3 security trends that should be on your radar

Cyber Attacks

There’s no shortage of cyber threats out there today − and no shortage of areas IT needs shore up its defenses. But a recent report highlights the three biggest threats to your systems in 2014 and beyond. 

Unfortunately, the threat landscape is ever-evolving. There are countless variations of cyberattacks being launched daily in targeted and wide-reaching blasts. To make matters worse, the malware and methods used to distribute these attacks are available cheaply and easily on the Internet – so it no longer takes a criminal mastermind to get into the hacking game.

Deciding which protections need the most attention is no easy task. But a recent study by RSA highlights the three biggest threat trends IT will face in the coming months and years.

Using this as a guide, you may be able to better focus your defenses.

Threat 1: Mobile attacks

The pervasive nature of smartphones has opened up a whole new attack vector for hackers. According to the report, there are 1.4 million malicious and high-risk apps for the Android platform alone.

Recent examples of mobile attacks include:

  • An Android version of the popular “ransomware” that infects systems and locks users out of their own files unless they pay to free them.
  • Malicious apps that come preloaded on phones bought through third-parties, and
  • SMS sniffers that are able to intercept text messages, including passwords sent from banks and other institutions to verify users’ identities. These are often used in conjunction with banking malware to help hackers log into users’ accounts remotely.

The mobile threat will only grow as users further integrate personal and corporate mobile devices into the workplace.

(Check out our sample BYOD policy for security advice.)

Threat 2: User authentication and passwords

Weak passwords are as old as the concept of a password itself. In fact, a recent investigation found that even hackers themselves use weak passwords on their own accounts.

But one  of the biggest threats to strong passwords is now mobile devices. While you may have gotten some users to create tough passwords with a mix of upper- and lower-case characters, numbers and symbols, you’ll likely never find one willing to tap those into a smartphone’s small display.

This is extremely worrying, especially when you consider that one-in-five users repeats the same password for every account they have. If that’s stolen from an inconsequential site or account, those same logins might also be used for work accounts or cloud storage sites containing company data.

While there aren’t a plethora of good alternatives, look for alternatives to passwords in the coming months and years. At the very least, expect biometrics, such as the fingerprint scanner in the new iPhones, and two-factor authentication to gain traction.

(For help crafting a better password policy, check out password policy template here.)

Threat 3: APTs and sophisticated attacks

Advanced persistent threats (APTs) cover a lot of ground. Essentially, these are attacks that are designed to keep trying and trying to gain access to a target rather than a smash-and-grab approach.

RSA highlights several instances of these types of attacks:

  • Botnets. These pieces of software are downloaded onto users systems and used to launch attacks from multiple vectors. They’re extremely hard to detect as hackers get better at masking their true function. And they’re pesky when you’re the target of an attack, too, as it makes it hard to nail down where the attack is originating.
  • Retooling attacks. Once an attack has been detected and protected against, hackers aren’t done. They’ll often change aspects of their malware – changing from a .zip to a .rar file or encrypting in a different language, for instance – to make an old piece of malware effective again.
  • Cyber espionageSpearphishing and targeting individual users with admin rights or access to sensitive data remains an ongoing challenge. Hackers are willing to take their time to go after the best targets and will try any number of methods to land them.
  • Watering hole attacks. This attack, which is coming into vogue, doesn’t target individuals like spearphishing. Rather, it focuses on categories of users and sets a trap on a resource they use frequently. For instance, if they want financial info, hackers might place traps on websites and services CFOs are likely to use.