Cyberattacks, data breaches, ransomware, malware, phishing the list of threats online only get worse with time, not to mention the current battles with AI and its unsettling potential for misuse. Companies are beginning to prioritize cybersecurity training and solutions but considering the frequency of these cyberattacks, perhaps we need to double down on our security efforts. IT Governance reported 114 security incidents in October and 953 incidents overall in 2023, with more than 5 billion records compromised this year.
Regardless of the care taken to avoid clicking on suspicious links or whether you use a security service to protect your device, cyberattacks can catch just about anyone off guard. On an organizational scale, this can lead to data breaches for hundreds of customers, clients, and employees, not to mention a release of sensitive data that was never meant for the public eye. While zero-trust architectures and IoT security solutions are growing in popularity as an answer to these issues, the gap between awareness and implementation still persists.
Understanding the Nature of Cyberattacks—Where We Stand Today
Cyberattacks refer to external attempts to access and misuse data that is privately held by individuals and organizations. According to IBM, “A cyberattack is any intentional effort to steal, expose, alter, disable, or destroy data, applications or other assets through unauthorized access to a network, computer system or digital device.” The digital attacks can result in a loss of data, or a data breach, and can cost companies dearly to address. IBM further reported that the global average cost of a data breach in 2023 stacked up to $4.45 million. These cyberattacks are complex, and admittedly ingenious, in their functioning and take on many forms.
Malware: Software With Malicious Intent
Malware or malicious software, refers to a host of cybersecurity attacks that steal, damage, and destroy data and data systems. There are various ways in which malware enters devices and their purpose is often unclear at first glance. Viruses are often sent with the intent to do damage to the systems they invade, shutting down devices and halting any further access to the device. Computer worms often invade and multiply within computers, modifying and deleting records that they choose. These can “deplete system resources, such as hard drive space or bandwidth, by overloading a shared network,” according to Norton.
Another form of malware is the Trojan Horse, which is usually cleverly disguised as legitimate downloads that you authorize for your system, sneaking out to do damage to your device once you grant permission for the download. If these aren’t overwhelming enough, there is also spyware that tracks data and shares it with unauthorized sources while you continue to go about your day, unaware. It is clear why cybersecurity awareness grows more and more important every day.
Ransomware: Cyberattacks That Hold Data Hostage
The term is exactly what it sounds like—a hostage situation where data is held until a hefty ransom is paid off to the attackers. One of the many versions of malware, a cybersecurity breach of this form blocks access to necessary information, often through encryption, and occasionally comes with the threat of it being published if the demands remain unmet. These ransomware software files can be downloaded by mistake while clicking on malicious links or, alternatively, lax security systems, unchanged passwords, use of public WiFi connections, and other security weaknesses can also let ransomware creep in.
According to Astra Security, ransomware attacks occur at unfathomable frequencies, with 1.7.million attacks every day or 19 ransomware attacks every second. By 2031, these attacks could cost victims $265 billion annually. Statista reported the U.S. to have the highest number of ransomware attacks by a large margin, with 217.5 million in 2022. Cl0p and LockBit were two of the most dangerous ransomware gangs that made their gains this year, according to Malwarebytes. In most recent news, the LockBit gang was found to be exploiting the Citrix Bleed vulnerability, a flaw in the Citrix system that left many users exposed. Boeing was among the companies hit by the ransomware gang this month.
Phishing—Can We Have Your Data Now?
If you’ve ever received badly worded texts from strange numbers pretending to be your bank or fraudulent solicitation through emails that are clearly a farce, you might be able to laugh off phishing as an unserious attack—one that could never get you to reveal your data. But with improving technology and resources, and the exploitation of those with little cybersecurity training, phishing attackers are often able to convince individuals to reveal sensitive data that compromises the security of their personal information. According to AAG, phishing attacks make up the most common form of cybercrime, with approximately 3.4 billion spam emails sent out every day. According to Google, Gmail blocks more than 100 million scam attempts every day. While considerable, it is clear that a large number still slip through the cracks.
Cybersecurity Solutions: Investing in Cybersecurity
Cyberattacks, whether conducted with malicious intent or to be mischievously disruptive, are entirely undesirable. As fast as hackers and attackers are working to devise new ways to access your data, companies have been working on cybersecurity solutions just as relentlessly to combat them. The first step is undeniably to be aware that there is a problem at all. With technology so deeply ingrained into everything we do, regular cybersecurity training is an essential component of the world we live in today. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), provides support and training for those seeking cybersecurity solutions but it isn’t the only platform where training can be found.
An interesting cybersecurity solution is the zero-trust architecture that skips the network perimeter security format that becomes too lenient with devices within a network, in favor of a network architecture that is suspicious of every interaction and provides multiple levels of checks to access any data. A traditional network architecture might give a broad list of users and devices the same permission, but zero-trust architectures are more selective in providing access to resources and require user authentication on multiple levels, essential features to ensure compromised devices do not hand out information for free.
Data is no longer held only locally, on computers, and offline files that need to be physically sought out and accessed with the intention to exploit. A lot of information is held and transferred over clouds and this means an additional realm of vulnerability for organizations and individuals alike. Understanding the vulnerabilities and equipping efficient cloud security resources are key to protecting data. While cloud providers have their own security measures in place, users need to develop an understanding of these measures and see what needs to be done to further protect their data. Statista predicts that the global cloudy security market will reach a value of $37 billion by 2026.
The potential for cyberattacks is endless and the opportunities for good cybersecurity solutions and best practices are just as relentless. Whether you choose to invest in a zero-trust architecture or find investment in simple antivirus software and VPN sufficient for your business, it is critical to do what you can to protect your systems and create pathways to find your way out of any cybersecurity vulnerabilities.