Cyber-threats in 2016: Evolution, Potential & Overcoming Them pt 1

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 IoT ready and ready 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 Cyberthreats 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!

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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 organizations. 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 unauthorized attempts to intrude organizational 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, authorization 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”— Current or former employees active on social media channels, using laptops with un-updated security measures, unsupervised remote access to company data, unauthorized access via mobile & web-enabled devices.

Just like the Judgment Day, Internet of Things (IoT) is inevitable. It is already upon us, creating tremors, earthquakes and after-shocks, shaking-up organizations 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 cyberthreat. Even more critical is to have an effective cybersecurity policy—protocols that 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 unauthorized access to your data, you need to familiarize yourself with the basics of the game.

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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 realize 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 that 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 organizations can lose business-critical, researched and analyzed 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:

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  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 2-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.

In the next installment we’ll discuss the proper steps to diagnosing a Cybercrime and what steps to take after that.