Top Data Security Threats
Social Engineering Attacks
Social engineering attacks are a major vector used by maliciou actors to gain access to sensitive data. They involve manipulating or tricking individuals into providing personal information or allowing access to privileged accounts.
Phishing is a common social engineering technique. In a phishing attack, threat actors send messages that appear to come from trusted sources, but are in fact malicious. For example, the attacker could send an email that appears to come from the victim’s bank, encouraging them to change their password. When the victim clicks the link, they are taken to a fake login screen, which delivers their credentials to the attacker.
Security configuration errors occur when security settings are not correctly defined, or systems are set up with their default security configuration, which is typically not secure. There are several industry security standards that define what security configurations should look like (for example, CIS benchmarksa and the OWASP Top 10). If configurations do not meet these standards, they can represent a severe business risk.
Misconfiguration often occurs when an administrator, developer, or database owner fails to properly configure security for a website, application, database, or server, leaving a door open for attackers. Misconfiguration can lead to large-scale data breaches. Misconfiguration exploits can have consequences like business disruption, reputational damage, legal exposure, and regulatory fines.
Shadow IT is the unauthorized use of third-party applications, software, or Internet services in a workplace. The reason Shadow IT is so popular is because employees often prefer applications or technologies that are more efficient and convenient than company-approved alternatives.
The problem with shadow IT is that an organization is are unaware it is happening, and shadow IT systems create a blind spot in their cybersecurity strategy. These third-party services often have weak security measures, or may not have the appropriate security configuration. This can lead to data breaches, compliance violations, and legal liability, because companies are held accountable for sensitive data stored by their employees in unauthorized locations.
If shadow IT is prevalent, it might indicate that a company does not provide its employees the most suitable tools for their job. Organizations need to have open conversations with their employees, understand their technical needs, and make their best effort to meet them.
Another solution is data loss prevention (DLP) tools, which can automatically stop employees from uploading or sending sensitive information, and can help monitor data flows to provide visibility over shadow IT within an organization.
In a ransomware attack, threat actors infect an organization’s systems with malware to encrypt all data. Users are unable to access the data and are asked to pay a ransom to regain access through a virtual currency like Bitcoin. Ransomware can spread via malicious email attachments, infected external storage devices, software applications, and compromised websites.
Backing up sensitive data is a crucial countermeasure against ransomware. However, some types of ransomware can infect backups as well. This makes it important to store a backup offline or in a separate site that cannot be infected by ransomware targeting the primary data center.
Advanced Persistent Threat Attacks
An Advanced Persistent Threat (APT) is a targeted cyberattack, in which a group of sophisticated threat actors penetrate a network and dwell in it. APT attackers can remain in a network, undetected, for months or even years. Typically, their goal is to monitor network activity, identify sensitive data, and steal it or use techniques like ransomware to extort the organization. Cybercriminals often execute APT attacks to target a high-value target, such as a large corporation or country, to steal data and cause major damage over time.
Learn more about these and additional threats in our guide to data security threats (coming soon)