The art of hacking the hackers: A guide to defending online security

It helps to understand how threat actors today behave when developing a cyber security strategy for your organisation. How do they choose their targets? What are their techniques for getting past your detection systems?

Cybercriminals seldom require deep technical knowledge to breach a company. There are various tools available that can help anyone deploy a sophisticated attack without being a skilled hacker. It is also essential to know that these people are not always hooded figures operating out of another country. The person deploying a phishing attack could be someone operating out of the same city as you, looking to make some easy money.

In this blog, I will take you through cybercriminals’ methods when deciding how to target your business and the solutions you need to enhance online security and combat these threats.

How cybercriminals gather your private information

When cybercriminals prepare to conduct a cyber attack on your business, they will typically engage in reconnaissance activities to gather intelligence about your company and team to plan their attack. This reconnaissance phase is critical to the cybercriminal’s process because it identifies potential weaknesses in your organisation’s defences.

Email is a key communication method for many businesses, with invoices and bank details shared this way, making it a popular target for cybercriminals. Suppose a threat actor decides to conduct an email-based attack on your organisation. They will select people they believe will most likely respond to a phishing email, analyse the security measures you have (or have not) implemented, and research targets to decide on the best approach for compromising them. They will look at your organisation’s social media and analyse your team’s accounts to determine which employees may be more likely to fall for a phishing attack.

Cybercriminals may research your company infrastructure, employee profiles, and public-facing information to determine the best entry points. When conducting this research, they may also examine any previous cyber security incidents experienced by your organisation.

How email becomes a medium to launch cyber attacks

Once a threat actor understands the best ways into your organisation, they might leverage a few techniques to execute the attack. These attacks may include payloads like malware, fake websites for phishing, or stealing multi-factor authentication tokens.

Malware is a common type of cyber attack that hackers deploy via email. It can come in various forms, such as Trojans, viruses, and ransomware. Once someone has downloaded the malware, the hacker can access sensitive information stored on your organisation’s system, including financial data, employee personal information, and customer data. Many cybercriminals will not use this information for their gain but will sell it to other criminals to use.

Another common method that hackers use is phishing. In this attack, the hacker creates a fake email or website that mimics a legitimate one, such as a login page to a corporate site. The email or website will request the user to enter their personal information or credentials that the hacker captures. With access to your corporate account, they can impersonate you, making it much harder for someone to recognise that a cybercriminal is socially engineering them.

How cybercriminals avoid your defences and infiltrate your network

Threat actors continuously evolve their tactics for evading email security techniques that businesses have implemented. Here are some common methods they use to trick cyber security systems and people into clicking or interacting with a malicious email:

  • Sending malicious emails through legitimate email platforms, such as Microsoft Outlook. This allows the emails to bypass traditional email security solutions, such as spam filters, which typically rely on blacklists or other forms of signature-based detection.
  • Impersonating trusted individuals, such as a company executive or a vendor. If a hacker uses a legitimate email platform and the name of someone enrolled in Azure AD for your organisation, Outlook might make the mistake of connecting the hacker’s details with those of the staff member they are impersonating, making the email appear legitimate.
  • Business Email Compromise (BEC) occurs when a threat actor gains access to the email account of someone in your business. For example, they might use a fake website to trick someone into revealing their credentials and then use this person’s legitimate email account to socially engineer other people in your team. Your technology will not flag these email addresses because they come from a trusted account.

Protecting your organisation from email-based cyber threats

Your organisation needs technology that authenticates email senders and prevents spoofing. Additionally, anti-spam, anti-malware, and email encryption software can help protect against various email-based attacks. Advanced threat detection and response tools automatically detect and block malicious emails. These tools can analyse email traffic for indicators of compromise and take action to quarantine or delete malicious messages.

By implementing these strategies, you can better protect your organisation from the risks posed by malicious emails. However, it’s important to remember that email security is an ongoing process, and your team must remain vigilant in the face of constantly evolving threats.

These tools can do great work in preventing malicious emails or notifying employees to be careful, but they are not infallible. So, in addition to leveraging tools that protect your company email, you must provide cyber security awareness training that ensures your team can recognise and report suspicious behaviour. You can accomplish this through regular security awareness training, which teaches employees to look for red flags such as grammar errors, suspicious links or attachments, and urgent or threatening language.

Why choose Wyntec as your partner in cyber security? 

Cyber security is on the priority list for many businesses now, and you must implement the right systems and solutions. One effective way to defend against email attacks is using email security solutions such as Egress Defend, which can detect and prevent malicious emails from reaching their intended targets. With Egress Defend, your business can provide employees with tools and training to help them identify and report suspicious emails.

We have recently partnered with Egress to deliver their solution for protection against advanced phishing attacks. Visit our Egress Defend page for more on the capabilities of this platform.

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