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Common IT Security Issues

When it comes to your network’s IT security and protecting sensitive data and vital information, learn some of the most common issues.

Cybersecurity is a subject on almost every business leader’s mind today. It’s easy to see why. The number of businesses experiencing an attack increased by more than 15 percent last year alone.

The increasing number of attacks has put everyone on high alert. Governments are now passing new laws to improve data management. Business owners look to lock up their data.

The reality for many small business owners, though, is that IT security isn’t cheap. If you have a limited budget, you need to know how to spend it.

Luckily, we’ve rounded up this list of the most common IT security issues facing you and your company. With this knowledge in hand, you can work on creating a strategy to address these very real threats.

Phishing Attacks Are Evolving

If you haven’t read the IT security news recently, you might think viruses and worms are the biggest threats.

Social engineering is probably more common and more dangerous for your business. One common tactic is the phishing attack.

With a phishing attack, cybercriminals turn to individual users to give them the information they want. The criminals pose as a trusted source. This might be a financial institution or a well-known website.

They often send an email, which may look quite official at first glance. The sender asks the user for account or financial information. If the user falls for the trick, they send sensitive information to the sender.

The Rise of Spear Phishing

Spear-Phishing Attacks: What You Need to Know

Phishing attacks have moved away from being mass emailing campaigns. They’re becoming highly targeted messages, which is known as spear phishing.

In a spear-phishing attack, the criminal will track their target for some time. They put far more effort into crafting a message that’s more likely to fool the victim.

How can your team protect against phishing and other types of social engineering? The best possible thing to do is to train your team. Help them recognize and avoid threats, then report suspicious emails or messages.

DoS and DDoS Damage Businesses

Phishing attacks and social engineering focus on your people. They’re often the weakest links in the security chain.

Denial of Service and Distributed Denial of Service attack a different part of the chain. In this case, DoS and DDoS attack your servers.

These attacks are fairly easy for cybercriminals to carry out. They cause huge headaches for any web-based business. If your website is your only source of revenue, you want to protect yourself against DoS and DDoS attacks.

How do these attacks happen? A criminal uses a machine to send many requests to your web servers. The idea is to flood the server, overloading it and making it inaccessible to legitimate users.

Today, it’s difficult to take down a server with one machine. Cybercriminals have adjusted to this reality. They instead use DDoS to bring down your servers.

A DDoS attack uses many devices to flood your server. In some cases, there may be hundreds or thousands of devices sending requests.

In these cases, it’s likely the criminal has used malware to take control of other people’s devices. This creates what’s known as a botnet.

DDoS attacks are more difficult to overcome than DoS attacks because there are many IP addresses. It can be difficult to sort legitimate users from botnet requests.

Malware is More Versatile than Ever

Your anti-virus software is not enough

Malware may not be the buzzword on everyone’s lips these days, but don’t let that fool you. Malware is still at large, and the category is broader than ever.

Malware is any unwanted software installed on your system. It can take many forms:

  • Viruses, worms, and Trojans
  • Adware
  • Spyware
  • Ransomware
  • File and system infectors

In some cases, malvertising may be considered malware as well. This involves the hackers adding malicious code to an advertising website or network.

All these applications have one thing in common. The malicious code, file, or software allows the system to be hijacked. This may result in the loss of data or a complete shutdown of the system.

In some cases, it stops certain programs from functioning. In the case of ransomware, users are locked out of the system. The program must be removed or the ransom paid before access is restored.

IT consulting can help you design a system that is malware resistant. You still need to train your team to practice good cybersecurity. The right hardware and software, though, can make a world of difference.

Man-in-the-Middle Attacks Remain Common

One of the most common forms of cyberattacks is the man-in-the-middle, or MitM attack. In this scenario, a cybercriminal sets up between a client and a server. They then interrupt communications between client and server.

MitM attacks take a few different forms:

  • Session hijacking: A hijacker disconnects the client from the server and pretends to be the client.
  • IP spoofing: An attacker poses as a trusted entity to access sensitive information.
  • An attacker intercepts and saves old messages, then impersonates one of the participants.

man in the middle security breach
Man-in-the-middle attacks: A cheat sheet

MitM attacks are usually countered with encryption, but this isn’t always enough. Digital certificates and hashing can also help.

IT Security Must Prepare for an SQL Injection Attack

If your website is driven by a database, you may be subject to what’s known as an SQL injection attack. Older interfaces associated with PHP and ASP applications are especially vulnerable. Any site using dynamic SQL may be open to exploitation.

In this type of attack, a hacker sends SQL commands to the server through a form on your website. The server executes these predefined commands, returning the requested information.

SQL injection attacks can read sensitive information from the database. In some cases, this is the account information of many users. A hacker may also use the attack to change database records or even shut down the database.

To protect your system, you should put in place a least-privilege model of permissions. Avoid dynamic SQL in your stored procedures, and confirm input data against a white list in your app.

Cross-Site Scripting Exploits Web Resources

Google working on new Chrome security feature to ‘obliterate DOM XSS’

Cross-site scripting makes use of third-party web resources to run scripts in your browser. Other applications can also be compromised.

The attacker does this by adding malicious JavaScript to a website’s database. Whenever a page is requested from the infected site, the attacker’s JavaScript is transmitted along with the page. The malicious script is then executed.

Some attacks will reroute a browser or app to the attacker’s server. XSS can also be used to exploit more vulnerabilities in the victim’s system. This allows the attacker to:

  • Steal cookies
  • Log keystrokes
  • Capture screenshots
  • Collect network information
  • Control the victim’s device

JavaScript isn’t the only way to carry out an XSS attack, although it is one of the most common. VBScript, ActiveX, and Flash can also be exploited this way.

There are various methods for preventing XSS attacks. You can talk to your website development team or your IT consultants about your options.

Advanced Persistent Threats Are Long-Term Risks

Advanced Persistent Threats, or APTs, are what many people think of when it comes to cyber threats. These attacks usually take the form of code that is entered onto an unsuspecting system. The code then proceeds to run in the background, often undetected for months.

APTs aren’t idle, though, and the longer they go undetected, the more sensitive data they’ve stolen. APTs discover login credentials, then use this to penetrate deeper into your systems.

APTs often ride in on malware or exploit kits. You may think you’ve removed the threat after you’ve dealt with ransomware or file infector. The APT is still there.

Detection is possible. Ask your network administrators to keep an eye on network activity. Unusual network activity or large amounts of data access often show the presence of an APT.

Your IT team can also help by segmenting your network to protect critical data. Honeypots can trap internal attacks. White lists limit data access to a few applications.

The Dark Web Gave Rise to Exploit Kits

Giant ransomware bundle threatens to make malware attacks easier for crooks

Hacking is usually portrayed as requiring some effort from the hackers. You might picture someone typing away, trying password combinations or different codes.

Cybercriminals are always looking for ways to make hacking easier. That’s what led to the rise of exploit kits. These kits are sold on the dark web, and they’re designed to automate cybercriminal activity.

While this takes away from the hacker mystique, it makes them all the more dangerous. Exploit kits increase the success rate of attacks and improve efficiency. Cybercriminals using exploit kits can attack more users.

Discovering an exploit kit can be difficult since they’re meant to be discreet. Software and human solutions can help you protect your systems against these attacks.

 Build Security in to Your Business Plan

As you can see, IT security threats come in all shapes and sizes. You and your team need to be on guard almost constantly.

Whether you’re developing a website or an app, security should be on your mind. Check out more of our resources to discover how to build security right into everything your business does.

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