The cyber threat landscape encompasses all the cyber threats facing a business, individual, group, network, or time period. It changes based on the potential target’s assets and protections, as well as location and other situational details that may elevate or reduce their vulnerability to attacks.
What’s Included in the Threat Landscape?
The cyber threat landscape includes the different types of malware, attackers, vulnerabilities, and methods of attacks malicious actors use to compromise people’s data, networks, and digital systems. The threat landscape varies for each entity or person based on several factors, such as the data they have that attackers may want, where the targeted person or entity is located, or their level of security.
For example, the threat landscape for a power company would be vastly different from that of a small shoe store because they have different digital assets and security measures in place.
The Evolving Threat Landscape
The threat landscape evolves due to the emergence of different kinds of attacks, new attackers, and the cyber threat market, which refers to systems malicious actors use to sell hacking tools. As offerings and methods of sale evolve, the number and types of threats change along with it.
One of the most significant factors in the evolution of the threat landscape, however, is the appearance of new threats. These take several forms, such as new types of malware, new vulnerabilities hackers have found ways of exploiting, and new applications and even hardware systems that cyber-criminals have chosen to target.
To stay on top of cyber threats, organizations should take the following steps:
- Use a dependable cybersecurity solution
- Encourage users to use prudent cybersecurity practices
- Always apply patches released by software and hardware providers as soon as they come out
How COVID-19 Has Changed the Threat Landscape
During the COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations incorporated remote and hybrid work ecosystems. They also digitized elements of their core processes to enabling more efficient operations. While this allowed them to survive—and thrive—in a tough economic climate, it also created a range of new cybersecurity threats, such as:
- Many opportunities for hackers to infiltrate networks using the computers and/or connections of remote workers
- Huge storehouses of sensitive data that cyber-criminals could target
- Digitally transformed systems built on applications that may have vulnerabilities
How to Protect Your Organization from Threat Landscape Risks
Some good practices to stay protected include:
- Identifying the specific threat vectors—scenarios, paths, or methods attackers exploit to gain unauthorized access to networks or systems—that may impact you or your organization
- Staying on top of the most recent malware trends
- Keeping abreast of current spam and phishing trends
- Educating employees—including remote, temporary, and hybrid workers—regarding your organization’s threat landscape
- Implementing cybersecurity tools that automatically update using the latest threat intelligence
How the Government, Department of Justice (DOJ), and Law Enforcement Agencies Handle the Threat Landscape
Because cyberattacks like ransomware continue to explode, the government, law enforcement agencies, and the DOJ have taken direct aim at cyber criminals and the vulnerabilities they exploit, such as weak passwords, to steal and defraud organizations and people.
1. Proactively Hunting Down Attackers
One of the most significant shifts government law enforcement agencies have taken to combat cyber threats is specifically targeting endpoints to look for threats. This approach is unique in that it involves searching endpoints to identify the threats that leverage them to access sensitive systems. In the past, it was common for agencies to merely study data generated by an attack or the systems that were targeted. In this way, they could piece together what happened and take steps to track down the attacker or prevent a future assault.
But with the move towards proactively hunting down attackers, agencies can gain even more visibility into attackers and their methods.
2. Sharing Cybersecurity Data
As part of preventative intelligence measures designed to protect organizations, the DOJ and other government agencies have been sharing cybersecurity data to bolster their ability to mitigate and prevent cyber threats. This gives them a significant edge as they address the evolving cyber threat landscape, especially because each organization can use the data from partners to identify both attackers and their tools.
Sharing information is particularly helpful when it comes to reducing the number of zero-day attacks. For example, if a law enforcement agency in Israel uncovers a new type of threat and uploads this information to a threat database, an agency in the United States that accesses the database now knows what to look out for ahead of time. This strengthens their defenses against an attack that could have otherwise caught them off-guard.
3. Continuous Security Monitoring
By continually monitoring security and cyber threat events, the government is able to both stop threats sooner and gather valuable intel that agencies can use to build stronger systems in the future. Their continual security monitoring efforts often focus on:
- Protecting the boundaries around sensitive networks: Monitoring network boundaries involves setting up systems that continuously gather data about traffic flowing in and out of the point where the network interfaces with the internet. In this way, agencies are able to identify threats the moment they penetrate a network or attempt to use it to attack another entity.
- Management of security event lifecycles: As agencies monitor security event lifecycles, they collect data regarding how events transpire, from beginning to end. They then use this to inform investments in technologies to better protect networks.
4. Automating and Orchestrating Security Operations
As government and law enforcement agencies employ automation in their defense strategies, they simultaneously save time and reduce the chances of human error. In addition, they take advantage of artificial intelligence systems that can learn the patterns of threats, as well as those that indicate a safe environment, and then leverage this data to prevent attacks.
Stay Ahead of Changes in the Cyber Threat Landscape
The threat landscape is different for each organization and changes as new threats emerge and new tools are used to stop them. Although COVID-19 created more opportunities for attackers to infiltrate systems, you can stay ahead of attacks by identifying your vulnerabilities, the assets attackers may focus on, and using only the most recent tools.
Government law enforcement agencies have shifted their threat mitigation approaches by proactively hunting down attackers, sharing cybersecurity data, continuously monitoring security, and automating security operations. By taking a similar proactive stance, organizations of all types can adjust to the evolving threat landscape.