The Top 7 Information Security Threats & How to Mitigate Them - InfoSec Insights (2023)

May 19, 2020 0

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Cybersecurity Ventures predicts cybercrime damages will hit $6 trillion annually by 2021 — we’ll cover the best ways you can stop your organization from becoming the next statistic

At one point or another, virtually everyone has had that stomach-churning fear that they’ve been hacked. And, hopefully, it’s nothing more than a passing anxious thought. But considering the lurking information security threats that are waiting for us to slip up and make a mistake, it’s a mighty miracle if you’ve managed to avoid being touched by even just one cyber-attack or data breach.

Information security breaches are costly in many ways. Apart from the obvious financial and legal implications of security breaches, there’s also the reputational damage to consider, as it weakens the trust customers have in your brand.

While many different security threats plague us on a daily basis, we’ll discuss seven of the most common in no particular order and see what they are and how to mitigate them. Without any further delay, let’s get started!

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How to Identify and Protect Your Organization Against Information Security Threats

Information security threats exist both outside and inside your organization. And considering that damages of cybercrime are estimated to cost businesses $6 trillion annually by 2021, this serves to underscore why it’s crucial to harden your defenses against all avenues of attack.

Here are seven ways you can make yourself a more challenging target for cybercriminals:

1. Build Your Defenses Against Malware Attacks

Malware is any piece of software or code that’s designed to perform malicious operations on a system or a network. This type of security threat can be classified into various categories based upon the distinctive characteristics or attributes of each type.

Different types of malware include:

  • Viruses and worms are programs that self-replicate and spread across the network,
  • Trojans are malicious programs that appear to be legitimate, and
  • Spyware are programs that monitor and collect information on user activity without their knowledge

Proposed Method(s) for Mitigating These Types of Information Security Threats:

There isn’t a single best solution that can be implemented to prevent malware-based attacks although anti-malware solutions do a decent enough job. Here’s a list of some other pointers that might come in handy:

  • Consider using a well-reputed endpoint security solution (these usually include antivirus, antimalware, etc.) across all network endpoint devices, especially since malware has a tendency to infect the entire network.
  • When it comes to information security threats, the importance of regularly installing software updates and patches cannot be stressed enough.
  • Train your staff to help them differentiate between legitimate and suspicious emails or websites. Regular and mandatory cyber awareness workshops can educate and train employees to avoid security risks and raise their knowledge around online threats.

2. Safeguard Against Eavesdroppers Listening in via MITM Attacks

A man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack is one of those information security threats that occurs when a malicious agent intercepts the communication between two parties (such as two computers, or a computer and a network appliance) to eavesdrop or tamper with the data. The attacker spoofs their address to make it appear as though it is the intended recipient.

By making use of packet forwarding and tools like Ettercap, the attacker can discretely sniff network packets without disrupting the traffic flow between the two ends. Consider the following example:

The Top 7 Information Security Threats & How to Mitigate Them - InfoSec Insights (7)
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Proposed Method(s) for Mitigating These Types of Information Security Threats:

There are several ways to prevent these attacks. The list below highlights a few methods that you can employ to keep such information security threats at bay.

  • While on the internet, use HTTPS — i.e., connect over encrypted channels wherever possible. Encryption keeps your data scrambled in an unreadable form, and even in the event of a successful MITM attack, the encrypted data is no good to an attacker without a decryption key.
  • Eliminate insecure redirects with HTTP Strict Transport Security that allows only HTTPS connections. Sometimes attackers can hijack a connection using tools like sslstrip if the request was first made to an unsecured HTTP site before it gets redirected to secure HTTPS. Using HTTP Strict Transport Security (HSTS) removes this ambiguity and ensures that only HTTPS connections are established between the client and the server.
  • Avoid clicking on links, downloading attachments or software from questionable sources. Phishing emails and malware can also be used to further a man-in-the-middle (MitM) attack. Avoid clicking on any links in emails and carefully consider before downloading any attachments, especially if an email looks suspicious and you haven’t verified the message header. Additionally, before downloading any software onto your system, ensure they have been signed using a code signing certificate. It’s a way to ascertain whether the program is legitimate and hasn’t been modified by an attacker.
  • Use anti-ARP spoofing tools to avoid spoofing attacks and always surf via a secure, trusted connection. Deploying anti-ARP spoofing solutions or adding only static ARP entries into the cache in case of smaller networks can help mitigate the risk of spoofing. Additionally, if you must connect over an insecure connection like a public Wi-Fi, be sure to use a virtual private network (VPN).

3. Protect Yourself From Being an Unsuspecting Victim of a Drive-By Download Attack

Imagine a scenario where you’re idly surfing the web on a lazy Sunday afternoon and, without clicking on any links or downloading any software, you manage to infect your phone or system with malware quite unintentionally.

Think it’s not possible? Unfortunately, it is. Drive-by downloads exploit vulnerabilities in the operating system, browsers, or apps, which is why installing patches and updates are so essential. They can spread malware by means of malicious code distributed through compromised websites.

Proposed Method(s) for Mitigating These Types of Information Security Threats:

While it can be tricky to guard against security threats that aren’t triggered by an action from the victim, and when well-crafted can pass off unnoticed, there are certain measures we can take to prevent these types of information security threats from being successful:

  • Keep your systems and programs running on them updated with the latest patch to cover any security loopholes through which malicious drive-by-download code could slip in.
  • Using antivirus and antimalware solutions to scan the system regularly is highly recommended. Disabling JavaScript within PDF document settings is also a precautionary measure.
  • Though reputed websites aren’t immune to compromise, the likelihood of drive-by attacks being propagated through suspicious sites is far higher, so avoid visiting pages you don’t trust. Installing web filtering solutions like OpenDNS or Websense Web Filter can block websites with suspected harmful content. However, upon infection, a full OS reinstall is recommended.

4. Teach Your Employees to Not Take the Bait in Phishing Attacks

Phishing is a type of social engineering attack that increased by 667% in March 2020 alone. Most of us have received suspicious emails urging us to click on a link or open an attachment. Social engineering attacks prey on the gullibility of humans by using adept social skills to gain their confidence to get them to reveal sensitive information.

Some types of sensitive data include:

  • Personally identifiable information (PII),
  • Financial or health records,
  • Proprietary information, or
  • Organizational information that can be used either directly or indirectly to compromise security and gain entry into the corporate network.

If they’re unable to get the necessary information from one source, they reach out to multiple people, assembling and building upon the intelligence they have acquired to create a credible and convincing storyline.

Proposed Method(s) for Mitigating These Types of Information Security Threats:

While you can place a spam filter to block suspicious emails, social engineering attacks are really about getting people to talk or take some type of action. The best thing we can do is to stay alert about information security threats and ensure our staff undergoes regular cyber awareness training to always keep security on their radar.

  • Prevent yourself from getting manipulated into disclosing any private info. Stay cautious, especially when you’re online. Be diligent when it comes to the details you post or share online about the privacy settings on your social media account.
  • Be wary of unsolicited phone calls, or unknown individuals who reach out. This includes people who contact you to enquire about your organization or claim to be from your bank.
  • Verify, and verify again. Get into the habit of verifying and cross-verifying credentials and authorization before sharing any sensitive information. Use official contact information (such as the person’s phone number from your organization’s internal contact directory) and not information that’s provided to you by the suspicious individual.

5. Avoid Getting Compromised If You’re Hit With a DDoS Attack

Ever landed on a site to be greeted by a chatbot ready to help you out in case you have any questions? Most of us have, but unfortunately, not all bots are created equal. For example, a botnet is a network of many interconnected devices (PCs, servers, IoT devices, etc.) that are infected by malware and controlled by an attacker. The botnet army (aka a zombie army) is a serious threat to organizations of any size and can be used to send spam emails, engage in fraud campaigns, carry out DDoS attacks, etc.

A distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack involves botnets flooding a target system (like a web server) with more requests than they can serve, eventually rendering the victim inoperable and unable to process any legitimate requests from users.

Proposed Method(s) for Mitigating These Types of Information Security Threats:

DDoS attacks — where the aim is to saturate the target’s bandwidth or consume resources, making them unavailable or painfully slow for actual customers — can take time to detect. Let’s take a look at some of the ways to tackle this security threat:

  • Protect your network using an anti-DDoS solution and deploy technology that monitors it thoroughly for any signs of an attack.
  • Patch and update your firewall and security applications.
  • Plan and determine the best course of action, outlining all the steps to be taken in the event of a DDoS attack, ahead of time.

6. Defend Against the Dangers of Advanced Persistent Threat Attacks

Advanced persistent threats (APTs) prioritize stealth to remain undetected after breaching a network. These attacks are prolonged and targeted towards high-value entities (like governments, intellectual property, national defense, etc.), with the primary motivation being espionage or data theft rather than immediate financial gains.

The Top 7 Information Security Threats & How to Mitigate Them - InfoSec Insights (8)

Often perpetrated by nation-state actors, the goal of these information security threats is to maintain ongoing access and to move laterally within the network to increase the foothold and pursue data exfiltration.

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Proposed Method(s) for Mitigating These Types of Information Security Threats:

APTs play the long-term game, are well funded, and usually rely on zero-day attacks to evade detection by security solutions deployed on the network. For these reasons, mitigation becomes a challenge, but the steps below highlight a few concrete actions we can take in the right direction:

  • Harden your perimeter defenses. For the most part, when we talk about network security, we’re really referring to securing the perimeter. But with APTs, we need to carefully monitor the flow of traffic within our internal networks. To achieve network security goals, we need to deploy firewalls, UTMs, IDS/IPS, etc. and keep them configured correctly with sound rules, install updates, patch vulnerabilities, etc.
  • Monitor both incoming and outgoing traffic. It is crucial to stay vigilant not only of the traffic flowing into the network but also of the outgoing traffic.
  • Implement updates and enforce security policies. Some additional ways to prevent attacks include whitelisting allowed applications, establishing least permissive policies, minimizing administrative privileges, patching the OS, etc.

7. Prevent Insider Threats Within the Organization From Undermining Your Security

Anyone from within the organization who may have access to the business network and sensitive data can share sensitive data with malicious agents. Insider threats include gullible personnel, disgruntled employees, third-party contractors, etc.

While employees with an ax to grind may purposefully reveal business-critical information, some simply fall prey to social engineering attacks. External vendors may also pose serious security threats, and these risks need to be assessed and managed before allowing them to be onboarded and given access to the business network.

Proposed Method(s) for Mitigating These Types of Information Security Threats:

Businesses with monitoring technologies in place have continued to report data theft and fallen victim to insider threats despite the right tools. There is no one solution that makes security threats disappear; rather, there’s a series of controls that can be implemented to reduce the chances of a breach.

  • Offer regular cyber awareness training and workshops. Regular, interactive cyber awareness programs, simulated phishing attacks, etc. can help train employees to identify and react better to information security threats.
  • Assess the security prowess of vendors before providing them with access. It makes sense to conduct a comprehensive, end-to-end vendor risk assessment for third parties to understand and evaluate their security posture before providing any access to the business network and prior to sharing any critical data.
  • Increase visibility within your organization and limit access to critical systems. Using DLP solutions or cloud access security brokers (CASBs) for organizations using cloud file storage, disabling USB ports, limiting access on a need to know basis, temporary accounts for contractual workers, multi-factor-authentication, and minimal privileges are some additional ways to keep a check on insider threats.

In Summary

Because it’s difficult to cover every other risk out there, more than a few information security threats such as ransomware, cryptojacking, lack of encryption, IoT vulnerabilities, etc. have been left out. However, one common negligent practice that can be easily rectified is the timely renewal of SSL/TLS certificates.

Expired digital certificates can introduce unintended weaknesses into the network infrastructure, with the average cost of certificate mismanagement per organization being more than $11 million. By taking proactive actions to defend against security risks, we have a better chance of not merely reacting to cyber-attacks but preventing them from breaching our networks in the first place.

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What are the 7 types of cyber security threats? ›

Types of cyber threats your institution should be aware of include:
  • Malware.
  • Ransomware.
  • Distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.
  • Spam and Phishing.
  • Corporate Account Takeover (CATO)
  • Automated Teller Machine (ATM) Cash Out.

What are the 8 main cyber security threats? ›

8 Common Cybersecurity Threats and How to Prevent Them
  • 1) Ransomware. ...
  • 2) Social Engineering/Phishing. ...
  • 3) Unpatched Systems and Misconfigurations. ...
  • 4) Credential Stuffing. ...
  • 5) Password Cracking Attacks. ...
  • 6) Man-in-the-Middle Attacks. ...
  • 7) Denial-of-Service Attacks. ...
  • 8) Drive-by Download Attacks.
Nov 10, 2022

What are the top 10 security threats? ›

Let's take a look at the following top 10 cybersecurity threats and steps you can take to prevent them.
  • Malware. ...
  • Ransomware. ...
  • Social Engineering. ...
  • Phishing. ...
  • Zero-Day Threats. ...
  • Internal Threats. ...
  • Emotet. ...
  • Denial of Service/Distributed Denial of Service.

What is the most common Infosec threat? ›

Phishing is probably the most common form of cyber-attack, largely because it is easy to carry out, and surprisingly effective.

What are the 7 principles of security? ›

Security by Design: 7 Application Security Principles You Need to Know
  • Principle of Least Privilege. ...
  • Principle of Separation of Duties. ...
  • Principle of Defense in Depth. ...
  • Principle of Failing Securely. ...
  • Principle of Open Design. ...
  • Principle of Avoiding Security by Obscurity. ...
  • Principle of Minimizing Attack Surface Area.

What are the 7 components of human security? ›

It further outlined seven interconnected elements of security: economic, food, health, environmental, personal, community and political.

What are the 6 common types of threats? ›

The six types of security threat
  • Cybercrime. Cybercriminals' principal goal is to monetise their attacks. ...
  • Hacktivism. Hacktivists crave publicity. ...
  • Insiders. ...
  • Physical threats. ...
  • Terrorists. ...
  • Espionage.
Mar 25, 2015

What are the 10 common types of cyber threats? ›

What are the 10 Most Common Types of Cyber Attacks?
  • Malware.
  • Denial-of-Service (DoS) Attacks.
  • Phishing.
  • Spoofing.
  • Identity-Based Attacks.
  • Code Injection Attacks.
  • Supply Chain Attacks.
  • Insider Threats.

What are the top 10 server security threats identified in the industry lately? ›

10 Common Internet Security Threats and How to Avoid Them
  • Computer Viruses. Computer viruses are the most common among internet security threats out there. ...
  • Malware. ...
  • Phishing. ...
  • Botnets. ...
  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) ...
  • Trojan Horse. ...
  • SQL Injection Attack. ...
  • Rootkit.

What are the biggest cyber security threats in 2022? ›

According to the report, some of the leading cyber risks and cybersecurity trends in 2022 include:
  • Malware on the rise. ...
  • Rise of ransomware attacks. ...
  • Zero-day attacks. ...
  • Remote code execution. ...
  • Attack surface expansion. ...
  • Digital supply-chain risks. ...
  • Cybersecurity mesh. ...
  • Zero trust.
Dec 8, 2022

What are threats in Infosec? ›

A security threat is a malicious act that aims to corrupt or steal data or disrupt an organization's systems or the entire organization. A security event refers to an occurrence during which company data or its network may have been exposed.

What are the different types of security threats? ›

Different Types of Cyber Security Threats
  • Malware Attack. This is one of the common types of cyber security threats. ...
  • Phishing Attack. A phishing attack is a widespread type of cyber security threat. ...
  • Password Attack. ...
  • Man-in-the-Middle Attack. ...
  • SQL Injection Attack. ...
  • Denial-of-Service Attack. ...
  • Insider Threat. ...
  • Cryptojacking.
Jun 30, 2022

What are the 3 major threats to cyber security today? ›

Types of Cybersecurity Threats
  • Viruses—a piece of code injects itself into an application. ...
  • Worms—malware that exploits software vulnerabilities and backdoors to gain access to an operating system. ...
  • Trojans—malicious code or software that poses as an innocent program, hiding in apps, games or email attachments.

What are the 8 data protection principles? ›

What are the Eight Principles of the Data Protection Act?
1998 ActGDPR
Principle 2 – purposesPrinciple (b) – purpose limitation
Principle 3 – adequacyPrinciple (c) – data minimisation
Principle 4 – accuracyPrinciple (d) – accuracy
Principle 5 - retentionPrinciple (e) – storage limitation
5 more rows

What are the main components of security? ›

The four components are:
  • Deterrence. The initial layer of security; the goal of deterrence is to convince unwanted persons that a successful effort to enter an unauthorized area is unlikely. ...
  • Detection. ...
  • Delay. ...
  • Response.

What are the 5 sectors of security? ›

The list of sectors is primarily an analytical tool created to spot different dynamics. In Security: A New Framework for Analysis, the authors list the following sectors: military/state, political, societal, economic and environmental.

What are the 4 categories of security threats? ›

Threats can be classified into four different categories; direct, indirect, veiled, conditional.

What are the six 6 types of attacks on network security? ›

Six Types of Cyber Attacks to Protect Against
  • Malware. Malware is an umbrella term for many forms of harmful software — including ransomware and viruses — that sabotage the operation of computers. ...
  • Phishing. ...
  • SQL Injection Attack. ...
  • Cross-Site Scripting (XSS) Attack. ...
  • Denial of Service (DoS) Attack. ...
  • Negative Commentary Attacks.

What are the 4 main types of vulnerability in cyber security? ›

Security Vulnerability Types
  • Network Vulnerabilities. These are issues with a network's hardware or software that expose it to possible intrusion by an outside party. ...
  • Operating System Vulnerabilities. ...
  • Human Vulnerabilities. ...
  • Process Vulnerabilities.

What are the 5 C's of cyber security? ›

The five C's of cyber security are five areas that are of significant importance to all organizations. They are change, compliance, cost, continuity, and coverage. The top priority of organizations all over is having security protective of their digital and physical assets.

What are the 10 steps in cyber security? ›

10 steps to an effective approach to cyber security
  • Risk management regime. ...
  • Secure configuration. ...
  • Network security. ...
  • Managing user privileges. ...
  • User education and awareness. ...
  • Incident management. ...
  • Malware prevention. ...
  • Monitoring.

What are the 5 stages of cyber security? ›

Phases of the Cybersecurity Lifecycle. As defined by the National Insitute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the Cybersecurity Framework's five Functions: Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond, and Recover, are built upon the components of the framework model.

What are the 8 types of computer attacks? ›

Inside the Top Cyber Threats
  • Ransomware. Ransomware is malware designed to use encryption to force the target of the attack to pay a ransom demand. ...
  • Malware. ...
  • Fileless Attacks. ...
  • Phishing. ...
  • Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Attack. ...
  • Malicious Apps. ...
  • Denial of Service Attack. ...
  • Zero-Day Exploit.

What are the 10 security domains? ›

What's in the Name, 10-D Security?
  • Security Management Practices;
  • Access Control Systems and Methodology;
  • Telecommunications and Networking Security;
  • Cryptography;
  • Security Architecture and Models;
  • Operations Security;
  • Application and Systems Development Security;
  • Physical Security;

What are the top 5 major threats to cybersecurity? ›

Skip To
  • Phishing Attacks.
  • Malware Attacks.
  • Ransomware.
  • Weak Passwords.
  • Insider Threats.

What are the 10 types of cyber attacks? ›

Types of Cyber Attacks
  • Malware Attack. This is one of the most common types of cyberattacks. ...
  • Phishing Attack. Phishing attacks are one of the most prominent widespread types of cyberattacks. ...
  • Password Attack. ...
  • Man-in-the-Middle Attack. ...
  • SQL Injection Attack. ...
  • Denial-of-Service Attack. ...
  • Insider Threat. ...
  • Cryptojacking.
Feb 7, 2023


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