Security Vulnerabilities vs. Security Threats: What’s the Difference?

Security Vulnerabilities vs. Security Threats: What’s the Difference?

Threats and vulnerabilities represent some of the cyber risks that organizations face daily.  While these terms are often used interchangeably, they actually have distinct meanings. In order to have a strong understanding on the types of security issues that can affect your organization, learning how threats and vulnerabilities relate to one another is crucial.

Source: EY Global

The Relationship Between Vulnerabilities and threats

Vulnerabilities and threats are both used to determine an organization’s cyber risk. The close relationship between the two is why these terms are often used interchangeably.

To show the relationship between a threat and a vulnerability, take a phishing attack as an example. Hackers target organizations with phishing emails because they know that employees are often an organization’s weakest link and most common vulnerability. Hackers exploit this vulnerability by sending phishing emails to employee inboxes, making the phishing email a threat. Whether the phishing email actually inflicts damage to the organization depends on whether employees click on the email links. If employees are cyber aware and have undergone cybersecurity training, they most likely won’t fall victim to the attack. On the flipside, an employee who may not be paying close attention to the email or is unaware of phishing as a cyber threat is more likely to click on the link (accidentally or not).

What is a Vulnerability?

Vulnerabilities refer to security weaknesses that can be taken advantage of by threat actors. They can exist anywhere in your infrastructure, from your desktop computers to the applications you use and even your employees. Vulnerabilities aren’t inherently dangerous per se but can cause a lot of damage if they are exploited.  The risk of a vulnerability depends on where the vulnerability is and the potential impact on a business.

How to Minimize Vulnerabilities

To minimize vulnerabilities, organizations need to close the security gaps that exist in their infrastructure. Here are three ways organizations can minimize their vulnerabilities:

Patch regularly: Developers and manufacturers are always updating their products which is why it’s important to install security patches as soon as they’re available. The longer you wait to patch a vulnerability, the more time hackers have to exploit the vulnerability and enter your network.

Conduct an assessment: A vulnerability risk assessment is used to help organizations understand the risks in their infrastructure and identify any vulnerabilities. An assessment will help organizations catch security gaps before they can be exploited and provide actionable suggestions to help improve overall security.

Use a VPN: Many organizations allow employees to work remotely and connect to the corporate network with their own devices. However, remote working can leave organizations vulnerable to being hacked if an employee is using an unsecure network. To safely connect employees to the corporate network, it’s vital they use a VPN. VPNs help encrypt traffic and creates a private connection to the network. 

What is a threat?

Threats refer to events that have the potential to harm an organization. There are several different types of threats, such as malware, ransomware, trojans, etc. Threats are actioned by threat actors who try to leverage vulnerabilities to gain access to a system. These threat actors can be external parties like hackers or insider threats who already have access to your internal systems.

How to Defend Against Threats

Threats are harder to stop because they’re out of your control and hackers never stop trying to steal data. In order to protect yourself from the latest threats, you need to minimize opportunities for hackers to exploit vulnerabilities. Here are three ways to defend against threats:

Use secure solutions: Implementing advanced security solutions throughout every part of your infrastructure will ensure you are protecting every entry point. Protecting your perimeter with a firewall will help keep actors out while using a SIEM will help detect suspicious behaviour that can indicate a threat. To learn more about our security solutions, contact us today.

Protect Account Credentials: Your organization’s credentials are the keys to your network and data. Having a good password policy that also includes multi-factor authentication will help secure your accounts. Encourage employees to never reuse passwords across workplace accounts and ensure that all passwords require unique characters and symbols.

Backup data: Your organization’s data is the primary target for hackers which is why it’s important to protect it. Furthermore, events like hurricanes, fires or floods can also threaten your data. Backing up your data regularly will ensure that you always have a copy in the event you are unable to access your files. It will also ensure that the latest documents are saved.

How Online Skimming Steals Payment Information

How Online Skimming Steals Payment Information

Online skimming is currently one of the biggest persistent threats affecting retailers and service providers. These attacks infect e-commerce websites with malicious code to steal payment information. One of the biggest perpetrators of online skimming attacks is Magecart, a group of bad actors that target payment websites. Magecart hackers are consistently evolving their techniques. According to research from security researcher Willem de Groot, one in five Magecart-infected stores are re-infected within days.

Source: Willem de Groot

How Do Online Skimming Attacks Work?

1. Gain Website Entry

To start stealing information, bad actors need to find a way to gain access to your website. They can do this by exploiting vulnerabilities, phishing for your website credentials or through hacking into a third-party application. The latter is more common as most websites use third-party applications for functions such as live chat or to track visitor traffic. Bad actors prefer to target third-party providers because they can compromise more websites at once. Third-party breaches are also harder to detect because they don’t compromise the merchant directly. Therefore, a merchant may not realize their website has fallen victim to online skimming until its too late.

2. Inject Skimming Code

Once the door is open and the bad actors are inside, they can start injecting malicious JavaScript code to perform online skimming. This code can be customized to target specific websites or enact specific types of behaviour and can be hidden within normal script. Common scripts include the following:

  • Formjacking: Formjacking is when bad actors swap out legitimate payment forms with fake ones so that any information that is typed out in checkout is sent to another server.
  • Keyloggers: Keylogging scripts are used to record keystrokes to steal information. Bad actors can use keyloggers to determine credit card numbers or passwords.

Regardless of the type of malicious script, the goal is always the same: to steal information.

3. Steal the Payment Data

Once the malicious code is injected, it will lie within the website’s code until it’s triggered by a customer submitting payment information during checkout. Any information submitted is either stored locally on the compromised website or sent remotely to a command server controlled by the bad actors.

Any data harvested by the hackers can be used in a variety of ways. Some may use stolen credit card information to commit fraud or identity theft. Others will most likely sell the data on the dark web.

How to Protect Your Website

Companies with e-commerce websites and third-party providers are at most risk to being hit with online skimming attacks. In order to protect your business, you need to have detection and prevention best practices in place.

Detection Best Practices

1. Perform a risk assessment: A risk assessment will help detect vulnerabilities by scanning your website for any security gaps.

2. Review code: Taking some time to review your website code for any malicious scripts can help detect them before they compromise your website.

3. Review security logs: SIEM can help detect and monitor your networks for suspicious activity by producing security logs that can be analyzed for review. To learn more about our SIEM, contact us today.

Prevention Best Practices

1. Data encryption: All customer payment information should be securely encrypted to prevent bad actors from reading data.

2. Always patch systems: Staying up-to-date with the security patches for your systems and software will help prevent bad actors from exploiting potential vulnerabilities.

3. Review third-party partners: When deciding to implement third-party apps, you need to do your research. Companies that work with payments need to be PCI compliant and you should monitor for their status. You should also assess the types of third party scripts you’re including in your website and determine whether they are actually necessary. Including unnecessary additional scripts make your website more vulnerable to online skimming attacks.

3 Key Elements Your Cybersecurity Strategy Needs

3 Key Elements Your Cybersecurity Strategy Needs

Security presents several challenges to organizations nowadays and it can be difficult for organizations to keep up with the increase in cyber threats. Many organizations turn to security solutions to defend against the latest threats. While it’s important to use technologies to provide a layer automated protection, simply using technology alone isn’t enough. Research from Cisco found that only 26% of security issues can be solved by security products alone. In order to defend against the latest threats, organizations need to integrate security within their corporate culture. This includes having cyber aware staff and explicit security policies that employees need to follow. Creating a cybersecurity strategy will help every aspect of an organization, from its people to its process and technology, uphold a strong cybersecurity front.

Source: Cisco

3 Essential Things to Include in Your Cybersecurity Strategy

A cybersecurity strategy is an organization’s first step in having a robust and effective IT infrastructure. There is “no one size fits all” approach as the needs of every business is unique. However, each part of a cybersecurity strategy needs to work together to protect your business. Here are three elements your cybersecurity strategy needs.

1. Clearly Defined Security Priorities

The foundation of your security strategy must be rooted in your organization’s security goals and objectives. It needs to go beyond “block hackers and avoid breaches.” Your priorities should be specific to your organization and focused so that you can develop precise actions to improve your security. It involves looking at your critical resources and assessing the security risks and compliance standards that align with your organization. Once you have established your security priorities and goals, you can start developing standards and best practices to occupy your security strategy.

2. Communication with Executives and Key Stakeholders

Having support from your organization’s executives and stakeholders is incredibly important for your cybersecurity strategy because their attitudes shape security priorities and eventually form how the rest of your organization views security. Security is a business issue and affects everyone from the top down. Your cybersecurity strategy should be embedded within your business initiatives and not siloed with the IT team. Communication between your IT team and executive team is crucial in bridging the two together. Both teams need to work together to establish best practices that work for the organization and to invest in technologies that fit within security budgets.

3. Proactive Threat Management

Many organizations don’t start caring about security until after they’ve been breached. While it’s never too late to start implementing a security strategy, many security incidents could have been prevented if organizations took a proactive approach. Organizations should always be taking a proactive approach to security. Proactive threat management means your threat detection and response is always evolving to defend against the latest threats. It includes implementing the best security solutions, training staff on issues related to cybersecurity and evaluating and remediating security alerts. It takes time, experience and expert security skills to ensure your organization stays one step ahead of threat actors. To learn how Jolera can help defend your organization, contact us today.

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Cyber Defenses

5 Ways to Strengthen Your Cyber Defenses

Due to the ever-evolving threat landscape, organizations must consistently refresh their cyber defenses in order prepare for the next threat. This leads many organizations to increase their cybersecurity investments to keep up. Global spending on cybersecurity services and products is expected to reach $103 billion this year, up 9.4 per cent from 2018 according to IDC.

Implementing security solutions that work is a good foundation for organizations to build their cyber resilience. However, organizations need to also focus on strengthening their cybersecurity defenses with their people, processes and products. Here are 5 things organizations can do right now to increase their cyber defenses.

Source: Cisco

5 Things Your Organization Can Do to Increase Security

1. Stay Updated

Staying updated in everything security related is key to building a good cyber defence. This includes knowing the latest compliance regulations and threats and breaches, as well as updating apps/systems/devices with the most recent patches.

Many states and countries around the world are starting to implement new laws regarding security, which may be relevant to your business. Knowing about compliance regulations can help you avoid large fees and incorporate best practices into your cyber defence strategy.

Learning about recent breaches and how they started can help you look at your own systems and see if there are security changes you need to start implementing. It will also help you understand the latest threats and how they’re targeting businesses so that you can take steps to avoid them.

Malicious actors are always looking for vulnerabilities to exploit, which is why it’s crucial to have them patched as soon as possible. Delaying updates to crucial systems give hackers more leeway into your systems.    

2. Implement Ongoing Training

Employees are an organization’s first line of defense, which is why it’s important to arm them with cyber awareness training.

Employees are constantly targeted by scams like phishing and business email compromise (BEC) emails. Research from Symantec found that organizations received an average of 5 BEC scam emails per month in the past year. It only takes one employee mistake for an organization to fall victim to a data breach.

Organizations can protect themselves against highly preventable attacks by having their employees understand cybersecurity, the threat landscape and how their actions affect your organization’s security posture.  

3. Limit Internal and External Access

Organizations should limit their access whether its internally through privilege access management or externally with separate WiFi for guests.

An organization’s data should not be open to all employees and high privileged accounts should be limited to only those who need them. That way, if one employee account is compromised, the hacker won’t be able to access all the organization’s data. This will also help prevent data leakage and make it easier to track who has access to important documents.

Business WiFi can act as a gateway to your organization’s data. Secure your WiFi so that only employees can access it. For remote employees, they can securely connect to your organization through a VPN. Having a separate WiFi access for guests will help protect them from accessing important files.

4. Remove Unused Services

Accounts, applications and products should be disabled and removed as soon as they are no longer in use. This will help reduce your attack surface and limit unauthorized access to your organization.

Employees that leave can become potential insider threats, which is why their credentials should be disabled as soon as possible. Additionally, all user accounts that are associated with old hardware or applications should also be shut down as well. If a former application gets breached and you didn’t shut down your account, your data may be vulnerable.

Organizations should also be aware of end of life support for the hardware and software they use in their infrastructure. Failing to remove or upgrade can result in security gaps that can be exploited by hackers.

5. Align Business Objectives with Security

While there are general best practices for securing organizations (such as implementing firewalls and protecting inboxes), cyber defense needs will differ between organizations depending on the size of a business and its industry. For example, an ecommerce business will need a separate level of data protection to safeguard payments and customer information.

Organizations need to develop a security strategy that focuses on their risks. They need to establish effective monitoring methods that can address their unique workloads and partner with the right team of experts to help them integrate security measures that work with their business. To find out how Jolera can help your business, contact us today.

5 Reasons Why Data Breaches Still Happen to Organizations

5 Reasons Why Data Breaches Still Happen to Organizations

According to new research by Risked Based Security, data breaches are increasing. Their recent report found that an average of more than 20 breaches have been reported per day during the first half of 2019.

Falling victim to a data breach can be a nightmare for businesses. Just recently, Capital One fell victim to a data breach that exposed the information of 100 million Americans and 6 million Canadians. They’re now facing a $600 million lawsuit here in Canada.

To protect your organization, understanding the common cybersecurity problems that lead to breaches can help defend your organization against them.

Source: 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report

5 Current Cybersecurity Problems That Lead to Data Breaches

1. Attacks are advancing: The threat landscape is constantly evolving as hackers are always coming up with new ways to steal data and breach organizations. These hackers are well trained and have their own communities on the dark web where they share tips and sell data and credentials. People can easily purchase tools like ransomware-as-a-service and DIY phishing kits, enabling anyone to engage in malicious attacks and increasing the amount of threats an organization may face. Organizations need to make sure they’re employing the latest security technologies to help combat cyber attacks.

2. Misconfigured or improper installations of security tools: Implementing security technologies like firewalls or cloud backup is a great way to protect your networks. However, if they are not installed or configured properly, they won’t be able to work as intended and will be vulnerable to being breached. For example, in the recent Capital One breach, a malicious actor managed to exploit a configuration vulnerability in the company’s systems and steal the customer data. Organizations need to make sure that when they are implementing new technologies, or engaging in other IT projects like moving to the cloud, that they’re working with certified experts.

3. Human error: Human error is a common reason for data breaches and many companies feel vulnerable. Nearly 80% of organizations say they’re worried about insider threats according to research from Barracuda. Although actions due to human error (such as accidentally clicking a phishing link) occur without malicious intentions, they still manage to cause serious damage. Fortunately, human error can be prevented with cyber awareness training. It’s important to inform employees of the common cyber threats they encounter daily so that they can be more vigilant while at work.

4. Lack of security assessments: A security risk assessment is used to analyze and identify security defects and vulnerabilities within an organization’s IT environment. Its purpose is to help organizations understand their security risks so that they can take the necessary steps to fix any weaknesses. Security assessments also help organizations determine their return on investment for their security tools and solutions by determining if they are helping to close security gaps. By not doing a security assessment, organizations are leaving their IT environments open to potential vulnerabilities. Having a clear view of an organization’s security posture allows organizations to focus on where they should be putting their security efforts and helps them determine if they’re on the right track. Since the threat landscape is always changing, security assessments should be done at least once a year or whenever there’s a major change in the IT environment.

5. Lack of adequate security staff: Not all organizations have the capabilities to hire security staff that can monitor security alerts and deal with IT issues. Cyber criminals take advantage of this and target small and medium businesses, leaving SMBs vulnerable to cyber attacks. In some cases, non-IT staff might be burdened to share the responsibility of security. This can lead security events to slip past organizations as they might not always be focusing on security. Furthermore, the cybersecurity skills gap makes it harder for organizations to hire adequate security staff. Organizations who are unable to have their own security staff should consider partnering with a managed services provider to take care of their security and IT issues. That way, organizations can feel confident knowing experts are taking care of their infrastructure and can focus on their own business. For more information on how Jolera can help your organization, contact us today.

5 Ways to Reduce the Financial Impact of a Data Breach

5 Ways to Reduce the Financial Impact of a Data Breach

Data breaches can be costly for organizations and due to an increase in compliance regulations and advances in attacks, the cost of a data breach continues to rise. A recent study conducted by the Ponemon Institute and sponsored by IBM looked at the financial impacts of data breaches and found that the global average cost of a data breach is $3.92 million. In Canada, that cost is even greater with the average cost of a data breach reaching $4.4 million.  

The financial impact of a data breach can devastate organizations, especially smaller businesses. And the costs don’t just stop once a breach happens. According to the IBM study, organizations can continue to feel the financial repercussions of a breach after more than two years. Since the impacts of a data breach are complex, it’s important to take actions to reduce the risk of a breach, thereby reducing its financial impact if one takes place.

Source: IBM

How Businesses Can Minimize the Cost of Data Breaches

The IBM report looked at several factors that can cause a data breach to be more than or less than the average total cost of a data breach. Here are some of the factors outlined in the study.

1. Incident response team: An incident response team consists of key members of the organization that will work to detect, analyze and contain a data breach in the event one happens. This team is a vital part of an incident response plan, which is an organization’s defence plan for a data breach. Not only does having a plan reduce the cost of a data breach but having it tested is important as well. Having an incident response team saved organizations $360,000 while having an extensively tested plan saved organizations $320,000.

2. Use encryption: Encryption is critical in protecting sensitive data, such as personally identifiable information and confidential business information. Encryption translates plaintext data into ciphertext so that only those with the encryption key can read it. While data encryption does not prevent data breaches it can prevent bad actors from easily accessing your data. Extensive use of encryption saved organizations $360,000.

3. Invest in the right security solutions: Using advanced security solutions that can detect suspicious activity in an organization’s network allows organizations to quickly deal with potential data breach activity. Security automation technologies like a SIEM system integrates existing threat intelligence sources to help contextualize data and simplifies investigation into security alerts. Training employees on cyber threats can also help mitigate breaches caused by human error. It also gives employees insight into the threat landscape and know what to look for in attacks such as phishing emails. Employee training saved organizations $270,000 while the use of security analytics saved organizations $200,000.

4. Vet third party partners: Supply chain attacks occur when hackers infiltrate an organization’s systems through a third-party supplier or partner who has access. Organizations need to verify the security systems of their partners before doing business with them. Consumers will not care if the cause of a breach is due to a third party and will hold your organization responsible for not doing due diligence when deciding to partner with that vendor. A data breach from a third-party partner increased the cost of a breach by $370,000.

5. Implement data backup: Having a business continuity plan is vital when dealing with a data breach. Having your data backed up and stored securely can help with business continuity. Having a business continuity plan can save organizations $280,000.