“Wait, there are classifications to cyber threats, as well?”
This might’ve been your first question after stumbling upon this blog title. And the answer to your question is – YES! They are classified according to the threat that they impose and the level of advancement that they’ve reached.
Let’s start with the basics!
What is a cyber threat?
The U.S. government defines cyber-threat as an illegal approach to possession of digital data. While the Oxford dictionary defines it as a malicious attempt to extract or damage information.
Why should you care about it?
Let me show you some statistics.
1. According to SafeAtLast, the healthcare industry suffered over $25 Billion worth of estimated losses in 2019, due to cyber-attacks.
2. According to IBM, $2.6 Million is the average cost of losses incurred by a company due to malware attacks.
This severe damage is caused after it has evolved over several decades and digitalization has penetrated even the remotest of places.
But how did it become such a prominent threat? Here’s its evolution…
Evolution of Cyber-Threats:
1. Generation 1 Threats:
‘Computer Hacking’ became very common in the 1980s, which referred to software programs that disrupted or attacked computers.
The first generation threats coincided with the use of personal computers by the public. Viruses were known to replicate themselves on new computers leading to extreme contagious behavior.
2. Generation 2 Threats:
By the mid-90s, worm attacks became prominent with the rise of the Internet, requiring companies to install firewalls at the perimeter of their infrastructure to keep threats out.
Network connectivity had increased in that era, so threats were spreading at a greater rate than before.
Any fancy link you clicked could’ve been a threat disguised as an opportunity to earn more money or download some free software.
3. Generation 3 Threats:
The third generation cyber-attacks emerged in the early 2000s as hackers learned to leverage vulnerabilities.
IETF RFC 2828 defines ‘vulnerability’ as “A flaw or weakness in a system’s design, implementation, or operation and management that could be exploited to violate the system’s security policy.”
There were plenty of vulnerabilities in the operating system, applications, and system infrastructure that they could leverage to gain access to the private network.
4. Generation 4 Threats:
The Internet security of the 2nd and 3rd generations controlled and inspected all traffic, but it lacked the severity to validate end-user content.
Email file attachments and downloads are some of the various sources of hidden attacks. From resumes to media files, all could contain a sophisticated code that serves a specific purpose such as gaining access to passwords and breaking the network firewall among others.
5th & 6th Generation Attacks (Biggest Threat For Mankind?)
Generation 5th and 6th cybersecurity threats differ from previous attacks as they are equipped with multi-vector and polymorphic algorithm capabilities.
For example, the attack penetrates your smartphone and ends up shutting down your data center as well as disrupts your cloud.
This makes these new-generation attacks very sophisticated and harmful. Thus, it’s very hard to defend against these threats.
Even the 4th generation security system is not enough to protect your network, cloud, and devices against these new monsters.
We’re entering a new era of IT security, while most businesses are still using the 2nd or 3rd generation security.
Just 2 years ago, we entered the phase of fifth-generation attacks. They contribute to large scale attacks.
As we discussed above, these attacks are multi-dimensional, meaning hackers attack all endpoints at once – network, cloud, and smartphones.
Examples of 5th generation attacks are the 2017 WannaCry and NotPetya attacks. They exploit our ever-connected and device-driven world, where data is of prime importance and we create more data than ever today!
WannaCry ransomware worm had spread rapidly across a number of computer networks in May 2017. This is noteworthy as it’s a generation 5 attack, which affected a number of important and high profile systems, including Britain’s National Health Service.
What can we do against these cyber threats?
We can develop a PDF system to keep our personal and business data secure. You must be wondering what a PDF system is?
Here’s what it is:
- P – Prevention from cyber threat
- D -Defense against cyber threat
- F – Fight against cyber threat
Here’s how these systems work:
1. Prevention from cyber threat
Although the threat is quite evident, we can still try to prolong the time before it reaches us.
Some simple yet decisive measures include:
- a. Use strong passwords for your systems
- b. Use a different password for each system
- c. Do not put all your prominent credentials in the same cloud. Always have them stored in different storage options and in physical centers as well.
- d. Update your system frequently with required security patches
- e. Use VPN
- f. Secure your router with advanced encryption
- g. Educate your employees about various kinds of social engineering attacks
- h. Use encrypted messages for official communication
2. Defense against cyber threat
Like every other threat, you should try to avoid any potential contact. To do that, you can guard your system with a managed detection & response service.
This service will act as your invisible friend that will guard your system even when you’re asleep.
A managed detection & response system continuously monitors the entire enterprise network. Upon detection of any potential threat, it triggers an alarm and lets your security system know about the threat-level and the required specifics.
All of this is done while it continues to fight with it to avoid any kind of intrusion.
A superior quality managed detection system will make use of machine learning and artificial intelligence to predict the attacks.
3. Fight against cyber threat
While prevention and defense will work most of the time, you still cannot risk your business with them alone.
An advanced cyber-attack can penetrate prevention and defense, if implemented right.
Thus, a full-fledged cybersecurity system is important to protect your system and be 100% sure about the same.
A cybersecurity system that can fight against any cyber threat includes:
- a. Dark web monitoring system
- b. Managed detection & response system (MDR)
- c. Cybersecurity-as-a-service system
All of these systems while working in synchronization, produce absolute security.
The dark web monitoring system will scan the dark web 24*7 for protection against data theft.
While the MDR system will protect your business by alerting against any potential threats.
Similarly, the cybersecurity system will take care of your enterprise if any kind of intrusion occurs.
Code injection attacks, malware attacks, or other malicious attacks will also be nullified by it.
The ray of hope!
With these extravagant technological advancements, there’s no limit to our potential.
While cyber threats may have evolved tremendously with each generation, so have protection systems advanced to defend them.
As of 2020, it is possible to make use of artificial intelligence and machine learning to predict and fight these cyber threats.
So if we adopt these technologies for our protection, we won’t have to worry about the sixth generation.
Sixth-generation attacks are looming over us, it’s no surprise! But businesses are already building fences to guard their systems.
We’re moving to a world of autonomous cars, connected IoT (Internet of Things) devices everywhere we go!
We need to integrate AI (Artificial Intelligence) with cybersecurity services to enable efficient control and security over millions of connected devices. This would give rise to a new age consolidated security mechanism.
The author’s name is Mark Watson, who works with Xperteks, a leading managed IT and cybersecurity services provider in NYC. He is a passionate reader and a keen follower of technological advancements.