Smart solutions face smarter problems
Automation is often touted as a solution towards IT and cybersecurity problems, streamlining both data management and protection. In the coming years, automation, machine learning, and predictive AI models will absolutely be necessary to combat emerging threats and threat actor techniques.
But as it turns out, malicious parties are not content to sit around and have their methods beaten. This is the eternal dynamic of cybersecurity: a continued escalation of both technique and threat. When an advancement finds prevalence in technology, said advancement is used for both good and ill. Automation, then, will be tool used by ransomware gangs and the like.
The problem of automated attacks, however, takes an “interesting” turn, as it’s used to sift for vulnerable targets. Specifically, SMBs (small-to-medium sized businesses). As always, it’s a big misconception among smaller enterprises to assume they’re safe from malware attacks because of their size. Digital predators are always seeking the easiest score, and weaker targets often make perfect candidates.
The problems plaguing SMBs
Automated tools are dangerous when employed correctly by threat actors. Therefore, the issues are exacerbated when SMBs suffer from legacy issues and problems.
Low education and cybersecurity competence
It’s a bit unfair to pin competence on SMBs as a whole (in that there’s less emphasis on education and policy). Still, it’s true that smaller industries suffer from a disparity in threat seriousness to understanding said threats.
But naturally, smaller businesses simply have less capital for their operations. Education and best practices, then, fall short, and make them prime targets for automated attacks.
Prevalence of Social Engineering and Phishing
Phishing is not a newcomer to threat activity, and remains one of the most successful breach techniques today. Often, it’s through phishing emails in which threat actors deploy their ransomware payloads. Phishing, then, takes advantage of numerous shortcomings, many of which are again, found in SMB protection models.
Combined with unfamiliarity and increasingly sophisticated techniques used by hackers, phishing is a threatening specter hounding businesses.
Decreased Communication Agility
Another issue critical to threat response is just that: response. Lapses in communication, both in clarity and time, create painful hurdles which makes addressing cybersecurity issues difficult. With remote working, introduction of messaging platforms is helpful, though still lacks the same immediacy as in-person feedback.
In a world where hackers deploy fast-moving automated attacks, you can see why this lethargy in feedback develops additional problems.
Automated Attacks and RaaS
First, it’s important to understand the rise and prevalence of RaaS, or “ransomware as a service.” It’s easy for malicious actors to find and purchase ransomware kits and services on the dark web. In fact, the barrier of competency is low to deploy something as dangerous as ransomware, far removed from the days where trained, sophisticated attackers often carried out the attacks.
So, in a terrible, ironic inverse, the “competency” level for high-threat attacks is low, whereas an improved understanding of ransomware is much higher. Further exacerbating the issue is obfuscation techniques attackers use. Often behind encrypted connections, they can target an SMB with automated methods at little – if any – risk to themselves.
Combined with automated attacks, it gets problematic. Hackers often look for vulnerable targets through automatic means. With a robust set of scan tools, hackers can identify weak networks, systems, passwords, and addresses, all of which are grouped for a malware campaign attack.
In retaliation, companies utilize automated cybersecurity solutions to help shore up weaknesses on their digital frontlines. Often, it’s centered in collected data to eventually feed into predictive models. Though, SMBs, again, lack the capital to properly take advantage of these resources. It’s a problematic situation, as automated solutions for improved cyber defense are arguably necessary to protect against the most dangerous types of malware campaigns.
What SMBs can do, today
Naturally, enterprise leads of SMBs will want applicable solutions to their defense woes as quickly as possible. Not all are easy, but there are immediate steps leads can take to build a strong cybersecurity defense:
- Establish thorough BDR plans in case of data-loss/breach
- Create thorough competency programs and steps towards better education including ways to identify phishing scams
- Take advantage of third-party resources and assistance where necessary
- Keep updated with CISA guidelines and best practices