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Blog — May 31, 2017

Threat summary report: why today's cybercriminals like to keep it simple

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Cybercriminals have moved away from the sophisticated kinds of attacks we’ve seen in recent years. Today, they’re commonly using inexpensive, automated methods of intrusions, which have been very successful when used to target midsized organizations.

We recently released our 2016 Midmarket Threat Summary Report which analyzes threat types, volume, and preferred attack methods based on data gathered by our security analysts over the last year.

One of the key findings from the report was that today’s cybercriminals are moving away from high-risk, high-cost attacks to lower-level campaigns that can be prevented with basic security precautions.

“Cybercriminals are moving away from sophisticated malicious code attacks, with the majority of attackers preferring inexpensive and automated methods of intrusions, exploiting ‘low hanging fruit’.”

– 2016 Midmarket Threat Summary Report

Rudimentary attacks pose the greatest risk

According to the report, the most often observed threat categories were Intrusions Attempts, Information Gathering, and Policy Violations, which represented 63% of all observed attacks.

Here’s a brief description of each of these rudimentary threats, which are not always malicious by default, but are a strong indicator that an attack will likely occur.

Low Risk, High Reward

In its most literal sense, a rudimentary attack is one that does not require a great deal of effort or resources. It’s simple. These attacks, which use automated tools and one-size-fits-all malware like ransomware allow hackers to extort money and data from businesses without exerting time and effort on specific, tailored attacks.

Small and midsized organizations are appealing targets because they don’t have the education or resources to protect themselves. Cyber-attackers are always going to look for something easy to exploit, hence the reliance on rudimentary methods that we observed.

What You Can Do

Many organizations – particularly those with limited resources – don’t know how to protect themselves against cyber-attacks. What our 2016 threat data indicates is that many attacks can be prevented with good security hygiene. You can reduce your organization’s threat surface by applying these three recommendations.

Make Patching a Daily Routine

Go back to basics. Many organizations want to improve their patch management practices, but it’s not an urgent priority. For example, organizations could have prevented the WannaCry attack if they applied the patch when it was released in March. Simply put, patching should be part of your daily routine, and done as fast as possible in order to defend against threats.

Re-evaluate and Re-tune Technologies

Many organizations are overwhelmed with the onslaught of new technologies – to the point where they’re too busy to go back and clean the house properly. Security controls need to be constantly re-evaluated and improved – which requires tuning, maintenance, administration and sufficient allocated resources.

Enforce your Acceptable Use Policy

The reality for most companies is that employees are the weakest link. That’s why developing and enforcing an acceptable use policy (AUP), which clearly defines for employees what they can and cannot do with corporate systems, is critical to containing risk. As the threat landscape evolves and employees increasingly expect freedom to use network resources as they please, it’s imperative that policies are updated and enforced on a regular basis.

One More Thing: Show That You Take Cybersecurity Seriously

Beyond these recommendations, there are measures you can take to minimize the costly effects of a cybersecurity breach. Many companies are moving beyond simply demonstrating that they have cybersecurity policies and procedures in place to showing that they’re updating them on a regular basis, and that they have supporting documentation (e.g. meeting minutes, policy documents) to stand as evidence in the event that a breach occurs. This can result in huge savings for organizations when it comes to litigation costs and insurance claims.

Taking a proactive approach to cybersecurity demonstrates to regulatory authorities, and your clients, that you’re adapting as quickly as the threat landscape is evolving.

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eSentire is the Authority in Managed Detection and Response, protecting the critical data and applications of 1500+ organizations in 80+ countries from known and unknown cyber threats. Founded in 2001, the company’s mission is to hunt, investigate and stop cyber threats before they become business disrupting events. Combining cutting-edge machine learning XDR technology, 24/7 Threat Hunting, and proven security operations leadership, eSentire mitigates business risk, and enables security at scale. The Team eSentire difference means enterprises are protected by the best in the business with a named Cyber Risk Advisor, 24/7 access to SOC Cyber Analysts & Elite Threat Hunters, and industry-leading threat intelligence research from eSentire’s Threat Response Unit (TRU). eSentire provides Managed Risk, Managed Detection and Response and Incident Response services. For more information, visit www.esentire.com and follow @eSentire.