A Quick Guide to Cybersecurity Incidents and How to Avoid Them?

If you look at cybersecurity statistics, you'll find a large number of cybersecurity incidents, data breaches, and hacks in every country.

We are a few months into 2022 and already there have been hacks on Microsoft, healthcare providers, among others.

Every year, research firms forecast a rise in cyber attacks. And it's no surprise, especially after the coronavirus pandemic changed the way many companies work, with many opting for a hybrid or a remote work environment.

In late 2020, Forrester predicted a 33% increase in data breaches in 2021, indicating that the majority of the attacks would come from insiders.

Insiders are people who unintentionally make it possible for a hacker to breach a network. In other words, they accidentally pave the way for a cybersecurity incident.

“Insider incidents may be caused by accidental or inadvertent data misuse or due to malicious intent. In 2019, Forrester security survey respondents indicated that 25% of data breaches were caused by internal incidents of this nature,” Forrester said in its report.

In this article, we'll be focusing on cybersecurity incidents, what they are, how to avoid them, and we'll uncover the most recent cybersecurity threats across the globe.

What is a Cybersecurity Incident?

A cybersecurity incident is any suspicious or unauthorized event that aims to disrupt the operation of electronic devices or networks including data, software, and/or hardware.

Before diving deeper into cybersecurity incidents, let’s first differentiate between authorization and authentication. “Authentication is the process of verifying who someone is, whereas authorization is the process of verifying what specific applications, files, and data a user has access to.” (SailPoint)

The National Cyber Security Center (NCSC) defines a cybersecurity incident as "a breach of a system's security policy in order to affect its integrity or availability and/or the unauthorized access or attempted access to a system or systems."

The problem with a cybersecurity incident is that it is not yet clear the purpose of the attack and how it affects a company, organization, or institution.

Types of Cybersecurity Threats and Incidents

Let’s examine the following list showing types of cybersecurity threats and incidents that companies and cybersecurity analysts should be aware of.

1. Malware

It shouldn't come as a surprise that malware is the most common type of cyber incident and attack. Malware includes viruses, worms, ransomware, Trojans (or Trojan Horse viruses), and spyware.

Malware usually comes in the form of a link or email attachment that, once clicked, begins to install malicious software in the computer that clicked it and may extend to the entire network.

2.  Phishing

The second most common type of cyber incident and threat is phishing, which, like malware, often comes in the form of emails.

However, usually, these emails seem to be coming from a legitimate source but once a user clicks the link, they unknowingly give access to hackers who are able to extort information from the computer, control it, or install malicious files and software.

It's also worth noting that, unlike malware, phishing attacks extend to voice calls and text messaging or what is known as SMS phishing.

3.  Man-in-the-Middle (MitM) Attacks

As its name suggests, this is a type of attack where the hacker inserts themselves in the middle, usually between a user and their network.

The problem with Man-in-the-Middle attacks and incidents is that they are very hard to detect and users are often unaware that someone is on their network intercepting all the data and information they are sending.

Hackers are able to perform a MitM attack by relying on network vulnerabilities such as unsecured WiFi.

4.  DoS and DDoS Attacks 

Denial-of-service (DoS) attacks are cyber incidents where hackers flood the systems, networks, or servers with traffic, making it impossible for the system to process requests.

Meanwhile, distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks come from various malware-infected host machines. Hackers use DDoS attacks to deny the service to users, take the system offline, and then launch another attack to get access to the network.

5.  Password Attacks

Another common cybersecurity incident is a password attack.

Since passwords are one of the top ways to confirm access to secure information such as login, email, or platform, among others, it's only logical that hackers would have their eyes on others' passwords.

Attackers can use social engineering to collect information about their target and then start the guessing process to get the correct password. 

Once they uncover passwords, hackers can then use them to access confidential information or control data and systems.

6.  Zero-day Exploit

A zero-day exploit involves exploiting a network vulnerability before a patch is released or implemented to fix the vulnerability.

There's a small window of opportunity for hackers between the time the vulnerability is announced and when the patch is released and implemented. Attackers use this short time frame to gain network access.

"Preventing zero-day attacks requires constant monitoring, proactive detection, and agile threat management practices," notes Datto.com.

7.  SQL Injections

Another type of cybersecurity incident and attack is the use of SQL injection. Known as the server query language (SQL) injection, it's when a hacker injects malicious code into a server using SQL so they can get protected information of the server.

SQL injections can take place using malicious code that's added as a comment on an unsecured website or in a search box.

8.  Rootkits

A rootkit is a type of malicious code that's embedded within legitimate software.

Once a user installs the software on their laptop, phone, or another system, the hacker gains access to that system and all the data, passwords, and credentials on it.

Recent Cybersecurity Incidents

There have been many cybersecurity incidents in 2022, some of them as close as the last 10 days of March.

Here's an overview of the most recent cybersecurity incidents:

- Microsoft Hacked by Lapsus$ 

On 20 March 2022, hacker group Lapsus$ indicated via a screenshot that they had attacked and breached Microsoft.

Two days later, Microsoft confirmed the attack, saying that its projects such as Bing and Cortana, among others, were compromised in the attack.

However, Microsoft said that its customer data was not compromised and that only one account had been breached.

- Crypto.com Breach

Earlier in January 2022, hackers swindled $18 million in bitcoin and $15 million in Ethereum among other cryptocurrencies from 483 user wallets via Crypto.com.

The hackers managed to pass two-factor authentication security and gain access to the users' digital wallets.

- Panasonic Cyber Incident in 2021

In November last year, Japan-based Panasonic reported a cyberattack on its job candidate data, including information about interns.

The company did not disclose the number of candidates affected by the breach.

 - T-Mobile Breach

A not-so-distant cybersecurity breach was of US-based T-Mobile.

The mobile operator reported that 40 million "former or prospective customers" who had applied for credit, along with 7.8 million postpaid customers were affected by the breach.

Cybersecurity Incident Analysis

A cybersecurity incident analysis is a process of identifying what happened to cause the security breach or hack, how it happened, why it happened, and how to prevent other breaches from happening in the future.

By creating a cybersecurity incident analysis report, a company or organization can uncover the goal of the breach and the extent of the damage it has caused.

Cybersecurity incident analysis forms a part of the cyber incident response process. "Without the analysis part, then the response plan is deemed to fail," stresses CyberExperts.com.

A cybersecurity incident analysis report usually comprises an OODA loop, which stands for observation, orientation, decision, and action. These are the four steps that form the cyber incident report. 

How to Handle Cybersecurity Incidents?

Now that you know the top types of cybersecurity incidents and what a cybersecurity incident analysis report is, let's look at more ways to handle and avoid those cyber incidents.

While there are many ways hackers can gain access to confidential data and information such as laptop or mobile phone theft, we'll focus on the cybersecurity-related solutions that you can use to keep your organization secure.

1. Train employees

One of the top reasons malware and phishing continue to be popular – and successful – for hackers is because many employees open email attachments without considering possible consequences.

Moreover, many employees aren't capable of telling the differences between a phishing email and a legitimate one.

Due to the growing number of phishing emails, along with many employees working remotely nowadays, more people are relying on web-based apps such as Google Docs to share information rather than send attachments.

2.  Conduct a cybersecurity risk assessment

Part of your cybersecurity strategy, a cybersecurity risk assessment is a kind of assessment that helps organizations – and their cybersecurity personnel – identify potential vulnerabilities and risks, helps them prioritize those risks, and then patch them up.

Security Scorecard describes cybersecurity risk assessments as "building a complete picture of the threat environment for particular business objectives."

3.     Backup sensitive information

Part of staying cautious and guaranteeing information security is backing up sensitive data and information at a different location from where your company or servers are located.

If your organization suffers theft or a data breach, then it can restore its data and continue doing business.

4. Keep your system and patches up-to-date

Another way of reducing the number of cybersecurity incidents is maintaining an up-to-date patch management program for your software and systems.

This will help you reduce the number of vulnerabilities that are often misused by hackers to gain access to your network and data.

Wrap up

Cybersecurity incidents, threats, and attacks are on the rise. It seems a day cannot pass by without a cybersecurity incident being reported somewhere in the world.

With different motivations, hackers are becoming more aggressive in their attacks, keeping businesses and organizations, large and small, on their toes.

It's therefore imperative that you not only conduct cybersecurity risk assessments regularly to ensure that there are no vulnerabilities to your company's systems, but also consider working with a cybersecurity service provider to cover any loose ends and ensure patches are up-to-date.

Learn more about cybersecurity threats  and how to avoid them by reading the following articles: 

Types of Cybersecurity Threats, and How to avoid them?

Top 15 Cybersecurity Metrics and KPIs for Better Security