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3 Clues That Hackers May Know More About Your Business Than You Do | #hacking | #cybersecurity | #infosec | #comptia | #pentest | #hacker | #hacking | #aihp


When high-profile attacks against major casino operations, tech giants, or power grids make the headlines it’s only natural to assume you’re safe because threat actors appear to be focusing on the big guys. But research shows threat actors don’t discriminate. A recent survey of more than 2,000 small and midsize businesses and midmarket firms found that 52 percent of small and midsize businesses and 71 percent of midmarket firms dealt with ransomware attacks last year, and 56 percent of small and midsize businesses and 88 percent of midmarket firms experienced other types of cyberattacks.

Operating under the assumption that your business isn’t on the radar of cyber adversaries makes it easy to miss important clues that they may know more about your business than you do. Here are three signs:  

1. Hackers hit multiple companies in the same industry.

Threat actors leverage domain knowledge to launch targeted attacks against entire classes of enterprises within specific industries. They take advantage of vulnerabilities in file transfer software that is widely deployed in a particular sector like regional banks and credit unions. They target clinics and regional hospitals that rely on new online services and connected devices and systems that haven’t been adequately hardened. They capitalize on major online sales events in sectors like retail, travel, and hospitality that open the door to e-commerce fraud.

2. Hackers hit the same company multiple times.

Businesses hit by ransomware fall into two categories: they meet the demands and pay the ransom, or they don’t. Once threat actors understand your environment and know you’ll pay, research finds the likelihood of being hit a second time rises to 80 percent, with threat actors demanding a higher payout the second time. 

3. Hackers optimize for return on investment.

Even though the total upside from an attack on a smaller business may be less, threat actors know the level of effort and risk are also typically less. Smaller businesses often have limited security resources, and as a result, often a lower level of security awareness and limited security tools and processes. Analysis of security investments by small and midsize businesses and midmarket firms finds only 32 percent of employees understand phishing and only 15 percent have had security awareness training. At the same time, 41 percent of small and midsize businesses and midmarket firms are sure that 100 percent of their employees have access privileges beyond what they require. Once inside, threat actors can operate unnoticed for longer periods which translates into more damage.

What to do about your cybersecurity.

The reality of today’s threat landscape can be daunting, but entrepreneurs and business leaders are by nature problem solvers and the following recommendations will help mitigate risk:

1. Talk to your peers and share threat intelligence and best practices.

One of the best things you can do is coordinate with your peers to be prepared both organizationally and technologically in the event of an attack. Seek out people in your industry who have suffered compromises so you can better understand what they experienced and real lessons learned. For a more structured approach, leverage the contacts at your Information Sharing and Analysis Center to develop sources of open-source intelligence and also find out how they are protecting their networks.

2. Learn from attacks to improve.

Stay up to date with research and advisories published by security vendors, analysts, open-source, and government organizations that describe the kinds of tactics, techniques, and procedures threat actors are using and provide recommendations for how to set yourself up so that you can see when they are being used on you. Here too, ask your peers and security partners for recommendations on sources they find most useful. 

3. Get the basics in place and work with a managed security service provider.

From a technological perspective, the top things to focus on are patching, securing your email, enabling a secure domain name system, and securing your web browsers. Most IT teams can handle these basics without the need for deep security expertise. To maintain your security posture, seek out a managed security service provider. They will help you understand what’s happening in your environment much better than you can if you don’t have native capabilities and trained operators.

If your network consists of on premises and cloud environments, be sure to ask managed security service providers if they have capabilities to see equally well across both, including the ability to see lateral motion or east-west traffic inside the network that could indicate a compromise is taking place and not just north-south traffic that could indicate attacks are happening. On the human side, make regular security awareness training mandatory for all employees. 

Cyber adversaries may know more about your business than you think. But they’ll have much more difficulty weaponizing those insights against you if you delve into how they operate, get the security basics in place, and strengthen your security posture. 

The opinions expressed here by Inc.com columnists are their own, not those of Inc.com.

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