Top 10 cyberthreats and how to defend against them

As recent years have been largely characterized by rapid technological increase, the capacity of cybercriminals has also shown no sign of slowing down. Rather, cybercrime is a threat that reaches into the trillions of dollars annually, predicted to be of a $10.5 trillion dollar consequence by 2025.

With new avenues being exploited and old methodologies refined, organizations and individuals alike ought to know where they may be susceptible to cyberthreats, and what they can do to mitigate against them. To that end, we’re going to cover today’s top 10 cyberthreats and what you can do to defend against them.

1) Cloud Vulnerabilities

Perhaps counterintuitively, cloud vulnerabilities are increasing, not decreasing. Cloud risks are several-fold: inadequate access controls, substandard authentication measures and general misconfigurations — among a host of other factors — can open the door for cybercriminals.

There are various measures organizations can take to enhance cloud security: utilize encryption, implement strong access management protocols and conduct periodic audits to help identify weaknesses among them.

2) Internet of Things (IoT)

In particular, the rise of remote work has given way to the increase of IoT breaches. There are a handful of best practices that individuals can adopt to enhance their security:

  • Keep all software up-to-date.
  • Opt for a strong password.
  • Disconnect IoT devices when they are not in use.
  • Disable unused features.

You can go the extra mile by using a guest network for IoT devices and refraining from engaging with sensitive data on such accounts.

3) Ransomware

As a subtype of malware, ransomware is at the front and center of many organizations’ minds — given their prevalence. Ransomware attacks aren’t only of potential significant financial implications, but also can impair an organization’s reputation.

To mitigate against these attacks, organizations should regularly backup sensitive data, assign access based only on necessity, adopt strong passwords and ensure that all staff are educated on the matter, as many ransomware attacks arise due to employee negligence.

4) Social Engineering

Social engineering is of a more discrete, crafty nature whereby a cybercriminal will lean on psychological methods to obtain data/information rather than through technical means. There are a handful of best practices that an organization can adopt to help prevent social engineering attacks:

  • Conduct periodic employee training on preventative tactics.
  • Lean on firewalls and anti-malware software to help identify attacks.
  • Have regular security audits to help identify vulnerabilities.

5) Insufficient Data Management

An excess of improperly managed data increases its susceptibility to cyberattacks. Today, many organizations — small and large — are leaning on data management software to improve and simplify their data storage and usage. Beyond the use of software, organizations can regularly back up data off-site, implement strong access controls and regularly audit their data management process to help identify areas of potential improvement.

6) Third-Party Exposure

Commonly associated with the 2021 personal data leak of major social media entities, third party exposure refers to when a third-party vendor is compromised, inadvertently exposing the sensitive information of their client(s) or partner(s).

Steps that organizations can take to prevent these types of attacks include implementing clear agreements with third parties regarding data sensitivity and privacy, and periodically auditing the processes and software associated with their partnerships.

7) Phishing

Today, common phishing techniques include:

  • Pretexting: The creation of fake yet convincing scenarios to exploit trust.
  • Baiting: The use of incentives for a return of data, information and/or access.
  • Spear phishing: Personalized messages to target specific, authorized people within an organization.

To prevent these and other forms of phishing, an organization can educate employees to know what phishing scams are and how to identify them, adopt anti-phishing software and the regular rotation of strong passwords.

8) Malware

Short for malicious software, malware are programs are designed to impair a targeted system or network — from computer viruses and worms to spyware and adware. As a best practice, organizations and individuals ought to always have up-to-date anti-virus software in place. And as an additional layer of protection, consider the use of firewalls to monitor and control network traffic.

9) Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

DDoS attacks are designed to overwhelm systems. While DDoS attacks are notoriously difficult to mitigate, an organization can enhance their security by using cloud-based content delivery networks, implementing robust network security controls and adopting additional network traffic bandwidth.

10) Insider Threat

Upwards of 60% of data breaches arise due to insider threats, and such attacks come in various forms: ‘Pawns’ refer to employees who are manipulated into unintentionally performing malicious activities while ‘goofs’ refer to employees who don’t necessarily act maliciously, yet conduct their online presence negligently. Then you have ‘lone wolves’ who act maliciously without prompt.

Regardless of the types of insiders, an organization can best fortify itself by conducting employee training and adopting behavioral analytics, alongside periodic reviews of access logs, data usage and other relevant components.

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