An introduction to cyber security
Cyber security is a vast and varied field. It can mean anything from a basic personal firewall on your laptop to user permissions and even door locks to prevent intruders from gaining physical access to systems and stored data. This article provides an overview for non-cyber experts, and also explains how Riskaware’s offerings fit within the bigger picture.
Your cyber security infrastructure is the system you have in place to protect you and your information against cyber attacks and cyber threats. This will include various solutions and tools that help keep your network safe.
This will look different depending on your needs – whether you’re a government organisation or a military agency or a large enterprise. The data you keep and the assets you use will vary, which changes your approach to security.
Common cyber threats
Cyber attacks come in many guises, coming from different sources, using different points of entry and with varying targets. Some are more sophisticated than others: Sophisticated actors could target your organisation by exploiting a multi-step path of network vulnerabilities, whereas other attacks may be as simple as opening a malicious email or link that downloads malware.
Sometimes, however, these simple approaches can be used as entry methods by highly sophisticated nation state actors.
Examples of untargeted attacks:
- Phishing software – sending emails to large numbers of people asking for sensitive information (such as bank details) or encouraging them to visit a fake website
- Water holing – setting up a fake website or compromising a legitimate one to exploit visiting users.
- Ransomware – an attack that threatens to publish the victim’s data or perpetually block access to it, or a site, until a ransom is paid.
- Scanning – An attack designed to hit vast portions of the online population at random.
Examples of targeted attacks:
- Spear-phishing – sending emails to targeted individuals that could contain an attachment with malicious software or a link that downloads malicious software. Often used by nation state actors or Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs) to gain access to otherwise well secured networks.
- DDOS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack – An attack that threatens to deny access, or operations, on a particular network; this is usually until a ransom has been paid.
- Subverting the supply chain – This attack threatens equipment or software being delivered to the organisation.
On the whole, cyber attacks are becoming more sophisticated and more frequent, with larger organisations such as Critical National Infrastructure (CNI) being targeted by malicious groups.
Our cyber security tools focus on modelling and predicting these more complex attacks to allow them to be mitigated. We take a proactive approach to help you strengthen your posture before an attack occurs.
Cyber threats in Defence
What are the cyber threats facing defence?
Cyber attacks exploit vulnerabilities in unpatched computer systems causing data breaches and loss of system availability. For the defence industry, this can cause disruption to critical missions and compromise the military’s ability to function effectively.
Hostile actors targeting defence organisations come in various forms, with different motivations. APTs could be anything from an individual conducting a one-time attack, to state-sponsored actors.
Successful cyber attacks on defence networks can have significant consequences, including impacts on governments or even human lives.
What are the challenges for defence cyber security?
One of the biggest challenges with cyber security, for defence and other industries, is adapting to constantly evolving and emerging threats. That’s why cyber threat mitigation and prediction strategies need to be robust.
By conducting cyber vulnerability assessments organisations can identify, and prioritise threats to the network. However, using cyber attack prediction and modelling software on top of this provides essential insight. With these solutions in place cyber protection teams can proactively identify and mitigate the most likely attack paths to defend against specific threats.
How can Riskaware help mitigate defence cyber risks?
Our cyber security suite, CyberAware, includes industry leading threat prediction and attack modelling software. By integrating attack simulation, business resilience modelling, and interactive visual analytics it empowers both commanders and cyber protection teams to make decisions and mitigate attacks to maintain mission performance.
Critical National Infrastructure threats
From transport to food to health, these types of organisations play an integral part in our society. We rely on these services every day, meaning a cyber attack could have a devastating impact.
This is why CNI is often a key target for targeted cyber attacks from malicious actors. These organisations are ever more reliant on digital technologies which increases the risk of cyber attack and therefore disruption to national services.
What is cyber risk management?
Let’s first think about how a cyber attack may occur.
Cyber risks can take many forms. They stem from vulnerabilities or chinks in your digital armour where attackers can more easily infiltrate your network and access your data.
Here are some ways in which your information security could be compromised, creating cyber risk:
- Integrity impacts (e.g. modifying records): Plant false flags and distract investigations
- Availability impacts (e.g. denial of service): Forcing downtime to exploit lack of redundant systems
- Confidentiality impacts (e.g. disclosure of sensitive information): Provide intelligence on people and systems
Common barriers to effective cyber security
There are two main issues with how cyber security platforms and tools work today, that reduce an organisation’s ability to reduce cyber risk.
1. Reactive approaches
Traditional cyber security plans focus on response – not prevention. They are embedded in reactivity. Relying on resources like blacklists or known anomaly detection means organisations can, at best, respond to an attack in real-time. However more often this means cleaning up after the fact.
2. Disjointed intelligence
There are many tools available for cyber security. Most infrastructures are now built using a mix of different types and from different vendors. This can cause challenges for cyber analysts, making it more complex to create a cohesive picture of their threat landscape – and even more difficult to convey this to decision makers.
The importance of a proactive stance
The greater your cyber risk, the more vulnerabilities you may have, the more likely it is that you’ll be subject to a cyber attack. Taking a proactive stance involves reducing this risk and consequently preventing more attacks.
Instead of waiting for an attack to happen before responding, this approach mitigates damage and reduces data, asset or monetary costs by implementing defences in advance.
Proactive risk management allows organisations to analyse potential attacks ahead of time and act accordingly. By looking ahead to the potential impacts of any given attack, and what assets would be affected, organisations can more effectively create strategies that will mitigate the impact of an attack.
How to reduce cyber risk
The level of cyber risk will vary between your assets and the attacks themselves. A more valuable asset inherently comes with more risk, and the same goes for a more sophisticated attacker. The likelihood of the attack, as well as the potential impact, will be much higher in these scenarios.
So, the first thing you need to do before attempting to reduce risk, is understand your risk.
Here are some key questions you should ask on top of a vulnerability assessment:
- How exploitable are my vulnerabilities?
- How sophisticated are any potential cyber threats?
- How easy is my network to infiltrate?
- What type of future attacks do I expect?
- How critical are certain assets?
- What do the attack paths to these assets look like?
- Are any vulnerabilities an entry point for these attacks?
The challenge of building resilience
For most organisations, cyber risk goes beyond a single asset or device. Their network infrastructures are interconnected, making risk more difficult to assess and mitigate.
Businesses, missions and industrial processes are all increasingly tied to the IT infrastructure in place. A breach of a certain device can mean much more than a few corrupted files, it can have devastating impacts in the wider organisational context.
This makes measuring the impact of an attack difficult and multifaceted.
Some considerations include:
- The knock-on effects of a breach
- What a loss of availability means to dependent services
- How effective are backup systems at providing redundancy
- Whether recovery processes will disrupt Service Level Agreements (SLAs)
How we help build resilience
Cyber resilience is based on how well a business, mission or process is prepared for, and can recover from an attack. For example, if only a few cyber assets are infiltrated, does this completely derail a mission, or can it withstand these breaches?
We aim to bring together business and mission modelling with cyber risk analysis in order to answer these kinds of questions. We show how missions are underpinned by critical assets and where they are dependent on the cyber terrain.
What are the benefits of modelling mission resilience?
- Demonstrate worst-case scenarios
- Analyse mission impact of dependant systems
- Automated cyber attack and vulnerability analysis
- Simulate cyber attacks in advance
- Save time and resources
- Increase validation of assumptions
- Communicate risk easily with decision makers and analysts alike
- Create targeted cyber risk management strategies
Predicting a cyber attack
Cyber attack prediction enables the implementation of proactive strategies. It allows organisations to understand the threats posed to them, and to begin to build a clear picture of their threat landscape.
How does it work?
Cyber attacks have been occurring for years. And defenders have been responding to these attacks for just as long. Because of this, we now have a wealth of threat intelligence about malicious groups.
This data is a bread crumb trail for all past attacks, from which we can identify established attack patterns and common tactics used by adversaries. We can also analyse which defence and mitigation strategies have been most effective.
This wealth of information is invaluable when it comes to planning proactive, and successful, risk management and cyber defence strategies.
Riskaware’s cyber security platform
Our CyberAware platform champions proactive approaches to cyber security. By combining traditional vulnerability analysis techniques with our own cutting-edge algorithms, we can go further than just identifying individual vulnerabilities and analyse entire attack pathways.
Our core capabilities include; cyber attack modelling, and business impact assessment, cyber attack prediction, network hardening analysis and intuitive visual analytics.
LEARN MORE NOW: Riskaware’s robust cyber security solutions
Why is our approach unique?
We go beyond simple vulnerability assessment to put potential attacks and technical impacts into organisational context. This not only gives a clearer and more understandable idea of what the risk of an attack may be, but it helps organisations prioritise where to focus their cyber security improvements.
For example, we can determine the most exploitable attack paths to your critical assets, and more importantly quantify the impact that will have on your business. Therefore, you can prioritise patching vulnerabilities for these attacks, rather than trying to address other vulnerabilities in your network.
We also provide real-time analytics and cyber attack predictions based on up-to-date threat databases. Together, these capabilities ensure our users get a comprehensive view of their threat landscape.
CyberAware Resilience models the potential impact of cyber attacks on wider organisational operations. Using advanced analytics, it identifies attack paths and highlights key vulnerabilities against critical assets.
Users can use this intelligence to assess their resilience and put in place specific mitigation strategies after testing their effectiveness.
CyberAware Predict predicts likely future attacks as well as the next steps in an evolving attack. Combined with information about appropriate mitigations and known adversaries, this tool empowers proactive security and decision support.
Why build cyber awareness
It’s common to think that having the right tools in place is all that’s needed to create a strong cyber security infrastructure. But cyber awareness is key to the success of that strategy.
Proactive approaches to cyber security, risk management and incident management are built on the assumption that cyber attacks will happen.
Cyber awareness embeds this approach as a culture and a mindset throughout your organisation. Not only does this mean your staff are more alert to potential attacks and more mindful of mitigating breaches, but it also means the organisation as a whole is more likely to prioritise cyber security measures.
Ultimately, the aim is to increase your organisational resilience and reduce cyber risk.
3 primary ways Riskaware helps to embed cultural cyber awareness:
- Communication – making it more straightforward to communicate cyber risks to your team and to decision makers in a way they understand.
- Board engagement – showing the board the value of cyber security to support appropriate funding and resources.
- Contextualising threats – placing threats in a business context gives teams additional insight to analyse their vulnerabilities.
The role of diversity in cyber security
Diversity is another important cultural aspect which can boost your cyber security abilities.
Several studies have proven that diversity, in terms of gender, race and background, is not at the forefront of cyber security recruitment. And while this may seem irrelevant to security performance, a diverse workplace can actually have a direct, positive impact on output.
5 benefits of a diverse cyber security workforce:
- More skills and fewer knowledge gaps
- Different perspectives breed creativity
- Diverse groups solve problems faster
- Clients feel more represented
- Diversity is linked to higher profitability