SecurityScorecard’s recent report with the Cyentia Institute found that 98% or organizations have a relationship with at least one third party that has experienced a breach within the last two years. This indicates that nearly every organization is at least indirectly exposed to risk through circumstances outside its control. With that in mind, it’s important for organizations to know how breaches can happen, how to detect them, and how they can respond effectively. Let’s explore.
Common tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) used by attackers
Threat actors employ a myriad of tactics, techniques, and procedures (TTPs) to compromise digital systems and networks, constantly evolving their methods to stay ahead of security measures. These malicious activities encompass a wide range of strategies designed to exploit vulnerabilities and gain unauthorized access to sensitive information.
One common tactic is the use of phishing emails, where attackers craft seemingly legitimate messages to deceive users into clicking on malicious links or downloading infected attachments. Through social engineering, attackers manipulate human behavior, making it a potent and widespread method of infiltrating systems.
Another prevalent technique involves exploiting zero-day vulnerabilities. Cyber attackers leverage known weaknesses in operating systems, applications, or firmware to gain unauthorized access. They may use automated tools to scan networks for vulnerabilities or take advantage of unpatched systems, emphasizing the importance of timely software updates and patches.
Employing malware is a widely used procedure wherein malicious software is introduced into a target system to perform various unauthorized activities. This can range from ransomware that encrypts files until a ransom is paid to spyware that secretly gathers sensitive information. Attackers frequently use sophisticated obfuscation techniques to evade detection by antivirus programs.
Man-in-the-middle attacks represent a tactic where attackers intercept and potentially alter communications between two parties. This can be achieved through techniques like DNS spoofing or session hijacking, allowing cybercriminals to eavesdrop on sensitive data exchanges.
Finally, credential theft is a pervasive method employed by cyber attackers. This involves stealing usernames and passwords through various means such as keylogging, credential phishing, or exploiting weak authentication mechanisms. Once credentials are compromised, attackers can move laterally within a network, escalating their privileges and gaining access to critical systems.
Types of data bad actors are looking for
Cyber attackers are constantly on the prowl for a wide array of sensitive and valuable data, seeking information that can be exploited for financial gain, espionage, or disruption of operations. The nature of the data they target is diverse, reflecting the evolving landscape of cyber threats.
Financial data remains a prime target, encompassing credit card details, bank account information, and personally identifiable information (PII) that can be used for identity theft or fraudulent transactions. This data is often lucrative on the dark web, fetching high prices in underground markets.
Corporate espionage is another driving force behind cyber attacks, with hackers aiming to pilfer intellectual property, trade secrets, and proprietary information. This espionage can have severe consequences, affecting a company’s competitive edge, research and development efforts, and market positioning.
Healthcare data has also become a lucrative target due to the increasing digitization of medical records. Patient information, including medical history, treatment plans, and insurance details, is not only valuable for identity theft but also for filing fraudulent insurance claims and even extortion against healthcare institutions.
Government and military data
Government and military entities are at constant risk of cyber attacks seeking classified information, defense strategies, and sensitive diplomatic communications. The potential impact on national security makes these targets particularly enticing for state-sponsored hackers.
Ransomware attacks have gained prominence, where cybercriminals encrypt a victim’s data and demand a ransom for its release. This can affect individuals, businesses, and even critical infrastructure, disrupting operations and causing financial losses.
Biometric and IoT data
As technology advances, new types of data, such as biometric information and data from Internet of Things (IoT) devices, are becoming attractive targets for cyber attackers. Overall, the landscape is dynamic, and attackers continually adapt their strategies to exploit the latest vulnerabilities and seize valuable data for various malicious purposes. Organizations and individuals alike must remain vigilant and employ robust cybersecurity measures to safeguard against these ever-evolving threats.
Top 3 ways to best protect your organization
To safeguard an organization from the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats, implementing robust cybersecurity measures is paramount. The top three ways to enhance protection against cyber attackers involve a combination of technological solutions, employee training, and proactive risk management.
1. State-of-the-art technology
Firstly, organizations must invest in state-of-the-art cybersecurity technologies, including firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection systems. Regularly updating and patching software is crucial to address vulnerabilities that could be exploited by attackers. Employing encryption methods for sensitive data adds an extra layer of protection.
2. Employee training
Secondly, comprehensive employee training programs are essential. Human error remains a significant factor in cyber breaches, often arising from phishing attacks or unwittingly downloading malicious content. Educating staff on identifying phishing attempts, maintaining strong passwords, and recognizing social engineering tactics can significantly reduce the risk of successful cyber attacks.
3. Proactive risk management
Lastly, organizations need to adopt a proactive risk management approach. Conducting regular cybersecurity assessments, vulnerability testing, and developing an incident response plan are critical components. Being prepared to detect, respond, and recover from a cyber incident is as vital as preventing it.
Best practices for incident response
Effective cyber attack incident response is crucial for minimizing damage, protecting sensitive information, and restoring normal operations promptly. Several best practices ensure organizations are well-prepared to address and recover from cyber threats.
Well-documented incident response plan
Firstly, having a well-documented incident response plan is paramount. This plan should outline roles and responsibilities, communication protocols, and a step-by-step guide for identifying, containing, eradicating, recovering, and learning from incidents.
Regular training and drills are essential to ensure that the incident response team is familiar with the procedures and can respond swiftly under pressure. This includes simulating different types of cyberattacks to assess the organization’s readiness.
Inventory of critical assets
Additionally, maintaining a thorough inventory of critical assets and understanding the organization’s network architecture aids in swift identification and containment of incidents. Employing advanced threat detection tools, monitoring for anomalies, and implementing real-time alerts enhance the ability to detect and respond to threats promptly.
Collaboration with law enforcement and peers
Collaboration with external parties, such as law enforcement and industry peers, can provide valuable insights and support during incident response. Lastly, post-incident analysis and documentation facilitate continuous improvement of the incident response plan, addressing vulnerabilities and enhancing overall cybersecurity posture. In an ever-evolving threat landscape, these best practices empower organizations to effectively navigate and mitigate the impact of cyber attacks.
Critical questions to ask when evaluating an incident response team
Ask these six questions as you prepare to onboard incident response professionals.
- Do you have experience responding to a wide range of cyber incidents, such as ransomware attacks, data breaches, and phishing attempts? What about one through a third party?
- Do you have experience conducting incident response exercises, such as tabletop exercises or red team assessments?
- Are you able to evaluate and understand your SIEM data?
- Do you have experience working with external partners, such as law enforcement or cyber insurers?
- Do you have the ability to take legally admissible forensic images and conduct complex digital forensic investigations of potentially compromised devices and/or firewall logs?
- Do you have experience working with media, insurance, legal, and other partners? Are these partners signed up and available should a breach occur?
Legal and regulatory considerations that come into play post-breach
In the aftermath of a cyber breach, organizations are confronted with a complex web of legal and regulatory considerations that extend beyond the immediate technical challenges. Compliance with data protection laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in Europe or the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) in the United States, becomes a paramount concern. The affected entity must promptly assess the extent of the data compromise, identify the categories of compromised information, and adhere to mandatory reporting timelines stipulated by relevant regulations.
Legal implications may also arise in the context of contractual obligations, particularly if the breach involves third-party vendors or service providers. Organizations often find themselves navigating a landscape of contractual clauses related to data security and confidentiality, potentially exposing them to liability. Additionally, the breach response may involve engaging with law enforcement agencies, necessitating a careful balance between cooperation and safeguarding the organization’s legal rights.
Regulatory bodies may conduct investigations to assess the organization’s adherence to cybersecurity standards, and non-compliance could result in fines or other punitive measures. Post-breach, organizations are compelled to review and potentially enhance their cybersecurity policies and procedures to mitigate future risks and align with evolving legal frameworks, ensuring a comprehensive and resilient response to the complex aftermath of a cyber incident.
SecurityScorecard’s Professional Services
SecurityScorecard Professional Services help organizations defend, respond, and scale cybersecurity and third-party risk management programs. SecurityScorecard is the first cybersecurity ratings company to offer a suite of services that provide a 360-degree approach to cybersecurity. Our Professional Services team brings 100+ years of collective experience in cybersecurity investigations across government and private sectors, with specialties in Digital Forensics, Incident Response, Penetration Testing, Red Teaming, Tabletop Exercises, and Third-Party Risk Management.
Contact our Cyber 911 Team for Immediate Incident Response
Do you need help identifying and containing the threat that caused your cyber incident? Our emergency incident response team has invaluable experience working on many high-profile cases. Please complete this form and an expert will be in contact with you as soon as possible. Call us if you are seeing signs of a breach or suspect an incident: (800)-682-1707 Option 0
To find out more, check out our Digital Forensics and Incident Response services.