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Cyber-threats In 2016: Evolution, Potential, And Overcoming Them

The contemporary business environment is essentially a small subsystem in the larger cyber world. Every enterprise, no matter how technically progressive or apprehensive about technology, is connected to and handles different streams of data. The current IT landscape is highly disruptive, but it does promise better business outcomes for those who are Internet of Things (IoT) ready and prepared to embrace Big Data. However, there are some apprehensions about this more connected, omnipresent, and easily accessible data — it opens many doors to hackers, creating room for Cyber threats to seep in.

PWC’s Global State of Information Security Survey: 2015 underlined the seriousness of this pattern — the number of global security incidents is growing faster than the number of global smartphone users and the global GDP combined!

What Malware Can Do To Your Operating System?

One of the top sources of unsolicited access to your data includes corporate espionage. The cost of losing confidential or proprietary data is massive. Moreover, the reputational damage can take months to repair and bring back brand’s integrity and trust build up with the customers.

There has been a dramatic increase in malware intrusions causing major damages across business organisations. The challenges are as severe for SMEs as they are for bigger enterprises. Software prepped to penetrate a legacy system and get illicit access to vital data translates into crippling a business, partially or completely. Slowdowns are the most common visible symptom of a malware infection. Pop-ups are not simply annoying, but are rather potential indicators to invasive cyber threats. Frequent system crashes and appearance of the Blue Screen of Death (BSOD) indicates clear and present danger.

Basics First: Glimpse Into Categorizing Cyber-Threats

Cybercrimes are most common in the form of critical system disruptions which would ultimately result in loss of daily productive hours, revenue and compromising customer outreach, engagement, retention, and your overall brand presence.

2016 has seen a serious surge in the niche of malware infections. Despite having advanced tools and software to diagnose and address such threats via professionals, hacking and unauthorised attempts to intrude organisational data silos, infusing self-multiplying virus attacks, phishing, ransomware, spyware and spoofing is making CEOs and CIOs wonder whether migrating to virtual IT platforms (commonly called jumping to the Cloud) is as safe as so many cloud management service providers claim.

Though these apprehensions are unfounded; as a Cloud platform will always provide more insulation as compared to on premise data retention practices, cloud and other hybrid platforms are not completely immune to cyberattacks. You can expect automated and targeted attacks to compete for the top slot in the niche of cybercrimes in the coming days. Targeted Attacks refer to cyber criminals initiating attacks for a pre-selected system. Based upon data repository usage, access, authorisation, and maintenance patterns, these are better planned and most damaging of all.

Cybersecurity Threats Expected To Go Mainstream In 2016

The unacknowledged face of cyberattacks — “inside job” — are current or former employees active on social media channels, using laptops with un-updated security measures, unsupervised remote access to company data, unauthorised access via mobile, and web-enabled devices.

Just like the Judgment Day, IoT is inevitable. It is already upon us, creating tremors, earthquakes, and after-shocks, shaking-up organisations and key decision-makers. Eliminating or trying to limit IoT is not the way to address cybersecurity challenges. This approach can be detrimental to business. You don’t want to descale potential launch pads that can create better customer service standards or help you penetrate newer, emerging markets.

Instead, a business should concentrate more upon minimizing its response time to a possible cyber threat. Even more critical is to have an effective cybersecurity policy — protocols employees and the management hierarchy can easily understand. If you are on the verge of employing the services of a technology solutions provider specializing in restraining and eliminating data breaches and unauthorised access to your data, you need to familiarize yourself with the basics of the game. We are starting with what is trending in the despicable world of cybercrimes:

  • Jail Breaking: Vulnerability comes in the form of multiple concealed mobile applications from resources beyond the enterprise’s realm of IT ecosystem. A preferred way for hackers who can easily identify chronic mobile-using employees; jail breaking is a common cause of “crashing” into the system. The bigger challenge is that mobiles and similar mobility devices cannot be comprehensively eliminated from various points of accessing enterprise data.
  • Ghostware: Perhaps, the most appropriately named malwares of today. For enterprises, tracking a ghostware is one of the biggest challenges today. A maestro at concealing and camouflaging, it has been able to defeat some of the best detection software solutions. Ghostware is very damaging; capable to deleting silos of key data by the time IT teams even realise something is not right with their systems. Further, Ghostware affected networks don’t provide clarity about what type and the volume of data has been compromised.
  • Blastware: Somewhat similar to Ghostware, Blastware is something similar to “terrorists committed to a cause,” to put it hypothetically. Cybercriminals are getting rather smart, ensuring their malware upon detection creates a point of conflict to the point that the extent of damage and source of malware becomes nearly impossible to uncover. Even upon being detected, after it has rendered massive damage, Blastware will self-destruct, often shutting down or disabling the entire IT system it infected in the process.

The corporate cyber security risk gets more overwhelming when you add the now popular BYOD culture to the mix, since you are now talking about addressing enterprise cyber security threats which happen outside the premises. Increasing cybersecurity measures beyond the premises would mean unwarranted baggage for the IT team, a vulnerable company IT infrastructure, and serious disruptions in the near future as organisations can lose business-critical, researched, and analysed data. Even as Managed Solution Providers and vendors try to shield enterprises from cyber-attacks there is a new twist in the story.

Attack patterns are equally deft, rather versatile, becoming more intricate to overcome additional layers of security. The result is often compromised data privacy. There is no limitation when it comes to what type of data is preferred by hackers or cyber criminals. From socially engineered information to data shared with business associates, there are infinite points of data vulnerability. There is more to the world of cyberattacks where hacking artists are creating more room to evade malware-prevention control mechanisms, ensuring almost zero detection capability by being more hyper-selective, more targeted in their attacks — something that is making CEOs sweat!

Globally renowned research agencies like Gartner mention two more emerging, highly destructive malwares:
  1. Headless Worms: Headless or autonomous attacks are expected to brew trouble for companies in 2016. This is a totally new approach to virus attacks since Headless Worms can travel from one device to another. Presenting itself as a code, a Headless Worm can quickly multiply in smart devices like medical kits, digitally web-enabled watches and smartphones. Every digital connection associated with these devices is put to risk. The magnitude of Headless Worm infection has been reported in billions of devices!
  2. Two–Faced Malware: 2016 is perhaps the year of the two-faced malware which is fast gaining popularity because it is difficult to detect and gradually destructs on premise and remotely connected networks without grabbing attention. Very malicious, capable of handicapping your IT environment, this is one of the most benign, very sly malware at work. Since it does not evoke suspicion, it falls outside the realm of suspicion and has the power to kill your IT network like a slow cancer.

The First Step To Cybercrime Diagnosis: Accept Your Infection

This might sound like a healthcare discussion but the comparison actually makes sense. For a moment, relook at cyber threats — they are like a chronic disease, invasive and capable of rendering long-term damages. Ghostware or Blastware, you are looking at an IT infection that is carcinogenic, highly toxic, and self-sustaining. Diagnosing it is not easy. By the time you realise that critical data has been leaked, hacked or accessed illegally, the damage has been done and little can be done to redeem the lost data or its integrity.

A malware infection can be benign, out of range from detection tools. For instance, a strange hard drive activity might indicate a virus at work. Hard drives that continue to show heavy usage even when not in use might have a malware at work. However, all IT teams don’t identify such malware-at-work possibilities. This acceptance will pave the way for realigning your IT team or hiring a technology solutions vendor who can provide a more structured approach to preventing cybercrimes before they happen.

Proceeding With Cybercrime Recovery, Rehabilitation, And Boosting Immunity

What do we mean by a methodical approach? Cyber threats will continue to outperform and overpower the best of IT security practices. So, don’t expect an immediate and future-proof cure. There is only one way to ensuring your data remains protected, your workflows are not disrupted and business-critical processes that involve business associates, vendors, or remote vendors don’t compromise on cybersecurity. For this you need to set-up a plan — we are sharing the blueprint with you: after you have acknowledged the fact your enterprise is vulnerable, discuss the possible security issues with your on premise IT team.

Most in-house teams are not ready for this brutal reality-check. Consider investing in controlling the immediate symptoms caused by malware, like slowdowns and unauthorised access if you are already under attack. Consider resolving the problem at the grassroots — a more holistic treatment where cybersecurity specialists, surveillance-based platforms and future-proofing software come into the mix.

Tip: If you are struggling with self-introspection, you should consider professional IT system evaluation firms. This reality-check will help you understand how cyber threats are evolving, becoming grave and feeding off passive IT teams that lack pro-activeness, skill, and knowledge for effective anti-malware protocols.

Sandboxing To Become Malware-Proof? Are You Serious?

Many corporations are sold on the idea of Sandboxing — a not-too-recent phenomenon where any new software is comprehensively tested in a safe environment before being migrated to the enterprise networks. Some CIOs believe Sandboxing provides the type of unrelenting inspection that is necessary to capture possible points of susceptibility. Accordingly, the manner in which the specific software reacts can be tuned to ensure better, more perceptive behavior that proofs against the threat. However, Sandboxing does not deserve the faith it is creating, especially among key decision-makers. It is effective but cannot reveal all the susceptible points of a malware invasion. Malevolent software creators are equipping themselves with better, surveillance-defying, smartly morphing codes.

The Dummy Malware Prevention Strategy For Everyone: Stay Awake

Cybercrimes breed when business environments are not prepared for illicit intrusions. Vintage anti-virus versions, unstructured BYOD culture, confusing cyber-security policies, multiple unauthorised users, and lack of security training add up to losing critical enterprise data. Latency in preparing for emerging malware threats means a slow response, leveraging malware with more time to make inroads into your data silos. We recommend being proactive:

  • Immediately report any irregularity in your data access paths or sharing platforms. Report any unwarranted network activity like new browsers, new toolbars, or search engines leading to suspicious webpages.
  • Any data sharing path that has not been initiated by you means pressing the panic button.
  • Be very concerned about any indicators on unsolicited users streaming through your files and folders.
  • Check for malware infiltration in your hard drive — regularly examining the storage space and frequency of hang-ups can work as prime indicators.

Troubleshoot Early

Deterrence can be the best way to approach the problem — establish a perceptive, scalable, and contemporary security network.

Detection tools and anti-virus software can protect repel malware trying to penetrate deeper into your network. Intrusion detection systems can be a great help if they can effectively analyse outbound and inbound networks for possible threats. Proactive response, in collaboration with effective anti-cybercrime tools, means malware attacks being contained, eliminated, and compromised data being recovered. If you can proactively respond to malware, your chances of eliminating it and resuming normal operations are raised exponentially.

Strategize To Eliminate And Prevent Malware Attacks

Expect hackers to get increasingly sophisticated. Everything that is digital and relevant to your business can be attacked, including the basic IT infrastructure to devices being used to access networks. Malicious software can cripple your network to the core. A strategically planned malware strategy can rescue you at the time of crises and help you re-gain control over your network without losing too much. Battle emerging malware threats by:

Bring More Clarity In Planning – Introspection Is Empowerment

Commence by drafting a blueprint of potential malware threat sources. This phase involves identification of sources that are most likely to generate threats for your enterprise systems. This includes loopholes related to removable media and redundant network loops that allow malware codes to stay hidden. This also helps in employing relevant technology to identify what type of anti-malware solutions will actually make a difference to your network.

Get Selective And Generalized — You Need To Do It All

We hardly come across decision-makers brainstorming creative measures to overcome present and foreseeable IT security challenges — this mindset of security being an afterthought has to change.

The diversity of business requirements has imposed a new challenge in cybersecurity — you no longer have the liberty to choose which method to safeguard your network, you need to do everything. There is always a variety of configurations of different ingredients in an IT ecosystem. You need to gauge data access and usage patterns across multiple (almost infinite) scenarios. Don’t get restricted by time-bound cybersecurity services. Explore emerging security controls and keep a tab on those that have performed excellently in your industry or demographic. The challenges are greater for enterprises with global presence, those reaching out to new consumer landscapes beyond their own geographical regions. Thus, the onus on ensuring security-first approach without killing the productivity and spanning multiple systems is on the top hierarchy. They need to underline a fact — cybersecurity is not just about responding to cyber threats.

There Is Nothing Like Being Sufficiently Prepared

So you have applied additional coatings around the data to make it is immune against penetrative cyberattacks, but can you sleep in absolute bliss of knowing that your data is genuinely safe?

Cyber security is an evolving, elementary, and omnipresent need. Your presence in the virtual world should be undefinable, ensuring you don’t give away any hints at your security setup. Deeper insight reveals that cyber-attacks have transformed beyond expectations. Their nature and approaches are better and their intensity of causing damage is now more severe than ever.

  • Advanced Approach: Cyber criminals have developed new ways to initiate attacks. They use hi-tech exploit kits that work quietly and stay concealed for long until a triggered attack is initiated. From approach to pattern, everything has been re-coded by attackers to get through any system swiftly.
  • Aggressive Defense And Attack Methodology: Cyber criminals have also turned more aggressive. With every bit of business being transformed into a byte, cyberattacks are becoming universal. Cyber offenders pressurize, threaten and extort victims on their terms.

For Better Cybercrime Prevention, Create Resistance

Why is the immediate future challenging businesses with cybersecurity questions? Gartner predicts 6.8 billion connected devices in 2016 — a 30 percent rise as compared to 2015.

As an enterprise, you need to invest time and resources in creating a security network that can resist future malware attacks or at least, foresee them, providing your critical prepare and fight back time. Being prepared definitely means better outcomes in cybercrime combat, but you don’t need to re-build the entire infrastructure. Just seek the help of anti-virus or cyber threat prevention specialists.

  • Ensure periodic network security checks to stop the malware on the verge of infiltrating further.
  • Limit the number of users for accessing an account.
  • Keep user privileges to a bare minimum, every data should be downloadable in a CSV format.
  • Data transmission should be protocoled — from removable media to plugging into the network, ensure eliminating all possible susceptible points of data leakage.
  • Have instant lockdown operating system configuration effortlessly available to activate.
  • Ensure you get performance reports of software that tend to misbehave but don’t seem like a malware threat.
  • Explore the utility of Network Access Control (NAC) technologies that limit risks by not allowing easy, direct plug-in option for malware creators into your internal network.
  • Always insist on an updated, most contemporary anti-virus suite.
  • Don’t be apprehensive about security patches — a patch is essentially fixing an issue before it becomes conduit to a cyber-threat.
  • Enforce security maintenance management practices — without exceptions.
  • Identify anomalies — record them for more investigation.
  • Create more authorisation layers for inbound/outbound access to network.
  • Ensure web browsing, particularly by BYOD employees, is monitored and controlled.
  • Blacklist connections that seem like a risky IP proposition.
  • Restrict network access from offsite teams, remotely located employees and business associates.

By 2020, expect 20 billion connected devices as a part of IoT ecosystem. Your business will benefit from this; but what about increased data vulnerability?

We call this the smartphone conundrum though this is not just about smartphones. The IoT landscape is about digital devices. However smartphones are symbolic of how a digital hardware can be used by cybercriminals to manipulate and penetrate protected networks and phish data due to the sheer volume of devices — there is just too much to control!

However, the more progressive enterprise security providers are still enthusiastic about defeating the rising challenges. Whether it comes to decoding a threat using multiple vectors of investigation, simulating with malicious apps or analysing web browsing patterns, they are ready for highly damaging and drive-by attacks. They understand the challenges of corporate espionage and perhaps, Prevention of Digital Corporate Espionage as a service is on the horizon.

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