The Rising Threat of Targeted Attacks – How to Protect Your Business

Targeted attacks are a real threat to small businesses and can have devastating consequences. Not only do they damage a company’s reputation, but they can also lead to revenue loss, lost customers, and expensive remediation efforts.

From phishing attacks to man-in-the-middle interception of two-party transactions to Wi-Fi eavesdropping, attackers use many different methods to access your business data and systems. Luckily, several ways to protect your business from these cyberattacks exist.

Invest in Advanced Threat Protection Solutions

Cyberattacks have evolved as quickly as defenses against them, leaving organizations vulnerable to higher-impact threats like phishing and ransomware. Advanced threat protection (ATP) solutions offer a proactive approach to cybersecurity, protecting sensitive information against advanced threats by minimizing their impact on the organization’s endpoints. By separating network segments based on department and function, businesses can limit lateral movement by attackers. Strong access controls are applied between these segments, allowing only authorized communications. Monitoring inter-segment traffic makes detecting suspicious activities or patterns that may indicate an attack easier, facilitating rapid response and mitigation efforts. ATP solutions provide sophisticated analytic tools that enable swift identification, examination, contextualization, and reaction to the behaviors and content of malevolent network traffic. This is vital for reducing the time attackers remain undetected within an organization, which can easily exceed 200 days in some cases – enough time to exploit, steal, and sell data or even launch DDoS attacks that cripple servers and bring the business to a halt.

It’s essential to implement a defense-in-depth strategy that ensures multiple security measures are in place to protect against a wide range of attack vectors. This includes deploying the latest anti-malware and firewall software, implementing a layered network architecture, limiting employee access to sensitive information through remote working policies, and regularly reviewing logs for suspicious activity.

Implement Comprehensive Security Measures

A day passes without a major news report of cyberattacks, identity theft, crippling viruses, diverted bank accounts, compromised operational data, etc. Almost any business that uses information-intensive systems is vulnerable to attacks. This broad field of protection is known as cybersecurity or, more specifically, information assurance. A typical episode starts with a targeted hacker seeking to infiltrate the target company, often by stealing login credentials from employees’ work or personal devices. Those credentials can then access more valuable data from the victim’s business partners or customers. For example, the 2014 Target data breach resulted from hackers using stolen login credentials to access information stored by the HVAC supplier that serviced some of the retailer’s stores.

Moreover, targeted attackers are likelier to target small businesses with weaker security protections. The good news is that there are various ways to strengthen your business’s cybersecurity, some of which are inexpensive. For example, installing anti-malware software, implementing cybersecurity policies, and training employees are all very effective measures against a targeted attack. But the best defense is a holistic approach that utilizes layered protection against multiple attack vectors. This defense-in-depth strategy includes firewalls, encrypting sensitive information, deploying a content filter on employee devices, and performing regular vulnerability scans.

Train Employees on Targeted Attack Awareness

As cybercriminals become more sophisticated, organizations must be prepared to combat their ever-increasing threats. The best way to do this is by implementing strong threat protection measures and training employees to spot targeted attacks. Educating staff on spotting phishing attempts, social engineering scams, and ransomware attacks can help prevent them from unwittingly providing sensitive information or downloading malware onto company devices. In addition, requiring multifactor authentication and keeping software up-to-date will close vulnerabilities that attackers could exploit. Attackers use targeted attacks to gain long-term access to company systems for corporate espionage, financial data exfiltration, or the theft of personally identifiable information. To protect against these attacks, companies should invest in advanced threat protection solutions that provide comprehensive scanning capabilities and detect malicious attachments before reaching end-user devices. They should also be able to monitor inter-segment traffic, identifying suspicious activity that may indicate an ongoing attack and enabling rapid response and mitigation efforts to safeguard critical data.

Attackers can also use spear phishing, DNS spoofing, and other techniques to impersonate employees or affiliated organizations to get users to download malware or click on harmful links. These attacks can lead to a compromised computer, which gives attackers access to critical files and networks. In this case, the attackers can either steal information or install a worm or virus that continues to attack other machines on the web for weeks or even months.

Establish Incident Response Procedures

Businesses must have an incident response plan (IRP) in a security incident. An IRP is a documented list of instructions and procedures to help companies detect, respond to and recover from cyberattacks. The IRP should include a variety of steps, such as preparing for attacks, creating a computer security incident response team (CSIRT) and training team members on what to do in the event of an attack. It should also include a plan for identifying and communicating with stakeholders during a cyberattack. Additionally, the IRP should consist of a process for evaluating and identifying lessons learned from past incidents. When developing an IRP, it is important to consider the goals and objectives of your organization. For example, if you target advanced threats such as targeted attacks, your IRP should include specific procedures for responding to these hazards. This could include implementing effective containment strategies, such as isolating affected systems and deploying temporary fixes. To protect against the threat of targeted attacks, organizations should conduct regular vulnerability assessments to identify potential entry points that attackers can exploit. They should also invest in comprehensive security measures, such as deploying next-generation firewalls to monitor and filter traffic and implementing intrusion prevention solutions that utilize behavior-based analytics to detect anomalies.