Cyber News Roundup: Top Cyber Threats in Our Hybrid World, Unattended IoT Devices in Empty Offices

Editor’s Note: This is your cyber news roundup with the latest cybersecurity news and tips from the Cyber Oregon team to help you and your organization stay safe online and protect your digital assets. We examine cybersecurity news and developments from across the Northwest and the Nation that are important to all Oregonians including individuals, businesses, non-profit organizations, government entities, and educational institutions. Sign up to receive ongoing updates here.

The new world we work in is a hybrid world. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, much has been written about the shift to work-from-home, which has brought an increase of hackers going after the weak security links leading to an increase in cyber threats.  

With the hybrid world shaping up to be more permanent, it’s an ideal time to reevaluate cybersecurity and revise cybersecurity plans. From the smallest organization to the largest, cybersecurity needs to be in the mix. “With people working in separate physical locations, maintaining data and network integrity becomes more of a challenge. Keeping track of the latest cybersecurity threats is a full-time job, but adding in the challenge of different working locations takes it to a whole new level,” writes Eric Schurke in Fast Company.  

Need help getting started or resetting your cybersecurity plan? HelpNetSecurity offers the 5 Ws for building a strong cybersecurity program

  • Why you should add cybersecurity to your budget. Don’t wait until there is a problem to start thinking about a cybersecurity plan. A company may not consider cybersecurity in their budgeting. When there is an attack, the costs – both to the bottom line and to your reputation – can be substantial. When creating a budget, consider allowing for investments in strengthening your cybersecurity. It could be for outside support, tools and services, or upgrades to hardware. In the long run it may be less expensive to consider these preventative measures now than to deal with the fallout of a costly attack later. 
  • When should you start? There’s no better time than the present. It’s never too late to start, and if you have a cybersecurity plan in place, we advise revisiting it regularly to make improvements. 
  • Who should be involved in building your cybersecurity plan? There is a misconception that only IT professionals should create, manage, and implement a cybersecurity plan. The reality is that cybersecurity should be on everyone’s to-do list. Getting buy-in from leadership, as well as being transparent with staff, enables cybersecurity to become a priority across the organization. Everyone has a role to play. 
  • What is your level of risk? No one can prevent every attack and make considerations for every situation. A company should assess their risk and create a plan that aligns with that risk.  

“The only safe haven for businesses and organizations is to consistently reassess counter-measures put in place and make improvements where necessary. Better to dedicate time to that than lose a lot of energy, time, and company income controlling the after-effects of a cyber-attack,” states Andin Bicknell of GlobalSign.  

What About Unprotected IoT Devices “Alone” in the Office? 

“It happened overnight for many enterprises. Bustling offices turned into desolate spaces–abandoning plants to die, snacks to go stale, and calendars to remain frozen in time. And like out of a movie, amidst the eerie quiet there was something still alive and buzzing with activity,” writes Zscaler of the unprotected and neglected IoT devices in office buildings. In its blog post, Zscaler outlines what happens to these set-top boxes, digital signage, networked printers, and many other IoT devices that are still connected to the network — but left unattended. “…The devices continued to refresh data, perform functions, and await commands…Threat actors quickly identified the devices as attack opportunities, resulting [in] a staggering 833 IoT malware.” Read Zscaler’s research that takes a closer look at IoT activity in inactive offices: IoT in the Enterprise: Empty Office Edition. “As we’ve documented in our findings, these new categories of IoT are often completely off the radar for IT teams.” Zscaler encourages hastening “the need for organizations to employ zero-trust policies and architectures.” 

What are the latest cyber threats? As Bicknell writes in Security Boulevard, there are seven major threats so far in 2021: 

  1. Clever ransomware. This cybersecurity threat came alive in 2020 and is quickly becoming more popular by the minute. The targets are usually the big leagues in terms of profitability. The protagonists behind this evil have been able to take a cue from the inventors of cryptocurrencies to appear anonymous. So, it is difficult to track who is behind this kind of attack. 
  1. Cloud-based threats. Most companies worldwide are in the process of undergoing major digital transformations, leveraging online collaboration tools and accelerating the migration to cloud computing. This became more prevalent because of the coronavirus pandemic, which forced most employees around the world to embrace remote working. The rapid migration to this service has exposed businesses to several security challenges. Examples are deletion of incomplete data, cloud app susceptibility, diminished visibility, and misconfigurations in cloud storage. 
  1. Social Engineering attacks. Reports have estimated that most breaches in business data happen when employees unknowingly engage with a social engineering attack. This usually occurs when the perpetrators trick employees into giving them company information or access to their software. Since humans are prone to error, especially during the busiest periods of the day, social engineering attacks are one of the biggest cybersecurity threats in 2021.  
  1. Same passwords over multiple platforms. In an online survey by Google, it is estimated that about 52% of people reported reusing the same passwords over multiple sites. No surprise, this greatly increases the probability for a hacker to hit you hard if he can get his hands on one password. 
  1. Remote worker endpoint security. For many businesses, this working style — or a hybrid of in-person and remote work — will become permanent. Not surprisingly, this has opened up more opportunities for hackers.  
  1. Malware. This term refers to malicious software designed to harm a computer system. It steals, encrypts, and deletes sensitive company data. It also monitors the activities of a computer user and hijacks important computing functions without his or her knowledge. Malware can penetrate your cyberspace through USB external drives, physical hard drives, or when you do downloads on the internet.  
  1. Phishing. Phishing plays out with a digital message being sent to fool people into clicking a link that comes with it. Through this, harmful malware is installed and the company’s sensitive data is exposed. One of the best ways for companies to prevent phishing is to utilize S/MIME certificates that clearly indicate when an email has a legitimate source.  

Partner blog post of interest: Crowdstrike2021 Threat Hunting Report: OverWatch Once Again Leaves Adversaries with Nowhere to Hide