Every Week Is Shark Week in Cyberspace
Your data, identities, and credentials are cyber chum. Here's how to protect yourself from the feeding frenzy.
Your odds of being attacked by a shark are zero if you never venture into the ocean — which is far lower than the odds of being cyber hacked even if you never go online. After all, you could still become a victim of identity theft without ever wading unto Internet waters.
The point is this: Fear the cyber shark far more than the great white, tiger, or bull shark, whose majesty was celebrated this week during the Discovery Channel's Shark Week, as it has every year since 1987.
So, what can Shark Week teach us about cybersecurity? Here are four areas to focus on in honor of Shark Week.
1. Assume the Role of a Lifeguard
An organization's ocean is the Internet. Some if it equates to shallow waters such as internal networks, but much of is deep and uncharted via the cloud. No matter the depth of the water, you still need to assess the risks of venturing into potentially perilous territory. A CISO is a company's lifeguard, which means being aware of, adapting to, taking precautions against, and assuming control of the threats that attackers present. With threats always evolving, it's imperative to keep improving your organizational lifeguarding skills.
2. Guard Against Phishing Attacks and Save the Whales
Phishing attacks — and, specifically, mobile phishing attacks — continue to rise. In fact, the SANS 2017 Threat Landscape Survey reported that phishing remains the most significant threat to organizations, with 74% of cyberattacks beginning when a user clicked on a malicious attachment or link contained in an email.
Spearphishing attacks are also increasing, rising to 50% in the last quarter of 2017. This technique has been used to devastating, well-documented effect over the past few years. Spearphishing takes the form of an email that appears to be from the recipient's friend or colleague. The email encourages the recipient to click on what are in reality malicious links or attachments or persuades that person to reply with sensitive professional or personal information. These attacks are difficult to identify on the surface because they combine the most common attributes of successful social engineering.
Social engineering tactics are also heavily leveraged in an even more insidious method of phishing known as pretexting, business email compromise (BEC), or "whaling" attacks. These attacks create the believable pretext of a fabricated persona in which the victim — most often a C-level executive — develops a false sense of trust in the hacker. Once the relationship has been established, money-transfer fraud and/or outright data theft quickly follows.
Prevention measures for all phishing, spearphishing, and whaling attacks are widely known and essentially the same. Yet despite anti-phishing methods such as reporting suspicious emails and routinely changing passwords, attacks are still increasing. Modern authentication techniques can be great tools for preventing the repercussions of stolen credentials. Performing security audits and providing user education and training are also solid prevention methods.
3. Safeguard Your Waters with Modern Authentication Methods
Many threats are false positives; the dorsal fin of a friendly, curious dolphin can look like the dorsal fin of a shark that's circling the waters. Similarly, an access attempt might not look suspicious until it's too late. With 80% of breaches being caused by valid yet stolen or misused credentials, it is imperative to validate every access attempt — ensuring that the good guys get in (without hindering user experience and productivity) while keeping the bad guys out. Today's available solutions add intelligence and analytics to authentication methods. These risk-based solutions, available from many vendors, focus on the user's profile and tendencies. They can include techniques such as geographic analysis, device recognition, and IP address-based threat services.
4. Continually Assess Your Environments
Threats are everywhere, in the water and online. They're usually hidden. They sometimes don't appear until it's too late. But that shouldn't keep humans from swimming in the ocean or conducting activity online, especially in the age of digital transformation. Safety counts, and precautions matter.
During Shark Week, we witnessed humans taking shelter in shark cages and avoiding seal-populated areas and shark-infested waters. As organizations continue to engage in Internet activities, remember to follow identity and security best practices, keep your senses alert for phishing emails and have a remediation and response plan when an attack does occur.