Never has there been a more dangerous time for your business and your data. The threat landscape for businesses today is filled with many different security threats and attack vectors used by hackers and other malicious individuals. On the world scene, 2020 has already been a challenging year for businesses across the board with COVID-19.

Threats

Coupled with the current pandemic and the cybersecurity threats that have been very prevalent and growing in recent years such as ransomware, there are many different cyber risk types in 2020 that your business needs to prepare for.

First of all, what is a cyberattack? What are the types of cyber security threats? How can your business minimize the risk of a cyberattack on your business-critical data?

What Is a Cyber Attack?

cyber attack refers to a type of attack that is carried out by cybercriminals using a computer or group of computers to attack another computer, group of computers, or network. Cyber attacks have become all too common in today’s world largely due to how organizations have evolved in the way they carry out business.

Today’s businesses, no doubt including your own organization, heavily use technology to carry out business-critical operations and support their organization’s data. Data has been referred to as the new gold of this century as it represents the most valuable asset that a business possesses.

When you think about the fact that organizations rely on their customer data for day-to-day operations, selling, buying, turning a profit, making projections, and performing analytics, it is at the heart of just about every operation. What’s more, most businesses are expanding the way they are using and ingesting data.

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What Do Hackers Want?

There are generally three objectives behind cyber attacks:

  1. Disrupt or damage – This is often the objective that is highlighted by many of the cyber attacks that make headlines, including massive ransomware attacks. With these types of cyber threats, the attacker is looking to disrupt the normal business continuity of your organization to benefit in some way. A great example of this is ransomware. With ransomware, a ransom is demanded by the attacker to allow your business to return to normal operations and regain access to data.  Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks are another familiar type of attack that can prevent businesses from carrying out operations.
  2. Steal – Attackers can also have the objective to steal highly sensitive or valuable information, often to sell on the black market. These types of cyber attacks often result in damaging data leaks that result in a heavily damaged business reputation and potentially other consequences as a result of fines or legal implications.
  3. Infiltrate – Another aim of attackers is to infiltrate your organization’s network and slyly stay hidden, moving laterally through the network looking to ultimately compromise an administrator account.  Businesses can be compromised for literally “hundreds of days” or even years, without knowing it.  Below are figures from the IBM 2019 Cost of a Data Breach Report:
    1. The average time to identify a breach in 2019 was 206 days
    2. The average time to contain a breach was 73 days, for a total of 279 days

The potential damage, stealing of data, and widespread compromise that can happen in the meantime can be enormous and catastrophic to your business.

Who are behind cyber attacks?

You may wonder who is behind cyber attacks that are commonly carried out on your business today.  These generally fall within two categories of cyber criminals who may have differing motivations for what they do.

  • Insider threats
  • Threats from the outside

Who or what comprises each group of cyber criminals?

PEOPLE WITHIN YOUR ORGANIZATION

A very common but often overlooked threat to your organization is insider threats. Insider threats come from the very ones that you typically trust within your organization – your own employees.  While we certainly are not imputing bad motives on all employees, it only takes one unscrupulous employee to do major damage to your business.

Additionally, well-meaning employees can inflict data loss or data breach on your organization accidentally. Without thinking an end-user can accidentally expose sensitive data to the masses.

The top types of data security threats from insiders are as follows:

  • Disgruntled or unscrupulous employee intentionally damaging or leaking data from your organization
  • Malicious IT admin with administrative access to business-critical systems
  • Careless or even trusted employee who accidentally carelessly exposes, leaks, or damages critical data

Additionally, without controls over third-party applications in Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) environments, well-meaning employees could unintentionally install third-party applications that may in themselves have malicious intent or are “leaky” and expose sensitive data to others.

CYBER CRIMINALS

The other more commonly discussed types of security risks to your organization is the threat from attackers on the outside.  There are many different sources of cyber attacks from criminals on the outside.  This includes:

  • Organized criminal hacking groups or experienced individual hackers
  • Professional hackers working for an organized criminal hacking group
  • Nation-state hackers working for various governments
  • Amateur hackers who are simply looking to gain experience

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Cyber Attacks in 2020 – Current IT Security Threats

This year has presented challenges on a world scene that no one could have predicted.  The Coronavirus or COVID-19 has brought about sweeping changes in the way organizations are carrying out business throughout the world.  Most have shifted the workforce to a majority working from home.

With the shift in how and where employees are conducting business activities, hackers are following suit to capitalize on the shift in the workforce as well as even preying on the situation at hand with COVID-19.  Attackers know that employees working from home are more distracted than when working on-premises and most are extremely curious and interested in the situation with the Coronavirus pandemic.

This leads to a situation where employees are even more likely to fall victim to phishing attacks or malicious websites that lure employees with relevant COVID-19 headlines or subject lines.  In fact, a recent report by ZDNet highlighted the new threat that is evolving where attackers are looking to directly exploit the COVID-19 pandemic in various ways.

In Italy, which has been extremely hard hit by the COVID-19 outbreak, attackers are targeting users with Italian email addresses with messages claiming to be from the World Health Organization (WHO). In the email, attackers have attached a legitimate document from WHO, however, they are also dropping a Trojan on the end user’s machine that steals banking information and also turns the end-user computer into a bot that can be used in widespread cyber attacks.

Attackers are also targeting corporate environments with emails supposedly from contractors or delivery agencies noting how their services will be adjusted during the pandemic. Thinking the emails are legitimate again, corporate end users can be enticed to click on the attachment that drops malware on their system.

Other low-level scams have emerged using SPAM emails claiming to have a cure for the Coronavirus or asking for money or financial information for imparting the so-called medical advice.  Users who disclose their financial information will, of course, have that information compromised by the attacker.

In an apparent foreign state attack, the U.S. Health Agency was hit amid the COVID-19 outbreak.  Foreign state attackers have apparently been using directed attacks to disrupt and spread misinformation during the current pandemic.

As it turns out the risk from COVID-19 is not just a physical virus infecting individuals, it has been the catalyst that cybercriminals are using in 2020 in a large way to infect both unsuspecting end-users as well as organizations alike.

In addition to the cyber attacks directly related to COVID-19, attackers are still using many of the common categories of cybersecurity threats they have used in recent years to attack end-users and your organization in 2020.  What are the various types of cyber security threats and how are they classified?