Cyber crimes are not only occurring with mounting frequency in today’s wireless world, but they are also becoming increasingly sophisticated and widespread.Just this month, major UK telecommunications, internet access and mobile network services company TalkTalk was the latest in a long line of brands to face media scrutiny after its website was breached by a significant and sustained cyber-attack. The company said it was “too early to say” how many of its customers had been affected by the attack but credit card, bank account details, names, addresses, dates of birth, email addresses and telephone numbers could all have been accessed. With a criminal investigation now underway, it is not yet known what the nature of the attack was, although early insight suggests that it may have been a distributed denial of service (DDoS) attack, where a website is hit by waves of traffic so intense that it cannot cope. However, a second school of thought believes that the DDoS attack may have been a smokescreen to distract the organisation’s defence team whilst the cyber criminals set in practice their real objective of stealing data. Should the second school of thought be accurate, this may even have been an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT). What sets Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) apart is the nature and scope of the attack as they stealthily exploit vulnerabilities over a period of time. Gartner puts it simply:
‘Advanced’ means it gets through your existing defences.
‘Persistent’ means it succeeds in hiding from your existing level of detection.
‘Threat’ means it causes you harm. Once inside the network, APTs move around surreptitiously, seeking out sensitive data rather than disrupting systems and raising red flags. These attacks are well coordinated and have very specific objectives that target key users within the organisation to gain access to high-value information – be it top-secret military or government documents, trade secrets, blueprints, intellectual properties, source codes and other confidential information. The worst part is that no organisation, irrespective of size or type, is immune to these attacks. What is clear, whether it turns out to be DDoS, APT or another means of cyber-attack, the bottom line is that many of today’s businesses are relying on basic security defences like firewalls, anti-viruses and spyware that are dealing with APTs, and other means of attack, conceived years ago. Which means it is only a matter of time before our traditional cyber security systems will be faced with the next generation of attacks and it is unlikely that they will succeed. It is now imperative to develop a layered security approach that will amp up the security arsenal with a 360 degree visibility into all corners of the network. Continue reading on the next page for key elements for defence against attacks.
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