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Cyber Security Awareness
Tue Mar 29, 2022 | jean-francois roberge
As conflict in Europe continues, there are mounting concerns in Canada over the cyber security of our personal and corporate data. The recent Canadian sanctions against Russia have brought about new questions regarding Canadians’ network safety, with governments warning people to take extra precautions in safeguarding their private data. Businesses are especially at risk of having their data stolen, ransomed, or lost completely. Understanding how data breaches happen, how to react, and how to protect against them are all necessary in creating a community who's sensible about cyber security.
Now more than ever, it’s important to think about how you and your company fit into all of this. Canada has already experienced a large number of attacks before, with reports from law firm McCarthy Tétrault L.L.P estimating that “cybercrime cost Canadians $6.4 billion in ransoms and lost productivity” (Financial Post). Businesses are high on the list of targets for cyber criminals, because of their rich data stores of information that can be gathered and sold.
Not knowing how these sophisticated attacks happen or underestimating their reach can have devastating consequences for your business.
Businesses: The Perfect Targets for Cyber Attacks
Cyber attacks happen when hackers try to control, destroy, or eliminate data completely. These attacks often occur because of human error within your organization. Well-disguised attacks can come in the forms of meaningful instant messages, clicking on email links from unknown sources, or not having proper layers of protection setup between you and a cyber criminal. If you think you don’t have anything of value for a cyber criminal to even bother targeting you for, think again.
Recent predictions estimated that damages from ransomware attacks would be around $20 billion in 2021. This is fifty-seven times more than it was in 2015 (Cybersecurity Ventures). That stolen data makes cyber criminals a lot of money. All of the data that cyber criminals take hostage can be uploaded to the dark web. There it can be sold, alongside other cyber attack tools that could later be used to further target businesses, government institutions, and essential services. This complex, fast-growing network for cyber criminals isn’t letting up either. Currently, it’s impossible to even estimate how fast the dark web is growing, with its rapid expansion increasing at a “rate that defies quantification” (Cybersecurity Ventures).
According to the Canadian Bankers Association, large companies have already braced for cyber attacks. Between 2009 and 2019 almost $100 billion was spent on technology, with a large portion dedicated to the implementation of security (Canadian Bankers Association). Unfortunately, smaller companies aren’t as rich in resources as bigger corporations, meaning they’re increasingly at risk because of budgetary constraints. This leaves them exposed, and they become ideal victims for cyber criminals. In 2021, nearly half of Canadian small businesses suffered some form of cyber attack. These were costly incidents, with costs totaling upwards of $100,000 (Insurance Bureau of Canada).
The sanctions that Canada has placed on Russia have only increased the potential danger that Canadian businesses face. Global News reports that future cyber attacks “will likely focus on businesses,” (Global News) since they’re bountiful in data and are the perfect ransom targets. To start protecting your business, it’s important to know what attacks exist, how to look for them, and how to prevent them.
Types of Cyber Attacks
The first essential step to take in fighting cyber attacks is better understanding what they look like. Knowing their names, how they infect your systems/networks, and where they’re commonly found will help keep you safe.
We’ve compiled a list of some of the most common or aggressive attacks:
1. Denial-of-Services (DoS) / Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS)
These attacks are meant to overwhelm your system’s resources, rendering it incapable of responding to your requests. These attacks can be contained to one unit or can go on to infect whole networks of devices.
Attackers will infiltrate and begin to send false requests to the system, trying to flood it and confuse it. Because there are so many requests coming in, the system won’t be able to manage its responses, forcing a complete shut-down.
While these attacks don’t always benefit the hacker, gaining nothing from the basic DoS/DDoS, it buys them time to access your device and plant seeds for new attacks in the future.
2. Man-in-the-Middle (MitM)
During man-in-the-middle attacks, hackers will “sit” between people, networks, or other devices with the user unaware that they’re present. However, the attacker can modify and access all messages being sent between victims before they reach their intended destinations.
A common man-in-the-middle attack is known as a “replay attack.” The attacker will save old messages that were sent to later use to disguise themselves as one of the victims and further perpetuate attacks on others.
Do you all like fishing? So do cyber criminals. Phishing attacks are so named because the perpetrator will fish for access to your device, with the bait coming from a sender who appears to be legitimate. Phishing attacks often come in the form of emails, which will load malware to your computer or trick you into giving up private information.
Spear Phishing is a targeted attack, where the attacker has taken time to research you and create messages that are personalized. They’ll send you emails pretending to be people you know or trusted sources, convincing you to click on a malicious link.
Whale Phishing is when attackers target “bigger fish,” like the heads of organizations. They target people who are more likely to have valuable information that could be ransomed, threatening to expose the victim unless the ransom is paid.
4. Password Attack
Attackers will find ways to crack your password’s code. One of the most common ways to do this is using brute force. This is when attackers gather basic information about you (your name, birthday, job title etc.) which you might have posted on social media or other easily accessible platforms. Attackers will go through combinations of these until they’ve deciphered your password. Because of this, you should think twice before commenting on a photo on social media that asks what brand your first car was or the name of the street where you grew up.
5. Eavesdropping Attack
Eavesdropping attacks are when attackers intercept messages and information sent through the network, collecting all manner of personal information.
Passive Eavesdropping is when a hacker simply listens in as they look for interesting information.
Active Eavesdropping is when hackers actively dig for information that they can later analyze. They disguise themselves and then search through, scan, or tamper with the system until they get what they’re looking for.
6. Birthday Attack
By abusing hash algorithms (used to verify messages) the attacker replaces the sender’s message with their own. The recipient of the message is unaware because the hash is correct.
Malware is a malicious software that infects computers, changes its functionality, destroys data, or spies on users. It can spread viciously from one device to another. It’s unwanted software that’s installed on your system without you consenting, attaching itself to code and spreading.
Malware is a family of cyber attacks, coming in many forms including:
Self-contained programs that spread through email attachments, which when opened activate the worm program.
Trojans or Trojan Horse:
Malicious programs that hide inside other seemingly trustworthy programs. Once opened, it becomes a backdoor for hackers to walk right in and access your device.
These viruses infect applications, such as Microsoft Word or Excel. When the application is opened, the virus begins transferring control over to the attacker. It then attaches to other coding in your system.
Logiciels Espions (Spyware):
Programs are installed to gather information about the user. It tracks everything you’re doing without you knowing.
Some of the most dangerous malware for businesses is ransomware. It has reached “epidemic proportions globally” (Cybersecurity Ventures) and has become the favoured method of attack by cyber criminals. By infecting devices and restricting access to files, attackers hold victims’ data hostage until a ransom is paid. If ransoms aren’t paid, victims are threatened with loss of data.
A recent and vicious form of malware is the HermeticWiper. It is the opposite of ransomware, in that instead of holding victims’ data hostage it seeks to eliminate it entirely; never to be recovered, the data is gone for good.
Now that you know the different attacks, it’s time to think about how to protect your business. The most important step to take is guarding against future attacks. It might seem like a costly adventure to protect your employees, your business, and yourself against cyber criminals, but in truth it can come down to simple security implementations and finding trusted sources to manage your security. Better security practices can save you money as they protect you from expensive and time-consuming cyber attacks that threaten your business and its reputation.
How to Protect Data from Cyber Attacks
Like with any form of security, the best method of protection is education. Ensure that all employees in your company are well-aware of the various threats that exist. While we’ve all had the “don’t share your password” speech given to us, not everyone will know the names of the various cyber attacks, or how they happen. Hosting a training session about cyber security is one step in the right direction to protecting your data.
Make sure everyone is on the same page when it comes to attachment best-practice, everyone knows never to download files they aren’t sure about, and never to open emails or links that they haven’t closely examined first.
Experts agree that one of the best practices is establishing a secure two-factor authentication system. This is an electronic authentication system where the user trying to access the secure file has to prove that it’s really them. Two or more pieces of evidence are needed to accept that the correct person is accessing the data. This extra step to logging in or downloading files is like installing extra locks on your door, keeping cyber criminals out.
Update Your Systems:
When a new system update comes out it might be tempting to put it off. You’re busy with work, your files are all open and you don’t have time to shut everything down to update the computer… These excuses are common. But in truth, this is one of the worst things you can do. As your system falls further behind in updates, the cracks and flaws of that system will be better exploited by cyber criminals. To err on the side of caution you should always make sure that all systems connected to your network are up to date and have the latest patches downloaded. These patches serve to update your system’s data by improving it, ensuring your systems aren’t vulnerable to future attacks.
Managed Security Services:
One of the safest bets you can take is putting in place an IT managed service for computer security management in order to protect your networks from any possible cyber attacks. Every day threats are evolving and becoming more aggressive. It can be hard to keep up with the latest in cyber security. As much as you might want to be up to date, it can be hard to do when you’re busy.
We can monitor your endpoints 24/7 and take action when your security is compromised. Not only will our managed security solution detect worms, Trojans, and spyware, but it will also detect unusual user behaviour that can lead to ransomware attacks! For example, our managed security team can temporarily block a user's access to the network if they start transferring large amounts of data to an external drive or suddenly log in from an IP address in Russia at 2am.
Hiring professionals who are knowledgeable about the industry and the common threats means you can focus on your tasks without worrying every step of the way that danger could be lurking around the corner.
Your security, peace of mind, and the safety of your clients' personal data is important to us.
XMA offers our clients managed IT and computer security management services. We understand the cybersecurity world well and we’re ready to keep you safe.
Contact us to learn more about our programs today.