Businesses today are constantly under threat. Security operations have become an indispensable aspect of organizational survival and success. Cyberattacks and data breaches regularly make headlines as malicious actors continue to adapt and develop new tactics.
As threats grow and evolve, organizations need to understand what they are up against — it’s the only way to defend against cybersecurity threats from criminals who exploit vulnerabilities to gain access to your networks, data and confidential information.
Defining threats, today
Threats are a malicious or negative event that takes advantage of a vulnerability. (Vulnerabilities come in all types, from technology and from humans alike.) More specifically, in a cybersecurity context, we can define a threat as:
Anything that could exploit a vulnerability, which could affect the confidentiality, integrity or availability of your systems, data, people and more.
Threat awareness is critical to any organization: that’s because threats come with risks: a threat that is acted upon can result in a lot of risks that organizations want to avoid, like financial punishments or reputational damage. (More on that topic later.)
Cybersecurity threats are constantly in flux — and they come in many forms. That’s why security teams at places like CISA, Splunk and across the internet encourage knowledge sharing: so organizations understand the types of threats out there. (Fortunately, you can know these threats easily: this free ebook explains today’s top 50 cyber threats in detail.)
Know your threats to protect against them. The Splunk Threat Research Team constantly monitors the threat landscape to help you understand and defend against cybersecurity threats.
How cybersecurity threats evolve
Historically, network security professionals primarily occupied themselves with a collection of well-understood threats:
- Phishing attempts via email
- Data & security breaches
- Malware brought in on a thumbdrive
- Unpatched operating systems with known exploits
Today’s cybersecurity landscape, however, is a lot more complicated. For example, poorly secured Internet of Things (IoT) devices threaten to give attackers a way in via a thermostat or a smoke detector. Personal devices create new risks, especially as they become tied to business and the work we do every day.
Attackers are getting smarter, too, using net tools and techniques to reach an increasing number of targets faster and more effectively than ever before. Though their techniques change, their goals rarely do. Most threat actors carry out attacks in order to achieve some edge.
Most are looking for money and financial gain, stealing money directly or credit card and personally identifiable information (PII) that they can leverage for ransom. Others might seek data in many forms: more PII or corporate data like intellectual property source code, and more. Some bad actors aim to steal compute resources. Lastly, some threat actors solely want to cause chaos.
As cybersecurity threats have exploded in volume in recent years, they have also become increasingly sophisticated and targeted. Cybercriminals commonly leverage publicly available information such as social media data to engage in identity theft and easily crack passwords. With this data commonly available on the black market, it’s easier than ever for cyberattackers to fill in any information gaps about a prospective target.
Meanwhile, the technology available to power these attacks is becoming more ubiquitous. Malicious actors are able to use the same types of resources as any enterprise — including cloud computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and distributed computing resources — to increase the likelihood of a successful attack. As the attack surface of the typical enterprise has increased in size through the proliferation of IoT devices, cloud infrastructure and employee use of personal devices, targets face a greater level of risk than ever before.
Modern cyber threats
Among the countless cyber threats to any person or organization, some common threats include:
- Advanced persistent threats (APTs)
- Phishing, spear phishing and smishing, which applies phishing tactics to SMS and text messages
- Cross-site scripting (XSS)
- Botnet attacks including denial-of-service (DoS) and distributed DoS attacks.
- Zero day exploits
- Insider threats
Common threats & threat targets
Cybersecurity would be a lot easier if all we had to do was understand how people attack our digital systems. Unfortunately, every day there are more digital surfaces to attack and more ways to attack them. Many threats and actual attacks often look to target these areas:
- Infrastructure devices: Servers, network hardware and wireless access points, among others.
- Enterprise applications: Attackers target these systems by exploiting vulnerabilities in code or delivery via malware.
- Endpoint hardware and software: Client computers and operating systems, user devices such as smartphones and even connected IoT devices such as printers.
- IoT devices: Any IoT device connected to the network, including industrial sensors, security cameras or even “innocuous” devices like smart thermostats and appliances.
- Cloud-based resources: This category includes storage systems, public cloud services (such as web-based mail systems) and SaaS cloud computing platforms.
- Third-party vendors: Enterprises are increasingly at risk of being breached or subject to an attack through contractors and vendors whose systems aren’t properly secured.
- Insider threats: Employees or contractors who use their credentials to gain unauthorized access and — either intentionally or unintentionally — expose the company to malicious software and other security risks or steal personal data or other sensitive information.
The looming risks of cybersecurity threats
Threats are big news for organizations because they can carry huge risks. Security teams must remain acutely aware of the top cybersecurity threats they face given the impacts that they can have on the ongoing success of the business. After all, a single successful cyberattack can result in:
- Financial losses
- Catastrophic data breaches
- Damage to your company's reputation
Cybersecurity breaches come with significant financial implications for businesses. In fact, global cybercrime damage is predicted to hit $10.5 trillion annually by 2025. Ransomware alone is predicted to cost victims around $265 billion (USD) annually by 2031. These costs can be a result of not only direct financial losses but also expenses related to incident response, legal fees, regulatory fines, and reputational damage control.
Investors also feel the impact – publicly traded companies suffered an average decline of 7.5% in their stock values after a data breach. Businesses that fail to adequately prepare for cyber threats may face crippling financial consequences.
Data and privacy impacts
By 2025 200 Zettabytes of data will need to be protected. Your customers, partners, and employees expect their personal and sensitive information to be safeguarded. And businesses must keep up with laws and regulations that govern how data is collected, stored and shared.
Damage to your reputation and brand
A tarnished reputation can be a long-lasting consequence of a cybersecurity breach. Customers, partners, and investors may lose trust in a company that fails to protect its digital assets. And, competitors can gain advantages as a result of a breach.
As the world becomes even more digitally interconnected, businesses must recognize the importance of safeguarding their brand and reputation through robust cybersecurity practices.
Today’s top threats: Know what you’re up against
To remain resilient in a digital landscape fraught with cybersecurity threats that are more pervasive and sophisticated than ever before, security teams need to know what threats to look for. The Splunk Threat Research Team constantly monitors the threat landscape to help organizations understand and defend against cybersecurity threats from criminals who exploit vulnerabilities to gain access to networks, data and confidential information.
That's why we've published our Top 50 Cybersecurity Threats eBook, so you can have the right information that helps you to...
- Assess what threats are relevant to your environment.
- Understand how these threats impact businesses around the world.
Ignoring these threats is not an option — the consequences can be financially devastating and reputationally damaging. To thrive in the current digital environment, businesses must remain vigilant and stay ahead of threats through continuous security monitoring and proactive threat detection, investigation and response.
Defending against top threats with Splunk
Splunk Security can help protect your business and empower your security team to tackle the most pressing security challenges and minimize business risk.
What is Splunk?
This posting does not necessarily represent Splunk's position, strategies or opinion.