Beastly Threats of IT
With more than one billion users, the internet offers a vast hunting ground for cyber-criminals. In the past year, 431 million new strains of malware were discovered1 and 689 million people have been victims of cybercrime2.
Battling these threats is more critical than ever – in dollars and in reputation. In this blog, we’ll look at 6 of the most beastly security threats IT faces today and some simple tips to mitigate those threats.
Threat #1: Device theft or loss
Devices are too often left on desks where they reside or on tables in coffee shops and airports where they are vulnerable to the “sneak and grab” tactics of criminals. In addition, a lack of passwords and encryption on PCs, tablets and phones exposes valuable and confidential data. A Kaspersky Lab study found that only 50% of employees reported a stolen device on the day of the incident. 77% said that the loss or theft had far-reaching consequences.
- 34% of devices are stolen from personal vehicles, so when travelling by car, put your device in the trunk to minimise risk. Consider a device tracking solution such as Absolute Software.
- In the office, use a Kensington lock cable to physically secure the device and when you leave your desk ensure your device is screen locked with a strong password authentication, or even better choose a device with biometric fingerprint security found on most ThinkPad notebooks.
- Encrypt your data locally and keep a backup to minimise the impact of data-loss.
Threat #2: Trojan Horse
Trojan horses topped the list of new malware in 2015. They hide in plain sight and provide unauthorized remote access to a computer, allowing viruses to infiltrate and cause untold damage. Financial institutions are particularly targeted and contrary to popular belief, countries in South East Asia are most affected by malware.
- All end-users should ensure tried and tested anti-virus software is installed, enabled and kept up-to-date.
- Take great care when opening emails or downloading software from unknown sources.
- The best policy is that if you are unsure about an email, an attachment or a link, delete it.
Threat #3: Phishing
Phishing threats acquire sensitive information on a user’s PC by masquerading as a trustworthy entity, most commonly a website. As of February 2016, there were more than 290,000 phishing sites on the internet. Phishing costs large companies an average of $3.7 million per year. Spear Phishing is a particularly nasty initial attack vector via email from an individual or business that you know and appears to be genuine. The SANS institute found that 95% of all attacks on enterprise networks gained access via a spear-phishing attack.
- Protection from phishing attacks requires end-user awareness of the dangers of unsolicited spam emails asking for confidential information and the pitfalls of unsecured websites requesting personal and/or financial information.
- Protect your device with an enabled firewall, anti-virus, anti-spyware and spam filters.
- Leverage FIDO-enabled solutions for enhanced authentication protection.
- If you have completed an online purchase, verify bank accounts to ensure that no unauthorized transactions have been made.
Threat #4: Ransomware
Relatively uncommon, ransomware attacks are predicted to become more widespread in the future because of the disruption they cause and the financial benefits the cybercriminals hope to reap. Ransomware often infiltrates a user’s system in similar fashion to a Trojan horse or through Phishing attacks. It will then encrypt data on your PC and demand payment for delivery of the encryption key to decrypt that data. Ransomware samples have more than tripled in the last 3 years and in 2015 alone, victims paid more than $24 million across nearly 2,500 reported cases.
- Ensure the same protection levels as for Trojan Horse.
- Encrypt personal data on your device by taking advantage of the advanced encryption capability of ThinkPad notebooks.
- Make a regular backup of your data. You don’t need to pay a ransom to get your data back if you already have a backup!
Threat #5: Spyware
Spyware is one of the most recognized methods of cybercriminals that affects consumers and businesses alike. They use spyware to collect and exploit valuable data and other proprietary information such as credit card information, bank transactions and medical records. It is estimated that nearly half a billion identities were exposed in 2015, a 23% increase over the previous year.
- Like phishing, the primary objective of spyware is collecting confidential data. Businesses and end-users should ensure full internet security software is in place.
- You should also strongly consider data encryption with biometric authentication such as WinMagic to protect personal and confidential information from spyware breaches.
Threat #6: Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)
DDoS attacks are growing in size and strength. Brute force attacks target multiple systems within an organization with a view to compromise a single system to either flood or crash services and infrastructure. DDoS attacks targeted half of US-based companies in 2014 and 2015. These attacks can cost organizations as much as $40,000 per hour on top of typical ransom requests by the perpetrators to halt the attack.
According to the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), symptoms can include slow network performance, unavailability of websites, connection issues and dramatic increases in spam emails.
- Protection against DDoS attacks depends on fully protected IT infrastructure.
- Using multi-layer protection, strong access control and network intrusion prevention and detection are just a few essential elements in the fight against DDoS attacks.
Cybersecurity matters and nothing is immune. It is the responsibility of individuals and companies alike to protect their data, personal information and online identities. Fighting these threats begins with the client device, the most common source of cyber-attack. It is essential that end users and IT professionals have the right tools to build defences against them. Data encryption, strong passwords combined with strong authentication (security tokens such as the TPM or biometrics like fingerprint) will already go a long way to protect individual systems. Ensure strong and up-to-date anti-virus software is installed on EVERY device, provide Kensington locks for desk-based physical assets and implement security awareness training so that every user fully understand the threats and actions to be taken in the immediate event of an attack.
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