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The Biggest Threat to your Network Security: Email Communications

June 19, 2017

When it comes to protecting your businesses infrastructure, it is safe to assume that you have some form of cyber protection activated. But email communications represent the biggest threat of all, because it takes advantage of the end user, in one form or the other. It generally only requires one misstep from a member of a network to unleash a catastrophic chain of events within that network.

When an attack is made against a network via email, it most commonly takes the form of social engineering rather than methods such as brute force – where a correct password is guessed through repeated tries. The most common form of social engineering is known as phishing. In a phishing attack, the attacker poses as a trustworthy person – usually one that your company already does business with.

The goal of a phishing attack is to get the email recipient to open a file attachment, which itself is seeded with commands that execute when the end user runs it unknowingly. The command that runs as a result installs malware and worms with predetermined goals. Attackers typically use this as a stepping stone to target and plan more attacks against your employees such as installing key loggers – which records keystrokes, allowing the attacker access to passwords and other credentials. All of these stolen credentials end up on the dark web and perpetuates the cyber threat cycle.

The more information the attacker can gather from that infected computer, the more likely it is to be targeted again. This is how large-scale data breaches occur, such as attacks that can be life threatening.

Read The Ransomware assault on Healthcare.

In other cases, the program installs ransomware that will try and encrypt files stored on the computer, as well as other computers connected to the local area network. The ransomware then demands a sum of money in return for a key that unlocks access to the encrypted files.

These types of attacks can be extremely difficult to defend against, primarily because companies do not have enough resources and information on hand to know if attacks have happened, are ongoing, or if they are eminent. As a result, many companies choose to have their IT security outsourced to third party firms. This option comes with a host of its own issues, considering the fact that third parties can gain inside information into your company’s innermost workings and network architecture. And if the correct research isn’t done, outside sources might not have the wherewithal to protect your network fully.

Even if companies are somehow able to guard against these risks, it is not a guarantee that their employees will be shielded from all threats. Most employees don’t keep data breaches in mind because of the lack of understanding cyber security issues. And to add to human error, most people use the same login credentials across a wide range of websites and platforms, which exponentially increases the probability of being attacked!

Read How to Detect if Your Organization’s Email Credentials Have Been Stolen & How to Prevent Phishing.

In the end, it becomes clear that stopping cyber-attacks on your network is far more complex and represents a wide range of factors that contribute to it. Proactive engagement is required to mitigate network compromises. Phishing exercises are the best way to understand and know when attacks are likely. This training is a good way for your employees and management to become educated and to gain an understanding of the proper etiquette of handling passwords, credentials and sensitive data.

Do you know if your organization’s credentials have been compromised? We can help you find out.