With automated tools and hackers for hire, cybercrime has turned into a game for profit. Recent research from F5 Labs shows that out of 429 reported breaches studied between 2005 and 2017, hackers gained $2.75 billion on the black market.
The digital world has opened the door to unprecedented levels of malicious attacks, putting applications, corporate data, operational infrastructure, and reputations at risk. The consequence is that many CISOs and C-Suite executives are falling on their swords due to serious data breaches. In addition, cuts to IT budgets and slashes in resources mean the onslaught of cyber-attacks is leaving many organisations vulnerable.
New cloud-based apps create a host of complex challenges and new risks. Hackers thrive in this fast-paced environment of uncertainty and development. In fencing, a “disengage” is a move used to trick the opponent by attacking a specific target and moving in a semi-circle arc to strike a different area. Today’s hacker is similarly deceptive, wielding seven common threat techniques for maximum disruption and profit. Their key offensive moves include Malicious Bots, Credential stuffing, DDoS, Ransomware, Web fraud, Phishing, and Malware.
What do these attacks have in common? They are frequently associated with malicious bots as the delivery mechanism or the exploit kit. According to Verizon’s latest Data Breach Investigations Report, 77% of web application breaches were associated with the use of botnets to carry out the attacks.
On the web fraud front, attacks often stem from Man-in-the-Browser Injection techniques, delivering a Trickbot via phishing, drive-by-download, or SMB ports. Java-script is then injected into users’ browsing e-commerce or banking sites. This allows attackers to access credentials and steal from bank accounts.
Phishing scams are also on the rise. Attackers typically use this method to trick people into clicking on a link that can infect their system with malware or take them to a fake website designed to steal personal information. In the first quarter of 2017, a new specimen of phishing and malware emerged every 4.2 seconds.
Credential stuffing is another growing concern. Here, cybercriminals turn to the dark web to purchase previously stolen usernames and passwords. They then make repeated attempts with automated tools to “stuff” the login fields of other websites with the credentials to gain access to accounts held by corporate users or customers. If users reuse their passwords, then the likelihood is that their credentials have already been stolen.
DDoS, meanwhile, is here to stay and becoming increasingly tricky to defend against. These days, attacks can range from prankster activity to targeted acts of retaliation, protest, theft and extortion. Attackers often use readily available DDoS tools to disrupt service availability and businesses’ performance. There are four main types of attacks: volumetric (flood-based attacks), asymmetric (invoke timeouts), computational (consume CPU and memory), and vulnerability-based (exploit application software). The most damaging DDoS attacks mix volumetric attacks with targeted, application-specific attacks.
Security experts recommend that a robust web application firewall (WAF) is the first piece of your armour against credential stuffing attacks. It is the equivalent of the fencer’s “riposte” – an adroit transformation defence into attack. A full-featured modern WAF, enables businesses to tackle offensive moves head on with advanced bot detection and prevention. This is essential as most attacks are launched using automated programmes. By analysing behaviours, such as IP location, time of day, and connection attempts per second, a WAF can help your security team identify non-browser login attempts.
It is also important to ensure that data in the browser or on your mobile applications is encrypted, protecting all the information transferred from users and rendering any intercepted data worthless. As an added layer of security, you can force the form parameters to be encrypted using a client-side function. Automated credential stuffing tools will be hard-pressed to properly execute the page to encrypt the form fields and send the correct secure channel cookie. When the bots submit unencrypted credentials, it will trigger a system alert to let your security team know that a credential stuffing attack is taking place.
Set up policies that make it easy for users to change passwords regularly so they avoid repeat usage on multiple sites and can report an incident to IT immediately if they think they have clicked on a malware link in a phishing email.
A smart move
In the cut and thrust of cybercrime, threat intelligence is fundamental. Greater visibility, context, and control are critical to protecting infrastructure, applications, and sensitive data. It is vital to adapt your strategy to fortify applications with cutting-edge security tools, and shift resources to deliver a swift blow to malicious moves from hackers, ensuring operations remain smart, fast and safe – On guard!
By Martin Walshaw, Senior Systems Engineer, F5 Networks