3 Cybersecurity Threats from The Inside
In mid-September 2022, Uber suffered a grave data breach after a hacker manipulated the ridesharing app's employees into sharing their credentials, thus gaining access to the company's internal systems.
The incident served as yet another reminder of the vulnerability of our data in the digital landscape and the ceaseless emergence of intricate hacking technologies and trends.
Furthermore, it stressed the fact that investments in the latest hardware and software environment often fall short, especially in enterprise organizations with dozens of departments.
Although everyone is susceptible to cyber attacks, some business departments are at a greater risk than others, either because they offer more entry points or because they hold data more profitable to hackers.
In this article, we discuss the three departments that pose the greatest cybersecurity risk to your organization, namely:
Moreover, we will examine the reasons behind these departments' cyber vulnerability and outline tips to increase their cyber resilience.
1. IT Department
It's hardly a surprise that IT tops the list of a company's departments most prone to hacker attacks. The IT department's processes entirely rely on technology - the same technology that makes us exposed to attacks.
Hacks on organizations' IT teams hit the victim's budget harder than those in other departments. Namely, IBM's research suggested that the average cost of an IT breach in 2022 was $5.01 million, compared to the overall average of $4.24 million.
Interestingly, even IT professionals regard themselves as the most prominent security risk to their organization. As the 2017 Balabit report found, 35% of IT employees believe their high rights of access to business-critical data make them a prime target for cyber-criminals.
Why is the IT department susceptible to cyber-attacks?
An organization's IT department is attractive to hackers for a variety of reasons, such as:
- Data: The IT staff's high level of access to critical business data.
- Control: The department's high level of control and management over the entire company's digital system.
- Keys: IT's access to the company's database holding valuable credentials, encryption keys, and API keys.
- Vulnerability: Great reliance on already cyber-vulnerable technologies, such as cloud solutions.
How to increase the cyber security of your IT department?
According to a McKinsey's report, 85% of small and midsized enterprises plan to increase their IT security spending by 2023.
Data breach prevention remains among the top business investments, especially when organizations are layering more IT systems to support remote work and improve customer experience.
For example, artificial intelligence and machine learning - technologies companies adopt to generate value, are the same ones that create possible new vulnerabilities for businesses.
Integrating disruptive tech innovations is an inevitable step for companies that want to remain competitive, but it should not be done at the expense of data security.
Some of the ways your company can boost the IT department's security include:
- Password strength: Increasing the strength of the organization's passwords and perform regular password changes.
- Paring: Pairing up DevOps with your existing cybersecurity efforts to leverage DevOps teams' agility, methodology, and knowledge of ongoing trends and innovations
- Enhance wireless security: Improving your company's wireless security by:
- creating public and private WiFi networks.
- creating strong passwords.
- encrypting data.
- restricting access to non-authorized users.
- Cloud security: Securing the organization's cloud through:
- data encryption
- regular data backup
- two-factor authentication
- antivirus and anti-malware protection
- OS and software updates
- Training: Investing in cyber security training for employees
- Machine learning: Employing machine learning to detect suspicious data patterns
- Physical security: Increasing the physical security of the company's facilities
2. Finance Department
IBM's findings suggest the financial industry has one of the longest data breach lifecycles - lasting 233 days. Moreover, historical data shows financial services are 300 times more likely to fall victim to a hacking attack when compared to other organizations and business departments.
Akamai's security report found that 94% of attacks against businesses' financial sectors were carried out using one of these four methods:
- SQL Injection (SQLi)
- Local File Inclusion (LFI)
- Cross-Site Scripting (XSS)
- OGNL Java Injection
Still, cyberattacks on financial departments are growing more sophisticated - thus more difficult to predict and prevent.
For example, some of the most recent attacks used social engineering and phishing to scam the victim into transferring large sums of money to the attacker by bypassing regular procedures and controls.
Statistics show that 71% of cyber breaches are financially motivated. As finance departments have access to the money and private information of their executives, stakeholders, employees, and clients, carrying out a successful cyber attack is a rather lucrative endeavor for hackers.
According to Varonis's 2021 Financial Data Risk Report, a financial services employee has access to over 11 million files, of which over 1,000 contain highly sensitive financial information.
In addition, over half of the financial services companies have hundreds of passwords that never expire.
IMF's report on the global cyber threat suggests financial systems are at a substantial risk due to two ongoing trends:
- The global financial system going through a digital transformation in which banks compete with technology companies and vice versa.
- Malicious actors manipulating the vulnerabilities of the digital transformation and jeopardizing financial stability and trust in the system.
How to minimize the cyber threats to your organization's finance department?
Your finance department stores a vast amount of highly sensitive and identifiable data that cybercriminals can easily leverage and monetize.
Considering the great profitability of attacks on these departments, there is no real reason to believe the frequency of finance-related scams will drop any time soon.
As with IT departments, your best option for protecting financial data from falling victim to cybercriminals is to invest in the latest tech solutions and a good Data Ops engineer.
For example, investment in innovative technologies such as artificial intelligence and machine learning can benefit your financial data's security as these technologies can predict and identify cyber-attacks.
Besides breakthrough innovations, there are other valuable and powerful strategies you can leverage to boost your finance department's cyber attack prevention, such as:
- Blockchain: Employing blockchain technology to reinforce data and transaction security.
- Hire experts: Hiring a reputable agency with expertise in financial and bank website design that ensures maximum data security.
- Training: Educating key personnel on cybersecurity trends and threats to reinforce quick recognition of social engineering and phishing attempts.
- Prioritize protection: Understanding your data and assets to prioritize data protection needs based on their criticality or confidentiality.
- Tests: Running frequent test scenarios to ensure protective measures are working and identify potential weaknesses.
C-suite, or C-level executives, represent an organization's highest-ranking executive titles. Besides CEOs, C-suite includes all employees with "chief" in their job titles, such as heads of particular branches or departments like Marketing, Finance, and IT.
According to a report by iPass, C-level executives are at the highest risk of being hacked when working in the office, especially during business trips, meetings, or events.
Forbes outlines that 84% of C-level executives reported having been targeted by at least one cyber attack in 2019. However, the C-suite sometimes knowingly jeopardizes their company's security, as 76% of CEOs admitted to bypassing safety protocols to get something done faster.
An organization's C-level executives represent highly valuable and easily available targets for cybercriminals, as:
- C-suite employees are rarely confined to the office, often traveling to events and meetings where they are easy targets.
- C-level has unrestricted access to the most sensitive business data
- A company's top management often abuses their power to bypass security protocols, sacrificing security for speed.
- Chief officers hold great power over company processes as they frequently issue demands involving large amounts of funds or critical data, which are met by staff almost unquestionably.
How to increase the protection of C-suite executives' data?
The most efficient way of increasing C-suite members' data safety is through extensive education. C-level managers need to know how to recognize whaling attacks or phishing scams quickly.
Besides the executives, companies must educate employees to recognize social engineering hacking attempts. Hackers often use this trick to get employees to release bank account information, employee details, or customer data.
Some of the ways your organization can minimize C-level cyber threats are:
- Establishing a culture of cyber skepticism through educating staff on the significance of re-reading emails and looking for hints of impersonation fraud.
- Improving financial controls by making a direct phone call or using multi-factor authentication.
- Maintaining high email security via authentication and regular password changes.
- Creating a record of all security procedures and make it available for all employees at any time.
Inside Cybersecurity Threats: Summing Up
At a time when a cyber attack occurs every 39 seconds, it is shocking to learn that merely five percent of a company's folders are protected.
Research suggests that the future holds greater investments in company data security, as 63% of companies plan to implement a biometric system. In addition, 17% of company executives noted IT security will experience the largest budget increase in the next few years.
No company unit is immune to being a victim of a cyber attack, but the three departments we analyzed above stand out as the most common weak links.
The IT, finance, and C-suite departments generally hold great power over company processes, have unlimited access to valuable data, and heavily rely on technologies most vulnerable to cyber-attacks.
Employing the latest tech solutions, such as AI and machine learning, can help in the timely prevention and early discovery of hacking attempts.
On the other hand, extensive education on cyber security and good data safety practices can minimize a company's cyber weaknesses.
Cyber security is a team effort in which employees across the board must take part to ensure your organization's - and your client's - data are safe.