Cyber Security has been one of the top priorities of organizations of all levels in the past few years. With the advancement of technology, the looming threats to the various virtual assets of these companies become evident and this is where the awareness for cyber security comes in.
It is because of the above fact that cyber security becomes increasingly important in today’s day and age.
Cyber Security Threats And Trends For 2020
Let’s take a look at the top online security threats that we think will be vital in shaping the security landscape in 2020.
The good old phishing attack remains as one of the topmost effective and very real threats to online security, no matter how big or how small an organization.
In this form of attack, an attacker pretends to be a trustworthy source and usually tries to extract sensitive information and credentials from an employee or from a personal individual by sending them a forged link masked under a very authentic and genuine looking login page or email.
As the email seems to be from an authentic source, the victim is extremely likely to click and part away with their personal details and credentials. This information can be used by the attacker in various ways such as stealing credit cards and online banking details, company trade secrets, confidential documents amongst a host of other information.
There are various forms of Phishing including (and not limited to) –
- Clone phishing
- Domain spoofing
- CEO fraud
- Spear phishing
- Watering hole phishing
- Evil Twin phishing
- HTTPS phishing
Organizations with weak security practices are more prone to these kinds of attacks. Therefore, cyber security awareness trainings should be implemented strongly to avoid any such incidents by any member of an organization.
Proper implementation of strong spam and phishing filters is also quite important in tackling these kinds of attacks. A lot of third-party services are available that make use of metadata analysis to differentiate between genuine and phish emails.
Malware can be a type of malicious software or unwanted software that comes in various forms and can be used to execute unauthorized code on a target system. They are generally programmed to intentionally cause damage to computers, servers or networks.
It can be categorized under various malicious software such as trojans, backdoors, viruses, worms, downloaders, etc. amongst many others.
The distribution of malware can be done using various delivery methods by attackers. Some of the common methods used include spam emails, binding malware to other applications, social engineering, etc.
Once a user downloads and installs one of these applications, the malware enters a system and starts the execution.
Malware can be used to attack systems in a number of ways including information gathering, data and file corruption, remote backdoor access to the victim’s system, slowing down of networks and systems, etc.
There are many ways to defend against the menace of malware –
- Ensuring regular application of security patches and updates to systems and software.
- Implementing reputable antivirus, anti-malware and firewall solutions, email spam filters and other endpoint security practices.
- Making use of proper user access rules and privileges to systems and applications.
- Regularly security awareness activities for employees teaching them measures to avoid accessing malicious websites and spam emails.
- Many more that are beyond the scope of this article.
3. Denial of Service (DoS)
A denial-of-service (DoS) is a type of cyber attack in which the attacker floods a network with a large number of requests in order to render a computer or server inaccessible to legitimate users trying to access services of that network.
DoS attacks typically aim at overwhelming the resources of a target machine to a point where it is unable to process any further requests, and hence, resulting in denial-of-service to any further requests from users.
In this form of network security threat, an attacker sends multiple false requests to a server requesting data delivery to an invalid return address. This often causes the target machine to crash or to utilize all or most of its available memory, hard disk space and CPU time. Because of this, the system acts sluggish resulting in denial-of-service.
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)
Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) is a more brutal and harmful form of DoS in which the target system/network is attacked by multiple sources of attack traffic simultaneously. This is usually done using the help of botnets (multiple attacking computers) that can be controlled by a single attacker.
DoS and DDoS are fundamentally the same thing, the differentiating factor being the number of connections and devices used to attack the target.
Prevention from DoS and DDoS
Proper deployment and implementation of hardware and software firewalls is absolutely crucial to preventing such attacks. Configuration and setting effective rules in firewalls and routers are also equally important. For example, monitoring the number of incomplete connections and flushing them out once they reach a certain pre-configured threshold.
4. Internet of Things (IoT)
Internet of Things (IoT) technologies continue to surge in popularity with each passing day. It not just comprises of all the conventional devices like computers, routers and smartphones but also household devices, smart thermostats, home security systems, automobiles, medical devices and even manufacturing equipment.
The reason for this increased popularity of IoT technologies is because they help turn workplaces and homes more intelligent. These technologies make people’s lives more comfortable, operations more convenient and a whole lot of tasks a lot more efficient with the use of automation and computation.
With more and more such devices connecting to the internet daily, rises the security risks of attacks on these networks and devices. Some major security flaws have been exposed related to these technologies. And the very things that make these technologies convenient also make them vulnerable.
Some of the top IoT vulnerabilities include –
- Weak and easy to guess factory coded passwords
- Usage of outdated components
- Insecure default settings
- No proper update mechanisms
- Weak network-level protection
- No physical hardening
- Many more…
Once compromised, these devices can be used for a host of malicious activities. For example, they can serve as the entry point for further attacks or they can act as nodes for big DDoS attack networks. Depending on the device, they can also be used for stealing personal information stored in these devices, creating havoc by overloading the networks they are connected to or lock down these devices for ransom and other financial gains.
Hardened protocols are needed to secure against these types of network security threats. IoT devices need to be updated with the latest security patches regularly, default passwords and settings need to be changed and the networks they are connected to should be protected and secured.
With the increasing attacks against IoT devices, awareness always seems to be the key.
Ransomware is one of the leading threats to network security in recent times. It is known to cost organizations and victims in billions each year.
In this type of cyber security attack, the attacker gains access to the target’s system using network vulnerabilities and loopholes, and once in, encrypts all the data including files, databases and other important things in a locked, non-readable format.
This is usually followed with a message on the target system asking for a ransom to unlock access to all the data.
In most cases, the companies settle on an amount to get back access to their critical business data making these type of attacks extremely lucrative to attackers.
According to the U.S. Department Of Homeland Security, Ransomware is currently one of the top 10 cyber security threats causing multiple small and medium-sized businesses to shut down within 6 months of a security breach of this type.
6. Social Engineering
Social engineering is popularly known as “hacking without code” because in this form of security threat an attacker uses other means to obtain information.
Hackers use the basic human weaknesses of human psychology instead of technology to breach security and gather data. This is done by making use of expert levels of manipulation and deceit.
Using various mediums like phone calls, social media and actual physical interaction, an attacker can trick his way into gaining the trust of his victims and making them provide access to sensitive or confidential data in most cases.
The famous American hacker Kevin Mitnick was notoriously famous for his social engineering skills. Various books and movies chronicle his movie-like life story.
The world’s best cyber security systems are unable to stop these kinds of attacks because in these cases, the target usually provides access to the attacker. And hence, prevention from these kinds of attacks requires basic common sense and awareness. Potential targets need to be able to distinguish between genuine authorized people and attackers.
7. Patch Management
Patches are released regularly by manufacturers to address security issues, fix flaws and vulnerabilities and sometimes to enhance or add features to their software, operating systems and other technologies.
Keeping the above-stated points in mind, it becomes evident that patching is one of the most crucial steps in the entire information security setup of an organization. But in contrast, patch management is usually one of the most overlooked departments by their IT security teams and users because of other responsibilities.
Inefficient patch management can lead these organizations to gaping holes in their security infrastructure. Not updating to latest patches can leave them exposed to the latest exploits and vulnerabilities. It can also cause non-compliance with the latest cyber security standards.
A prime example of this was the EternalBlue cyberattacks started in May 2018 that exploited a vulnerability in Microsoft’s Windows operating system. This attack caused companies running vulnerable versions of Windows in millions of dollars worldwide even though the patch to this vulnerability was released by Microsoft two months before the attacks.
To counter this problem, patch management needs to be made a priority within companies and workplaces. Even for personal devices, updating software to their latest stable builds is considered safe practice.
Automating patch management in real-time takes the load off of the system and network admins and makes it one less task for people to keep track of. This ensures all your devices being secured against the latest threats.
8. State-Sponsored Attacks
Besides all the hackers looking at pocketing profits by using the various types of cyberattacks, there are now full-fledged attacks backed by states and nations that can target crucial cyberinfrastructure of rival states and enemies. These types of attacks have now become mainstays in the global security landscape.
These kinds of state-backed attacks target not only other nations but can also attack various major private organizations of those nations as means of settling geopolitical rivalries.
Attackers and cybercriminals supported by governments can carry out many different types of attacks like data breaches, DDoS attacks, theft of state/national secrets, influencing public and global opinions like in the case of elections, spreading misinformation and silencing unfavorable voices.
Due to the nature of these state-sponsored attacks to be highly confidential and sensitive, they are usually kept hidden from targets and deploy persistent mechanisms like hidden malware to avoid detection. They are programmed in such a way to be able to have persistent access to the target’s communication and data in most cases.
With growing political tensions between nations and states, these kinds of government-supported attacks are expected to be on the rise. Deployment of proper defense mechanisms with advanced solutions by governments and big businesses is critical in the prevention of such attacks which can lead to enormous consequences.
9. Cloud Vulnerabilities
As more and more enterprises start relying on moving their services and digital assets to the “cloud”, the number of attack vectors increase with it for potential attackers. Because of this, cloud services like SaaS (Software as a Service) have proven to be a major cyber security challenge for them.
Businesses have increasingly started storing sensitive data related to their operations and employees leveraging the use of the cloud. This makes for tempting targets for intruders and hackers.
Data breach, DDoS attacks, account hijacking, misconfiguration and more are just some of the threats that organizations with weak cloud security infrastructure have to deal with. Most times, businesses believe that their data is secured once its moved to the cloud which is wrong. No technology is completely immune to cyber attacks.
Major cloud service providers like Google, Amazon and Microsoft have been investing heavily into making their services more secure and robust. Also, insurance in case of cloud reliability can turn out to be very crucial in the risk management strategy of an organization.
10. AI-Driven Security Threats
AI (Artificial Intelligence) and ML (Machine Learning) are bringing huge advancements to various sectors including that of cyber security. With the help of AI, security researchers can predict patterns of various forms of malware and their future variants which can then be used to prevent future cyber attacks.
But the downside of this is that the attackers can use similar technologies for more advance forms of intrusion and complex attacks. This can be seen in some of the recent ransomware attacks that have been driven by AI and ML.
These types of security attacks are now turning out to be some of the most challenging threats to organizations requiring them to deploy highly advanced security solutions rather than just relying on vulnerabilities and loopholes that are known and available in the public domain. AI Fuzzing is a good example of this where organizations develop tools that can detect system vulnerabilities. The downside of this being attackers can use similar technologies to execute advanced zero-day attacks against unprotected systems.
With the advancement of various types of technologies, cybercriminals have always tried to be a step ahead of the security curve by finding new ways of intruding and destroying security setups of organizations and institutions.
With these evolving patterns in the online security landscape, organizations and companies need to constantly keep themselves aware of not just the increasing number of vulnerabilities but all the different forms of cyber security threats. A robust security framework implementation is extremely important in today’s day and age. In the scenario where it cannot be fulfilled by in-house security teams, various third-party providers can effectively assist in deploying security services these days.
We hope the list above gave you an insight into the leading types of cyber security threats that we are faced with in 2020 and we hope it can help you in preparing for a solid risk reduction strategy.
Please feel free to let us know in the comments below if we missed any major points and share your thoughts with us!