Three common types of cybersecurity threats, and how to mitigate them

November 11th, 2019

These days, you don’t need to be a tech geek to have heard of the term ‘cybersecurity’ or understand why it matters. As the number of cyber-attacks plaguing businesses increases, organisations are recognising the importance of applying security concepts to the technologies we use every day.

A key challenge with discussing cybersecurity, however, is its broad definition. Cybersecurity means different things to different people, which can make it difficult to unite a team of managers or decision-makers in focusing on the security risks and threats that matter most.

In this blog post, we’ll get to the heart of three common cybersecurity threats that every IT decision-maker should be aware of and share our tips for how to mitigate them.

#1 – Ransomware

Ransomware is a form of malicious software that infects a victim’s device, files or data and locks them out (or in some cases, threatens to publish personal data) until a ransom payment is made.

Ransomware attacks are usually financially motivated and can have devastating consequences for affected individuals and organisations.

Hackers can gain access to a user’s device or information by tricking them into opening an infected email attachment or visiting a particular website. Unfortunately, ransomware attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated. Infiltration attempts don’t always look like obvious spam messages – in fact, they can be indistinguishable from a message from a safe sender.

How to mitigate it

Relying on trained employees to detect ransomware threats is no longer an adequate security mechanism. Hackers are skilled at deceiving users by:

  • Mirroring trusted emails
  • Personalising messages
  • Adopting the branding of reputable organisations.

The good news is that there are a range of security products on the market that are keeping one step ahead of ransomware attackers.

For example, Microsoft Enterprise Mobility + Security (EMS) offers an advanced threat analytics capability that scans for, detects and interrupts suspicious activity before it has an opportunity to reach your users. Organisations gain real-time visibility into suspicious behaviour, enabling them to better understand patterns of suspicious behaviour and apply intelligent solutions to mitigate against them.

Microsoft EMS also offers a cloud app security capability to support centralised management of critical data assets. It’s available to both cloud and on-premises users as a reliable way of preventing and deterring ransomware attacks.

#2 – Phishing

Phishing is when a malicious entity seeks to obtain unauthorised access to personal or company information, ranging from passwords and banking details to sensitive commercial data. Hackers can then sell, publish or otherwise use the fraudulently obtained information for their own financial gain. 

As with ransomware, phishing attacks most commonly occur through emails and online messages that mirror a trusted source. While some phishing emails are riddled with obvious spelling and grammar mistakes or include nonsensical content, others can be highly personalised, professionally branded and well written.

These latter emails can be extremely hard to detect. Up to 97 percent of people can’t identify a sophisticated phishing email.

How to mitigate it

As with ransomware, relying on IT staff to detect phishing attempts is not an effective cybersecurity strategy. Choosing an email provider that offers robust anti-phishing protection is a much better way to go to protect your people and organisation from phishing threats.

For example, Office 365 comes with sophisticated anti-phishing protection that uses machine learning and impersonation detection algorithms to prevent suspicious messages from reaching users. Different controls can be applied depending on the security policies and preferences of each organisation.

#3 – DDoS attacks

Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks occur when a malicious entity or network shuts down a targeted system or web server by overloading its bandwidth. DDoS attacks are usually targeted at organisations and can have serious financial, business, reputational and other consequences.

According to Forrester, the average business will suffer at least one DDoS attack per year, at a cost of more than $100,000 per hour. AirBnB, Netflix, Amazon, Spotify and PayPal are high-profile examples of organisations impacted by DDoS attacks in recent years.

How to mitigate it

As DDoS attacks are most commonly carried out by flooding a system with traffic, the best protection that organisations can take is to design DDoS-resilient services. Platforms such as Microsoft Azure provide continuous protection against DDoS attacks by controlling traffic to prevent attacks.  

Where to from here?

There’s no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach when it comes to cybersecurity. However, working with an end-to-end security solution provider, such as Microsoft, can help ensure all your cybersecurity bases are covered.

To find out more, contact Cloud Collective, a strategic alliance of Microsoft Gold Partners that offer the full spectrum of Microsoft solutions.