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5 Ways Cybercriminals are as Professional and Advanced as Your IT Security Teams

With powerful technology and laser-focused motivation, cybercriminals have grown more sophisticated in the last decade. Cybercriminals launch attacks using one or more computers against a single device or a network of devices. Cybercriminals infiltrate IT security systems and the Internet of Things (IoT) through various malicious methods, including malware, phishing, ransomware, denial-of-service, artificial intelligence, and […]

With powerful technology and laser-focused motivation, cybercriminals have grown more sophisticated in the last decade.

Cybercriminals launch attacks using one or more computers against a single device or a network of devices. Cybercriminals infiltrate IT security systems and the Internet of Things (IoT) through various malicious methods, including malware, phishing, ransomware, denial-of-service, artificial intelligence, and data manipulation.

A cyber attack is an assault launched by cybercriminals using one or more computers against single or multiple computers or networks. Cybercriminals use various methods to launch a cyberattack, including malware, phishing, ransomware,  and denial of service, among other techniques.

Cybercriminals have evolved well beyond crude tactics and haphazard attempts to infiltrate weak security systems. Instead, today’s online perpetrators are skilled, determined, and highly motivated—making it more difficult than ever for IT security teams to safeguard an organization’s sensitive data. 

The best way to protect against a cyber attack is to get inside the mind of these bad actors. What’s more, it’s essential to recognize that cyber threats come from antagonists who are just as skilled as your own IT security team and, in some cases, even more experienced. 

In this article, you’ll learn how cybercriminals are so good at being bad, and in the process, understand what it takes to stop them dead in their tracks. But first, let’s learn how cybercriminals carry out their attacks.

How do Cybercriminals Plan Attacks?

A unique set of tools and techniques are used by the different types of cybercriminals prowling the Internet. However, there is a basic process at work whenever a cybercrime is committed. It typically comes down to five steps:

1. Reconnaissance: Here, the team of cybercriminals explores various outlets to find weaknesses. This phase begins with footprinting, a means of gathering information about a target’s environment to penetrate it. Footprinting provides the hackers with an overview of your system’s vulnerabilities, intending to understand the system inside and out. 

2. Scan/Scrutinize: When all your information is gathered, the cybercriminal will set out to examine all of that intelligence. Here, the perpetrators will conduct port, network, and vulnerability scanning. Scrutinizing, also known as “enumeration,” involves locating user accounts/groups, shared resources, and different operating systems being run by the target. 

3. Gain Access: Cybercriminals gain access to operating systems in many different ways. Possible weak points include employees falling for a phishing email by unwittingly downloading malware. Another vulnerability is a poorly configured or patched system, allowing for an attacker’s entry point. However it happened, the cybercriminal is now inside your network. 

4. Exploitation: Once inside, the attacker’s main objectives are to maintain access and escalate privileges. This maneuver gives the cybercriminal the ability to implement changes into the system, such as installing malware and empowers them to maintain access. They do this by creating new user accounts, editing firewall settings, hijacking remote desktop access, and installing a backdoor. 

5. Exfiltration: And finally, this is where the cyber attacker covers their tracks. Once they’ve achieved the main objective of their malicious mission, the attacker will edit, corrupt, modify, or delete any audit logs that might’ve captured their activity. This erasure makes future detection efforts more complex, including law enforcement investigations. 


How Are Cybercriminals as Advanced and Professional as IT Security Teams?

Modern cybercriminals cripple businesses and harm consumers with headline-grabbing attacks targeting critical infrastructure. Whether it’s healthcare, information technology, financial services, energy concerns, or political groups—no sector is safe. 

How could this happen? The short answer: cybercriminals have grown more sophisticated and skilled over the last decade. This rapid increase in sophistication and skill level makes their techniques harder to spot and even harder to clean up. So let’s examine some of the ways cybercriminals are as professional and advanced as your IT security teams.

1. The Rise of Artificial Intelligence (AI)

One of the most amazing technological advancements of the modern-day is Artificial Intelligence (AI). As cybercriminals become more and more advanced, they will adopt AI to increase the volume of attacks. AI cybercrime could take the form of AI malware capable of monitoring a victim’s messaging style while collecting personal information. This could potentially serve to increase the effectiveness of phishing scams

2. Data Manipulation

Stealing data is hard work. And once a hacker has successfully performed a theft, they must sell the stolen data on the dark web as soon as possible. On the other hand, the manipulation of data offers a far easier option to the cybercriminal. For example, a cybercriminal can theoretically influence commercial decisions or inflate bank balances through data manipulation. 

3. The Internet of Things

The Internet of Things (IoT) consists of a vast network of physical objects that feature sensors, software, and other technologies that connect and exchange data with other devices over the Internet. These “things” range from household objects to industrial tools—in effect, the IoT is everywhere. Unfortunately, if these devices are not sufficiently secured, segmented, and monitored, they can all serve as an entry point for a cybercriminal.

4. Ransomware

One of the go-to implements of destruction in the cybercriminal’s toolbox, ransomware amounts to malware that employs encryption to hold a victim’s information at ransom. This vicious attack blocks a victim’s access to files, databases, and applications, spreading across a network and targeting databases and file servers. At worst, ransomware quickly paralyzes an organization until the ransom demands are met. Organizations have had to pay billions of dollars to cybercriminals in response to these attacks. 

5. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) 

When multiple machines work in unison to attack one target, blocking legitimate users from accessing devices, network resources, and information systems, it’s known as a Distributed Denial-of-Service (DDoS) attack. A tactic used in ransomware campaigns, DDoS attacks are often carried out on a massive scale, taking advantage of security vulnerabilities and weaknesses using command and control software. 

What Can You Do To Prevent Attacks by Cybercriminals?

Staying ahead of the curve and on top of the cyber threat arms race is essential in safeguarding your systems against an all-out attack. Here are our top five tips:

1. Update IT Training: Implementing endpoint protection software isn’t enough to protect your data. Train every employee to know what to look for to identify a cyberattack. Your IT team should be well-versed in phishing and spam, acceptable use policy, strong password training, and proper device management. 

2. Secure Your Remote Workforce: Home networks are naturally not as secure as your in-office systems—and with the rise in work-from-home arrangements, this can cause a significant problem. Businesses should insist that any employees working remotely use devices provided by the company. Employees using their own devices pose a higher risk of cyberattacks, as their devices typically lack a primary defense system. 

3. Backup & Data Protection: Implementing backup software and data protection should be a top priority in the battle against cyber attacks. Your backup system must be reliable and straightforward in a fixed system that’s deeply entrenched in your processes. A backup system must also be capable of rapid restoration to avoid significant damage. 

4. Zero Trust Security Model: In a world of cybercriminals, trust no one. That’s the basic principle behind a Zero Trust Security Model. These systems require strict identity verification for every person and device requesting access to a private network—regardless of where they are. In addition, zero Trust offers continuous monitoring and validation, gives users only as much access as they need, prevents lateral movement within a network, and demands multi-factor authentication. 

5. Machine Learning: A cybersecurity tactic that analyzes patterns, learning as it goes to prevent similar attacks and respond to shifting behavior. Machine learning detects attacks and immediately notifies security engineers and IT teams based on algorithms. It’s perhaps the number one weapon in the fight against the ever-advancing wave of cybercrime. 


Is your business or organization protected from the latest threats? Prove it. Get in touch with us for a FREE cybersecurity risk assessment today. 

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