Fantastic Threats and Where to Find Them
IT-oriented publications often warn of threats to your systems and data. In recent years, the popular press has picked up on this topic, particularly highlighting threats with memorable names. A few recent examples:
- Heartbleed, Grinch and POODLE (2014)
- GHOST and FREAK (2015)
- Dirty COW and DROWN (2016)
- WannaCry and Petya (2017)
Fantastic threats grab the reader’s attention, especially when accompanied by clever graphics.
As one might expect, threats that capture the attention of the news media are just the tip of the threat iceberg. To put these few into perspective, consider that the AV-TEST Institute registers over 250,000 malicious programs every day.
In general, these threats exploit flaws in the implementation of security mechanisms or weaknesses in older communications protocols, such as SSL. The most fantastic of the threats require a precise set of uncommon conditions on the victim’s network and servers before they have a chance to succeed. The more dangerous threats count on exploiting well-known security holes in unpatched systems.
You can find fantastic threats all around you:
- In the email links that careless users click or attachments they open.
- On social media.
- On tainted flash drives that install malware when an unsuspecting user inserts one into their PC.
- On your network, where third party vendors with insufficient security have access.
- At Internet locations around the world, where criminals are probing for open ports through which to inject malware.
Despite new malware appearing every few seconds, you can fight threats – both fantastic and ordinary – with proactive security practices such as these:
- Educate your users – often – about best practices for personal computer, Internet, and social media security.
- Patch your systems as soon as possible after vendors make security fixes available.
- Minimize the attack surface by removing unnecessary software and services, disabling insecure protocols and blocking connections to services that should not be publicly available.
- Use micro-segmentation and firewalls to keep malware from spreading.
- Insist that your third-party vendors have effective security practices and audit them.
- Configure your systems and networks using security best practices.
- Monitor for suspicious events and be prepared to act quickly if an incident occurs.
Fantastic threats don’t have to lead to fantastic security breaches!