How to Detect a Cyber Attack
With the number of cyber threats, as well as successfully performed attacks, rising on a daily basis, businesses, regardless of their size, need to be more vigilant, prepared and quick to respond. Actually, small businesses have more at stake here since suffering a cyber attack for the majority of them means closing their doors.
Generally speaking, it takes companies days, weeks and even months to detect and respond to a cyber attack, an alarmingly long period of time for the attackers to spend inside your IT network and among confidential and sensitive data. Stealing and employing that data for nefarious purposes by cyber attackers can have serious effects on your business, some of them being:
- Electronic data damage or loss
- Income loss
- Extortion expenses
- Network security and privacy lawsuits
- Notification expenses
- Renewal expenses
- Reputational damage.
The best way to prevent a full-blown cyber attack disaster on your hands is to have a well-defined threat-led cyber security strategy, where you will have identified all the vulnerabilities of your IT network, all the ways it can be targeted, as well as how to defend against cyber attacks. The baseline for such a strategy should be performing a cyber threat and risk analysis to give you a picture of what is currently happening in cyberspace and which methods the attackers are using. Creating a detailed analysis of the threat landscape for a company’s particular business sector should lead to the adoption of an appropriate framework within which to develop a security policy – suggesting the best combination of security measures to deploy.
But what is there to do to detect an ongoing cyber attack? Detecting cyber attacks is a challenge even for the experts, but certain signs could indicate that a cyber breach or intrusion is underway. These are only some of the signs to look out for:
- Suspicious network activity (strange file transfers or log-in attempts)
- Error signs or warnings in browsers, anti-virus or anti-malware tools alerting you to infections (indicative of a scareware attack)
- Sudden changes to critical infrastructure or system passwords and accounts
- Suspicious files in your system (encrypted or not)
- Suspicious emails (the usual way of spreading worms)
- Inexplicable loss of access to your network, email or Social Media accounts
- Unusually slow internet connection and intermittent network access
- Leaked customer details, client lists or company secrets
- Suspicious banking activities and transactions.
On the other hand, business websites are not used the same way as private ones, so they won’t show the same ailments if under attack. Therefore, the specific anomalies to watch for in order to detect a cyber attack on a business website are some of the following:
- Problems with administrative logins or accessing management functions
- Unexplained inconsistencies or questionable extras in your code
- Unexplained changes in the design, layout or content of your site
- Performance issues affecting the availability and accessibility of your website
- Unexplained changes in traffic volume (sudden or drastic drop).
Have in mind that cyber criminals are constantly searching for new vulnerabilities in evolving digital environments so staying in the know about current and emerging threats is a good start in being one step ahead. Aside from keeping your systems, servers and applications up to date, you could also consider deploying breach detection tools, which may be more effective in rapid or early threat detection. Also known as intrusion detection tools, they are either software or hardware products capable of recognizing active threats and alerting relevant security staff that they need to take action. For example, you can set up these tools to monitor the network and send an alert if they suspect:
- Suspicious user behavior
- Vulnerabilities in the network
- Threats in applications and programs.
However, these tools focus on identifying intrusions usually AFTER they happen, containing and controlling the breach, and mitigating the damage. That is why it’s of the utmost importance to not rely on the tech alone as it can be manipulated and exploited in such a way that it leaves your IT network unsecured. What you can do is make your employees care about cyber security (personal and of the company) and in that way become the first line of defense against cyber attacks. By creating such a culture within the company where employees care about their safety on the Internet and the cyber hygiene as a whole, the risks brought on by through uninformed or disinterested employee behavior are minimized right off the bat.
Moreover, if people can be the first line of defense, by the same token, they can also be the ones to lead the charge. And it’s only logical that they are if you just take the time to think about it. Cyber criminals are highly skilled people who have carefully selected their tools so that they cannot lead back to the individual masterminds behind them. They are hard to catch because no matter how many different types of defense tools you have accumulated, they can still see the software and hardware you are running and what you have to keep them away. And they can get around those. What you need to do to beat them is to look for unusual attackers’ BEHAVIORS rather than the traces of the tools they use. Those are the things that deviate from what your users, admins, or testers do and all are tell-tale signs to be read – they leave unique paths where you can see processes or accounts being used as they aren’t normally used in your company. By stitching together these little anomalies you can find things that, as a whole, stand out from the background noise. That’s the key to finding the intruders in your IT network and protecting it.
Or you can just leave all that up to Awontis. We have over 275 clients who are more than satisfied with our services. On more than 1500 websites we actively monitor, nearly 55,000 security threats were successfully prevented using our solution. Not only do we perform full WordPress security scans on the platform itself, we examine and secure all plugins in order to make sure there are no security threats. The websites under our protection are watched 24/7 for threats and updates, allowing the businesses they represent to thrive. Finally, the already compromised websites are fixed by being thoroughly cleaned of malicious content and protected from future threats.