cyber Security Threats Examples
To protect your business from cyber threats, you need to know what you’re up against. Here are the top cybersecurity threats to businesses today:
Malware isn’t a new threat, but hackers’ methods to breach and infect IT systems are becoming more sophisticated. Malware is essentially software created specifically to wreak havoc on a system. It can:
- Encrypt or over-encrypt your data and restrict access to it (ransomware).
- Hold data hostage in exchange for ransom (ransomware).
- Copy, steal and delete data.
- Record and transmit information about a business’ activities without detection (spyware).
- Disrupt processes and render programs unusable (viruses and worms).
The most common method of deploying malware is via spam emails and unsolicited SMS. Hackers who have personal contact with employees can also exploit unsecured devices like mobile phones and personal laptops connected to business networks. However, these methods are textbook compared to the more recent slew of malware attacks in the past two years. One example was the hacking of Solar Winds.
Solar Winds is the creator of Orion, a network management software with thousands of users in the US. Hackers breached the company and took advantage of Orion’s routine update to insert malicious code into the program. Customers, trusting that the software update is legitimate, downloaded and deployed the update and unknowingly exposed their networks to the Russian hacker group behind the attack.
Ransomware also merits a special mention because of its potential to end a business. High-profile incidents in 2020 and 2021 alone displayed how much power ransomware hackers have over companies that rely on Internet systems to keep their businesses running.
JBS, a Brazilian meatpacking company and one of the biggest meat suppliers in the US, paid hackers $11 million after a ransomware attack crippled its operations in five US-based plants as well as businesses in Australia and UK.
Brenntag, a German chemical distribution company, paid hackers $4.4 million – negotiated from $7.5 million – in exchange for releasing 150 gigabytes of data in May 2021.
CWT, a global travel management firm, paid $4.5 million in July 2020 after hackers knocked out 30,000 of the company’s computers and held hostage sensitive information of its clients, many of which are S&P 500 companies.
When successful, malware attacks can cause lengthy downtimes translating to unproductive, unprofitable hours. In worst-case scenarios, they damage hardware and physical infrastructure, putting employees’ and customers’ safety at risk.
- Denial of Service (DoS) and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)
Denial of service disrupts IT systems or networks by flooding them with requests so that they cannot respond to legitimate users. When more than one equipment or source launches a coordinated attack, it becomes a distributed denial of service. Advanced hackers with access to a “botnet,” or a network of hijacked computers and devices (often from different geographical regions) can carry out DoS/DDoS attacks on massive networks that would take millions of requests to take down.
It is rare for hackers to simply want to disable a system. If your network is being attacked with DoS/DDoS, you can expect that there will be a follow-up attack when your network is down and unresponsive.
- Man in the Middle Attacks
This hacking method uses malware to interrupt communications between visitors and networks. Essentially, hackers are the “men in the middle” listening to conversations, sifting through exchanged data and possibly manipulating the information that gets through to the recipient. If undetected, hackers can obtain customer information and sensitive business data. Man-in-the-middle attacks can happen when customers or employees log into a business network via unsecured public WiFi.
- Social Engineering Attacks
Social engineering is a manipulative attack that plays on emotions and exploits oversight to steal data, access a network or sabotage a business by damaging its IT infrastructure. Successful attacks can lead to massive financial losses, a damaged reputation and expensive lawsuits from compromised customers and business partners. Phishing is a prime example of social engineering.
Hackers fool victims into disclosing sensitive information or providing access to restricted systems. They may pose as an authoritative figure and persuade victims to download and install malware-ridden software or click on an infected website.
However, given the increasing awareness of these phishing tactics, hackers are now exploring new methods to fool victims. Attaching malware in PDF files, for example, is an effective strategy against businesses because most people associate PDF files with business matters. Another method is impersonating family members and friends on social media, then asking the unsuspecting victims for money or personal information.
- SQL Insertion
SQL insertion takes advantage of websites with low cybersecurity that offer web forms for users to submit data or log in to an account. Ideally, web forms screen the information typed into the fields – like usernames and passwords – and would only accept or grant user access if the data has a match in their database. If web forms have poor screening capabilities, hackers can enter additional information – strings of malicious code – to obtain classified information or carry out unsanctioned activities.
- Credential Stuffing
Credential stuffing is a strategy that often works on large companies with a high turnover rate and poor password hygiene. This method uses known usernames and passwords to breach an IT system with the premise that people use the same usernames and passwords for different accounts. Should hackers get hold of their credentials, they can breach the system long enough to deploy a more damaging form of cyberattack. Credential stuffing can also succeed if a company fails to deactivate or restrict the access of former employees’ accounts.
Hackers can obtain login credentials using any or all of the strategies mentioned above. Undetected credential stuffing could give hackers limitless and lifelong access to business systems and data, so it’s crucial for businesses to take preventive measures against it.
These cyber security threats examples are out of your control, but you can protect your business by taking proactive cybersecurity measures. Consider investing in managed cybersecurity services that offer protection against these five top cybersecurity threats. You’ll get access to a team of cybersecurity experts whose sole focus is to monitor your systems, install various types of cyber security infrastructures, recommend relevant protocols and immediately implement crisis management SOPs in the event of a breach.
Decoding Hackers: Understanding Their Motivations Helps Protect Your Business
“The best offense is a good defense” is a famous phrase in sports. It also applies to cybersecurity. If you know what hackers want to get from your business, you’ll know what types of cyber security measures to implement.
Most hackers are motivated by the following factors:
- Money – The high-profile ransomware attacks in 2020 and 2021 prove that hacking groups are motivated by money. Targeting large corporations can result in a large payout, which hackers may find worth the risk of getting caught. The COVID-19 pandemic fueled money-motivated hackers further: many businesses were forced to enter the digital realm as quickly as possible with only the most basic defenses against cyberthreats. These small and medium businesses (SMBs) became ripe targets for hackers around the world.
- Activism – Some hackers are individuals who have strong views on major social, political and religious issues. They feel that the only way for decision-makers to hear their voices is through “hacktivisim.” They target official websites of government agencies, businesses, individuals and private organizations they believe are guilty of injustices and expose them to the public’s judgment.
- Robin Hood Complex – “Grey hat” hackers are skilled individuals who hack into security systems without permission. They straddle the gray area between all-out malicious hacking and “white hat” hacking, which involves sanctioned tests on cybersecurity infrastructure. If successful, they report their findings to the software developers or vulnerable organizations for a fee.
- Fun and Curiosity – Individuals whose skills range from low to medium hack for leisure or curiosity. For some, breaking into high-profile cybersecurity infrastructures is a heady victory that they flaunt to fellow hackers. Others may use their hacking skills as a form of recreation.
With these motivations and methods as a basis, you’ll know that your cybersecurity should provide ample protection against DoS/DDoS attacks, SQL injections and malware. You also have to implement a strict password hygiene policy and update user permissions whenever someone leaves the company.
Invest In Agile Cybersecurity Solutions
No business is 100 percent safe from cyber attacks. Large corporations are justified in investing thousands of dollars into cybersecurity because the repercussions of just one successful breach can cost them millions. SMBs are also in the same boat. However, their budgets and human resources may be more limited.
If you own or represent an SMB that faces legitimate cybersecurity threats, outsourcing your cybersecurity can be your best option.
Managed cybersecurity services give you the benefit of 24/7 security services without the tremendous overhead costs associated with an in-house IT team. You can also save on infrastructure because cybersecurity providers can host your firewalls via secure cloud services. If there is a need for hardware and on-site software installations, they would be minimal. Your cybersecurity team can also monitor and manage them remotely, taking the responsibility off your team (this is an advantage for businesses whose core competencies are not IT).
Future-proofing a business is tricky, but it is possible with Aligned Technology Solutions. Aligned Technology Solutions can provide managed cybersecurity solutions that address the top cybersecurity threats companies face today. More importantly, we offer proactive plans that anticipate the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape. Call (703) 740-8797 or fill out our contact form today to book a consultation.