You may be asking, what is a cyberattack vector? A vector is the path or means in which a hacker can gain access and exploit a computer or network server. As a business, your company makes an attractive target for a cyberattack, whether the goal is to steal funds or information. Some cyber threats, such as phishing scams or malware, are expected, but a good business manager will be aware of the most common cyberattack vectors that leave you vulnerable. By being fully aware of these vectors, you can block them and dramatically reduce the risk of a cyberattack or the impact of it if one does occur.
6 Common Cyberattack Vectors
Poor Management of Vendors
When it comes to managing vendors, the average business simply does not put enough thought into this potential vector for cyberattacks. A company with poor vendor management will not take advantage of all the various configurations offered by cloud services and other sophisticated vendors. Many smaller businesses or startups do not worry too much about vendor management since they feel like no one would want to attack them, but this is a mistake. Instead of putting yourself at risk in this way, you should make it clear where your sensitive data is, how the data is used, how it is protected, who accesses it, and to have general governance around that data.
Delaying Patches and Updates
Another area where poor management can create cyberattack vectors is patches. Both companies and individuals are guilty of making patches and leaving them in place for years on end. This goes along with delaying updates for software because you feel you do not have time at the moment. Every time you ignore an update or new patch, however, you put your company at risk of a cyberattack. In fact, experts can link a delay in updates to an increase in ransomware attacks that could have been prevented by an update.
Hackers are well aware that software providers constantly update programs and create patches to provide protection. Cyber-criminals put in significant effort to exploit the holes they are aware of in software. They also count on the fact that once a patch is released to correct the problem, not everyone will take advantage of it. This gives cyber criminals another avenue of attack that is easily avoidable.
Utilizing Weak Passwords
It should come as no surprise to find weak passwords on the list of cyberattack vectors that you should watch out for. The biggest threat resulting from a weak password is the risk of a brute force attack that breaks into your system and steals your data. Keep in mind that weak password management does not just involve the password itself but also reusing a password. Various platforms and websites experience hacks at some point or another, and if you or an employee reuse your password for that platform and important files, automated bots can get in within seconds. No matter how complex that password was, once it is hacked in a larger data breach, it is no longer secure. The automated bots can do more than just get into your other accounts with this information; they can also do account takeover attacks and account stuffing attacks.
Follow these 8 tips for creating the perfect password to help protect your data.
Misuse of Privileges
Another potential cyberattack vector is the misuse of privileges. Someone within your company may misuse the information that they have access to and create an attack. Insider attacks or attacks from privilege misuse are typically from an actual insider, but they can also occur if a hacker determines the login credentials of a user. To minimize this risk, use caution when setting up privileges, giving each user the minimum necessary to complete their task. You should also have clear policies in place as to which users get additional privileges and what security measures they must have in place with those privileges, such as specific password policies.
Not all cyberattack vectors are high-tech, as proven by pretexting. Experts caution that this simple method can be as effective for cyber-criminals as other, more intensive and tech-related strategies. Pretexting is as simple as a hacker pretending to be someone they are not in order to get the information they need. Some companies specializing in cybersecurity have tested their client’s awareness of pretexting, and the vast majority of employees fall for the attack. This can be particularly damaging when the hacker claims to be from IT and needs administrative access. If they get that access, they can do nearly anything.
The best way to avoid pretexting is through strong policies and training. Employees must be aware of pretexting attacks, and you need to have strong policies in place that prohibit sharing login information and other details except in specific situations. There must be a procedure in place for determining whether the person on the other end of the phone is who they claim to be before providing information.
On a related note, most people are aware of phishing, but that does not reduce its potential as a cyberattack vector. Many hackers (correctly) see users as the path of least resistance for gaining access. Instead of having to break through layers of security and coding, they can just get the information right from employees. Phishing is similar to pretexting but with a different goal. Instead of direct access, the goal is clicking on an attachment or link through a malicious email. Once that is done, malware will be installed or another type of cyberattack will begin.
Statistics say that about one in every nine or ten emails will convince someone to click on a link. As with pretexting, the best defense is raising awareness among employees. Remind them never to open emails or click on links or attachments without first verifying the sender.
Methods of Mitigating Cyberattack Vectors
There are a few important strategies that can help mitigate these and other cyberattack vectors. Most importantly, you should aim for regular cybersecurity audits. At the very least, small cybersecurity checks should be done monthly. You can also work with a cyber-insurance company to evaluate your policies and vulnerabilities. In general, cybersecurity insurance can be a helpful tool, as it will mitigate the impact of attacks and help prevent them from occurring at all. This is particularly important for small businesses, as they do not typically have the resources necessary to successfully come out of a cyberattack without assistance.