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Hackers and regional businesses stepped up their game in 2019

Cybersecurity experts are following cyber thieves’ actions closer than ever, and companies are improving their protective strategies. Unfortunately, hackers’ have stepped up their game, too, and they don’t have to follow any rules. They attack whoever they want, however they want, and whenever they want.

In fact, attempts at cybercrime have gotten easier. Hackers no longer need technical skills to steal data or exploit vulnerabilities in networks. They can buy a DIY toolkit on the Dark Web and follow the instructions.

So, businesses and their security services have to keep improving their game.

SDN Communications’ “Cyber Threat Landscape” report for 2019 summarizes the continuing threats facing businesses in the Sioux Falls region. The free cybersecurity intelligence report was compiled under the supervision of Theron McChesney, SDN’s business intelligence, research and analytics supervisor.

The regionalized report includes a number of noteworthy tidbits.

  • Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks increased significantly in frequency from 2018 to 2019 (nearly 78 percent), and the average attack size increased slightly (more than 7 percent). In DDoS attacks, targeted programs are flooded with malicious electronic traffic to disrupt a service or block access to a network.
  • The amount of unwanted traffic that SDN’s Managed Firewalls is blocking dropped from a high of 52 percent two years ago. Still, nearly 37 percent of all traffic was flagged as malicious or spam and was filtered out during 2019.
  • Most remote attacks on networks in 2019 (72 percent) were aimed at gaining sensitive information. In terms of motive, compromising networks was a distant second (26 percent).

SDN’s annual threat review is filled with detailed information, including the most common attack vectors and most popular countries of attack origin. Overall, the report generally reflects findings in national and international threat reports.

For example, IBM Security’s “2020 X-Force Threat Intelligence Index” indicates that more than 8.5 billion records were compromised in 2019. That’s a 200 percent increase from 2018, according to the IBM study.

Interestingly, the IBM study found that while phishing was the most popular way that hackers gained entry to networks (31 percent), attackers increasingly scanned target networks for vulnerabilities to exploit (30 percent). The use of unauthorized credentials came in a close third (29 percent).

Fortinet, a prominent firewall vendor used by SDN, reported in January 2020 that threat methodologies have become more sophisticated in recent years, which will magnify their effectiveness and speed in the coming months.

With the volume, velocity, and sophistication of today’s global threat landscape, organizations must be able to respond in real-time at machine speed to effectively counter aggressive attacks. Advances in artificial intelligence and threat intelligence will be vital in this fight.
― Fortinet

As the SDN’s report makes clear, the Upper Midwest is not a safe zone. Businesses in the Sioux Falls region are seeing threat trends similar to those that businesses across the nation are fighting.

SDN urges companies to take preventive action rather than exercise the more costly option of responding to the damage of successful attacks.

A well-managed firewall program and managed DDoS protection are a good, first line of defense for most companies. However, employees generally remain the weakest link in any company’s defense.

So good, ongoing training of all staffers remains an absolute necessity. For example, employees and anyone who might have direct access to a company’s network must be trained and constantly reminded to not click on suspicious and potentially contaminated links.

As the cybersecurity experts at SDN point out, the more time a company has to spend dealing with the aftermath of a successful attack, the less time it has to focus on its core business. Good, preventive-focused cybersecurity is worth the investment.

Visit the Cyber Threat Landscape Report Archive for full access to all of our reports.

SDN is a leader in providing business internet, private networking and cloud connectivity to businesses and organizations in communities such as Sioux Falls, Rapid City, Worthington, and the surrounding areas.