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Cyber Attack

Often times, we may not realize that our actions online might put us, our families, and even our country at risk. Learning about the dangers online and taking action to protect ourselves is the first step in making the Internet a safer place for everyone. Cybersecurity is a shared responsibility and we each have a role to play. Cybersecurity involves protecting that infrastructure by preventing, detecting, and responding to cyber incidents. Unlike physical threats that prompt immediate action–like stop, drop, and roll in the event of a fire–cyber threats are often difficult to identify and comprehend. Among these dangers are viruses erasing entire systems, intruders breaking into systems and altering files, intruders using your computer or device to attack others, or intruders stealing confidential information. The spectrum of cyber risks is limitless; threats, some more serious and sophisticated than others, can have wide-ranging effects on the individual, community, organizational, and national level. These risks include:

Organized cyber crime, state-sponsored hackers, and cyber espionage can pose national security risks to our country.

Transportation, power, and other services may be disrupted by large scale cyber incidents. The extent of the disruption is highly uncertain as it will be determined by many unknown factors such as the target and size of the incident.

Vulnerability to data breach and loss increases if an organization’s network is compromised. Information about a company, its employees, and its customers can be at risk.

Individually-owned devices such as computers, tablets, mobile phones, and gaming systems that connect to the Internet are vulnerable to intrusion. Personal information may be at risk without proper security.

Before A Cyber Attack

You can increase your chances of avoiding cyber risks by setting up the proper controls. The following are things you can do to protect yourself, your family, and your property before a cyber incident occurs.

Only connect to the Internet over secure, password- protected networks.

Do not click on links or pop-ups, open attachments, or respond to emails from strangers.

Always enter a URL by hand instead of following links if you are unsure of the sender.

Do not respond to online requests for Personally Identifiable Information (PII); most organizations – banks, universities, companies, etc. – do not ask for your personal information over the Internet.

Limit who you are sharing information with by reviewing the privacy settings on your social media accounts.

Trust your gut; if you think an offer is too good to be true, then it probably is.

Password protect all devices that connect to the Internet and user accounts.

Do not use the same password twice; choose a password that means something to you and you only; change your passwords on a regular basis.

If you see something suspicious, report it to the proper authorities.

The extent, nature, and timing of cyber incidents are impossible to predict. There may or may not be any warning. Some cyber incidents take a long time (weeks, months or years) to be discovered and identified. Familiarize yourself with the types of threats and protective measures you can take by:

Signing up for the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) mailing list to receive the latest cybersecurity information directly to your inbox. Written for home and business users, alerts provide timely information about current security issues and vulnerabilities. 

Becoming a Friend of the Department of Homeland Security’s Stop. Think. Connect. Campaign and receive a monthly newsletter with cybersecurity current events and tips. 

During A Cyber Attack

Immediate Actions

Check to make sure the software on all of your systems is up-to-date.

Run a scan to make sure your system is not infected or acting suspiciously.

If you find a problem, disconnect your device from the Internet and perform a full system restore.

At Home

Disconnect your device (computer, gaming system, tablet, etc.) from the Internet. By removing the Internet connection, you prevent an attacker or virus from being able to access your computer and perform tasks such as locating personal data, manipulating or deleting files, or using your device to attack others.

If you have anti-virus software installed on your computer, update the virus definitions (if possible), and perform a manual scan of your entire system. Install all of the appropriate patches to fix known vulnerabilities.

At Work

If you have access to an IT department, contact them immediately. The sooner they can investigate and clean your computer, the less damage to your computer and other computers on the network.

If you believe you might have revealed sensitive information about your organization, report it to the appropriate people within the organization, including network administrators. They can be alert for any suspicious or unusual activity.

At a Public Place (library, school, etc.)

Immediately inform a librarian, teacher, or manager in charge. If they have access to an IT department, contact them immediately.

Immediate Actions if your Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is compromised:

PII is information that can be used to uniquely identify, contact, or locate a single person. PII includes but is not limited to:

Full Name

Social security number


Date of birth

Place of birth

Driver’s License Number

Vehicle registration plate number

Credit card numbers

Physical appearance

Gender or race

If you believe your PII is compromised:

Immediately change all passwords; financial passwords first. If you used the same password for multiple resources, make sure to change it for each account, and do not use that password in the future.

If you believe the compromise was caused by malicious code, disconnect your computer from the Internet.

Restart your computer in safe mode and perform a full system restore.

Contact companies, including banks, where you have accounts as well as credit reporting companies.

Close any accounts that may have been compromised. Watch for any unexplainable or unauthorized charges to your accounts.

Cybersecurity Threat Detection for Businesses

Cyber threats are becoming more of a norm than an exception for businesses in our information-driven age. Until now, most companies had a small group of staff responsible for their IT and cybersecurity. However, recent developments suggest that these organizations are in need of greater defenses as hackers and malware become more and more sophisticated. To prevent data breaches and ensuing disasters, all types of industries have been taking considerable steps to improve their data security and compliance across the board.

And it’s not just small businesses. Government regulations have popped up across the globe to protect economies and constituents. Some of these laws that you may have heard of include the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) for safeguarding healthcare information, the Sarbanes-Oxley Act (SOX) to regulate U.S. businesses’ financial records and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) for companies within the European Union.

Clearly, agencies big and small are taking cybersecurity seriously, and there’s a good reason for it.

Why Is It Important to Address Cybersecurity Threats?

Most enterprises have come to understand the importance of addressing internet security. With nearly two-thirds of a recently surveyed group of small organizations having experienced cyber attacks in the last two years, the risks of a lack of cybersecurity are becoming more widely talked about. These risks include:

Compromising of private data. Companies today rely heavily on the data they collect, whether it’s market information, various account details or the personal information of customers. If a cyber hack occurs, not only is there a chance for this information to be stolen by another entity, but data could also be altered in a way that drastically damages the company’s operational reliability.

Costly recovery expenses. Not only does a breach in security put information at risk, but there are also potentially devastating financial repercussions. Most of these are in the form of “hidden” costs that can continue to impact your business for up to two years after the incident. Whether it’s in the form of new IT training, acquiring new software or the lengthy process of restoring lost data, the loss of both time and money can be devastating.

Weakened client trust. Naturally, customers don’t like hearing that their personal information has been compromised. After a cyber attack occurs to a company they originally trusted to keep their data safe, consumers may decide to discontinue their business and seek services elsewhere, tarnishing not only the reputation of the attacked company but also reducing its bottom line.

Why it's important to address cybersecurity threats

To prevent these losses, businesses need to pay special attention to what leads to these online security incidents. Nearly 90 percent of data breaches are caused by a human-made mistake or behavior, and further data from the survey mentioned above suggests that employee ignorance is one of the leading contributors, manifesting itself in a few different forms:

Widespread lack of understanding and training. It’s not only the IT department who can accidentally expose the company to online intruders. While many tech support employees are not necessarily cybersecurity experts, which should be addressed more extensively, other non-technical employees also carry the responsibility to behave wisely online. If the workforce has a generally limited knowledge of what threats look like, leading employees to find themselves opening emails tagged with malware or accessing unsecured networks, even prepared IT departments can’t defend the company properly.

Lack of groundwork for new IT initiatives. In 27 percent of survey respondents, new IT policies contribute to the lack of preparation for security incidents. Say the organization implements new cloud computing initiatives or adopts new user controls without adequately building foundations and training employees effectively. This can lead to an absence of awareness, user errors and even the initial installation of software without ensuring the right security settings are in place, opening the company up to impending threats from the start.

Overwhelmed technical departments. Another critical factor in addressing cybersecurity is acknowledging that overworked IT departments will be less adequately prepared to tackle cyber attacks head-on. Understaffed or underskilled groups within small companies might be those best suited to look into outsourcing business network security solutions to help maintain proper defenses.

We can begin to take steps toward better cybersecurity solutions by providing a greater understanding of online threats, what they entail when they occur and how to detect them. Let’s start by looking at the different types of cybersecurity threats that businesses can face today.

What Are the Most Common Cybersecurity Threats for Businesses?

Today, cyber attacks can come from a variety of places and in a variety of forms. Some types of threats are more invasive than others, but they can all be equally jarring for a business left unprepared. A few of the typical attackers and sources of cybersecurity threats include:

Organized crime groups

Competitors of your business



Foreign governments

Most common cybersecurity threats for businesses

While these sources are all coming at the company from the outside, another considerable threat that businesses face is inside attacks, often perpetrated by a disgruntled employee or contract worker who has been trusted with network access. Inside attacks are one of the reasons why security software like BlackStratus’s own CYBERShark has become an essential asset in thoroughly tracking user activity.

Some of these attacks are not intentionally malicious, like if a user is simply testing their limits or digging through the network to find information they don’t have access to. But it’s important to note that, more and more, criminal groups are incentivizing insiders to deliberately cause harm from within.

The Types of Cybersecurity Threats That Businesses Face

The way this harm looks can vary, so we should take a moment to address the most common types of cybersecurity threats that businesses need to watch for, whether they are attacks coming from the outside or from within the organization itself:

Phishing. Cybercriminals will try to gain access to your secured network through different means, the most common of which is through phishing. By using social sites or email, these scammers will convince users to click on misleading links, provide sensitive information or company data, or even download content to their computer or server.

Malware. If a victim of phishing does end up initiating a download, there’s a good chance that the program received is harmful or malicious. A Trojan virus, for example, is a form of malware brought onto the network disguised as legitimate software, often carrying out its true purpose without the user knowing. Malware comes in various forms, tasked with anything from spying on the system to manipulating its code.

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS). This is a type of attack that floods the server with requests from multiple sources, leading it to become overwhelmed to the point of slowing down substantially or even crashing. Once this occurs, the system becomes impossible to use effectively until theses numerous interactions are canceled and blocked.

Brute Force or Password Attacks. These threats involve an attacker attempting to gain access to a network by using a program to ascertain a working password. They’re the primary reason it’s important not to use the same password across the board and why these login details need to be changed regularly.

Internet of Things (IoT) or Algorithm Manipulation. As organizations grow to rely more and more on their wearable tech, cloud-computing industrial devices and other IoT applications, the more vulnerable their data becomes. Similarly, as automation has led companies to trust their algorithms to interpret and apply their data, they may be susceptible to threats in the form of these systems and codes being compromised without frequent monitoring and occasional human interaction.

Ransomware. This is a type of malware that, when opened, locks the system down and encrypts the device so that no one can use it anymore. Ransomware is one of the most sophisticated and damaging threats out there. The computer or server affected will remain locked until a hefty ransom is paid on its behalf, although some hackers are prone to not following through on the unlocking that they promise, causing the business to suffer even further.

These are some of the most widely understood attack patterns, which the right security software can help you detect and prevent. In addition to this list, businesses especially need to be aware of what is called Advanced Persistent Threats, or APTs.

The Five Phases of an Advanced Persistent Threat or Intrusion

These threats are precisely what the name implies: extensive and aggressive, and drawn out over a long period. They are usually composed of several phases, involving a string of cybersecurity threats like the ones already mentioned. Here is what these phases can look like and what you can expect from each one:

Reconnaissance and Probing. Employees who are too lazy to check for warning signs may find themselves surrendering confidential information. This phase usually involves a form of phishing that relies on this human complacency. Sometimes the hackers sit back and wait for the unsuspecting victim to visit a fake website and input sensitive info. Other instances involve a physical device being planted by an insider into one of the network’s computers that will gather the data for them.

Intrusion and System Compromise. Without doing anything too suspicious, the perpetrator will then use the login credentials or other access tools to enter the flow of network traffic, seeking information to exploit or critical systems to disrupt. As they blend into the typical workings of the network, the attacker can observe activity for months from a remote location without being detected.

Exploitation and Malware Installation. The hacker moves laterally on the network, gathering additional user account data to expand their foothold and compromising sensitive files. As they go, they begin to insert forms of malware like Trojans to exert further control. They still may be weeks from detection, so the scope of the damage they cause during this phase can take years to discover and repair after the attacker is expelled.

Data Capture or Manipulation. Next, the hacker will begin to decrypt and remove information from the system that has been infiltrated. Decryption is a process that takes time and skill, but if the imposter has made it this far into the attack, they are likely going to follow through with their objective.

Track-Covering and Exit. Once the attacker has what they came for, they will either leave the network, create backdoor entries so they can return undetected or even destroy the evidence using ransomware. Even after their mission is complete, unless they set off alarms or shut the system down with malware, their invasion can remain undetected while a large percentage of company data has been compromised. That’s why constant visualization and remaining alert is crucial for network owners.

Preventing these kinds of persistent attacks is all about careful and continuous monitoring of your system. It can be a challenge to detect a data breach of this scale because of the attacker using valid login credentials and remaining on the down-low for months at a time. But the right tools can make a big difference in alerting you to any unusual activity.

Hot to detect cybersecurity threats before they occur

How Can You Detect Cybersecurity Threats Before They Occur?

Typically, businesses have a few different in-house approaches to data management and protection that they resort to, from drilling their employees on compliance to installing firewalls and keeping their software up-to-date. Additional data breach detection methods vary in complexity and effectiveness:

Basic methods. As a first line of defense, businesses will commonly incorporate a shallow stack of technologies that allow real-time correlation and logging, enabling the owner to highlight suspicious network events.

Emerging methods. To go a step further, owners may incorporate history analytical capabilities, taking any action of interest and comparing current operations to previous instances when these activities last occurred. This insight allows the business to establish new precedents or policies to minimize these incidents.

Advanced methods. Introducing intuitive security programs prevents even insiders from conducting malicious activity without detectable deviations from standard network behavior. It’s this kind of oversight that is crucial in protecting sensitive data and avoiding the substantial losses that cybersecurity threats can incur.

After A Cyber Attack

File a report with the local police so there is an official record of the incident.

Report online crime or fraud to your local United States Secret Service (USSS) Electronic Crimes Task Force or theInternet Crime Complaint Center.

Report identity theft to the Federal Trade Commission.

If your PII was compromised, consider other information that may be at risk. Depending what information was stolen, you may need to contact other agencies; for example, if someone has gained access to your Social Security number, contact the Social Security Administration. You should also contact the Department of Motor Vehicles if your driver's license or car registration has been stolen.

For further information on preventing and identifying threats, visit US-CERT’s Alerts and Tips page.


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