We recently released our Q1 Midmarket Threat Summary Report, which analyzes threat activity across multiple industries, as observed by our Security Operations Center (SOC).
The report found that scanning attacks and intrusion attempts represented 75% of signals in Q1, demonstrating that attackers are taking an opportunistic approach when targeting midsized organizations. While these types of attacks don’t always indicate a breach, they are good indicators that a breach could happen because they expose weaknesses or vulnerabilities that can be used to plan a future attack.
To strengthen security posture and effectively protect against threats, organizations should regularly apply patches and updates to their systems, devices and applications to prevent vulnerabilities from being exposed. But it shouldn’t stop there. There are additional measures you can take to proactively mitigate the risk of a breach.
“Together, Intrusion Attempts and Information Gathering accounted for about three quarters of all observed attacks.”– Q1 Midmarket Threat Summary Report
Social engineering attacks – like phishing, spam and webpages that manipulate users into installing malware on their computer or divulging confidential information – are successful because they prey on human trust. An organization’s lack of clear policies and inconsistent or irrelevant security training can make matters worse.
Defending against social engineering attacks should be a continuous security education exercise. The report recommends developing training for employees that helps them to identify, avoid and report phishing and other social engineering attempts.
Because these attacks cannot always be detected by traditional security methods, it’s up to the organization to broaden its understanding of common threats and methods, and drive awareness internally by sharing current and relevant use cases with their staff.
Enable Internal Segmentation
You can compare internal network segmentation to how a submarine operates under water. Thanks to dividing bulkheads, any area of the vessel can be isolated in the event of a flood. Where network segmentation is concerned, ideally, each department would be using a separate virtual local area network (VLAN) to protect against a fast-spreading attack.
So, for example, a computer in the finance department cannot be visible by a computer in the logistics department – and vice versa. All VoIP phones, printers and any other hardware connected to the network should be using a separate VLAN. This helps prevent attackers from moving laterally across an organization and reduce the potential impact of a successful attack.
As one would expect, this can be a rather complicated task for a large organization, but for a small to mid-sized organization it’s a very manageable and practical step. Segmentation is a basic security principle that can be achieved using physical or virtual firewalls, based on IP ranges and devices, active directory roles or specific applications.
Limit Excessive Visibility from the Internet
Another way to reduce the risk is to limit the number of externally-facing devices, systems or applications within an organization. Think of the Internet as a war zone, with no borders and limited regulations about what can and can’t be done. It’s not 100% safe to enter, but you can’t avoid crossing it, with interconnectedness and the rapid exchange of digital information being major driving forces of this industrial revolution.
In this context, reducing the threat surface does not mean disconnecting from the internet. Rather, it means making only minimum required ports and applications visible, and therefore exposed. It’s like the difference between closing and locking your doors and windows before you leave your house.
Here are some examples of commonly-abused exposures:
- For Windows, open ports 445, 135 and 139 are the common spread ports for attacks
- For *unix systems, excessive root privileges and weak passwords appears to be a common gap
- For mobile devices, excessive privileges on applications, as well as fake apps are the common issue
Find a Strategy That Works For You
There is no silver bullet to protecting against today’s cyber threats. Every organization is unique, so any cybersecurity recommendations should be dependent on the business context and operational environment within which new technologies and best practices are implemented.
For more information about technical hardening and mitigation strategies, visit:
- The United States Government Configuration Baseline (USGCB)
- National Checklist Program Repository
- Australian Signals Directorate Cyber Intrusions Mitigations Strategies
- European Union Agency for Networks and Information Security (ENISA)
Read the Report: Q1 Midmarket Threat Summary Report
The Q1 Midmarket Threat Summary Report, produced by the eSentire Threat Intelligence team, provides a quarterly snapshot of threat events investigated by the eSentire Security Operations Center (SOC). The report includes a written and visual analysis of threat types, threat volume and attack types, and offers practical recommendations for the midsized enterprise in protecting against attacks.