Cybersecurity is an evolving landscape that continues to present new threats and challenges. As employees prefer remote work, businesses must ensure better security to safeguard sensitive data and information.
Hackers are becoming sophisticated in their tactics, exploiting new vulnerabilities in existing and new technologies. These threats include zero-day exploits, Ransomware-as-a-Service, deepfakes, cloud jacking, IoT vulnerabilities, phishing, DDoS attacks, and more.
Inadequate cybersecurity measures or the absence of a security culture in employees can cost businesses a lot in case of data breach or loss. The cost may be more than just regarding sensitive personal information or business revenue. It may also include legal and PR issues and identity theft, leading to reluctance to acquire products or services from the impacted business. So, companies must stay up-to-date on existing and new security threats, take proactive measures, and ensure data and network security. This article will discuss the top five cybersecurity trends to watch out for in 2023.
Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks
In social engineering, threat actors use emails, fake websites, and similar modes to infiltrate a network or compromise a personal account. Social engineering attacks trigger fear, a sense of urgency, and psychological manipulation to give up sensitive information or their credentials. Therefore, these attacks rely on communication between the attacker and the user.
Phishing attacks become sophisticated daily, using generic or targeted attacks on a business or individual. Therefore, cybersecurity specialists must have the necessary experience, better understanding, and preparation to prepare a culture of security. Cybersecurity specialists can opt for an online degree in cybersecurity to equip themselves with the skills required to progress in their careers.
Phishing is a commonly known form of social engineering threat. The scammer mimics or portrays a trusted origin, person, or site and manipulates a user to perform a specific action. This particular action compromises credentials and sensitive, private, or personal information. Spear phishing, email phishing, smishing and vishing phishing techniques, angler phishing, and whaling phishing are well-known threats.
- Spear Phishing
Spear phishing is a sophisticated attack targeted at a particular individual. Threat actors personalize the emails as they may have the following information about the targeted individual:
- Professional or personal email address
- Job description or details
The emails in spear phishing attacks are initiated from a trusted source because of informality and precise information that creates a sense of urgency. If the victim performs the intended action, such as clicking a link and giving away the credentials or downloading an attachment that compromises system or network security. This compromise allows the attacker to access the sensitive and proprietary data on the victim’s account or access to the enterprise network.
- Email Phishing
The attacker creates a fake domain or email address, mimicking a trusted and genuine source. And distributes emails to multiple addresses. These domain names or phony emails have subtle changes that employees may fail to recognize these small changes or differences.
These changes may consist of character substitutions, e.g., using “r” and “n” next to each other. Placement of these alphabets, “r” and “n,” next to each other will look like “m” instead of “r” and “n,” and users may fail to see the difference. The failure to see the difference will have repercussions, such as users clicking the link or downloading a malicious attachment. This will lead to the execution of malicious code or access to the enterprise network and compromise the security and the data.
CEO fraud, or whaling, is much more similar to an email phishing attack, but the attacker sends the email pretending to be someone in a leadership position in the organization. A scammer may use details of a C-level employee at the organization and communicate directly with the victim, asking for sensitive information. The action may lead to giving away credentials or other sensitive information.
The communication seems to originate from an executive in the organization, also known as a “whale,” such as the CEO or CFO. This makes employees hesitate to dismiss a direct request from a C-level executive. So, they become susceptible to this phishing scam and give the attacker sensitive information or access to the corporate network.
- Vishing and Smishing
Vishing attacks are targeted at VoIP (voice-over IP) systems. As VoIP systems offer enhanced accessibility and flexibility for organizations, many opt for them. Attackers place a call or leave a recorded message for the intended user or employee. Vishing attackers may call under the guise of a regulatory or compliance representative requesting immediate actions on user accounts or network security. The victim may believe it’s a legitimate caller, so they may give away sensitive information.
Smishing attacks utilize SMS messages instead of emails or VoIP to target their victims. SMS messages can be about updating account security measures, a loved one in need or distress, requesting certain information, or financial assistance. As the attack creates a sense of urgency, the victim falls prey to the attack and ends up losing information or incurring a financial loss.
Sometimes, an attacker uses a text message followed by a VoIP call, combining vishing and smishing attacks. A message might suggest a policy update, password change, or a user account update. A follow-up call or recorded messages repeating the same message to psychologically manipulate the victim by creating a sense of fear and urgency. An attacker with handy personal information makes them sound like a legitimate source, leading to a financial loss or the victim’s sensitive data.
- Ransomware as a Service
When an attacker maliciously adopts a Software-as-a-Service business model, it is known as ransomware-as-a-service or RaaS. This involves lending or selling ransomware to buyers, called ransomware affiliates, to execute ransomware attacks. Other models include subscription-based access, lifetime license, and RaaS partnership. RaaS partnership opts for a business model to split the profits in case of a successful attack or breach.
As ransomware affiliates have predefined playbooks and cheat sheets to execute a successful attack, RaaS is a credible and sophisticated threat. When an attack is successful, the victim demands a ransom amount. This includes threats to leak sensitive and proprietary data on the dark web or purging it altogether. Active and well-known groups operating with a RaaS model include LockBit, BlackCat, Hive, and Dharma.
Organizations need to invest to educate employees and instill a security culture with a zero-trust model. These threats can emerge from outside as well as inside of the organization. Cybersecurity specialists must stay current on emerging threats to safeguard private and sensitive data and corporate networks.
Businesses also need a strong and dependable security posture that includes an intrusion prevention system, a zero-trust policy, and a proactive approach to threats. A fallback plan must be placed in case of an incident or data breach so the organization can respond to an intrusion quickly and effectively.