In the past digital threats used to be confined to email attachments and physical media (i.e. floppy disks, CD-ROMs, etc.) but today companies are facing threats from a whole new set of angles which never have been imagined in the past. A recent report prepared by the European Network and Information Security Agency (ENISA) outlines the key cyber threats facing individuals and companies in this day and age. Although familiar threats such as: viruses, worms, trojans, phishing, spyware, and spam still make up a significant portion of the list, malicious individuals now have a whole new arsenal of tools to help them penetrate most corporate security systems.
Of the new threats mentioned, exploit kits are the most notable because they allow virtually anyone to launch a massive cyber attack with only a few clicks and limited technical knowledge. This new industry is known as Malware as a Service (MaaS) and allows individuals to pay licensing fees from as little as $50 a day to $1,000 for an unlimited license to access powerful malware suites for a fraction of what it would cost to develop such systems in-house. Due to this new revenue model, Malware has become increasingly prevalent as technical knowledge is no longer a requirement for a successful cyber attack.
Another threat that falls under the MaaS model are botnets. Botnets are networks of compromised computers (from as little as a hundred all the way to thousands), which are controlled (often without the owners knowledge) by Malware that allows criminals to lease out the networks for malicious purposes. Common usages for botnets range from sending out untraceable spam, providing a cover for attacks against corporate networks, or sometimes denial of service (DDoS/DoS) attacks are launched. For those unfamiliar with the terminology, a DDoS/DoS attack is when a malicious individual has a network of computers overwhelm a website’s servers. Rather than a data breach occurring, such attacks simply bring the website down for an extended period of time causing significant operational losses.
In light of these new trends in the computing industry, it is vital that all companies, regardless of their size, implement programs to protect both their websites and internal networks. When it comes to web security, due to the broad nature it cannot be covered in this article. However, steps such as complying with PCI, SAS 70, and HIPAA and/or SOX regulations, depending on your industry, are minimal precautions to protecting your website.
For internal network security, installing Windows Updates as soon as reasonably possible, along with having anti-virus/anti-Malware programs installed and updated is a must as Malware can download automatically when loading a website. This tactic, known as a drive-by exploit, has been around for awhile and is not going away any time soon. Aside from having adequate protection, having a solid backup regimen for all digital files is a must because ultimately, there is no silver bullet when it comes to preventing cyber attacks.