How Do Enterprise Data Breaches Happen?

With malicious data attacks on the rise and proving higher risk, it’s vital for enterprises to appropriately address potential system vulnerabilities and protect against a data breach. 

If your company stores personal data, such as social security numbers, customer passwords, or credit card numbers, then your company is at risk of having personally identifiable information stolen. This could result in massive data leaks which leads to identity theft and diminished customer trust. Unfortunately, since there are many ways a data breach can happen, it can be difficult to track and prevent them.

In general, there are three main types of security breaches: targeted attacks, opportunistic attacks, and insider attacks. Each requires a unique set of security variables in order to limit the attack vectors. However, it’s important to recognize that some of the methods can be used laterally, such as a targeted, insider attack. 

Understanding the attack style will determine the threat level. To help break this down, this article will outline the most common ways a data breach can happen and the most effective way to prevent one. 

Targeted Attacks

Targeted attacks are often large-scale and sophisticated attacks that can be planned out for months by a variety of people. This can be the result of a nation- or state-sponsored attack, which goes through multiple stages of planning. Attackers might adopt an advanced persistent threat (APT) style approach where they remain undetected in your system for an extended period of time. 

Enterprise targeted attacks will first go through a process of reconnaissance or employee enumeration before the attack is initially launched. Similar to military recon, data recon-ers do their research on the employee or target to identify habits and/or behaviors. These efforts also allow them to identify which security parameters are set up. Once they’ve identified a target, the attacker will waterhole in on a vulnerability. They may use casual methods of collecting access, such as spear-phishing emails to gain user credentials or to install a Remote Administration Toolkit (RAT). 

Once in, an attacker can move past antivirus software and silently navigate your network. They typically move through lateral movements, follow another internal recon procedure and then create hidden backdoors. This usually involves a level of privilege escalation so that the attacker can download malware and password tracking software undetected. 

Once the attacker has breached the network servers, they gain control. This could result in the downloading of all sensitive information or DDoS attacks. Or it could result in a ransomware attack, which is the targeting of companies with large financial rewards, national secrets, or crucial intellectual property. 

In any case, targeted attackers are more willing to go through a good deal of effort to meet their end. This is because this attack style involves many levels of intelligent planning with a known and highly valuable objective in mind. Sophisticated enterprise targeted attacks are clearly the most dangerous and often result in the biggest data breaches. 

Opportunistic Attacks

Opportunistic attacks may operate similarly to targeted attacks but they don’t have the same level of intention or direction as targeted security incidents. An opportunistic attack may try to use email phishing or malware to gain network access. This can be random but is usually based on a high number of network vulnerabilities. For example, hackers can use bots for credential stuffing if two-factor authentication is not enabled. 

Once on a network, hackers can mine for payment information, steal bitcoin, or mimic source code, or gain access to a company’s industrial control system (ICS). Malware can be deployed on a network to create a botnet, hijack an account or cloud service, and manipulate transactions.

These attack behaviors can also happen with targeted accounts; however, an opportunistic attack will be able to take advantage of more casual users on networks with diminished security. They might take advantage of a compromised credential, weak passwords or a user who does not use multi-factor authentication. Cyberattacks also come with third-party risk. Other ways include hacking weak interfaces as well as open and exposed APIs.  

Insider Attack

Insider threats are essentially a security risk to your enterprise. Insiders could refer to an employee but they could also stem from an external service provider, such as third-party vendors your company is using. Employees can be a threat to your data security if they have dedicated administrative access or sensitive intel that can be used to gain an advantage in the system.

Insider threats could be one of three types of users: a compromised user, a careless user, and a malicious user. A compromised user is one who does not know they are compromised through either a targeted or opportunistic attack. A careless user is someone who may leave their computer unlocked or shares their credentials through unencrypted networks. A malicious user knowingly contributes to a data breach in some way and are usually involved in your company’s IT department or database security. 

Insider threat detection can be difficult. Sensitive data can be transferred through deceptive packet downloading or peer-to-peer (P2P). Common system exploitations can occur through system bugs and employees being unaware of security protocol, which is a huge issue in cloud computing. Since organizations may share a stack of memory or databases through the cloud network, this increases the number of attack vectors. Due to human error, it can be nearly impossible to minimize enterprise damage without computer monitoring software for continued insider threat detection

How to Identify Data Breach Methods

Unfortunately, most companies will only be able to identify a system’s vulnerabilities once a breach occurs. If you do not have an enterprise data security team or enterprise computer monitoring software installed, then you will need to establish these measures immediately. Not only will this help to protect your enterprise against a breach, but it will also track down the compromised area. 

Monitoring software logs can reveal a lot about a data security breach, such as the length of time an attacker was in your system, the areas of focus (i.e., one machine or multiple), and the type of behaviors they adopted. For example, broad network scans would suggest that attackers are searching for vulnerabilities, which would imply that the attackers are looking for opportunistic breach heads. 

If your system regularly experiences automated scanning techniques, your enterprise needs to adopt heightened security measures, such as a network monitoring software. An internet monitor can protect against hidden security vulnerabilities, potential insider threat movements, phishing scams, weak credentials and much more. 

Monitoring software is most effective for employee monitoring since insider threats are often the most difficult to catch. Employee monitoring software, such as SoftActivity, can also improve content management, security awareness, and identify lingering APTs. Internet or employee monitoring software can improve security, prevent data breaches, reduce compromised entry points, and provide powerful protection against all three types of data breach attacks.

By SoftActivity Team

March 23rd, 2020