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The 5 Most Common Cyber Security Threats And How To Avoid Them

As cyber criminals continue to find new and more complex ways to infiltrate our networks, cyber crime continues to rise in complexity and frequency. In this blog, we’ll be highlighting some of the most common cyber security threats and explaining how you and your organisation can avoid falling victim to them.

1. Malware

What Is It?

Malware is intrusive software that aims to perform malicious tasks to gain access to a network, spy on user activity to obtain sensitive data, or disrupt and damage a computer and its systems. The most notable and severe method, ransomware, aims to extort the victim by encrypting files and demanding a ransom to regain access. Other common types of malware include Trojan horses, spyware, worms, viruses and adware. You might have come across this one in the form of dodgy, unsolicited pop-ups and ads on your computer that you just can’t get rid of – that’s how they draw you in.

How Can I Prevent It?

Unfortunately, preventing a malware attack isn’t easy, as modern antivirus products cannot tackle advanced cyber threats alone. But with the following, we can work to mitigate the risk.

• Unmanaged administration rights can pose a high-security risk for malware-driven attacks. Removing local admin rights, applying the principle of least privilege and implementing session isolation can effectively slow and control the spread of malware. Tools like Comprehensive PAM Controls from CyberArk use access management to protect against ransomware.

• With a multifaceted approach that utilises comprehensive cyber solutions to monitor and protect defences effectively, we can avoid falling victim to attack.

• Without advanced protection, malware can easily conceal itself in your network to evade detection, so using all-around preventative security measures will help you avoid becoming a target.

• The small things matter, too. Be vigilant of and avoid malicious content, keep software patched and updated, and enforce a strong password policy that uses multi-factor authentication.

2. Phishing

What Is It?

We’ve all heard of phishing, and have likely fallen victim to it ourselves, or at least know someone who has. Of the 39% of UK businesses who identified an attack last year, the most common threat vector was phishing attempts (83%). A phishing attack often arrives by email and uses fake links to websites posing as legitimate organisations to lure the victim into handing over valuable information like passwords, bank details, and intellectual property. This is the most common form of attack, with trickery an easy way to catch out victims who may not otherwise be aware of how to spot a phishing attempt.

How Can I Prevent It?

We can stop phishing attacks in their tracks in one of two ways – by learning how to detect attempted attacks, and investing in software that can do it all for us.

• Phishing is heavily reliant on human error, so education is the number one way to avoid these types of attacks. Learn how to identify suspicious content and when not to share personal information.

• The usual tell-tale signs of an illegitimate email, SMS or website are grammatical errors and spelling mistakes, an urgency to act now, unusual content or request or suspicious links or attachments. We can use tools like the National Cyber Security Centre’s suspicious website form to report these.

• Investing in phishing detection and response software that can identify malicious content online will help to reduce the risk of attack.

• Setting up simple tools like spam filters on your emails will make it harder for illegitimate messages to reach your inbox.

3. Zero-Day Exploit / Attack

What Is It?

A zero-day exploit or attack is where cyber criminals learn of and prey on undiscovered vulnerabilities in widely-used software applications and operating systems, and exploit them before they can be fixed. As users are unaware of the vulnerability, this form of attack is hard to predict. Unknown vulnerabilities could be your biggest downfall, and could cause huge reputational and operational damage for large-scale businesses if they’re not addressed before it is too late.

How Can I Prevent It?

The solution to mitigating the risk of zero-day exploits and attacks involves both an investment in software and small but effective solutions that organisations could easily implement themselves. Again, these attacks prey on human error, and it’s important to have preventative security solutions in place that can detect vulnerabilities sooner.

• Comprehensive anti-virus software solutions can block unknown threats and prevent attackers from installing unknown software on your computer.

• By performing simple software updates in which vendors have deployed security patches to protect against new vulnerabilities, you’re less likely to fall victim.

• Install a web application firewall (WAF) on your network to filter out malicious traffic. Again, this form of attack preys on human error.

4. Denial-of-Service (DoS)

What Is It?

A Denial-of-Service (DoS) or Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack is a malicious, targeted attack that aims to flood a network with illegitimate service requests and traffic to trigger a system crash, rendering it inaccessible for users. By disrupting business operations, the attack prevents users from performing routine tasks or accessing resources that are operated by the compromised computer or network. Find out more about DDoS attacks in our recent blog.

How Can I Prevent It?

Regardless of your defences, DoS attacks can still penetrate your system. But with the right solutions, the risk can be reduced.

• Invest in software that can detect abnormal traffic spikes from legitimate site usage, so that you can identify dry run test threats before a fully-fledged attack is executed.

• Penetration testing can be used to your advantage, by performing a simulated attack to uncover and patch any detected vulnerabilities.

• A web application firewall (WAF) can also be used to monitor HTTP traffic, to prevent cross-site forgery, file inclusion and SQL injection.

5. Man in the Middle (MITM)

What Is It?

A man-in-the-middle attack (MITM) sees an attacker intercepting communication between two parties to spy, steal personal information or credentials, or change the conversation in some way. The attacker will often rely on unsecured network connections like public Wi-Fi to intercept exchanges. However, with the advancement of technology, many email and chat systems are now using end-to-end encryption to prevent third parties from tampering with the data, meaning MITM attacks don’t happen as much as others.

How Can I Prevent It?

• Ensure you have a strong and secure network connection. Avoid using public Wi-Fi connections when engaging in confidential conversations where your data could be jeopardised. Instead, use a VPN to protect your internet connection and privacy online.

• Invest in endpoint security software that can check potentially dangerous websites and emails, and step in to provide defence if your network becomes infected.

• Educate employees on how to remain vigilant throughout the communication process, and only have these conversations when you have access to a secure connection.

Our Solution

Staying on top of emerging threats doesn’t need to be a challenge – and you don’t need to do it alone. With comprehensive security solutions from Infosec K2K, we can work closely with your organisation to protect against the most common forms of cyber security attacks. But how so? With a managed Security Operations Centre (SOC) that combines artificial intelligence and human expertise, we can grant increased visibility and control over security matters with advanced detection and prevention techniques. With the right solutions, we can work to eliminate these threats and create a safer space for organisations to operate without disruption.

We put security first. Take the next step in protecting what matters most with expert cyber solutions from our trusted team. Get in touch today to find out how Infosec K2K can support you.