As we navigate through 2023, the digital frontier continues to expand, bringing forth numerous novel opportunities and, regrettably, a myriad of cybersecurity threats. These cyber threats are not simply an IT concern; they have profound implications for business continuity, customer trust, and national security.
Understanding these risks and their evolution is the first step in mounting an effective defense. This article will explore the most significant cybersecurity threats organizations face in 2023, providing insights into their nature, their potential impacts, and the steps you can take to safeguard against them.
Supply Chain Security
Third-party supply chains play a significant role in the modern business ecosystem, providing companies with a wide range of services and products. However, these relationships also open up potential new vectors for cybersecurity threats, often called supply chain attacks.
A few ways that third-party supply chains can impact cybersecurity include:
- Expanded Attack Surface: When a business uses third-party suppliers, it effectively extends its cybersecurity perimeter to include those suppliers. If a supplier has weak cybersecurity practices, it can provide a point of entry for hackers to infiltrate the supplier and the businesses it serves.
- Insider Threats: Supplier employees may have access to a company’s sensitive data. If these employees become malicious or careless, they can cause significant harm.
- Software Supply Chain Attacks: This type of cyber attack happens when a hacker infiltrates a software vendor and implants malicious code into the software the vendor distributes to its clients. The clients, trusting the vendor, install the infected software, allowing the hacker to infiltrate their systems. An infamous example of this is the SolarWinds attack in 2020.
- Hardware Supply Chain Attacks: Similar to software supply chain attacks, in a hardware supply chain attack, a hacker compromises a component of a physical product during its manufacture. Compromised hardware can pose significant security risks at any point in the supply chain.
- Third-party Data Storage: Cloud storage seems stable for the most part, but a compromised CSP can cause significant risk for any organization using those resources.
Growing Cyber Warfare and Advanced Persistent Threats
An Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) is a type of cyber threat where a hacker, typically state-sponsored, uses advanced techniques and exploits to infiltrate and move through a system undetected, collecting information. APTs are typically long-term threats that stay under the radar for months or even years.
APT attacks are known for their sophistication, persistence, and the significant resources behind them. They often use advanced hacking techniques and strategies to get past defenses, avoid detection, and maintain access to the network.
APT actors specifically target organizations with high reward potential. If the goal is theft, then this will usually include financial institutions. If the goal is disruption, then the targets are often government agencies and utility providers. If infiltration is a priority, then APTs have been known to target cloud and SaaS providers.
Common stages of an APT attack include:
- Reconnaissance: The attacker gathers information about the target, its employees, their activities, and the security controls in place.
- Initial Compromise: The attacker uses the information gathered to gain initial access to the network, often through techniques like phishing, exploiting software vulnerabilities, or using stolen credentials.
- Establish Foothold: Once inside, the attacker deploys malicious software (malware) to maintain access to the network.
- Privilege Escalation: The attacker attempts to gain higher-level access (like admin access) to increase their control over the network.
- Internal Reconnaissance: The attacker maps the network and identifies the locations of the most valuable information.
- Maintain Persistence: The attacker uses stealthy techniques to remain undetected within the network for a long time.
- Data Exfiltration: The attacker copies and transfers the target data off the network.
Given their complexity and persistence, APTs are considered significant threats and require advanced and continuous defense strategies to prevent, detect, and mitigate.
There is a significant level of hype in the market for AI tools. While in many cases (writing, art, and creativity) the hype is a bit unwarranted, specialized AI has long been a part of enterprise applications–including those in cybersecurity.
Accordingly, while Artificial Intelligence (AI) has enhanced cybersecurity defenses, it has also presented new potential threats. Here are a few ways in which AI could pose a cybersecurity threat:
- Automated Hacking: AI can be used by malicious actors to automate hacking attempts. With AI, hackers can carry out attacks more rapidly and efficiently, increasing the volume and speed of attacks.
- AI-Powered Malware: Malware equipped with AI capabilities can learn from their environment and make decisions to improve their chances of success. For instance, they could lay dormant when they detect a sandbox environment (a tool used by security professionals to analyze malware behavior) or choose the best time to launch an attack based on user activity.
- Phishing Attacks: AI can be used to create more sophisticated phishing attempts. For instance, AI algorithms can analyze communication patterns and craft personalized phishing emails that are more likely to deceive recipients. There’s also the threat of deep fakes, where AI manipulates audio and video to create realistic but fake content, potentially tricking individuals into believing they are interacting with a trusted individual or entity.
- Adversarial Attacks: In these attacks, malicious actors use techniques to fool AI systems. For instance, they could manipulate data inputs to AI systems to cause them to malfunction. An example would be altering an image in a way that is almost invisible to humans but causes an AI image recognition system to misidentify it.
- Data Poisoning: AI systems learn from data. If hackers can feed these systems incorrect or maliciously crafted data, they can cause the AI to make wrong decisions or predictions.
- Bypassing Anomaly Detection: AI and ML are often used in cybersecurity to detect anomalous behavior that might indicate a cyberattack. AI can help attackers learn how to avoid behavioral detection that’s also operated through AI.
Phishing is probably a familiar tactic on lists like these, and for good reason–it explicitly targets human frailty and leverages trust communications to gain access to systems. It’s long shelf-life is a testament to its effectiveness and staying power.
Phishing is considered a significant security threat for several reasons:
- Human Error: Phishing exploits human vulnerabilities rather than technical ones. A single employee clicking on a malicious link can lead to a security breach. Training people to recognize phishing attempts can help, but it’s challenging to eliminate human error entirely.
- Increasing Sophistication: Phishing attacks, and in particular spear phishing and whaling attacks, are incredibly sophisticated in many cases. This sophistication includes better research and more diverse media (like SMS or video chat)>
- High Success Rate: Phishing is typically a numbers game, but one that doesn’t require a huge number of successes. And, unfortunately, people are still susceptible. Despite awareness campaigns, phishing attacks are highly successful. According to the Verizon 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report, phishing was present in 22% of breaches, the highest of all threat actions.
- Potential for Data Breach: Phishing attacks often result in data breaches, which can have severe consequences for companies, including financial losses, regulatory fines, reputational damage, and loss of customer trust. In some instances, data breaches of email databases can result in further, more expansive phishing campaigns.
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And more. We are the only FedRAMP and StateRAMP Authorized compliance and risk management solution worldwide.
Continuum GRC is a proactive cyber security® and the only FedRAMP and StateRAMP Authorized cybersecurity audit platform worldwide. Call 1-888-896-6207 to discuss your organization’s cybersecurity needs and find out how we can help your organization protect its systems and ensure compliance.
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