Cybersecurity is a set of tools and techniques protecting critical digital infrastructure and sensitive information from cyber-attacks. These protective measures safeguard networks, servers, systems, and sensitive data against cyber threats. These threats include unauthorized access, malware, trojans, zero-day exploits, and more. They can disrupt services, compromise sensitive information, and cause financial loss. Moreover, an organization will have to deal with PR and reputational damages in case of a data breach.
Hence, individuals and organizations need to prioritize cybersecurity and instill a security culture by investing in the right tools and training. Cybersecurity specialists can prepare themselves against existing and emerging threats by understanding security loopholes, enhancing their knowledge and skills, and taking effective measures to mitigate the risks. This article will discuss the top six cybersecurity challenges in 2023.
- Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)
Advances persistent threats (APTs) are stealthy, strategic, and coordinated attacks by cyber criminals allowing infiltration of an organization’s network. These criminals, a group of inside or outside attackers, use malicious tools and techniques such as phishing, spear-phishing, rootkits, and exploit kits to get unauthorized access.
APT is a persistent and complex cyberattack consisting of five phases, information collection, penetration, trigger mechanism, internal spread, and data breach. This attack is carefully planned, executed, and implemented. Once a group of attackers has access to the network, they don’t just ‘hit-and-run’; instead, they stay in a system to gather as much information as possible.
APT attacks use customized malware, or zero-day vulnerabilities, to break through firewalls, intrusion detection, and prevention systems. Therefore, cybersecurity specialists need hands-on experience with security frameworks, security system design, engineering, and operation. Existing professionals can enroll in an online masters in cybersecurity degree to advance their careers and equip them with the right skills to secure their or their organization’s systems.
Social Engineering and Phishing Attacks
In social engineering, attackers use emails, websites, and other modes of communication to get unauthorized access to sensitive information. Social engineering attacks trick users through fear, urgency, and psychological manipulation. Therefore, this attack relies heavily on communication between the user and the attacker.
Phishing is one of the famous and common forms of social engineering threats. The attacker imitates a trusted source, person, or website and manipulates a user into performing an action. The action results in giving in credentials and personal or financial information. Types of phishing include email phishing, spear phishing, whaling, smishing and vishing, and angler phishing.
- Email Phishing
The attacker registers a fake email address, or domain, mimicking a genuine organization, and sends emails to thousands of email addresses. The phony email or domain involves subtle changes; most people fail to recognize the difference. These subtle changes may include character substitution, like using “a” instead of “ɑ.” In this example, “ɑ” is a special character, but most of the users will fail to notice it and will click on the link. The link then executes malicious code to compromise the data of the victim.
- Spear Phishing
Spear phishing is more sophisticated and a targeted attack than email phishing. The attacker personalizes the email for the intended victim. An attacker might have access to the following information about the victim:
- Business or personal email address
- Details of their role
The email originates from a trusted source due to informality and specific information, creating a sense of urgency. The victim downloads the attachment that infects the system, giving away the credentials or other sensitive information. As a result, the user system or account is compromised, and the attacker has access to data or the enterprise network.
Whaling, or CEO fraud, is similar to phishing attacks and uses email or malicious website spoofing. The attack tricks the target into performing an action, providing credentials or sensitive information. Under the pretense of a C-level employee at the organization, the attacker directly targets the victim. The communication appears to be sent from a senior in the organization, aka “whales,” such as the CEO or General Manager. As a result, the staff, hesitant to refuse a request from someone influential in the organization, become a victim of whaling. They end up giving away sensitive information or money to the attacker.
- Smishing and Vishing
Smishing replaces emails with SMS messages to trick victims. SMS messages can be about winning gift vouchers from an organization, account setup completion, or imitating a colleague needing financial help. Smishing message content can also state issues with the victim’s bank account and trick to click a link to reset the username and password. The attack can be called “hit-and-run,” with the attacker getting away with money or credentials.
Organizations widely use VoIP systems instead of traditional phone systems. VoIP systems provide better accessibility and flexibility. And that’s how vishing attacks are executed, by placing a VoIP call or leaving a recorded message for the victim. Vishing scammers can pretend to be banking or financial institute representatives requesting immediate action to safeguard user accounts. Or they can use smishing and vishing together, a text message suggesting password change, followed by a recorded message or a call, creating a sense of urgency or fear in the victim. The scammers with access to personal information make themselves sound credible, and the victim can lose money or sensitive data.
- Angler Phishing
An angler phishing attack is one of the emerging phishing techniques. The aim is similar to a phishing attack, tricking victims into revealing personal, financial, or other sensitive information.
Angler phishing attacks target social media users. Scammers masquerading as customer support representatives use the same trick as angler fish: luring prey in. Attackers create bogus social media accounts of big organizations. These email accounts mimic the original organization, e.g., “@microsoftcustomercare.com.”
When a user posts a complaint about a specific organization, the angler phishers respond quickly, requesting personal information. They request details to verify the problem and address it appropriately. Scammers ask for a direct message, and the victim reveals sensitive information. If the victim is redirected to a spoofed website, they might infect their system with malware.
Organizations need to educate employees about existing and emerging cybersecurity challenges. Training and frequently testing employees’ knowledge can prevent these attacks and mitigate the risks of data breaches and leakage.
Businesses need a strong security mechanism that includes threat and intrusion detection software, a zero-trust policy, and a proactive approach to threats. And a contingency plan must be placed in case an incident happens so the organization can respond to an intrusion quickly and effectively.