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Today’s dangerous cyber landscape demands all businesses to position themselves ahead of cybercriminals in order to maintain their safety. This always starts with identifying your weaknesses, understanding how your company may become compromised, and implementing the most appropriate prevention and detection methods that will help you achieve cyber resilience. But first, you have to understand what vectors of attack you can encounter that may disrupt your business.

What is an attack vector in cybersecurity?

Attack vectors (or threat vectors) refer to the pathway that cyber attackers take to infiltrate an IT infrastructure. In essence, an attack vector is a process or route a malicious hacker uses to reach a target, or in other words, the measures the attacker takes to conduct an attack.

Typically, attack vectors are intentional threats (rather than unintentional), as they do require some planning and analysis.

Various entities may exploit these vectors of attack, ranging from upset former employees to malicious hackers, cyber espionage groups, competitors, and more. Regardless of the person or group involved, they may either want to disrupt your business or steal your technology, confidential information, or extort money from your employees. In any event, they will do their utmost to successfully utilize attack vectors and gain access to your systems.

How are attack vectors and attack surfaces related

Attack vectors are the methods cybercriminals use to gain unauthorized access to a system.

The attack surface refers to the total possible number of attack vectors that could be used by an attacker to access or steal data from your network or endpoints.

Most Common Attack vectors in cybersecurity

Below I will briefly discuss the most common examples of attack vectors that can threaten your organization.

1. Insider Threats

Insider threat is one of the most common attack vectors. Still, not all types of insider threats are malicious, as naïve employees can sometimes inadvertently expose internal data. However, ill-intentioned individuals working for a company may intentionally disclose confidential information or plant malware, being fuelled by various motives and for their own personal gain.

The most recent insider threat statistics reveal alarming issues that need to be considered and addressed by all organizations. For example, insider threats have increased by 47% in the past two years and 70% of organizations are witnessing more frequent insider attacks.

2. Phishing Emails

Phishing is merely one of many hats that social engineering wears. It involves manipulation tactics adopted by a malicious individual whose ultimate purpose is to trick employees into clicking on suspicious links, opening malware-infected email attachments, or giving away their login credentials.

The most insidious subtype of phishing is spear phishing, where very specific employees are observed in great detail only to be targeted later on by cybercriminals. This phenomenon is also part of the rising threat of Business Email Compromise (BEC), a highly sophisticated practice that can devastate companies of all sizes.

3. Supply chain attacks 

Business partners can also become major vectors of attack in cybersecurity.

Some of the biggest security incidents and data breaches have been caused by vendors. Supply chain attacks are a common way for attackers to target a vendor’s customers. This is the reason why organizations large and small together with their business partners must foster a culture where cybersecurity best practices are shared and mutual transparency is demonstrated.

4. Weak or compromised login credentials

Should your employees’ authentication credentials be too weak or become comprised, they may turn out to be an attacker’s surefire way to gain unauthorized access to your IT systems.

Usernames and passwords are the most popular form of authentication that can easily be abused through phishing, data leaks, and credential-stealing malware, giving intruders free access to your workers’ accounts.

#5. Brute-force attacks

The practice through which attackers submit multiple passwords with the purpose of eventually guessing them is also a serious vector of attack. In the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Heimdal Security’s data has revealed that the number of brute-force attacks has increased exponentially. We have noticed a 5% increase in brute-force attacks after the majority of employees have started working from home.

6. Unpatched vulnerabilities

Unpatched vulnerabilities in your systems can lead to exploits and allow attackers to pass through. The most notorious ransomware attacks to date (such as WannaCry and NotPetya) could have been avoided if systems had been patched on time.

Ransomware continues to be a highly lucrative business for cybercriminals. Given its huge profits, it’s no surprise that ransomware has even developed into a “business” model – Ransomware as a Service. This allows it to become easily accessible even to people with rather poor technical skills but determined to profit from vulnerable users.

At the same time, the huge palette of other existing types of malware can facilitate the infiltration of malicious hackers inside your organization – think about worms, trojans, rootkits, adware, spyware, file-less malware, bots, and many more.

And do keep in mind that everything I’ve listed above refers to only a few vectors of attack that can affect your business.

7. Cross-Site Scripting

Cross site scripting (XSS) is a type of computer security vulnerability typically found in web applications. XSS enables attackers to inject malicious code into webpages viewed by other users. When a user views a webpage, any malicious code injected by the attacker is executed by the browser, resulting in the potential disclosure of sensitive information or execution of unwanted code.

8. Man-in-the-middle Attacks

A man-in-the-middle attack is a type of cyberattack where the attacker inserts himself into a conversation between two victims in order to eavesdrop or tamper with the communication. The attacker intercepts messages between the victim and alters them before re-sending them to the other victim, making it appear as if the message came from the original sender. This type of attack can be used to steal sensitive information, such as login credentials, financial information, or trade secrets. Man-in-the-middle attacks can also be used to inject malicious code into websites or software, which can then be used to infect the victims’ computers.

9. DNS Poisoning

DNS poisoning, also known as DNS spoofing, is a type of cyber attack in which an attacker corrupts the Domain Name System (DNS) to point a domain name to the wrong IP address. This can redirect users to a malicious website or server, where they may be infected with malware or phished for sensitive information.

10. Malicious Apps / Trojans

There are many malicious apps that can infect your device and steal your information. Some of these apps masquerade as legitimate apps, while others are clearly fake. Have a look at this list reported by Meta, with over 400 malicious apps. The apps were listed on the Google Play Store and Apple’s App Store and disguised as photo editors, games, VPN services, business apps, and other utilities to trick people into downloading them.


How to protect your organization from threat vectors

Protecting your business from different attack vectors will not be difficult with the proper resources in place. Below I’ve included the main aspects you should focus on to reduce the risk of threat vectors and prevent potential future attacks.

#1. Educate your employees

We are strong advocates for continuous security education and we believe cybersecurity awareness training sessions should always be mandatory for your employees. Workers should hone their cybersecurity skills periodically, as prevention is key to keeping your business safe in today’s digital landscape. As long as cybercrime continues to thrive and be profitable, cybersecurity training should be a continuous journey inside your company.

Your workers must be taught to recognize the signs of phishing, BEC, how to create their passwords based on your internal password policy and avoid the most common password mistakes, identify different types of malware, and learn how to report cybersecurity incidents and potential threats. You can also try running phishing simulations to help them identify the tell-tale signs of phishing and avoid falling prey to these attacks.

#2. Apply the Principle of Least Privilege (PoLP)

Limiting your users’ rights to the lowest level possible that still allows them to successfully perform their tasks is the cornerstone of PoLP. This practice closes multiple security holes inside your organization, while it allows you to achieve granular control over the actions performed and eliminates the danger of insider threats.

#3. Use a mix of cybersecurity tools for layered protection

Sometimes, even the most knowledgeable employees (cybersecurity-wise) may accidentally click on malicious links or open infected email attachments. And in certain instances, cybercriminals are doing a great job masquerading as your employees’ superiors or other authoritative figures and manage to trick them into transferring large amounts of money to their accounts. This is why having the correct cybersecurity tools in place can help you cover more attack vectors and eliminate human error.

How Heimdal can protect you from multiple attack vectors

We, at Heimdal Security, have designed next-gen cybersecurity tools and technologies with very specific attack vectors in mind, to help organizations avoid multiple attack scenarios.

Prevention, detection, and response are the bedrock of our philosophy. As it would be impossible to discover threats individually, we’ve gone beyond signature-based anti-malware solutions that only pick up known threats. As malware attack vectors are ever-growing in size and sophistication, we look at the Internet’s infrastructure to catch threats that traditional Antivirus don’t see. We’ve developed a highly sophisticated DNS filtering solution that blocks network communication to Command & Control servers, Ransomware, next-gen attacks, and data leakages.

At the same time, since we understand the burden of manual patching, we’ve combined Windows and 3rd party software patch management into a single tool to help you remove the risk of unpatched software and systems, all at once.

Heimdal Privileged Access Management is a powerful Privileged Access Management (PAM) solution that simplifies the burdensome tasks of sysadmins who now have to manually escalate and de-escalate user permissions.

All our solutions are integrated into a unified dashboard and work together to deliver an enhanced EDR solution (Endpoint Prevention, Detection, and Response), which combines DNS filtering, Automated Patch Management, next-gen Antivirus, and Privileged access management. Having a complete overview of your environment, within a single interface, will greatly improve your cybersecurity and minimize the attack surface.

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To Sum Up

To evade threat vectors, organizations must simultaneously rely on ongoing employee cybersecurity education and the proper tools.

Adopting a DNS-based approach to security, which analyzes and monitors network threats and is successful in detecting unknown malware and emerging threats is essential. At the same time, eliminating attack vectors related to email,  unpatched software and systems, as well as properly managing admin rights will help you neutralize cyber threats before they damage your organization.

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