Cyber threats’ severity and sophistication continue evolving at an alarming pace, raising questions about organizations’ ability to defend against distributed attacks. Enterprise networks and systems are lucrative targets for malicious actors who steal sensitive data or hold companies’ ransom using malware. Currently, it takes the average business around 197 days to identify a security breach and 69 days to contain it, according to IBM’s 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report. This prolonged incident response leaves organizations vulnerable to significant financial and operational losses, costly unplanned downtime, and diminished productivity.
To offset the risk of large-scale security breaches, companies must understand how to quickly and efficiently detect and mitigate cyber threats. But given the growing number of hacking methods and social engineering tactics, how can businesses create a genuinely useful cyber security program?
Top cyber security threats: 2020 and beyond
Cyber attack detection and mitigation strategies use threat intelligence by keeping track of security trends and high-profile hacking incidents. Organizations can quickly adapt to new attack vectors and enhance their IT postures. Since every industry relies on different digital technologies, business leaders need to understand how their networks and systems are exploitable. For example, the manufacturing industry is undergoing a significant transformation, thanks to the industrial internet of things (IIoT) and wireless connectivity. While these advancements have helped boost productivity, they’ve also introduced new security concerns that can be hard to mitigate. According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology, the five most common cyber threats to manufacturers include:
- Identity theft.
- Phishing attacks.
- Spear phishing.
- Malicious spam.
- Compromised web applications and web pages.
Alongside these threats, manufacturers must guard against ransomware, brute-force attacks, data breaches, and other complex hacking techniques ubiquitous across industry lines. Cyber criminals are continually looking for new opportunities to turn crises in their favor, demonstrated by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In early April 2020, the Department of Homeland Security and the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency released a joint alert, warning businesses about the growing use of “COVID-19-related themes” by malicious actors. These cyber threats include:
- Phishing attacks that use COVID-19 as a lure.
- Malware distribution through emails related to coronavirus news.
- Brute-force attacks against remote access and teleworking infrastructure.
- Infected links on newly registered domains related to COVID-19.
These findings support a recent survey from CSO Online, which found that the volume, severity, and scope of cyber attacks have increased 26% since mid-March. To stay one step ahead, organizations must understand how to detect and mitigate cyber threats, prioritize cyber security awareness, and enhance their threat intelligence activities.
Cyber attack prevention: The role of risk assessments
The first step to improving any cyber security program is to conduct a thorough risk assessment that considers all devices, data stores, networks, and systems. You should perform risk assessment activities annually to ensure organizations know both traditional and emergent cyber attack methods. Under the NIST’s risk management framework, organizations should perform the following tasks:
- Categorize potential threats: By collecting information on cyber threat sources, events, and vulnerabilities, organizations can categorize different attack vectors based on their potential impact. This information can help identify high-risk threats and provide a foundation for detection and mitigation strategies.
- Select essential security controls: Using gathered threat intelligence, organizations can select baseline security controls for their data, networks, and systems. Over time, you should refine these security controls based on new threat and vulnerability information.
- Implement threat detection and mitigation tools: Companies should implement advanced cyber security tools to protect against specific threats after establishing baseline controls. These include vulnerability management software, threat detection systems, remote monitoring platforms, and more.
- Assess current IT posture: After making the above improvements, IT administrators should conduct a follow-up assessment to ensure all new security systems function as intended. These results can also help tailor incident response plans to particular threats and vulnerabilities.
- Monitor performance: Companies must monitor their networks and systems for new vulnerabilities and configuration flaws even after completing the risk assessment. This innovation process can help key decision-makers evaluate the effectiveness of security controls, the impact of changes to IT systems, and whether they comply with federal legislation.
Cyber security is all about preparation and prevention. By remaining proactive, organizations can implement evidence-based security processes and stay one step ahead of malicious actors. Of course, they know how to detect and mitigate cyber threats is also crucial, as even the most comprehensive cyber security defenses will experience an incident sooner or later.
How to detect cyber threats
Cyber threat detection requires strong internal IT policies and advanced monitoring. While some companies utilize manual processes, research from IBM found that security automation can significantly reduce the cost of breaches. The average breach cost for automation-focused companies stands at $2.88 million. In contrast, those without these tools have an estimated $4.43 million in price. In terms of specific threat detection tools, the NIST recommends prioritizing the following:
- Anti-virus software: Installing anti-virus software capable of detecting malware, spyware, ransomware, and malicious email attachments is essential to warding off a wide range of cyber threats. These mechanisms can help safeguard sensitive data, networks, and systems from malicious code by alerting IT administrators about high-risk incidents.
- Threat detection logs: Most cyber security platforms offer advanced logging capabilities to help organizations detect suspicious activity on their networks and systems. Security professionals can conduct detailed network and computer security investigations simultaneously by maintaining and reviewing these logs.
Other key threat detection strategies include:
- Penetration testing: Testing allows companies to identify vulnerabilities in their systems, networks, and web applications. By filling the shoes of malicious actors, internal security experts can probe their IT environments for unpatched software, configuration issues, authentication errors, and more.
- Automated monitoring systems: Alongside manual processes, companies can enhance their IT posture by integrating automated threat detection systems. Asset management platforms can help organizations keep track of device performance and activity. Simultaneously, network security tools can monitor web traffic in real-time. These systems will alert the cyber security team when irregularities are detected, reducing incident response times.
How to mitigate cyber threats
Prevention is always the best approach when it comes to mitigating cyber threats. Organizations can eliminate a wide range of potential attack vectors by continuously monitoring vulnerabilities, suspicious activity, and unauthorized access. End-user education is also crucial, especially in phishing scams and malware distribution. The more employees know about these attack methods, the less likely they will click on an infected link or hand over their sensitive data to malicious actors. Key cyber threat mitigation strategies include:
- Vulnerability management: Staying on top of device, network, and system vulnerabilities is essential to any organization’s cyber security defenses. Hackers frequently leverage zero-day exploits, weak authentication, and untrained users to aid their illegal activities. By keeping all software and operating systems up to date, companies can prevent malicious actors from establishing a foothold inside their IT infrastructure.
- Data loss prevention: Insulating sensitive data from unauthorized users is a top concern for companies in almost every industry, especially those collecting and storing consumer information. Developing a data backup schedule and data loss prevention system can help reduce the risk of unplanned downtime from ransomware attacks, malware, and more.
Understanding how to detect and mitigate cyber threats is only one piece of the puzzle. Companies must also establish clear internal policies to ensure that all employees follow best practices and uphold regulatory requirements. These guidelines are essential in manufacturing, as a single security breach can lead to significant financial and operational disruptions.
As a proud supporter of American companies, Certitude Security® is working diligently to inform leaders and facilitate essential asset protection priorities for manufacturers and supply chains throughout the United States.
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