In this age of hyper-digitisation, cyber threats are everywhere. Cyber threats can originate from anywhere and can compromise your data or devices within a matter of minutes. Thus, it is extremely crucial to follow recommended cyber security practices.
Even though it is hard to determine where the threat is originating from, we can always identify the threat before it is too late. Threats can come in the dormant form of viruses and malware, ready to be unleashed after infecting the target system. Or, cyber threats can also be real-time attacks such as DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks.
Adhering to cyber security protocols allows us to detect and respond to attacks in time before the threat can cause significant damage. If data or systems are compromised, massive repercussions such as hardware damage, data loss and financial loss are experienced by victims. It is always best to find and eliminate threats before they can even infect the operating system, network or hardware.
Detection of cyber threats is an essential component of a holistic security ecosystem for cyberspaces. Threat detection deals with analysing and identifying malicious or unauthorised activities inside a network or a digital infrastructure. Once a cyber threat is detected, appropriate security responses are then taken to mitigate the damage or neutralise the danger.
It is preferred that vulnerabilities and loopholes in the security framework are identified beforehand as the damages are kept to a minimum as compared to responding to a live attack. Stopping a cyber breach by reinforcing the security reduces the possibility of more vulnerabilities being exposed in the system.
Even with fool-proof cyber security measures, it is crucial to keep utilising preventive security solutions and keep trying to find more vulnerabilities in any security system.
Why is it Important to Detect Cyber Threats?
A properly carried out cyber attack can lead to damages worth millions of dollars. As a matter of fact, cyber attacks cost companies billions of dollars annually and the number is predicted to only keep getting higher in the coming years. From the perspective of an end user or an average individual, a cyber attack can lead to the leakage of financial information and personal data.
These threats are hazardous even if there is financial loss as these attacks can be followed by other crimes such as blackmail or identity theft.
Threat detection follows a ‘prevention is better than cure’ ideology. This involves testing the network, device or system architecture to find any glitches, bugs or loopholes. A compromised network or system is one of the most dangerous cyber threats for an individual or a company.
How are compromised digital infrastructures a threat? If a data pipeline is compromised or a database is unsecured, it can lead to confidential data or sensitive company information getting leaked. For example, blueprints for a new mobile device that has not yet been announced can get leaked through compromised organisational systems such as computers and databases.
Common Cyber Threats
Here are some common cyber threats:
- Malware: Malware such as spyware, worms and viruses breach networks, devices and databases in order to steal data, corrupt data and destroy systems. Certain malware can even get attached to other applications or even the firmware infrastructure of a device in order to spy on the victim’s activities.
- Ransomware: This kind of malware ends up encrypting the files and folders inside a system to demand a ransom from the victim for decrypting the files and restoring the victim’s access to the data.
- Phishing: It is a cyber attack that involves using legitimate-looking e-mail addresses to send fraudulent mails so that a victim ends up downloading a malicious file or opening a malicious link. Through phishing, attackers can also steal information and passwords by fooling victims into thinking certain links are genuine and then asking visitors for their personal credentials.
- Spam: Such mails can be used to startle a security system which further makes these security solutions block important or genuine mails as well. Also, large-scale spam mails make employees inside an organisation miss other important mails by crowding their inboxes.
- Compromised applications and web pages: There are many applications that are embedded with malicious trackers, spyware and viruses. Similarly, scripts can be embedded into websites to force the client (browser) to download malicious files and install dangerous .exe files.
- Unauthorised entry: This is a form of cyber attack that can be planned or unplanned. An example of an unauthorised entry is an employee logging into another employee’s account to cause damage to a company’s digital assets or data. This kind of attack also leads to the reputation loss of the victim.
- Social engineering and human error: These kinds of cyber threats originate from not being responsible or being callous with adhering to cyber security protocols. A lot of these cyber threats are created unintentionally or when an external agent manipulates a victim inside an organisation to either leave his/her system unattended or give away company credentials.
- DDoS: This kind of cyber attack keeps generating server requests and floods the server of a website with artificial traffic to cause an Error 503 (Service Unavailable). By exhausting the bandwidth and resources of the network and server, the link or the address of the website becomes unavailable.
How do you Detect Cyber Threats?
So, how can we prevent these kinds of data leaks or other kinds of cyber attacks? By regularly testing and analysing the security and architecture of our digital systems and spaces. For instance, if you wish to test how well your website performs against a DDoS attack with Solaris, then you can use a Linux distribution such as Kali Linux.
While you can also use other operating systems (and distributions) such as Ubuntu, you will need to additionally install other extensions and tools. For example, you will need to install Visual Studio and get the Python extension. Then, you have to create a directory for Slowloris and install it from a repository such as Github.
Using Kali Linux, you can directly install the Git clone of Slowloris from the terminal using Shell commands and then start DDoS-ing your target website. You can check out a good cyber security and ethical hacking programme to learn how to use Kali Linux and other Linux distributions for penetration testing and network security evaluation.
Here are some other best practices for detecting cyber threats early on:
- Checking e-mail addresses of the sender before clicking on any link or downloading any document
- Ensuring that we analyse the background processes that are running on our devices and computers to verify their legitimacy
- Using automated threat detection systems that are assisted by sophisticated AI models
- Regular penetration testing for organisational portals and databases
- Testing software and applications using an anti-virus before installing these programs inside our systems
- Using behaviour analytics for identifying potential victims or predicting malicious behaviour that might lead to a breach
Penetration testing is one of the best solutions for detecting cyber threats. However, the sophisticated nature of new and improved malware or other cyber threats requires us to take other additional measures.
One of the best solutions for this is using applied machine learning to teach various security tools and systems to detect new types of threats, even if these threats were never seen or recognised before.