Threat actors are any malicious entities that initiate breaches against security measures of an organization. Let's face it: These days, just about all of us rely on technology to send and receive information. Threat actors capitalize on our need for constant transmission of data with malicious tactics like fake phishing emails that impersonate people you know, such as your co-workers or relatives.
Of course, that's just one example of nefarious activity that can jeopardize sensitive data belonging to a company or individual. Threat actors have diversified methods of phishing to include techniques such as voicemail, SMS (or smishing) attacks, and website cloning attacks, to name a few. Phishing attacks, unfortunately, have a 30% success rate of being opened, which is why it's important for every modern business with a digital footprint to understand the types of threat actors active today.
Let's take a look at the most common types of threat actors, the techniques of phishing they most often use, and the most reliable and easy-to-adopt methods that organizations can use to deflect them.
1. Active application attackers
When a web-based application needs to run and provide users with access, it needs to send and receive real-time transmissions of data. Organized cybercriminals who steal data mid-transmission are the most common culprits behind these application-based attacks, and are often initiating their cyber attack to achieve the goal of financial gain. These threat actors often sell sensitive data that they capture from running applications illegally, which can literally ruin a business's financial standing overnight.
The idea of organized cybercrime may seem scary, until you realize that your response to cybercrime can be just as organized. For instance, companies can scan their customer-facing applications for vulnerabilities even when those apps are running live in a web browser.
According to security analysts from Cloud Defense, scanning applications while they are running and communicating with the server is best done on a single platform that can identify and categorize vulnerabilities based on their calculated risk factors. Unified platforms secure and protect applications with both static application and dynamic application security testing, so that you can automatically analyze code for vulnerabilities without needing to access your own source code to search for security risks.
Therefore, mitigating threats to the application layer needs to focus on the end-user and should always target application layer security to require that user input be carefully controlled. Ensure that you are mitigating risk to your customer data by not only locking down application session security and user access, but also by hardening your application layer against cyber attacks such as SQL injections, which have claimed 65% of businesses as victims.
2. Customer payment interceptors
The threats that face the financial services and payments industry are on the rise, and are particularly frightening to customers of eCommerce brands.
As eCommerce digital presences become more entrenched and sophisticated for users, so too are the cyber threats facing their web visitors. Cyber threats present the potential for significant economic impact and were responsible for approximately $3 trillion worth of fallout costs to the global economy in 2020.
It's therefore important for any company with an eCommerce presence to make sure that any services they use to handle customer payments come with PCI-DSS certification, which determines security requirements for online payment processing. With PCI-DSS certification, businesses can freely and securely pay clients on payment schedules, accept partial payments from customers, and provide multiple payment options including VISA, MasterCard, AMEX, and digital wallets such as Apple Pay.
Businesses should also obtain TLS certificates to provide security and credibility to their sites. The three types of TLS validation levels – Domain Validated (DV), Organizational Validated (OV), and Extended Validated (EV) certificates – all provide varying levels of security for public-facing websites that need to process sensitive transactional data. The highest of these certificates, EV, can help even large banks and nationwide enterprises through a rigorous vetting and web validation process.
3. Ransomware and Malware
Ransomware and malware attacks are among the most prevalent cyber attacks that threat actors perpetrate. Ransomware attacks can begin with one click of a malicious URL and are particularly effective against victims who still use outdated legacy software or else have built tools internally that are woefully insecure. These legacy systems, combined with a lack of a dedicated Information Security (InfoSec) team, spell disaster for organizations without solid digital hygiene.
Many companies experience annual security breaches because they fail to enforce strong password-creation rules across the organization. Ransomware and malware attacks can easily penetrate your network from a USB device or insider threat actor if you don't have these simple protections in place.
Additionally, it's important to have quality antivirus tools ready to deploy such as antivirus shields and firewalls, which can prevent viruses from compromising your machine. Make sure that your organization invests in internet security programs that can scan your computer for viruses or include email attachment scanners. These tools can go a long toward improving your overall network security, and usually automatically update to detect newer forms of ransomware and malware viruses.
These measures are not the only tactics businesses can use to prevent ransomware and malware attacks perpetrated by threat actors, but they are among the most effective. If for whatever reason your system is attacked by ransomware, consider running a decryption tool or using your security service to run a scan for any potential viruses that have infected your machine.
Threat actors are continuing to create more sophisticated methods of cyber attacks, and it's imperative that organizations with a digital presence understand which protective measures to adopt. Modern forms of communication extend to just about every electronic device you own, which means it's important to cover your bases with security tools wherever possible.
Ransomware and malware attacks are among the most common forms of cybercrime and often occur when a company is using outdated or legacy software with few, if any, security protections in place. Stay vigilant and make sure your organization invests in the right enterprise security tools that can protect your users and information from the inside-out.
Note: This blog article was written by a guest contributor for the purpose of offering a wider variety of content for our readers. The opinions expressed in this guest author article are solely those of the contributor and do not necessarily reflect those of GlobalSign.