Report Shows Targeting Users a Steam-Gathering Trend for Hackers

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Cisco’s annual security report was released this week, with one of its key highlights being the increasingly important role users play in the grand scheme of combating today’s cyber threats. GDF’s founder talks about some of the report findings and some of the ways professional vulnerability assessments and penetration testing can help bolster any organization’s cyber security posture.

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Just one compromised user can start a catastrophic chain of events

most successful attacks we encounter these days start with a malware-laden phishing email

On January 20th, Cisco released their Annual Security Report for 2015. Among the key findings were things like big shifts in the techniques of launching spam attacks to make them more difficult to filter, the rise in popularity of lesser known exploit kits, the trend of combining lesser exploits to cause bigger problems, and users becoming a much more preferred vector for attackers to leverage in order to achieve their endgame of infiltrating business networks. Joe Caruso, the founder and CEO/CTO of Global Digital Forensics (GDF), a premier national provider of cyber security solutions headquartered in New York City, has watched all of these trends play out repeatedly over the last year with real-world clients and says, “There is definitely nothing out of the blue in Cisco’s report, but I am glad they put such a strong focus on the user aspect of cyber security. In our experience as national cyber emergency responders, most successful attacks we encounter these days start with a malware-laden phishing email. Either they get a user to directly divulge credentials with a convincing letter, or they get them to open an attachment with an infected payload, or get them click on a link to a malicious site. From there it’s just a domino effect with grave consequences waiting at the end.”

To successfully navigate any journey, knowing the starting point is a must.

“With so many threats to deal with, the first step is knowing exactly where you stand right now and what kinds of threats pose the biggest threat to your unique data environment,” says Caruso. “Our proven vulnerability assessments are designed to do just that. Obviously the security needs of a bank are far different than a restaurant, just like a hospital’s needs are different than a defense contractor and a design firm has different concerns than an online retailer. That’s why the first thing we do is get a full understanding of the client’s data landscape, from data creation, how it’s used and by whom, to how and when it’s destroyed. Are mobile devices part of the equation? Are WiFi environments, or public facing websites, or seasonal employees in the mix? Every client is different, so we don’t rely on cookie-cutter assumptions, we get the clearest and most accurate picture possible so we can offer our clients knowledgeable recommendations which will be the most useful and cost effective solutions available for their particular situation. We’ve been doing this for over twenty years, and our longevity didn’t spring from fleecing clients with fancy sounding solutions they don’t want or need, it came from developing lasting relationships by providing industry leading solutions that make a real difference.”

Trial by fire, without the burn – penetration testing.

“A penetration test is about learning in its most basic sense. It’s like being told as a kid not to touch the stove because it’s hot and will burn you,” says Caruso, “but in all honesty, was it those constant reminders that embedded the lesson in your brain, or was it the first time you actually experienced what hot and burn really meant when, of course, you eventually touched the stove. For instance, you can talk about spam and phishing until you’re out of breath, but nothing has the unforgettable impact on employees like actually getting burned in a controlled attack, like the ones we’ve performed for many clients as an optional component to the social engineering phase of our comprehensive penetration testing packages. We’ll use the same publicly available information hackers can easily find and generate a realistic attack, which have so far never failed to yield a bounty of live user credentials. With proof in hand, security officers have the best ammunition possible to raise user awareness enterprise-wide, and if they need some help and/or direction raising that crucial awareness, we can help with that too. Our goal is and always has been to help our clients strengthen their cyber security posture on every front possible, and that certainly includes the weakest link of all, the human element. If we can help an organization at least get a firm handle on covering the cyber security basics, we will have helped them be able to thwart more than 95% of the threats out there, and that is an essential point to get to before ever worrying about how to close the rest of that gap. That last 5% is when we get into the territory of the most advanced and sophisticated threats, which we can of course help with too, but simple math makes it pretty obvious what the first order of business should be.”

Every client needs customized solutions in today’s cyber threat landscape.

*Global Digital Forensics is a recognized industry leader in the fields of computer forensics, cyber security and emergency incident response, with years of experience assisting clients in the government, banking, healthcare, education and corporate arenas. For a free consultation with a Global Digital Forensics specialist, call 1-800-868-8189 about tailoring a cost-effective plan which will meet your unique needs, without wasting resources on solutions you simply don’t need. Emergency responders are also standing by 24/7 to handle intrusion and data breach emergencies whenever and wherever they arise. Time is critical if a cyber incident has occurred, so don’t hesitate to get help. For more information, visit http://www.evestigate.com.

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