Opportunistic Attackers: Who Are They and How Can You Deter Them?

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Opportunities are tricky: they can make people do things they would never do under other circumstances.

 

A dismissed employee can try to steal or alter business-critical data if they haven’t been blocked from accessing your system. A third-party contractor can cause a serious data breach if granted too many rights within your network. These people may never plan to attack you on purpose but still can become serious threats to your company’s cybersecurity when given the opportunity.

 

In this article, we focus on opportune insider detection and ways you can mitigate the risk of such attacks.

 

Never miss an opportunity

 

Who can be called an opportunistic attacker? To answer this question, let’s look closer at the most common types of cyber attacks. All cyber attacks can be split into two major categories:

 

  • Targeted attacks — These attacks are also called focused attacks. The main differentiator of this type of attack is that it’s carried out against a particular target, hence targeted. These attacks are usually well-planned, with hackers researching their victims thoroughly and sometimes even running tests before performing an actual attack.
  • Opportunistic attacks — These attacks don’t target anyone in particular. Instead, attackers look for a weakness or vulnerability they can use and wait for an opportunity to perform an attack.

 

Ransomware attacks are one of the most common examples of opportunistic attacks. When the infamous WannaCry ransomware hit dozens of organizations and regular computer users worldwide, the hackers didn’t target each of their victims individually. Instead, they used an exploit found in older versions of Windows as an opportunity to infect as many computers as they could. So if you want to know how to prevent ransomware attacks, the answer is simple — make yourself a harder target.

 

But when we talk about opportune attackers, we’re mostly talking not about some outside hackers but about malicious insiders who have found a vulnerability or security issue in your system and decided to use it to their benefit. Let’s look closer at the factors that may turn a regular employee into an opportunistic attacker.

 

Don’t tempt the devil

 

There are many vulnerabilities and security issues that opportunistic attackers can use against your company. Here are some of the most common risk factors.

 

Poor password management — Both regular and privileged accounts are usually protected with passwords. The problem is that not all employees are well-educated about using their passwords safely. Some people use common, easy-to-remember passwords such as their names or birth dates. Others keep their passwords in plain sight or share their passwords with colleagues without giving it a second thought.

 

When a password to someone else’s account falls into the hands of a malicious insider, two bad things may happen:

 

  • The malicious insider can get information they shouldn’t have access to.
  • The malicious insider can use another employee’s credentials when performing an attack, making it harder to detect the real source of the threat.

 

Poor access management — Not barring your former employees from access to your system once they’re terminated creates the perfect conditions for slight revenge, full-force sabotage, or espionage. As reported by Dark Reading, around 50% of former employees still have access to corporate applications and therefore can access business-critical data. This means they can easily steal or delete valuable information, send forged emails to your partners and clients, or find dozens of other ways to cause serious damage to your organization.

 

Access misconfiguration — Misconfigured access permissions also provide malicious insiders with multiple opportunities. A high level of access granularity that grants people in your company access only to the information, tools, and services they need to do their jobs is the key to avoiding unnecessary temptations for your employees.

 

Shared account management — Many teams, departments, and sometimes entire organizations use shared accounts for certain services such as cloud storage or corporate social media pages. The problem is that when there’s only one account for everyone, you can’t tell who did what using that account. Personalizing shared accounts can solve this issue.

 

Fortunately, detecting opportune insiders is easy if you have the right monitoring tool in place, such as Ekran System. In the next section, we focus on how to deter opportune attackers and harden your system against similar attacks.

 

Knowledge is power

 

Would you like to know how to detect opportune insiders and prevent them from stealing your sensitive data? The best way to deter opportunistic attackers is by not giving them a chance to harm your company in the first place.

 

First, you need to understand what business-critical data and sensitive information you have and who in your company has access to it. Once you know the most sensitive spots in your system, you can take proper precautions to ensure their protection.

 

Having efficient employee activity monitoring and privileged user management tools is one of the most effective ways of protecting your company against malicious insider threats. Let’s look closer at these solutions.

 

User activity monitoring brings several benefits:

 

  • Increased employee productivity
  • Transparency of data access
  • Tracking of critical configuration changes
  • Prevention of data leaks
  • Easy fraud and security incident investigation

 

Additionally, monitoring user activities is a requirement of many data privacy and security regulations.

 

Privileged access management helps you harden important assets and make sure that your most valuable information can only be accessed by authorized people. Multi-factor authentication, password management and password vaulting, temporary credentials, shared account personalization, and other tools can help you increase the level of privileged account protection. At the same time, you need to manage privileged accounts carefully to avoid situations when a dismissed employee still has access to certain data or assets.

 

You can also try deterring opportunistic attackers by dividing responsibility for important tasks among several employees and putting an emphasis on cooperation. And, of course, running background checks before hiring can help you filter out applicants prone to opportunistic attacks.

 

Ekran System is the ultimate insider threat prevention platform that can help you improve the security of your network, gain a high level of visibility on the computer activity of your employees, and ensure better access control and granularity. With the help of Ekran System, you’ll be able to effectively detect opportunistic attackers and mitigate the risks posed by malicious insiders.

 

Conclusion

 

Opportunistic attackers are malicious insiders who only attack your company when given the right opportunity or reason. They may use different weaknesses found in your system, from misconfigured access permissions to shared passwords.

 

The only way to deter opportunistic attackers is by gaining a high level of visibility across your company’s network so you can see who does what and who accesses what. An understanding among employees that all activity is transparently monitored will also lower the risk. Privileged account management and user activity monitoring solutions such as Ekran System will help you reach the needed level of visibility and access granularity.

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