Top Cyber Security Threats to Organizations

Cyber security threats are a constant for organizations, whether they do business with the public or other organizations. Cyber threats are malicious attempts to gain unauthorized access to an organization’s network, and the resources on the network.

Cybercriminals or hackers somewhere in the world are constantly attempting to infiltrate an organization’s network, and these criminals pose a constant threat. Cyber threats can easily become cybercrimes if organizational leadership does not champion a cyber security program.

Leadership Shapes the Cyber Security Culture

It’s imperative that organizational leadership and senior management give the required manpower, training, and tools to mitigate cyber threats. Without support and buy-in from upper and middle management, an organization may expose itself to any number of cyber threats.

In 2020, cyber threats turned into mass data breaches that compromised user accounts, email addresses and credit card information. Some of this information was sold on the dark web.

Cyber Security Challenges

Organizations must be vigilant in keeping cyber threats from becoming cybercrimes. Cyber threats are only prevalent today because they keep making money for cybercriminals. Cybercriminals value information that can generate immediate revenue, either directly or when sold on the dark web. They especially value the following types of business information:

  • Banking credentials
  • Critical info about customers, vendors, and staff
  • Trade secrets
  • Information that can damage an organization’s reputation

Cybercriminals are motivated by the potential for stealing financial and intellectual property information; organizations must be equally motivated to eliminate or mitigate any cyber threats.

Cybercriminal Targets

Cybercrimes are estimated to reach $10.5 trillion in damages annually by 2025, according to Cybersecurity Ventures. Further, Coalition found that ransomware was responsible for 41% of the cyber insurance claims payouts in the first half of 2020.

Any organization or person can be the target of a cybercriminal, but these criminals tend to favor soft targets with a higher potential payout. The most vulnerable organizations need to ensure management is fully invested in a sound cyber security program. According to CDNetworks, these are the most vulnerable industries:

  • Small businesses
  • Healthcare institutions
  • Government agencies
  • Energy companies
  • Higher education facilities

Whether leadership is managing a financial institution or a small business, management staff must have a working understanding of cyber security risks in order to mitigate cyber threats.

Management personnel can ensure cyber security best practices are implemented by accessing sites like Center for Internet Security (CIS) or National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) to compare their current cyber security practices.

Popular Cyberattacks

Being keenly aware of the most popular cyberattacks should be part of the required annual security training for any organization. Cyber threats can occur internally or externally.

Internal Cyber Threats

These are the top internal cyber threats, according to Endpoint Protector.

  • Unauthorized data sharing: Sharing sensitive data with an external entity that does not have need-to-know privileges.
  • Shadow IT: Using unauthorized third-party software.
  • Unauthorized devices: Using an unsanctioned, unsecure device at work. USB sticks are a common example of this threat, but it can also include adding personal devices to the business network, or bringing an unsanctioned device into a secure area.
  • Theft of property: When sanctioned devices that may contain sensitive information, such as company laptops or phones, are not returned to the office.

External Cyber Threats

These are the top five external cyber threats.

  • Internet of Things (IoT): Weak passwords, lack of patching, and IoT skill gaps make this technology extremely vulnerable to an outside attack, according to Thales.
  • PhishingWhen cybercriminals pose as a trustworthy source and contact a user via email, phone, or text. The goal of phishing is either to directly obtain sensitive information via social engineering, or to infect the network with malware via malicious links.
  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS): Attempts to make a computer or network unavailable by overloading it with fake requests from multiple sources.
  • Brute-force attacks: When a hacker uses brute-force tools (e.g., Hashcat, L0phtCrack, or Aircrack-ng) to guess a user’s password. Weak passwords are especially vulnerable to a brute-force attack.
  • Advanced Persistent Threat (APT): A sophisticated attack in which a hacker infiltrates the network for an extended period of time, conducting multiple small attacks or data thefts over the course of months or years. APTs are often not detected using conventional cyber security measures.

Best Practices for Mitigating Cyber Threats

The best way to mitigate an internal or external cyber threat is to establish a clearly defined cyber security program that is disseminated to every employee within an organization. What’s more, no cyber security program can be successful if the program is not championed by leadership.

Read more: What Is Enterprise Security Management?

An annual or semiannual cyber security training program must be firmly established in the organization. Further, a refresher training session may be required if a new cyber threat is presented, or if repeated risky employee behavior is observed. A robust cyber security program also covers disciplinary actions for infractions committed by an employee.

7 Ways to Mitigate Cyber Threats

  1. Abide by the Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP). Provide employees with the minimum level of permissions needed to perform assigned tasks, and monitor permission sets for Privilege Creep.
  2. Minimize attack surfaces via microsegmentation. An essential part of zero-trust security, microsegmentation restricts access to applications and data based on approved identities and roles.
  3. Implement multi-factor authentication (MFA). MFA or two-factor authentication (2FA) add additional layers of access control, putting another line of security between hackers and a business’ data.
  4. Establish a strictly enforced policy for mobile devices. Ensure that sensitive data is never stored or transferred over unsecured mobile devices, and establish policies that prevent Shadow IT and other internal threats.
  5. Apply released patches and updates immediately. This applies to every device across the enterprise, as well as network infrastructure.
  6. Implement monitoring and backup services. Many third-party vendors offer backup and cyber security monitoring as a single SaaS solution.
  7. Ensure that cyberattacks are part of the Disaster Recovery Plan (DRP): Be sure to test the DRP regularly, and update it as the cyber threat landscape shifts.

Cyberattacks Are a Constant Threat

Cyber security is the responsibility of every member in the organization, especially management. Cyber security assets (e.g., hardware and software) and training for the employees and DevOps staff are all essential to a successful cyber security program.

Organizational leadership and senior management are also essential to the success of a good cyber security program. Threat-conscious behavior must be exhibited daily by leadership.

Read next: Are Your Containers Secure?

Don Hall
Don Hall has been employed as an IT Manager/Supervisor in the U.S. Government for over twenty years. He has managed programmers, cyber security, and infrastructure/networking personnel during his management career. Hall currently works as an IT Operations Officer that requires him to have general knowledge of various IT topics to assist his Command in making informed decisions or recommendations on behalf of the customers we support.

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