Hackers Hit Businesses Where it Hurts Most – The Bottom Line

Caution - Hackers at Work

Massive data breaches, crippling ransomware, watering hole attacks, more sophisticated threats and the improving social engineering skills of hackers were all par for the course last year, according to Symantec’s 2014 Internet Security Report released earlier this month. And since cyber threat trends have been locked in an upward trajectory since the days Matthew Broderick first wowed audiences by changing his own grades and bringing the world to the brink of “Global Thermonuclear War” with his home computer in WarGames over three decades ago, it shouldn’t take a master mathematician or an expert accountant to figure out that more businesses are facing bigger threats and heavier financial consequences than ever before.

Year of the Mega-Breach

The last quarter of 2013 alone saw unprecedented data breaches involving the compromise of over 400 million customer records. The number for all of 2013 almost doubled the 2011 tally of 232 million, coming in at a hefty 552 million, exposing sensitive personal information ranging from credit card numbers, names and addresses, to financial information, passwords, social security numbers and medical records. To put those numbers in perspective, as the ball dropped on New Year’s Eve to ring in the new year, the entire population of the United States was clocked at just over 317 million. Needless to say, business reputations and customer confidence can be heavily affected when hundreds of millions of customers get caught up in a maelstrom that is not of their doing. And when customer’s get that kind of angry, they use the only tool at their disposal to fight back, their buying power – which means bottom lines can really suffer. That’s a storm that can rock any business, no matter how large and unsinkable they may seem. The key to surviving the devastation and aftermath that can be wrought by a successful data breach all starts with effective emergency incident response, which Global Digital Forensics has been effectively providing clients, ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 companies, for over twenty years.

When Your Data is Held Hostage

There can be many motives behind hacker attacks. Some attacks are ideologically motivated acts of hacktivism launched against particular companies, governments or industries with the intent of making some sort of “statement.” Others are acts of cyber espionage which can be carried out by anyone from corporate enemies and/or state-sponsored actors, to criminal rings and even disgruntled insiders. But ransomware attacks, they are motivated by pure greed. Hackers introduce ransomware just like they would any other type of malware, with phishing emails being the dominant culprit. Once the ransomware is on the system, it doesn’t steal data, it either incapacitates the functionality of the operating system, or as is the latest ransomware craze, it quietly encrypts all of your personal data in the background and then sends the decryption key to the hackers. Then a screen pops up explaining your dilemma and how to go about paying the “ransom” (typically a few hundred dollars) to get the key back so you can decrypt your data. Cryptolocker set the bar late last year with devastating success, and when hackers are making money without getting caught, you can expect the trend to escalate. What makes ransomware like Cryptolocker especially wicked is the fact that once it’s done its thing, it is extremely difficult, if not completely impossible, for even professionals to help the victim after the fact. The key is preventing the ransomware from being delivered in the first place, or stopping the execution before it completes its task. And those are things GDF can certainly help with.

With Friends Like These …

When hackers want to target a specific industry, or even a specific company, an old tactic seeing an explosive renaissance is the watering hole attack. The reason for the resurgence? Simple, extremely poor patch management being employed on far too many legitimate sites. According to the report, 77% of all legitimate website have exploitable vulnerabilities due to poor patch management, with 1 in 8 having critical vulnerabilities. So with just a little research to narrow down a target list of sites that may appeal to certain industries or companies, it doesn’t take much to find a site to compromise, upload malware and wait for the right prey to come for a “drink.” Hackers using watering hole attacks will often refrain from “infecting” visitors who don’t meet their target criteria so as to not draw unnecessary suspicion. After all, the crux of the watering hole attack is to use trust against the target to avoid raising red flags. Leveraging their knowledge of the Internet and how to use public information, like IP registries, hackers can often just simply go online and find the IP range of a certain company, and then limit the driveby download to only visitors falling within that range. With so many easy sources of identifying information right at their fingertips, companies today really have about as much privacy as a prison bathroom provides, making identifying them to hackers watching a compromised site so easy it’s scary. Regular professional vulnerability assessments are essential, which GDF can very effectively provide at some of the most competitive rates in the industry, without sacrificing quality.

The Right Data Security Partner With the Right Solutions

Global Digital Forensics is a recognized industry leader in the fields of cyber security and emergency incident response, with years of experience assisting clients in the government, banking, healthcare, education and corporate arenas. For a free consultation with a Global Digital Forensics specialist, call 1-800-868-8189 about tailoring a plan which will meet your unique needs. Emergency responders are also standing by 24/7 to handle intrusion and data breach emergencies whenever and wherever they arise. Time is critical if a cyber incident has occurred, so don’t hesitate to get help. For more information, visit http://www.evestigate.com.