While all cyber threat actors pose a significant threat, their motivations and end goals are often very different
Every day Cyber attacks make news headlines, organizations know the threat is out there and that they need to take action quickly. The reality is that the cyber threat actors are likely already on the network and endpoints, poised to steal business’ data. The questions are who are they, why are they doing this and when are they going to hack? All cyber threat actors together represent the greatest operational and financial threat that organizations face, so it’s essential that businesses understand what they’re up against.
The four most common cyber threat actors looking to steal your sensitive data:
- Nation State Hackers
- Cyber Criminals
- Malicious Insiders
Nation State Hackers
This hacker is directly employed by an arm of a national government and is typically very well-funded compared to small hacktivist groups and individual cyber criminals.
These hackers are motivated by economic, political, and military advantages. This means that there is potentially much greater damage if they are successful in accessing the data they seek.
Nation states are interested in data about critical infrastructure, along with trade secrets, business information and emerging technologies. This can lead to a loss of competitive advantage for the countries or organizations they target, as well as a disruption to critical infrastructure, which could wreak havoc on the general population.
The most common adversary thought of when discussing data theft, cyber-criminals seek the immediate satisfaction of a financial payout. They typically target personal and financial information, hoping to exploit or sell the data for their own financial gain.
The organization targeted, can suffer direct financial loss or legal issues, in the form of lawsuits and regulatory penalties. Above all, a breach caused by a cyber-criminal can cause a loss of confidence and reputational damage, which can be difficult to regain, especially if sensitive customer data has been compromised. One of the most worrying aspects about cyber-criminals is their increasing level of sophistication and organization.
Data cyber-criminals frequently seek includes:
- ATM and point-of-sale (PoS) skimming: Stealing bank and PIN information when cards are used at ATMs, credit/debit card terminals and other card readers.
- Random Access Memory (RAM) scraping: Stealing credit/debit card information when the card information is stored in the server’s memory system.
- Code injection: Introducing malicious code into a computer program to redirect the system’s actions.
- Keylogging: Using a program to record computer keystrokes in order to gain confidential information.
- Phishing: Creating fraudulent, socially engineered electronic content (websites, emails, etc.) that is from a seemingly legitimate source, enticing victims to provide confidential information
Hacktivists are activist hackers who are looking to influence political or social groups by pressuring businesses, governments and other entities to change their practices.
How? By attacking organizations and stealing trade secrets or sensitive business information, including data relevant to key leaders, employees, and customers.
Hacktivists take advantage of the data to disrupt normal business activities and put the focus and media attention on their own agenda. The target’s reputation is likely to be damaged as a result of this type of attack, which often has a long-lasting effect that extends beyond the initial loss. The most well-known hacktivist group today is a collective known around the globe as Anonymous.
Common hacktivist attack vectors:
- Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attack:
- Website defacement: Changing the appearance of a website via unauthorized access such as through a cross-site scripting vulnerability.
- Information disclosure: Publicizing information about the targeted institution that was not previously publicly known or releasable.
- Doxing: The publication of personally identifiable information (PII) about a specific person for malicious purposes.
Insiders are an often forgotten source of attacks, though they are arguably the most dangerous as they represent trusted employees and partners. Motivated by personal gain, professional revenge, and monetary reward, malicious insiders usually have easy access to the data they are looking to expose or monetize. This typically includes customer data, company financial and salary information, along with employee data, corporate secrets, and notable research that has yet to be released. Like most of the other adversaries detailed above, malicious insiders seek to disrupt business operations and damage the organization’s brand and reputation. In some cases, they may be collaborating with cyber-criminals for personal financial gain.
Protecting all types of cyber threat actors, requires that organizations focus on improving the security of their data, and the network on which it resides.
Regardless of whether an attack originates inside or outside the company, businesses must put the processes and technologies in place to prevent attackers from accessing and exfiltration the company’s data for their own gain. With your data protected properly, it won’t matter who you’re up against for your business to remain safe.