Network Threats: How to Detect and Prevent the 5 Most Common Attacks
Cyberattacks are happening more often and becoming increasingly sophisticated in today’s landscape, so security teams need to work even harder to protect their networks from bad actors. Let’s look at the most common network threats and study the best techniques for detecting, preventing, and mitigating them.
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Denial-of-service (DoS) attacks stop authorized users from using the compromised device or network. Attackers use strategies like traffic flooding and crashing services in order to execute DoS attacks. Distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attacks are executed from multiple external points, making it more difficult to identify the source of the attack and stop it from progressing.
Instead of seeking to steal or damage valuable data, DoS attacks prevent organizations from doing business. When DoS attacks hit governments, financial institutions, and other large organizations, the disruption can be immense and recovery extremely costly. Here is a five-step framework for detecting and preventing DoS attacks:
- Audit network vulnerability: Understanding your network’s weaknesses (before an attacker does) will help you properly defend your network.
- Secure your infrastructure: Design multi-level protection strategies and threat management systems that use both software and hardware to prevent intrusions.
- Reduce your attack surface: Microsegmentation is a powerful way to reduce your attack surface so it is easier to defend.
- Create a response plan: Careful advance planning ensures that everyone on your security team knows how to respond, escalate, and resolve attacks when they do occur.
- Know the signs: Identify common warning signs of DoS attacks, like slow network performance or unavailable websites, before they happen so that your security team knows what to look for.
To learn more about DoS attacks and the framework for dealing with them, read our in-depth article: “Denial-of-Service Attack Prevention: The Definitive Guide.”Back to top
During a man-in-the-middle (MITM) attack, bad actors exploit data flowing between two parties by eavesdropping, sending fake messages disguised as real ones, or forwarding information to other malicious parties, for example. MITM attacks are common but their impact can be severe. There are also many types of MITM attacks, including router, HTTPS and IP spoofing; email phishing; ARP cache poisoning; and inside man attacks.
Here are six steps and strategies security teams can take to detect and prevent MITM attacks:
- Network monitoring: Strange or unfamiliar network activity should raise flags about potential attacks. Intrusion detection systems can help identify breaches early.
- Edge microsegmentation: Applying microsegmentation at the edge puts users in a protected environment isolated from the local network.
- Secure connections: Create policies and/or use browser plug-ins to ensure your employees visit sites with HTTPS connections using SSL encryption.
- Multi-factor authentication: Additional security layers proving user identity makes it harder for attackers to abuse legitimate login information.
- Employee education: Training your team to recognize scams and identify bad actors takes away one of attackers’ most basic tools: user naivete.
- Consistent updates: Frequent and regularly scheduled software updates will help eliminate unnecessary vulnerabilities from your security infrastructure.
To learn more about detecting and mitigating these types of network security threats, check out our guide on “How to Prevent a Man-in-the-Middle Attack.”Back to top
Rogue Access Points
A wireless access point that an organization’s security team doesn’t know is plugged into the network is called a rogue access point. Rogue access points can range from employees’ personal routers to wireless cards jutting out of servers and devices attached to firewalls. Although rogue access points aren’t always malicious, they increase the size of the attack surface that security teams must defend, without benefiting from any of the network’s security features, monitoring, etc. Here are 4 ways security teams can protect against rogue access point proliferation:
- Physical network security: Regularly sweep your warehouses, loading areas, and other physical spaces, keeping an eye out for suspicious equipment or devices.
- Prevent direct connections: Use hardware-based microsegmentation to prevent users from connecting directly to rogue access points.
- Intrusion detection and prevention: These systems scan to discover active network connections, determining the validity and connection status of each access point.
- Create security policies: Employees can often install rogue access points for legitimate work reasons. Train your employees on company security policies to avoid that mistake.
To learn more about eliminating rogue access points and creating policies to protect your employees, read our post: “How to Protect Against Rogue Access Points on Wi-Fi.”Back to top
Malware is the software that attackers use to disrupt, damage, or exploit a network or endpoint. Using malware, attackers can steal or destroy valuable information, encrypt data, spam or spy on legitimate users, take over a system or change how that system works. There are various types of malware that all access devices or networks in different ways, including viruses, worms, spyware, adware, trojans, rogueware, and ransomware. In recent years, ransomware use has snowballed; 2020 saw 304 million ransomware attacks. Here are six best practices for protecting against malware, including ransomware:
- Security software: Use antivirus, anti-malware, anti-ransomware, and other anti-exploit solutions to build out your multi-layer security stack.
- Deploy microsegmentation: Combine your chosen security software with dedicated hardware that can implement microsegmentation at the edge for proper hardware-enforced isolation and route enforcement.
- Strong passwords: Create unique passwords, update them regularly, and consider using a password manager to keep them organized and secure.
- Empower users: In addition to training employees to identify the warning signs of common cyber threats, empower and encourage them to report suspicious activity.
- Safe browsing: Ensuring users follow best practices for safe browsing will neutralize many malware threats both online and in emails.
- Remove shadow IT: Make sure all your software, systems, and browsers are updated to the latest versions, and remove unused and unsupported software and shadow IT.
To learn more about dealing with these types of network threats, read our article all about “How to Prevent Malware Attacks.”Back to top
At the enterprise level, a multi-component cyber security solution is required to defend against malware attacks and other kinds of network threats like lateral movement. In order to be considered comprehensive, an enterprise malware protection system must protect at six out of the seven stages on the cyber kill chain — reconnaissance, intrusion, exploitation, privilege escalation, lateral movement, command and control, and actions on objectives.
Compromise Prevention Solutions
These solutions are designed to deal specifically with the compromise stages of the cyber kill chain: intrusion, exploitation, and privilege escalation.
- Identity management: Identity and access management (IAM) oversees the relationship between users and tech resources, while Zero Trust network access (ZTNA) is a type of software-defined perimeter that applies Zero Trust strategies to IAM.
- Perimeter security: By creating a barrier between the network and outside traffic, perimeter security solutions are designed to prevent and detect compromises. Next-generation firewalls (NGFW) are the latest developments in defending perimeters to keep unwanted traffic out.
- Vulnerability management: Vulnerability management tools are designed to identify and remedy weaknesses in a network. Through detailed analysis, mapping, and risk assessment, these tools enable security teams to identify vulnerabilities before attackers can take advantage of them.
- Endpoint detection and response (EDR): EDR solutions use historical threat intelligence and predictive analytics to discover suspicious activity, investigate alerts, identify the root cause of a compromise, and resolve the incident.
- Managed detection and response (MDR): Organizations that lack internal expertise or sufficient resources can outsource their incident response workload (or some portion of it) to external MDR companies.
- Extended detection and response (XDR): Considered the next generation of EDR, XDR uses machine learning and automation technology to conduct rapid data analysis across the entire cyber landscape.
Compromise Containment Solutions
These solutions are designed to deal specifically with the post-compromise stages of the cyber kill chain: lateral movement, command and control, and actions on objectives or exfiltration.
- Cyber monitoring and analytics: Security information and event management (SIEM) and user and entity behavior analytics (UEBA) tools are designed to find and stop in-progress cyberattacks as quickly and efficiently as possible.
- Microsegmentation: Dividing a network into granular subnetworks dramatically reduces the attack surface, so if a breach does occur its ability to spread through the network will be critically limited. Microsegmentation tools also give security teams heightened visibility into and control over each endpoint for improved monitoring, detection, and response capabilities.
- Web access protection: Secure web gateways (SWGs) protect users’ web access with usage policies, content blocking, and threat protection. Cloud access security brokers (CASBs) are specialized SWG tools designed to help security teams better protect users when they interact with cloud services.
To learn more about protecting your enterprise network from malware and other network threats, read our post on “Enterprise Malware Protection: How to Build the Ideal Security Stack.”Back to top
Malware Mitigation Techniques
Once malware is discovered, network security teams need to act quickly to mitigate the attack and prevent unnecessary damage. Here are some of the most powerful malware mitigation techniques:
- Deploy a defensive kill switch: Disabling an attacker’s connection to the internet terminates propagation and lateral movement, but it also impacts legitimate network operations. If it stops malware from spreading deeper into the network, sometimes interrupting business is the right call.
- Remove attackers’ kill switches: On the other hand, attackers can also use kill switches to cover their tracks by cutting off outside communication and deleting evidence of tampering. When an attacker deploys a kill switch, the interruption to legitimate business can cause major disruption instead of positive progress. Use malware detection and intrusion detection systems to find and eliminate attackers’ kill switches.
- Prevent lateral movement: High profile cyber attacks like WannaCry and NotPetya use lateral movement to spread through a network. Security teams should prevent lateral movement by isolating vulnerable systems, restricting network communications, deploying context-based access controls, and backing up important data.
- Implement edge microsegmentation: Reducing the attack surface and increasing defensibility are just some of the ways edge microsegmentation can strengthen organizations’ overall security posture.
To learn more about improving your network threat prevention strategy, read our complete article: “3 Malware Mitigation Techniques For Keeping Cyber Attacks Contained in 2022.”
Byos helps organizations strengthen their security posture and detect and prevent common network threats. Companies can use the Byos µGateway to implement hardware-enforced isolation and microsegmentation at the edge, optimizing their security teams’ ability to detect, contain, and eliminate threats. Ready to learn more about making the µGateway part of your comprehensive network threat prevention strategy? Contact us to learn more today.