Critical Security Threats Facing Enterprise & Government in Today’s Cyber Landscape
Businesses and government offices have to look out for an increasing variety of threats and cyberattacks.
Many of these are often called “insider attacks” when they involve somebody inside of the organization – an employee, or a contractor, or perhaps a vendor or supplier with privileges.
In some of these situations, someone gets access to part of the system through a privileged account associated with somebody who works for the company.
So how do these malicious actors achieve their goals?
Attackers gain access to systems, and do damage, in a surprising number of ways. Security pros can read long lists of attack vectors and threat categories that businesses have to be aware of in order to protect data and networks.
26 Types of Security Threats
We’ll go over each one of these specific types of cyberattacks and insider threats, talking about how these are used by malicious parties, and why.
Microsoft CLI Exploits
Certain surveys and reports show that the Microsoft CLI attack is a very popular attack vector for hackers.
Using Microsoft’s command-line interfaces over the web, hackers can get through to MS exchange servers, or target MS Azure services, or otherwise compromise Microsoft-related operations using command-line input. For example, remote MS PowerShell methods allow people to trigger commands like tracert and ping, or perform more in-depth cache exploits and other unscrupulous methods. For example, an MS Azure bug called BlackDirect allows for taking over someone else’s account, with startling results.
Dual-Use Tool Exploitation
Prominent networking company Cisco regards dual-use tool exploitation as among the top ways that insider threats and cyberattacks happen.
The dual-use tool is something that is used in more than one way for business purposes. MS PowerShell is actually a good example of a dual-use tool – it can be used for system maintenance, or for internal analysis, or for any number of different kinds of processes. That’s another reason that it’s a big gateway for cyberattacks. The general solution to foiling dual-use tool attacks, in most cases, involves spending more time on security planning for these central apps, and creating more detailed plans around each of their uses.
The zero-day exploit is something that goes back to the idea of real-time evolution of cyberthreats. It’s defined as something that a security system hasn’t recognized and addressed yet. New vulnerabilities and exploits often create a lot of trouble before they are hemmed in by evolving security habits and methods. That leads planners to contemplate things like a “zero trust method” to limit what new threats can do in a system.
Credential Reuse Attacks
Like dual-use tool attacks credential reuse attacks involve taking something from one part of a business network to another.
In this case, it’s credentials – such as a user’s identity and password.
When hackers can take an existing set of account information and move it to another utility or application, it’s one way for them to open doors in order to carry out the insider threats that can compromise data security.
That means companies need to train on how to protect credentials and employee access. Teaching employees to keep these identifiers and keys “close to the vest” will deter most credential reuse attacks.
Software Supply Chain Attacks
There’s a whole other category of cyberattacks related to software development and build cycles.
For example, hackers might use a method that compromises software build tools. They might access accounts owned by privileged third parties like vendors or developers. They may use stolen code signing certificates.
All of this centers on the software pipeline process in order to carry out the kinds of interventions that scare modern businesses.
Man in the Middle Attack
In a man in the middle attack, the insiders or other attackers are essentially creating unauthorized connections in a network. Eavesdropping is one example, and another is when an intruder interjects themselves between two legitimate business parties to create confusion, and maybe glean sensitive data along the way.
On the security side, locking down wireless networks and identifying IP addresses will keep most MITM attacks from happening.
The distributed denial of service or DDoS attack happens when hackers target the performance of the company’s Web servers using high volumes of traffic. The traffic in question might be all humans, or mostly software bots, or a mix. In any case, the unusual peak demand crashes the system and creates the chaos that attackers might use as a shield for further shenanigans.
Here’s a real world example – if some account executive identifies a sensitive part of the network attached to a public website server, the attacking community of users can target that server and inject code while the system is struggling to maintain its operations.
Facilities Management Threats
This one is vendor-specific – but more than one company has fallen victim to a facilities management attack that uses physical site software as its base.
Today it’s trendy for business users to have access to all sorts of remote facilities operation software that will open and close doors, tweak air conditioning or heating, and otherwise perform property tasks from a distance.
But these systems can be vulnerable to attackers, too, and sometimes hackers can get in through the facilities management portal and get to systems with sensitive data, for example, data about customers.
That’s apparently what happened in the case of Target – it’s all there in the court documents around the prominent 2013 attack utilizing the account of a small Pennsylvania HVAC service provider.
Remote Work and Mobile Device Vulnerabilities
In the early days of the millennium, Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) was a major phenomenon.
Businesses were discovering that employees could use their personal devices to do business remotely. Vast efficiencies led corporations to assign people company accounts they could access on their personal smartphones.
But this led to some specific vulnerabilities as well, and remote work has only deepened the issues. Through new technology advances, and through a global pandemic involving social distancing, a remote work model became not just possible, but in many ways, normal. That means BYOD and other remote work setups are driving a lot of concern around cybercrime. As companies move workers off-site, they need to figure out new ways to protect the data that they work with as it moves to and from a central headquarters, out into the world.
Exploiting Cybersecurity Skills Gaps
Some hackers take advantage of businesses without solid cybersecurity planning.
In an insider threat, a disgruntled employee could tell associates that such and such a system isn’t in place, and then the attack can be carried out with that in mind. It’s sort of like those old heists that operated on the basis of taking out security cameras. It targets those gaps in key protection that would otherwise deter this type of hacking.
Social Engineering and Spearphishing
In many cases, people are the weakest point in the company’s network system.
Social engineering attacks involve tricking people into handing over access data or other assets.
Social engineering can happen through email or text, or through a chat platform or some other application. The messaging fools people into thinking that someone is legitimate when they’re actually an imposter. Company training can address this type of attack and get people more savvy about avoiding the kinds of interactions that can let the gate open for hackers.
Another big point in cybersecurity is the malware arms race. Hackers create new and different types of malware, and security systems identify them and address them. Then the whole cycle starts all over again.
One of the biggest challenges for business clients or anyone else is that the new malware systems are evolving in real time. So the existing vendor security network tools are often far behind what’s happening in the malware world, and the new types of attacks are still able to wreak havoc on systems.
Keeping password and biometric data protected is paramount in defending network systems. That includes regular password expiration routines, where users need to update their passwords every several months, and good password reset systems. Passwords need to be strong, to deter brute force attacks and guessing, and they need to be safe, not floating around where hackers can guss and get them.
When hackers can pick data packets out of the air on the way to their eventual destinations, they can learn quite a lot about a business network and exploit that knowledge to go deeper. Interception can be related to a type of MITM attack or a more specialized method of taking stolen packets and looking for sensitive data.
One of the best ways to deal with this threat, as mentioned in this StackExchange forum, is using a Virtual Private Network or VPN. That way, the data in transit is encrypted, in case it falls into the wrong hands.
SQL injection attacks have to do with making retrieval requests through the use of SQL database languages.
Because the traditional relational database is so common in business networks, SQL injection is often a favored method of attack.
This one targets public Wi-Fi systems and exposed networks in a geographic location.
Without adequate network security, someone who is driving by a signal can get access and get a foot in the door that way.
Water Hole and Honeypot Attacks
In these kinds of attacks, hackers find out where people like to congregate digitally and online. Then they stake out those areas with cleverly disguised traps to try to get the sensitive data and access that they need.
This kind of attack can also be aided by an insider and categorized as an input insider threat situation in that case.
Some of this type of threat may also become more common with the metaverse as people get more used to mingling in virtual environments.
The Trojan horse is as old as, well, Troy, but it’s still used in digital systems to get hackers closer to their desired locations.
That’s why conventional security software puts so much effort into identifying suspicious activity and putting safeguards in place.
In the beginning, many companies had one cloud for certain kinds of workloads and data.
But that has now evolved into a multi-cloud design where more than one network may collaborate in getting data to its destinations.
The key is that each of these cloud environments needs its own security framework. Otherwise there is a big gap in the company’s security posture.
Targeting Remote Work Systems
In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, more people than ever are working from home. That means companies have to make sure that these remote systems are not open to hackers and insider threats. Virtual private network (VPN) tunneling, as mentioned above, is one common way to address this risk.
Spoofing Multifactor Authentication
Multifactor authentication is a good way to safeguard systems. It requires a user with an access request to put in a code from his or her mobile device. That means nobody can illegitimately enter the system unless they have that person’s mobile device, which is unlikely.
However, new efforts are spoofing smartphone codes to allow hackers to get back in the business of running rampant in systems as unauthorized parties. Take a look at how bad actors are evolving these systems.
In today’s political climate, lots of nations have reasons to attack others using the Internet.
Unlike a hot war situation, cyberattacks don’t typically kill people. But they do hobble systems, including utility and public health systems, and they can be very effective in threatening national rivals. One prime example is the WannaCry virus, which is commonly considered to be a North Korean cyberattack on US and UK government systems, and quite a few multinational businesses.
Internet of Things Attacks
This broadens the attack vector to any device that is connected to the internet. And with billions of business and government devices communicating with IP addresses, that’s a big playground for hackers. Another reason IoT attack vectors are important involves the roles that these connected devices play – beacons, sensors, etc. in the fabric of a network will also be vulnerable and may create risks to more than data.
Companies have to keep all of these attacks in mind as they contemplate sealing off data against insider attacks.
Cryptojacking is the process of illicitly using company network resources to mine a cryptocurrency such as Bitcoin. It’s usually just confined to stealing energy, as opposed to stealing data or compromising toolsets, but successful cryptojacking situations can be another kind of attack vendor vector as well.