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It’s not a secret that network security is failing under attack from hackers. Traditional security solutions just can’t keep up.

Who are the attackers?

Various actors are involved in cyber attacks, ranging from a nation-state adversary, the most advanced threat actors, hacktivists, the occasional terrorist, rogue hackers and sadly, upset employees.

Who is the target?

Any person on the other end of the call or e-mail is a potential target. Even if they are not the intended victim, they may be instrumental to achieving the objectives of the attacker. They may have information that the attacker wants, or be in a position that provides access to the attack. Targeting has evolved into identifying business leaders and key personnel. This includes personal targets as well as customer lists, or databases.

What is the impact of cyber attacks?

Most everyone who works for a business, no matter its size, is touched by an attack. Whether it is a malware infection on a mobile device, or a major data breach in a company’s data, everyone is affected. Even employees at the top of the company might not know that they are being targeted for disruption, making cyber attacks a continuing business risk.

Perhaps the biggest concern is the ongoing threat of ransomware. Ransomware is malicious software that often encrypts files, preventing a victim from accessing the information. It is often tied to a scheme to demand payment for the software’s release. When ransomware takes over a computer, a person, or even company, ransomware can have a lasting impact.

How does a cyber attack happen?

Attacks can spread in many ways. Here are the three most common steps attackers use to do their damage:

Step 1 – Reconnaissance

The attacker looks for opportunities to gain entry to the network. To do this, an attacker gathers as much information as they can on an organization’s network and assets.

Step 2 – Targeting

The attacker will use tools to create a spear phishing email, spoof a domain, or obtain information from the attacker infrastructure to create an exploit. For example, the attacker will send a spear phishing email to the employee in the path to access the information on the network. As the user clicks on the link, they become an entry point for the attacker. A malicious site will download malware or a backdoor to the endpoint.

Step 3 – Collection

Once in the network, the attacker can execute attacks designed to make system internals appear to be normal. They can use exploits to execute code and extract the data they need. An attacker can quickly gather valuable data or quietly wait and gather data over time.

Step 5 – Exploit The Data

The data from a single attack may or may not be enough to make a difference, but breaches from thousands of attacks on different websites provide hackers with the data they need to exploit the information.