Hackers have also developed methods of compromising the vulnerabilities that exist on systems that reside on the internal network. These attacks are usually a combination of a type of social engineering and malware. For example, a website hosted by a hacker has malicious software loaded on it. The hacker lures a user out to their site through any number of methods including pharming, phishing, search engine manipulation, redirection techniques and more. A vulnerable system that simply accesses that website can be compromised by Trojan horse-type software without the user ever knowing. This attack can also be done with popular websites that have been infected with malware, such as MSNBC.com, ZDNet.com, history.com or Walmart.com.
Internal threats don’t just come from malicious or compromised sites either. Worms spreading via mobile device, e-mail viruses, infected USB drives, and many other threats rely on systems being vulnerable for attack.
Today’s threat landscape offers attackers a much larger selection of attack points in the form of open firewall ports for business traffic, Web or other servers behind the firewall, along with all applications running internally on the network, including PCs and servers. This gives the bad guys a wealth of attack methods to find vulnerabilities in your network. Attackers even have applications that take all the difficulty out of hacking into your network. These programs can be used to run high-speed automated attacks that were unthinkable a few years ago.
External threats are now the minority attack method. Attacks targeting internal systems are more lucrative financially and more effective than external attacks. Spam, phishing, social engineering, malware, Trojans, portable media devices, and other methods are commonly used to compromise systems while completely subverting traditional security solutions such as firewalls, intrusion detection systems, and even previous external vulnerability scans.
Bottom line: It is easy to be a hacker, and hard to stay ahead of them. One silver lining is that many of these attack methods rely on the system being vulnerable in some way. A lot of attacks are looking for weaknesses or misconfigurations in browser and Web applications. Malicious websites, whether used in conjunction with spam, phishing, search engine manipulation or any of several other attack types, often require a vulnerable system in order for the hackers to be successful. Identifying and remediating these vulnerabilities becomes one of the methods we can use to stay ahead of criminals.
Here, Perimeter Chief Architect Kevin Prince offers up eight steps you should take to protect your organization.