It’s no longer surprising to know that we live in a world where business networks are constantly at risk and under attack. With cybercriminals getting more organized and sophisticated, no company is safe from the potentially catastrophic impacts of a network breach or malware infection.

However, as we continue to learn more about the ways in which cybercrime is becoming unavoidable, many business owners are refusing to roll over and simply wait for an attack to take their systems hostage. Smart business leaders are looking for the best ways to make their network security systems smarter and stronger.

How Smart are These Criminals? Understanding Modern Cyber Crooks

Business leaders hear this all the time nowadays. Cybercriminals are everywhere, they’re smart and strategic and getting more organized and efficient every day. But what exactly does this mean and is it an exaggeration? First, though it may sound like a fear-mongering cliché, the fact of the matter is, cybercriminals are getting better at what they do. In fact, just this year, Philip Celestini, Section Chief from the FBI’s cyber-division, announced that cybercriminals are becoming more organized – often working in large networks to infiltrate business networks.

“What we have seen, especially over the last two years, is that multinational cybercrime syndicates are right up there with the nation states,” says Celestini. “They are very, very sophisticated. They are doing extensive reconnaissance on all of us.”

As cybercriminals become organized into networks and as the digital transformation of the business landscape becomes more ubiquitous, criminals have increased the opportunity  to research organizations and their employees to determine the best ways to infiltrate and infect organizational networks. These criminals will go to extensive lengths to make their invasion channels more easily accessible.

Some cybercrime networks will assign specific team members to the sole task of researching and getting information on and from company representatives. This can involve countless hours of social media and search engine research or can involve collaborating with people on the inside to get their hands on otherwise impossible to access company resources like passwords and flash drives.

Second, it’s important to note that no person or business is safe from unexpected hacks and attacks. Often, SMB’s think they’re safe – far off the radar of devious cybercriminals who are seeking large-scale networks to breach. Think again. According to Keeper Security’s report called “The State of SMB Cybersecurity”, an astounding 50% of small-to-mid-sized organizations reported suffered at least one cyber attack in the last year. Not to mention, as technology evolves and more opportunities for unauthorized access are discovered, the rate of cyber incidents is bound to grow.

Lightning Fast and Quiet as a Mouse: How Attackers Slip Inside Business Networks Undetected

Cybercriminals are also getting good at finding ways to infiltrate networks sneakily to avoid being detected. Criminal strategies for working quietly and quickly include:

  • Setting up phony diversions like attacking web servers from the outside while invasions are taking place to distract business owners from any abnormal activity.
  • Searching for additional hosts to gain access in case initial access points are detected and blocked.
  • Installing malware right away to establish a command and control channel and start stealing data with astounding speed.

Cybercriminals rely on making all of this happen very quickly. Invasions are secretly launched, malware is activated, command and control are established, data is stolen, systems are disabled and the command and control channel is shut down as fast as possible to avoid detection.

For the sophisticated criminals behind the control panel, attacks are becoming more efficient. Cybercriminals are becoming more and more like the conductors of flawless classical music orchestras. To them, attacking poorly-prepared network endpoints is truly like taking candy from a baby.

Mismanaged and unmonitored network endpoints can:

  • Become entry points for attackers looking to gain a foothold in your organization
  • Enable attackers to move laterally within an organization to breach specific targets
  • Be used to capture data, send unauthorized Tor traffic, or become part of a botnet.

Even a simple router, network firewall, or segmentation misconfiguration can provide an attacker with an entry point to penetrate infrastructure and gain access to sensitive data. For business owners, it becomes harder and harder to stay a step ahead of the threat.

Vigilance in the Face of Constant Threat: Building A Superhero Security Strategy

Very often business owners make a similar mistake: they let breaches or cyberattacks be the sole driver of their cybersecurity improvements. A word to the wise – don’t fall victim to this trap. If your business’ cybersecurity strategy is only responsive and not proactive, you won’t stand a chance against the worsening cybercrime climate that is impacting businesses of all shapes and sizes and across all industries.

So, in the face of constant and worsening cyber threats it becomes clear that IT security teams need to be more vigilant than ever. Additionally, security infrastructures need to be designed in a way that keeps businesses one step ahead of sophisticated cybercriminals. To counteract these attacks, businesses need strong and dynamic security networks that can close the door on attacks as they’re happening.

Network protection policies need to be designed in a way that allows the network to be both the sensor of attacks and the enforcer for protections, detecting and stopping attacks simultaneously. This is the only way to keep a step ahead of criminals and contain network attacks before data can be stolen and systems disabled. This kind of security strategy requires that cybersecurity solutions be built into networks proactively.

Business leaders should consider the following priorities when building proactive and protective IT security infrastructures:

  • The need to address urgency

Before all else, businesses need to make the conscious decision of making cybersecurity a top priority. Proactive solution strategies and consistent monitoring are key factors in making sure cybersecurity strategies respond adequately to the urgency of cybercrime threats. Poorly implemented and unmanaged IT infrastructure and endpoints leave an organization vulnerable to bigtime risks.

  • The need for tried & tested processes

Next, it’s critical to develop and uphold processes for every aspect of cybersecurity implementation and management. Furthermore, these processes should be consistently tested and re-tested to ensure they remain current and strategic in the face of new and evolving threats.

Deliberate and detailed best practices help to ensure proactive protections are in place and deployed correctly. Additionally, in the case of a breach, processes make response and recovery times quicker, limiting potential damage.

  • The need for detailed reporting and regular system audits

Auditing and reporting are key to the maintenance and improvement of any business. Business owners implement reports and audits for nearly every aspect of their operations and cybersecurity should be at the top of that list. Forensic incident reporting helps security teams adapt strategies to be even better prepared for future attacks.

Also, performing regular audits of the network’s devices is critical. Business owners should conduct regular and automated inventories of all devices and systems that connect to the network. Failure to do so could leave devices unmonitored and susceptible to attack.

To make this kind of security environment a reality, organizations need to constantly enforce real-time, context-driven security intelligence. Without it, attackers can and will find the ways to move around a network and wreak havoc before they’re even detected.

Implementing a robust and reliable cybersecurity infrastructure may seem like a huge undertaking but rest assured that it will be much less of a hassle than trying to rebound after being attacked off guard. Putting the time and effort into a proactive and informed cybersecurity strategy will pay off dividends in the long run.

Not sure how to be a proactive cybersecurity superhero? Don’t be afraid to reach out to local IT experts for help or consultation. Don’t let cybercriminals call the shots – work to keep the bad guys out of your business space before they even try.

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