Emerging Cyber Security Threats, 2021 and Beyond – Part 2

There is no denying that the world of cybercrime has changed the way businesses think about security. Not only do you need to consider physical security but also your digital security. Everything in your business is at risk if the business has an internet connection. Intellectual property, trade secrets, personal data, financial data are just a few of the things that hackers will try to steal.  This essay continues our discussion on Cyber Security threats, 2021 and beyond:

Ransomware – Ransomware is becoming a household name. Ransomware is a computer infection that encrypts the data on your computer and asks for money for the decryption keys. While ransomware is becoming much more of a mainstream cybercrime today, believe it or not, it has existed since 1989 when the first version was mailed out to the participants of a World Health Organization conference on a 5 ¼ inch disks and the victims had to mail the ransom to a Post Office Box in Panama.

The use of digital currencies like Bitcoin have replaced the old ways of collecting funds. Due to the anonymity of Bitcoin and other digital currencies,  tracking down perpetrators of ransomware is more difficult. While Bitcoin does have an indelible ledger of transactions where you can track the flow of the money, there are no names associated with the accounts in the ledger.

The newest versions of ransomware steal your files before locking them. We have seen a large number of attacks that have stolen critical data out of the businesses, schools or hospitals.

Ransomware has seen a 165% increase during 2020: the UK reports that Britons are seeing more than 2000 attacks per day. The makers of Emotet and Trickbot are rumored to have made over $325 million in ransom since the first version.

Denial of Service attacks – Political statements seem to be the main motivator for Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks and countries like Turkey have seen incidents increase to over 30,000 occurrences each day. The US has overtaken all other countries as the main target for attackers and cyber criminals have attacked news agencies, corporations and governments around the world in an effort to take their computer systems and websites offline.

A common misconception about DDoS attacks is that they only affect a business with a website which is inaccurate. A DDoS attack aimed at a business can shut down its outgoing internet access by flooding the connection with so much incoming traffic that nothing goes out. This means that all cloud services will be inaccessible and email will not be delivered,

Email phishing schemes – Phishing schemes are used to target individuals with online access to bank accounts, credit cards, etc. and they have become a major source of information and money for cyber criminals. The new term “whaling” has been coined for large attacks. In the US, we have seen emails appearing to come from a company CEO requesting wire transfers from the accounting departments to pay urgent invoices which have resulted in the money being remitted to fake vendors. Other attacks have targeted the Human Resources Department asking for information about employees. These attacks have led to leaks of social security numbers and other sensitive employee data. Mattel lost $3 million in a phishing scheme that appeared to be a legitimate invoice for goods that turned out to be fake. Luckily for Mattel, they were able to recover the funds with the assistance of the Chinese authorities. Most companies are not as fortunate.

Known Vulnerabilities – Most firewalls require a reboot following patching so most companies schedule quarterly, bi-annual, or annual updates. This regularity in scheduling leaves enterprises open to attack.

The Panama Papers leak, for example, has been attributed to outdated, unpatched software running customer portal and email servers.

The list of known vulnerabilities is growing each day and information about these vulnerabilities has become public knowledge.  Microsoft reported cyber criminals targeting so-called “zero-day vulnerabilities” impacting Microsoft Internet Explorer and HP’s 2019 Cyber Risk Report found that 44% of breaches in 2019 came from vulnerabilities that are two to four years old. This indicates that enterprises are not taking updating the hardware and software on a regular basis seriously – even the “big boys” are vulnerable.

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