Network security serves as the first line of defense against an array of cyber threats, from the malicious actions of cybercriminals and hackers to the insidious infiltration by state-sponsored actors.
It safeguards not only sensitive personal and financial information but also the integrity of governments, businesses, and institutions.
The repercussions of a network breach can extend far beyond data loss, often causing financial devastation, reputational damage, and even the compromise of national security.
By understanding the vulnerabilities, methods, and motivations behind such attacks, we can better equip ourselves to defend against the ever-evolving landscape of cyber threats. In doing so, we seek to underscore the critical importance of network security in safeguarding our digital future.
How Does a Hacker Get Into Your Network?
There are many ways that a cyber criminal can infiltrate your network with time and persistence. No network is ever fully secured. The main ways however that they tend to do so are by infecting networks with viruses, worms or trojan malicious software that serves to steal data.
In recent years, major companies have fallen victim to a series of devastating cyberattacks that have exposed the vulnerabilities inherent in our interconnected world. Notable instances include the WannaCry ransomware outbreak in 2017, which wreaked havoc on organizations like the UK’s National Health Service and FedEx, and the NotPetya ransomware, which severely impacted global shipping giant Maersk and various Ukrainian government agencies.
The SolarWinds breach in 2020 revealed the alarming potential of state-sponsored hackers to compromise major corporations and government agencies by exploiting supply chain vulnerabilities. Ransomware strains like Ryuk, known for their audacious demands for payment, continue to target businesses, particularly in the healthcare sector.
These incidents all serve as stark reminders of the critical importance of network security in an increasingly digital and interconnected world, where the consequences of a breach can extend far beyond data loss to affect financial stability, reputational damage, and even national security
What is Social Engineering?
Other ways that cybercriminals and hackers can get access to your network are through social engineering techniques. So what does that mean exactly? Social engineering relies on psychological manipulation to deceive individuals or employees into divulging confidential information, providing access to restricted systems, or performing actions that compromise the security of an organization’s network. Rather than relying on technical exploits or code vulnerabilities, as with the viruses and malicious softwares described above, social engineering exploits human psychology, trust, and social norms.
So what does social engineering look like? It’s really quite simple. Imagine you receive a text from the post office saying that if you just click a link you’ll receive a code to retrieve your package. Do you click it? DON’T! That’s a link that gives the criminal direct access to your phone, and subsequently, your network.
The technique is called Phishing, and refers to fraudulent emails or messages that appear to come from a reputable source, such as a bank or a well-known company. These messages often request the recipient to click on a link, enter personal information, or download an attachment that contains malicious software.
Similarly, hackers use techniques like pretexting, where they pretend to be someone from your company’s IT department, for example, or baiting, where they share an amazing job offer or a free trial. They sometimes even get as creative as engaging in reverse social engineering, when the attacker is approached by the victim, who is manipulated into offering information or assistance.
Social engineering is extremely effective. We are humans, after all, and it is easy to fall prey to a really great scam, both on and offline. These techniques are nothing new – we’ve always had scammers among us taking advantage of social norms. However, with advances in technology, identifying the difference is ever more difficult. Throw artificial intelligence (AI) imagery and voiceovers into the mix and it’s nearly impossible to ensure your team won’t get duped.
Related Content: Prevent Ransomware
What are Hackers Looking For?
A significant portion of hacking activities revolves around financial motives. Hackers seek to amass wealth through various means, including stealing credit card information for illicit purchases, gaining access to bank accounts for unauthorized fund transfers, and deploying ransomware to encrypt valuable data and demand ransom payments for decryption keys. This monetary motivation is a driving force behind many cyberattacks, with hackers relentlessly pursuing vulnerable targets to maximize their ill-gotten gains.
Another primary objective for hackers is the acquisition of sensitive data. This category includes corporate espionage, where hackers target organizations to steal trade secrets, intellectual property, and proprietary information to gain a competitive advantage. Personal information, such as Social Security numbers, medical records, and personal identification, is also sought after for identity theft. Moreover, government and military data are prime targets for espionage, with state-sponsored actors relentlessly pursuing classified information for strategic, political, or intelligence purposes.
Certain hackers aim to disrupt or sabotage systems and critical infrastructure. This can range from infiltrating power grids, transportation systems, or communication networks to launch coordinated attacks. Hacktivists, motivated by ideological or political beliefs, may target organizations or governments to promote their causes, defacing websites, spreading propaganda, or disrupting services. In addition, the creation of botnets through compromised systems allows hackers to orchestrate large-scale Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, overwhelming websites or online services and rendering them inaccessible.
It’s essential to recognize that hackers’ motivations can vary widely, from purely criminal intentions to ideological or political beliefs. Additionally, their objectives may evolve over time, and new motivations can emerge as technology and the digital landscape change. Network security measures need to be comprehensive and adaptable to address these evolving threats.
Protect Yourself From Getting Hacked: Network Visibility
How does network visibility help safeguard your organization or home network from these types of cybersecurity threats? It involves the ability to monitor and analyze network traffic comprehensively, providing insights into activities, identifying anomalies, and helping to proactively respond to potential threats. Network visibility helps with early threat detection, anomaly identification, malware and intrusion detection, insider threat visibility, security policy enforcement, incident response, and of course helps your organization remain compliant in case a breach should occur. Plus, when you work with an experiencer security service provider like Get Network Visibility, all these benefits can be yours with a minimized cost.
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If you want more information on this topic, check out the following resources:
- Keysight’s 2023 Security Report (report)
- How to Make a Hybrid Visibility Architecture Successful (white paper)