Whether in sport, combat or business, it pays to know the opposition – their aims, tactics and mindset. But what if the opposition is an unknown quantity? A moving and constantly evolving target that hides in the shadows, ready to strike at any moment. For IT professionals, the challenge of protecting organisations against an unknown enemy is one that many will know only too well. Damaging cyber-attacks, instigated by hard to trace criminals, are widespread and with over one million new threats reported daily, the challenge of successfully detecting and preventing malicious activity is growing. Today’s cyber criminals are creative, patient and well-resourced. Businesses today need to be equally savvy and determined to successfully protect their valuable assets and reputation.
Defending against the latest cyber attacks
Detecting threats before they cause harm should be a key priority for all organisations but via a wide range of evolving attack techniques, cyber criminals make this tough. By covertly surveying an organisation’s complete threat landscape, hackers deliberately exploit weaknesses across systems, devices and software, as well as in employee behaviour, to initiate attacks designed to steal critical business data, extort money and deny service. Known attack methods include viruses, trojans, ransomware, drive-by-downloads and phishing. As user behaviour changes, such as adoption of new tools, services and applications, this list will continue to grow. Detecting the presence of a hacker within a network can be particularly difficult as perpetrators often avoid detection by quietly hiding out in a system over a prolonged period of time. A common sequence of attack will involve a hacker seeking out network vulnerabilities before proceeding to disable security measures, infect more end points, and striking when a business is most vulnerable – typically out of office hours. Given the covert nature of a cyber-attack, it can take organisations that lack an adequate level of protection weeks, months or even years to realise that they’ve suffered a breach.
The problem with traditional security
Businesses relying solely on traditional defences such as signature-based firewalls and anti-virus software are particularly vulnerable to cyber-attack. These systems are only useful at detecting known threats that can be identified by a recognised file signature and will not detect the latest polymorphic or encrypted code types used by hackers. To comprehensively spot the latest threats, it is important for businesses to deploy signature-based detection alongside heuristic detection and sandboxing. Heuristic detection utilises algorithms to analyse a network for events or commands which may indicate malicious intent. Sandboxing provides extra protection by executing potentially malicious files in a safe, virtualised environment. Investment in the latest technology alone is by no means a guarantee of detecting and preventing cyber-attacks however. To deliver results, good systems should be supported by solid risk management processes as well as the personnel with the skills and experience to assess vulnerabilities and analyse detailed system information like event logs. The bad news for business, particularly small and mid-market ones, is that all the resources required to deal with the latest threats can easily exceed already stretched in-house assets and place a significant strain on budgets and skillsets.
The importance of thinking like the adversary
When thinking about the resources that your own organisation needs to protect itself against the latest cyber threats, a successful approach is to think like the adversary. Only by adopting the mindset of a determined and agile cyber criminal can you seek to thoroughly minimise risk by identifying all vulnerabilities that could be exploited. For most businesses, a change in mindset cannot be achieved overnight. Effective security requires a thorough understanding of the threat landscape and this can take time to build up. Obtaining the support of the entire business is also critical in achieving the right outcome. To help identify and deal with the growing problem of cyber threats, an increasing number of businesses are turning to a Managed Security Service Provider (MSSP), a dedicated team of security professionals with the expertise and technology, to supplement existing in-house monitoring capabilities. Acting as a virtual extension of an organisation’s IT department, an MSSP reduces the need for businesses to invest in in-house technology and security professionals, which analysis has shown can be up to four times more expensive than a managed service.
Choosing the right service
Choosing an MSSP that truly understands the mindset of cyber criminals should be a key priority. Only by offering Structured Attacked Simulation and Penetration testing services alongside 24/7 Managed Detection and Response, can an organisation truly profess to understand and protect against the latest threats. By working across industries and being exposed to many different threats, an MSSP can help to keep your business safe by combining IT, networking and security knowledge with the time and dedication needed to keep on top of the unknown enemy.
Redscan Cyber Security Ltd is a Managed Security Services Provider (MSSP) helping businesses of all sizes defend themselves against today’s increasingly sophisticated cyber-attacks. By utilising the latest technology and adopting the mind-set of the adversary, Redscan’s team of security specialists are expertly equipped to challenge the defences and incident response capabilities of any organisation.