Emerging Data Security Threats to Watch in 2024

In today’s digital world, data is the lifeblood of organizations. It fuels decision-making, drives innovation, and is at the heart of every successful operation. However, as we march forward into 2024, the landscape of data security is more challenging and dynamic than ever before. New data security threats, both technological and human-driven, are on the horizon, demanding heightened vigilance and innovative solutions. 

The ability to proactively recognize and mitigate these threats is key to both protecting your most vital assets and maintaining regulatory compliance. In this article, we’ll examine some of the most prominent emerging data security threats to watch in 2024 as well as how organizations can comprehensively address them. 

Top Emerging Data Security Threats in 2024

AI-Powered Cyberattacks: The Rise of Adversarial AI

Artificial intelligence (AI) is a double-edged sword. While it powers many of our conveniences, it can also be harnessed for malicious purposes. In practical terms, AI technology has given rise to two distinct data security threats.

Firstly, generative AI’s ability to create convincing, human-like personas has made social engineering threats increasingly difficult to detect. The newfound accessibility of sophisticated machine learning tools also makes it easier for hackers to set an AI program to break through firewalls by trying endless combinations of possible credentials in “brute force” style attacks. 

This is not to say that AI is all bad news for cybersecurity. New tools, such as the innovative Protective Cloud Services (PCS) platform from GuardDog AI, can scan and analyze network traffic, proactively automating incident response steps to save precious time when responding to perimeter breaches. 

The Ransomware Evolution: Double Extortion and Beyond

Ransomware is evolving, and it’s not just about encrypting your data anymore. Ransomware capabilities and tactics have undergone a significant transformation in recent times, extending beyond the conventional act of encrypting data and posing even more potent threats to organizations. 

One notable evolution in this malicious strategy is the adoption of “double extortion” tactics. Instead of merely locking data away, cybercriminals are now leveraging the stolen data as an additional weapon in their arsenal. This entails a two-pronged approach. Alongside encrypting the victim’s data, attackers also threaten to publicly expose sensitive information unless a ransom is paid. This strategic shift underscores a fundamental realization made by cybercriminals — that data is not just valuable to the targeted organizations, but can be equally valuable to the attackers themselves. 

Supply Chain Vulnerabilities: Data Risks Beyond Your Control

The global digital supply chain is intricate, and data flows through it like a circulatory system. But it’s also a point of vulnerability. Attacks on this supply chain can have catastrophic repercussions, extending far beyond the organization directly targeted. 

The interconnected nature of supply chains means that a breach in one part of the network can potentially impact the data and operations of countless partners, creating a domino effect of data risks. As supply chains become increasingly global and digitally driven, safeguarding sensitive data throughout this intricate web has become crucial.

IoT and IIoT Devices: A Growing Attack Surface

The Internet of Things (IoT) is expanding exponentially, but so are its security risks. This is true in both private applications and the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT). These devices collect and transmit data, which, while extremely useful, also widens the network edge, increasing the number of potential entry points into your system. 

Improperly secured IoT and IIoT devices can quickly transform from convenient tools to potential entry points for cybercriminals seeking to exploit vulnerabilities. These devices frequently lack robust security measures, leaving them susceptible to a variety of threats. Whether it’s a smart thermostat in a home or a sensor controlling a vital manufacturing process in an industrial setting, the security of these devices is paramount. 

Quantum Computing: A New Frontier for Cyber Threats

Quantum computing, once a realm of science fiction, is now becoming a reality. As we inch closer to practical quantum applications, the implications for data security are profound. Current encryption methods, which rely on the computational difficulty of factoring large numbers, may crumble in the face of quantum algorithms. 

Data security has traditionally provided a layered defense against intrusions. This is largely predicated on the assumption that a sufficiently layered defense-in-depth framework can counter intrusions. However, these defenses are built on computational limitations that quantum computers are poised to obliterate. Once useable quantum computing capability reaches the hands of malicious actors, the standard security algorithms that guard much of our most sensitive data today could be effortlessly decrypted. 

Insider Threats: The Danger Within

Insider threats, whether due to malice or negligence, are a persistent concern. These dangers even emanate from people you trust — your employees, contractors, or business partners. The issue with insider threats is that they’re not easy to spot because they’re coming from within your trusted circle.

Whether it’s someone intentionally leaking sensitive data to competitors or a well-meaning employee accidentally clicking on a malicious link, the result can be disastrous. When addressing insider threats, it’s not about securing your network’s external perimeter; it’s about safeguarding your internal secrets from those you trust the most.

The New Foundation of Data Resilience

As we move into 2024, the evolving data security landscape is both promising and perilous. New technologies bring unprecedented opportunities, but they also open doors to novel threats. In this era of data-driven decision-making, one thing is clear: improving data security to match these emerging threat vectors is not a luxury, but a necessity.

In the face of these powerful new data security threats, incremental improvements to existing network perimeters are insufficient. Instead, leaders are looking toward a new paradigm of data security. 

To address these and other mounting data security threats, leaders have begun to approach data as not just something to be safeguarded by perimeters, but as a vigilant protector in its own right. This means that data takes on an active role in looking after itself. So, whether your data is sitting safely within your company’s computer systems, floating up in the cloud, or traveling to another business, it’s always watching out for threats. 

By integrating data-level security into your cyber defense strategy, you create a resilient fortress around your most valuable asset — your data. In the face of quantum computing, AI-powered attacks, evolving ransomware, complex supply chains, IoT vulnerabilities, insider threats, and regulatory mazes, data-level security remains your constant and reliable guardian. Instead of relying on outer defenses, you have an inner champion that keeps your data safe no matter where it is.

In the words of Sertainty CSO Amir Sternhell, “The Sertainty UXP Technology is setting the standards in the IIoT world by protecting and maintaining the integrity of a sensor command to overcome the acceleration in phishing, fakes, and sabotage, attributed to adversarial AI. Rest assured that this upcoming year will witness a glut of holistic Data-Chain-of-Provenance and Digital Twin implementations — premised on the Sertainty Zero-Trust design principles — to quell intrusions into our Industrial Control Systems (ICS) and ransomware attacks.” 

Staying Ahead of Data Security Threats with Sertainty

As a leader in data-level security and self-protecting data technology, Sertainty leverages proprietary processes that enable data to govern, track, and defend itself. These protocols mean that even if systems are compromised or accessed from the inside, all data stored in them remains secure. 

At Sertainty, we know that the ability to maintain secure files is the most valuable asset to your organization’s continued success. Our industry-leading Data Privacy Platform has pioneered data solutions that are intelligent and actionable, helping companies move forward with a proven and sustainable approach to their cybersecurity needs. 

As the digital landscape evolves and networks become more widely accessible, Sertainty is committed to providing self-protecting data solutions that adapt and grow to defend sensitive data. Security threats may be inevitable, but with Sertainty, privacy loss doesn’t have to be. 

Mitigating and Responding to RDP Security Threats

Today, remote work has become the norm for many organizations, and the reliance on technologies like Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) has surged. As more organizations come to use RDP, the number of security risks associated with remote access has also increased exponentially. By overlooking the dangers of remote workflows, many organizations unknowingly expose themselves to numerous cybersecurity risks. For example, RDPs can be the perfect vehicle for deploying malware or targeted ransomware campaigns.

How Does RDP Work?

Remote Desktop Protocol, commonly known as RDP, serves as the digital bridge between a user’s device and a remote computer or server. It’s the technology that allows you to access and control another computer from a distance. Think of it as a virtual connection that simulates sitting in front of the remote computer.

To make this possible, RDP relies on a few key components:

  • Client: This is your device — the one you’re using to access the remote system.
  • Host: This is the remote computer or server you want to connect to.
  • RDP Protocol: The set of rules and procedures that govern the communication between the client and the host.
  • Remote Desktop Services (RDS): The host-side software that manages incoming RDP connections.

Why Is RDP Vital for Modern Businesses?

The modern work landscape has shifted. Remote work, once considered a perk, has become a necessity for businesses worldwide. RDP plays a pivotal role in enabling remote work. It allows employees to access company resources, collaborate on projects, and troubleshoot issues on remote servers, all from the comfort of their home offices.

Scalability and Efficiency

RDP doesn’t just facilitate remote work; it makes it efficient and scalable. Businesses can scale their operations seamlessly by adding or removing remote users. This allows organizations to adapt quickly to changing business needs without costly infrastructure changes.

What Are the Security Risks of RDP?

Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) is a versatile tool, but like any technology, it has its vulnerabilities. Cybercriminals are highly skilled at identifying and exploiting these weaknesses. Below, we’ll delve into some of the most prevalent security threats associated with RDP:

Brute Force Attacks

Brute force attacks are akin to a digital guessing game. Attackers methodically try numerous combinations of usernames and passwords until they stumble upon the correct one. Essentially, it’s a trial-and-error approach that relies on the probability that, eventually, they will guess the right credentials. While this methodology may sound inefficient, quantum-enabled tools have drastically increased the potential effectiveness of brute-force attacks. 

Social Engineering and Credential Theft

Cybercriminals employ various methods to pilfer login credentials. These include (but are by no means limited to): 

  • Phishing Attacks: Attackers send deceptive emails or messages designed to trick recipients into revealing their login information.
  • Keyloggers: Malicious software silently records keystrokes, capturing usernames and passwords as users type them.
  • Credential Harvesting from Past Data Breaches: If a user’s credentials are compromised in a separate data breach, cybercriminals may employ these stolen credentials to gain unauthorized access to RDP services.

Software Vulnerabilities

Like any software, RDP software can have vulnerabilities. These vulnerabilities may exist in the form of bugs, errors, or overlooked security gaps. Cybercriminals often target unpatched or outdated RDP software, as it may harbor known vulnerabilities that hackers can exploit to gain unauthorized access.

Case Study: The SamSam Ransomware Campaigns

RDP security threats aren’t just theoretical risks; they have real-world consequences. Take the SamSam ransomware attacks, for instance. While the initial incidents of this attack predate the remote work surge COVID-19 era, they vividly illustrate the tangible impact of RDP vulnerabilities, emphasizing the urgency of securing RDP access. 

The SamSam attacks focused on infecting internal networks to extract ransom payments from organizations that could not afford the time or risk it would take to recover their files without paying. Later analysis of the affected networks indicated that, among other means of gaining access, attackers had purchased stolen RDP credentials, which they used to grant themselves administrative access and plant the ransomware executable file. 

This malicious campaign resulted in significant financial losses, operational disruptions, and reputational damage to affected organizations. 

Responding to RDP Security Risks 

There are a number of standard methods used to reduce potential RDP vulnerabilities. First, using strong and unique passwords is essential to thwart potential attackers. Account lockout policies should also be implemented to counter brute force attacks, preventing unauthorized access attempts.

Keeping RDP software and systems up to date is equally vital, as it helps address known vulnerabilities. Furthermore, network segmentation can be employed to isolate RDP services from critical systems, effectively reducing the attack surface. 

Additionally, implementing multi-factor authentication (MFA) serves as a significant security enhancement. MFA requires users to provide multiple forms of identification before granting access, ensuring that even if an attacker possesses the password, they cannot access the system without the additional authentication factor.

The Role of Zero-Trust and Self-Protecting-Data

While the above methods are helpful, they fail to address the most fundamental weaknesses of network access tools like RDP. Traditionally, organizational data has been hidden behind firewalls and is left vulnerable to those already inside the system. However, Sertainty has redefined how information is protected to ensure data privacy even where firewalls and other security measures fail. 

Unlike conventional cybersecurity methods, zero-trust network access does not depend on networks and devices remaining secure. Rather than relying on security perimeters with the assumption that users within a system have the right to access its information, zero-trust security demands continuous verification. Meanwhile, Self-Protecting-Data capabilities enable files to protect themselves when faced with unauthorized access or even unauthorized actions from legitimate users.

These protocols support conventional perimeter security measures, turning firewalls into the first layer of defense rather than the sole source of protection for your files. This means that, in addition to enhancing your network access security, Self-Protecting-Data also prevents insiders from creating chaos.

Sertainty Data Security

Sertainty leverages proprietary processes through its UXP Technology that enable data to govern, track, and defend itself — whether in flight, in a developer’s sandbox, or in storage. These UXP Technology protocols mean that even if systems are compromised by AI tools or accessed from the inside, all data stored in them remains secure. 

At Sertainty, we know that the ability to maintain secure files is the most valuable asset to your organization’s continued success. Our industry-leading Data Privacy Platform has pioneered what it means for data to be intelligent and actionable, helping companies move forward with a proven and sustainable approach to their cybersecurity needs. 

As the digital landscape evolves and networks become more widely accessible, Sertainty is committed to providing self-protecting data solutions that evolve and grow to defend sensitive data. With the proliferation of vulnerable remote systems, security breaches may be inevitable, but with Sertainty, privacy loss doesn’t have to be.

Understanding and Responding to Different Types of Social Engineering Threats

Social engineering is a deceptive and manipulative tactic used by cybercriminals to exploit human psychology and gain unauthorized access to sensitive information. In the current digital age, where personal and financial data is at risk, it is crucial to be aware of various social engineering threats and take steps to protect ourselves. 

Today, we’ll take an in-depth look at social engineering, explore some common types of social engineering attacks, and discuss solutions to protect your data from imposters. 

What Is Social Engineering?

At its core, social engineering is an art of deception. Instead of exploiting vulnerabilities in computer systems, social engineers manipulate individuals into divulging confidential information or performing actions that benefit the attacker. By preying on human psychology and trust, they gain access to personal, financial, or sensitive data. 

These types of threats can be particularly difficult to mitigate using traditional security systems because there is no “hole in the code” that can be patched to solve the issue. That’s not to say that there is no solution to social engineering attacks; rather, addressing them in a truly secure way requires a more holistic approach than simply increasing perimeter security. 

While they can vary greatly in tactics, most types of social engineering attacks have common goals. These typically involve gaining access to your systems in order to steal or tamper with valuable information, commit financial fraud, or compromise the security of individuals or organizations. 

Types of Social Engineering Threats

Before we discuss how to keep your data safe, it’s important to understand some of the types of social engineering attacks your data may face. While there is no end to the potential number of ways in which scammers can attempt to gain your confidence, the following are a few of the most common examples you may encounter. 

Phishing

Phishing is one of the most prevalent types of social engineering attacks. These attacks involve impersonating a trustworthy entity, such as a bank or a popular online service, to trick individuals into revealing sensitive information like usernames, passwords, or credit card details. Phishing attacks are typically carried out through emails, text messages, or fake websites designed to resemble legitimate ones.

Common phishing techniques include sending deceptive emails that mimic reputable organizations, creating fake login pages to steal login credentials, and using urgent or alarming language to prompt immediate action without stopping to assess the source of the message more thoroughly. 

Pretexting

Fundamentally similar to phishing, pretexting involves creating a false scenario to deceive individuals into sharing confidential information. The attacker creates a pretext to gain the target’s trust, often assuming a false identity to sell the narrative. They may pose as a co-worker, customer support representative, or contractor to manipulate victims into revealing sensitive data or performing actions that compromise security. 

Pretexting attacks often involve the scammer doing research and playing a slightly longer game to help them establish credibility. This allows them to leverage personal or emotional connections, and create a genuine sense of urgency. 

Baiting

Baiting attacks lure people into taking specific actions with an enticing or appealing offer. Unlike the previous two types of social engineering attacks, which primarily prey on fear, baiting exploits people’s natural curiosity or greed to trick individuals into compromising their security. 

Different forms of baiting attacks include leaving infected USB drives labeled as important files, offering free downloads of pirated software that contains malware, or enticing users with the promise of prizes or rewards in exchange for sensitive information. While this may seem somewhat far-fetched, research has shown that hardware-based baiting scams can be a particularly effective social engineering threat vector. 

Tailgating

Tailgating is an even more physical type of social engineering attack. Also known as piggybacking, these attacks involve an attacker gaining access to secure servers by physically following an authorized person through secured access points. This type of attack exploits the natural human tendency to hold the door open for others or be polite, allowing the attacker to gain unauthorized entry.

Tailgating attacks can occur in various settings, such as office buildings, data centers, or restricted areas. By blending in or exploiting moments of distraction, the attacker bypasses security measures and gains access to sensitive locations or systems.

Impersonation

A more in-depth alternative to tailgating is impersonation, where attackers assume the identity of legitimately authorized parties to gain access to your databases. Attackers may pose as employees, customers, and service providers in order to be let into places where they can then hack into your databases more easily.

Methods employed by impersonators can include using fake email addresses or phone numbers, manipulating caller IDs, or creating realistic social media profiles to establish credibility. 

Quid Pro Quo

Perhaps the most direct form of social engineering attacks, quid pro quo exploits involve an exchange of something valuable in return for sensitive information or access. Rather than tricking targets into unwittingly granting them access, attackers promise a benefit or favor in exchange for personal or confidential data. This type of social engineering attack often targets employees within organizations. 

Examples of quid pro quo schemes can include a scammer posing as an IT support technician offering free technical assistance in exchange for login credentials or an attacker promising a substantial discount or exclusive access to a service in return for sensitive financial information. 

Protecting Against Different Types of Social Engineering Threats

As we mentioned above, addressing social engineering threats requires a fundamentally different approach than other areas of cyber security. Increasing the strength of passwords or introducing measures to prevent software-based attacks such as cache poisoning is completely ineffective when hackers gain access to your databases using legitimate credentials. 

Contrary to popular belief, protecting your data from social engineering attacks also requires more than training. While employee training is a common step used to counter all types of social engineering scams, the human component often remains the weakest link in your security system. To this point, a 2022 study of different types of social engineering attacks concluded that “providing awareness against SE-based cyberattacks is not sufficient.” 

Zero Trust Data Security

The true key to solving all types of social engineering attacks is rethinking our entire approach to cybersecurity. Traditionally, the focus of digital privacy systems has been to keep outsiders from accessing the private networks and stores where data is hosted. While there will always be a place for maintaining this security perimeter, relying on this alone leaves all data within vulnerable to anyone who has already gained access to the servers or data files. 

This is where a Zero Trust framework for self-protecting data can be of the most use. Rather than simply trying to improve on perimeter measures, self-protecting data reimagines the entire approach to security. 

As the name implies, the goal of self-protecting data is not just to keep hackers out of your system but to create truly secure files. Instead of being left accessible to any “trusted” users, self-protecting files themselves are coded with the ability to recognize malicious activity and counter it immediately, regardless of who appears to be performing the action. 

Empower Your Data with Sertainty

Sertainty leverages proprietary and patent processes through its Data Privacy Platform and core technology that enable data to govern, track, and defend itself — whether in flight, in a developer’s sandbox, or in storage. These technology protocols mean that even if systems are compromised by AI tools or accessed from the inside, all data stored in them remains secure. 

At Sertainty, we know that the ability to maintain secure files is the most valuable asset to your organization’s continued success. Our industry-leading Data Privacy Platform has pioneered what it means for data to be intelligent and actionable, helping companies move forward with a proven and sustainable approach to their cybersecurity needs. 

As the digital landscape evolves and networks become more widely accessible, Sertainty is committed to providing self-protecting data solutions that evolve and grow to defend sensitive data. With the proliferation of human and AI threats, security breaches may be inevitable, but with Sertainty, privacy loss doesn’t have to be.

How Hackers Use Key Tracking to Access Your Private Data

In today’s digital world, data security is of paramount importance. More than ever before, companies must stay vigilant against constantly evolving cyber threats that can compromise sensitive information. Compared to AI-based threats that have only emerged in recent years, tactics like key tracking continue to fester without much success in curbing them. Recent attacks, including last year’s TikTok inquest, demonstrate that these threats are far from obsolete.

While key tracking attacks have seen a decrease in the media over the past decade, the threat is still very real. Contemporary data show that companies are still very much vulnerable to keystroke logging whilst facing newer, more direct attacks. Today, we’ll delve into the world of key log tracking, its potential dangers, and how to ensure that data remains secure, irrespective.

What Is Key Tracking?

Key tracking is a sophisticated technique used by hackers to gain unauthorized access to a computer or system by monitoring and recording keystrokes. Every time a person types on a keyboard, whether it’s entering passwords, sensitive data, or even simple messages, key tracking software records each keystroke and sends it to a server or device – as would a spyware virus, giving cybercriminals access to valuable information.

This technique is commonly associated with keyloggers, which can be hardware or software-based. Hardware keyloggers are physical devices connected between a keyboard and a computer, while software keyloggers are malicious programs that hide within the operating system, evading detection.

Many businesses invest in firewalls, antivirus software, and other security measures, believing their systems are impenetrable. However, employee credentials can be an easy entry point for cybercriminals. Similar to social engineering attacks, key tracking can bypass these defenses – entirely, leaving corporate files exposed to potential data breaches as if the threat came from the inside.

Types of Key Tracking Attacks

Keyloggers make up a significant cybersecurity concern that can be extracted in various forms, client connections, and shared logs. Some keyloggers use hypervisors to remain hidden under the operating system, while others operate at the kernel level, making them difficult to detect. Others can be integrated into hardware components or computer peripherals, acting as keyboard device drivers, accessing and recording all keyboard inputs before they reach the operating system.

Software-Based Keystroke Logging

All keylogging software has two primary components: a Dynamic Link Library (DLL) file and an executable file. The executable file installs and initiates the DDL, which can then begin tracking and recording keystrokes. The specifics, however, can vary significantly. 

API-based keyloggers are particularly tricky to detect since they hook into keyboard APIs – as if they were legitimate applications – and register keystrokes in a covert manner. Form grabbing-based keyloggers – malware that works by retrieving authorization and log-in credentials – target web form submissions whilst recording sensitive data before its transmission over the Internet.

JavaScript-based keyloggers infiltrate web pages through malicious script tags, waiting for key events to record. Memory-injection-based keyloggers, like the notorious Zeus and SpyEye trojans, manipulate memory tables to bypass security mechanisms and gain access to confidential information.

To establish remote communication, keyloggers upload data to websites, databases, or FTP servers. Some opt for periodic emails to predefined addresses, while others use wireless transmission through hardware systems. As obfuscation goes, some keyloggers enable remote logins, allowing unauthorized access to locally stored data on the target machine.

Hardware-Based Keystroke Logging

Hardware-based key tracking is a fundamentally different threat vector, but similar in its outcome. While firmware-based keyloggers can modify BIOS-level firmware to intercept keyboard events while remaining hidden, hardware keyloggers use physical circuits attached between the keyboard and computer or USB connectors to record keystrokes without the need for software installation, making them difficult to detect.

Threats from hardware-based key tracking are especially relevant today when working from home or with a demand for Bring-Your-Own-Device. What this means is that company computers are not necessarily safely locked in an office at all times, even when all corporate policies and rules must be adhered to in that place. 

Moreover, wireless keyboard and mouse sniffers passively collect wireless data packets, requiring decryption for access. This is inducing criminals to employ keyboard overlays on ATMs to capture PINs, appearing as integrated while deceptive to bank customers.

In addition, acoustic keyloggers use sound monitoring to identify keystrokes based on acoustic signatures, requiring a large sampling for accurate mapping. Electromagnetic emissions can also be captured from wired keyboards at a distance, and optical surveillance can be used to observe passwords and PINs via strategically placed cameras. 

Furthermore, physical evidence can be exploited when the keypad’s security code is known, reducing the possibility of a brute-force attack. Smartphone sensors, such as accelerometers, have been used to capture nearby keyboard keystrokes with high accuracy. The most advanced keyloggers will analyze body movements to determine pressed keys and audible signals to identify keystrokes in near real-time. There are methods of key tracking which provide hackers with a way into certain systems. 

Addressing Key Tracking Threats

To combat the threat of key tracking and ensure robust data security, companies need advanced solutions like Sertainty’s self-protecting data technology. Rather than rely on a series of firewalls and trust that those with access are legitimately allowed to be there, Zero Trust security gives data the ability to protect itself. 

Unlike conventional perimeter security, Sertainty data privacy technology empowers data itself to become an active defender against threats. By embedding intelligence directly into data files, self-protecting data can recognize and thwart malicious activities, even in the presence of key-tracking malware. This means that even if a hacker gains access to sensitive information, they will be unable to access or modify sensitive data. 

Truly Secure Data with Sertainty

As the digital landscape evolves, companies need to stay one step ahead of hackers by embracing innovative and proactive data protection strategies. With the right tools and the commitment to data security, businesses can maintain the trust of their customers and protect what matters most — their invaluable data. 

Sertainty leverages proprietary processes through its UXP Technology that enable data to govern, track, and defend itself — whether in flight, in a developer’s sandbox, or in storage. These UXP Technology protocols mean that even if systems are compromised by AI tools or accessed from the inside, all data stored in them remains secure. 

At Sertainty, we know that the ability to maintain secure files is the most valuable asset to your organization’s continued success. Our industry-leading Data Privacy Platform has pioneered what it means for data to be intelligent and actionable, helping companies move forward with a proven and sustainable approach to their cybersecurity needs. 

As the digital landscape evolves and networks become more widely accessible, Sertainty is committed to providing self-protecting data solutions that evolve and grow to defend sensitive data. With the proliferation of human and AI threats, security breaches may be inevitable, but with Sertainty, privacy loss doesn’t have to be.

Zero-Day Exploits: What They Are and How You Can Prepare

Zero-day exploits are among the most elusive and dangerous cyber threats in today’s digital landscape. These sophisticated attacks target undisclosed vulnerabilities, leaving organizations defenseless and scrambling for solutions. In this article, we will explore the world of zero-day exploits and their profound impact on data security. 

What Are Zero-Day Exploits?

Zero-day exploits refer to cyberattacks that take advantage of undisclosed software vulnerabilities. The term “zero-day” indicates that organizations and their developers have no time to prepare for these attacks, as the vulnerabilities are exploited before any patch or fix is available to the flaws. These exploits pose significant challenges to cybersecurity, as they leave victims defenseless against unseen threats.

Zero-day attacks emerged around 2006, due to the collaboration between the United States NSA and Israel’s 8200 Unit which berthed a 500Kb computer worm called Stuxnet. This worm featured a design and architecture that were not domain-specific and could be utilized for attacking modern SCADA and PLC systems. This made Stuxnet capable of infecting Iranian nuclear centrifuges that were enriching weapons-grade Uranium as part of its Nuclear program.

It was the first time that a Zero-Day cyber attack was used for military purposes. This opened the floodgates for competition in the cyber arena through en-masse weaponization of zero-day attacks as part of the military doctrine of China, Russia, Iran, and North Korea. Or, as an integral part of the Forward Defense activities of the US, UK, and Israel, to keep the cybersecurity arena from escalating further. 

Thereafter, the potential of zero-day exploits—whether by malicious organizations, nation-states and their proxies, or individual hackers—began to seep into the psyche and operations of the DoD and IT world. The threat of zero-day attacks have underlined the need to mitigate any software security vulnerabilities as soon as they are discovered. 

How Zero-Day Exploits Work

Zero-day exploits follow a well-defined technical process that malicious actors use to infiltrate systems. Attackers tirelessly search for undisclosed vulnerabilities, knowing that these are the keys to high-impact attacks. Once found, they skillfully exploit these weaknesses, gaining unauthorized access to systems, stealing sensitive data, or disrupting critical operations.

Identifying Zero-Day Vulnerabilities

Researchers and hackers use various methods to identify zero-day vulnerabilities. Vulnerability research involves analyzing software code to uncover potential weaknesses. Bug bounty programs encourage ethical hackers to report zero-day vulnerabilities in exchange for rewards. The dark web also plays a role, serving as a marketplace where hackers buy, sell, or trade information about undisclosed vulnerabilities.

The Implications of Zero-Day Exploits

The consequences of zero-day exploits can be devastating. Real-life examples have shown how these attacks compromise the security and privacy of individuals, organizations, and even critical infrastructure. The financial impact can be significant, with remediation costs and potential legal liabilities. Furthermore, the reputational damage resulting from a successful zero-day exploit can tarnish an organization’s image for years to come.

Significant Historical Zero-Day Exploits

While Stuxnet is perhaps the most widely-publicized example of a zero-day exploit, other threats of this nature have only increased in the nearly two decades since it first made waves. In fact, a 2022 report found that a shocking 40% of all zero-day exploits that happened between 2012 and 2021 happened in 2021 alone

Let’s take a look at some significant zero-day exploits from the last decade to better understand how these types of threats can affect your business. 

Yahoo (August 2013)

Though it’s been eight years since the Yahoo attack, this zero-day incident remains one of the most prominent to date. In 2016, the company revealed that more than 3 billion accounts had been accessed by hackers in the attack. In addition to exposing user data, the incident caused Yahoo’s value to drop significantly in the midst of a potential acquisition. 

LinkedIn (June 2021)

Another notable incident occurred in 2021 when LinkedIn reported that it had been hit by a zero-day attack that affected over 90% of its user base (700 million users). In this attack, a hacker scraped data by exploiting the site’s API. Before being taken down by law enforcement, the group responsible for CVE-2021-1879 publicly released a data set of around 500 million users. 

Microsoft (July 2023)

In July of 2023, Microsoft confirmed a shocking 132 security vulnerabilities across its product lines, including six confirmed zero-day exploits. One of these zero-days was remote code execution found within Microsoft Office and Windows HTML that could allow hackers to create Microsoft Office documents enabling them to perform remote code execution in victims’ devices.

While patches for significant exploits like these are typically quickly released, as of July 21st, Microsoft has yet to release a patch for CVE-2023-36884. The company is instead offering mitigation steps for affected users. 

Defense Strategies Against Zero-Day Exploits

Mitigating the risks posed by zero-day exploits requires a proactive approach to cybersecurity. Vulnerability management and prompt patching are essential in reducing the attack surface and limiting the window of opportunity for attackers. However, traditional security measures may not always be enough. 

Leveraging Self-Protecting Data for Zero-Day Exploit Defense

Enter self-protecting data solutions, such as Sertainty’s cutting-edge technology. By embedding intelligence directly into data files, self-protecting data can recognize and counter malicious activities, even in the absence of known vulnerabilities or patches. While firewalls and secure networks are essential elements of any complete information security plan, truly guarding data against all attacks requires Self-Protecting Data

As a pioneer of this approach, Sertainty redefines how information is protected to ensure data privacy where perimeters fail. Using cutting-edge protocols and embedding intelligence directly into sensitive data files or datasets, Sertainty leverages patented processes to govern, track, and defend data through the data itself. 

Instead of database security being based on granted privileges to access the network directory where the file currently resides, Sertainty Self-Protecting Data (SPD) technology empowers the files themselves to protect themselves against malicious activity immediately. The Sertainty Data Privacy Platform technology recognizes itself through a Zero-Trust framework that contextualizes the environment, behavior, and action of the intended receiver — whether human, machine, or application. With these protocols, the data remains secure even in situations where systems have been compromised. 

Zero-day exploits represent a constant and formidable challenge to data security. As cyber threats evolve, organizations must stay ahead by adopting proactive defense strategies. Sertainty Self-Protecting Data technology offers a powerful shield against the unseen dangers of zero-day exploits. By embracing innovative solutions and staying vigilant, we can fortify our data defenses and navigate the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape with confidence. Protecting our data is not just a matter of staying one step ahead — it’s a commitment to safeguarding what matters most.

Truly Secure Data with Sertainty

At Sertainty, we know that the ability to maintain secure files is the most valuable asset to your organization’s continued success. Our industry-leading Data Privacy Platform has pioneered what it means for data to be intelligent and actionable, helping companies move forward with a proven and sustainable approach to their cybersecurity needs. 

As the digital landscape evolves and networks become more widely accessible, Sertainty is committed to providing self-protecting data solutions that evolve and grow to defend sensitive data. Cyber threats may continue to advance, and security perimeter breaches may be inevitable, but with Sertainty, privacy loss doesn’t have to be. 

Protecting Critical Infrastructure from Cyberattacks

The last few years have seen a rise in the sophistication and frequency of attacks targeting many vital industries. In addition to the rise of international tensions bringing to light new threats aimed at critical infrastructure, advancing technologies have opened new doors for attackers. The increasing capabilities of artificial intelligence-enabled threats have been a popular topic of discussion, but many other vectors of attack pose equally dangerous threats to public safety. 

Another major driver of new cyber threats came with the discovery of a modular malware toolkit capable of targeting tens of thousands of industrial control systems (ICS) across different industry verticals. These attacks pose a serious threat to critical infrastructure, such as power grids, water treatment facilities, and manufacturing plants, many of which rely on ICS to operate. 

Some of the most potentially devastating and escalating new cybersecurity dangers have been aimed at critical infrastructure systems and public works worldwide. For example, in April 2023, Iranian state-linked hackers targeted critical infrastructure in the US and other countries in a series of novel dropper malware attacks. While not as devastating as other incidents, the previously-unheard of nature of the malware made this attack particularly concerning. 

Other attacks on other areas of critical infrastructure in recent years have raised similar fears. In late 2022, the Danish State Railways’ network was temporarily shut down by hackers. Other breaches affecting essential industries continue to be reported frequently, with a ransomware attack affecting manufacturing, communications, public and private healthcare, and education being reported by the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) as recently as March 2023. 

Attacks targeting public infrastructure that have the potential to take out essential systems — such as hospitals, water facilities, electricity, and energy production — are even sometimes referred to as “killware” for their ability to cause disruption leading to real-life deaths. 

ICS and Critical Infrastructure

One reason for the increase in these attacks is the growing interconnectedness of ICS with other systems and networks. While this allows systems to benefit from the “network effect” and introduce new functionality, it also introduces new potential entry points for hackers to exploit. 

Similarly, the rise of the Industrial Internet of Things (IIoT) has led to an increase in the number of devices and sensors connected to ICS, making it more difficult to secure the systems. 

Industrial control systems are designed to control and monitor a wide range of physical devices and processes. This can include things like valves, motors, and sensors to ensure that they operate efficiently and safely. 

Programmable logic controllers, distributed control systems, and supervisory control and data acquisition systems are all also enabled by the use of ICS. These devices and systems can be distributed across multiple locations and may be connected to other networks, such as corporate networks or the Internet. 

Because of their integral role in managing physical processes, securing ICS and IIoT environments is essential to ensure the safe and efficient operation of critical industrial systems. But securing these environments can be challenging due to their inherent complexity, as well as the widespread use of outdated legacy systems and proprietary protocols. As a result, specialized security tools and techniques are required to protect ICS in IIoT environments from cyberattacks and other security threats. 

Cyber Threats to Critical Infrastructure

While the number of potential attack vectors is virtually endless in today’s complex, interconnected systems, there are a number of particularly concerning threats to critical infrastructure that have emerged. 

Advanced persistent threats (APTs) are a type of cyberattack specifically designed to target and compromise IIoT environments. APTs are typically carried out by highly skilled and organized threat actors using sophisticated and stealthy techniques to gain unauthorized access to vital systems and remain undetected for extended periods of time. 

APTs targeting ICS in IIoT environments typically involve multiple stages. Hackers begin by conducting extensive reconnaissance to identify vulnerabilities and weaknesses in the target environment. They may use various techniques — such as social engineering, spear-phishing, and network scanning — to gather information about the target organization. 

Attackers are adept at identifying openings, and unpatched software vulnerabilities, stolen credentials, and compromised third-party suppliers are all potential open doors. Once inside, attackers are free to unleash zero-day exploits, custom-designed malware, or other malicious programs to gain control of the connected systems. 

Addressing APT and Other Cyberattacks

APTs and other common forms of attack can exploit a wide variety of openings to access a system, including using legitimate credentials. As such, they are particularly devastating when turned on systems that rely on conventional perimeter security. Once they get past the firewall or other perimeter security measures, they essentially have free rein to steal data or cripple internal systems.

This does not mean that vulnerable critical infrastructure cannot be protected, however. Self-protecting data can be an effective defense against APT attacks targeting IIoT environments by providing an additional layer of protection that directly addresses the greatest weaknesses in traditional network security. 

Self-protecting data works by using encryption, access controls, and other security measures to protect data throughout its lifecycle, from creation to disposal. In a Zero-Trust system, files themselves are coded with the ability to recognize malicious activity and counter it immediately, regardless of who performed the action. 

This means that even if an attacker gains access to the data, they will be unable to read or modify it without the appropriate decryption keys or credentials. Likewise, approved users are blocked from accessing or performing harmful actions, whether on purpose or by accident. 

Zero-Trust Security in Infrastructure IIoT Applications 

In an IIoT environment, self-protecting data can be used to protect sensitive information, such as configuration data, operational data, and customer data. For example, self-protecting data can be used to encrypt configuration files for ICS devices, making it more difficult for an attacker to modify the settings of these devices. Similarly, self-protecting data can be used to encrypt customer data, such as personally identifiable information (PII) or financial information, making it more difficult for an attacker to steal.

Additionally, self-protecting data can help organizations detect and respond to APT attacks by providing visibility into how data is being accessed and used within critical ICS. By monitoring access logs and other data-related activities, security teams can detect suspicious behavior and take appropriate action to mitigate the threat. 

Sertainty

Sertainty’s foray into the Transient World is manifested in multiple Bi-National Research and Development (BIRD) Proposals\Submissions. These innovative solutions have the potential to aid government agencies such as Homeland Security as well as companies in the transportation and energy industries. 

As a leader in self-protecting data, Sertainty leverages proprietary processes that enable data to govern, track, and defend itself. These protocols mean that even if systems are compromised or accessed from the inside, all data stored in them remains secure. 

At Sertainty, we know that the ability to maintain secure files is the most valuable asset to your organization’s continued success. Our industry-leading Data Privacy Platform has pioneered what it means for data to be intelligent and actionable, helping companies move forward with a proven and sustainable approach to their cybersecurity needs. 

As the digital landscape evolves and networks become more widely accessible, Sertainty is committed to providing self-protecting data solutions that evolve and grow to defend sensitive data. Security breaches may be inevitable, but with Sertainty, privacy loss doesn’t have to be. 

Could Zero-Trust Security Prevent Famous Data Breaches?

Many security systems claim to be trustworthy, but when it comes to data security, few things are more important than real-world results. Ever-evolving claims of improved interfaces and threat detection software, “next-generation” systems, and many other promising developments, have been around for as long as we have been using computers. Yet, despite these claims, major data breaches occur all the time. Sophisticated infiltration methods match or exceed the pace of conventional security development, and social engineering and phishing scams are increasingly prevalent. 

While looking to the future is crucial to creating better data privacy solutions, security experts begin by examining the past. New systems have to not only provide solutions for emerging problems but address historic threats with meaningful changes. 

Types of Data Security

While there are many different methods and tools used to protect data, most of these measures are aimed at achieving one of two goals: keeping malicious actors out of private data systems, and ensuring that organizations are protected in the event of a breach. 

The first and most common focus in data protection is to create a secure storage environment. Tools for securing databases can include physical hardware security, passwords, firewall, proxy servers, user authentication, and more. All of these together form what is commonly referred to as perimeter security. Data destruction and proper sanitization of old devices can also play a role in protecting the integrity of data centers. 

While perimeter security is aimed at keeping criminals out, however,  traditional digital security is more reactive and perpetuates the vulnerabilities. Data backups and other redundant systems do help a company recover information in the event of ransomware and other attacks. However, it is always preferable to prevent attacks in the first place. To blaze new trails in the creation of cutting-edge data privacy measures, such as Zero-Trust methodologies, are a must if we are to preempt cyberattacks. 

Revisiting Recent Data Attacks

Perimeter security and data backups are standard measures, but neither provides a fully-integrated and comprehensive solution. This is evidenced by the fact that all of the organizations discussed below employed these methods and still suffered breaches. 

Zero-Trust protocols, on the other hand, prevent hackers from gaining the power to steal any sensitive data, even if outsiders do find a way past corporate firewalls — or are based on the inside. To understand how much of a difference Zero-Trust can make, let’s examine some of the highest-profile data breaches of the last decade and assess whether or not Zero-Trust security could have prevented these attacks. 

Yahoo

Over the course of two instances, Yahoo suffered the largest recorded data breach to date. Two attacks, one occurring in mid-2013 and the other in late 2014, were belatedly reported by the company in 2016. The breaches were accomplished using cookie-based attacks, which allowed hackers to enter the system as authenticated users. This attack has been largely attributed to “state-sponsored” agents (with many pointing fingers at the Russian government). 

Overall, over 3 billion user accounts were affected by the breaches. The fallout from these attacks not only led to class action lawsuits but also reduced the acquisition price of the company by Verizon by $350 million

SolarWinds

A more recent example of a high-profile breach occurred in 2020, when SolarWinds, a major US information technology firm, was the subject of a sophisticated cyberattack. Hackers broke into SolarWinds’ system and added malicious code that was later sent out as part of a routine update to clients of SolarWinds. Once installed, hackers were able to gain access to all manner of sensitive information in those customers’ own systems, including US government agencies like the Department of Homeland Security and the Pentagon. 

Facebook/Meta

Meta is no stranger to large-scale data breach incidents. The most recent known attack on Facebook was revealed in 2021 when private data from 533 million user accounts appeared on a public internet forum. While the attack was dismissed by Meta as the result of Open-Source Intelligence (OSINT) scraping, it was later revealed that hackers had accessed the information by exploiting vulnerabilities in Facebook’s Contact Import feature. This followed a June 2020 incident where Facebook accidentally shared private user data with third-party developers. 

Truly Secure Data with Zero-Trust

While each of these attacks was achieved using different methodologies, the common thread between them all (and most other data leaks) was in hackers finding a way to access private databases. This access could be the result of compromised user credentials, such as, in the case of Yahoo, code attacks on client transmission and patching (i.e., SolarWinds), system loopholes (Facebook), or even simple mistakes. 

The findings suggest that regardless of which method is used to gain entry, the real damage is done once malicious parties are inside the security perimeter. Even if backups are used to prevent data destruction or ransom, the damage of leaked private information is irreversible. 

Both, conceptually and in practice, Zero-Trust addresses data privacy’s greatest weaknesses. Rather than relying on security perimeters  – with the assumption that users within a system have the right to access its information, Zero-Trust security enables data files to protect themselves through independent verification. In a Zero-Trust security framework, users are continuously verified and authenticated, ensuring that data remains secure even if the system is compromised. 

Zero-Trust Security from Sertainty

With heightened information security threats, securing sensitive data in all sectors is more crucial than ever. Traditional perimeter security is becoming increasingly inadequate in the face of smarter, more motivated attacks. 

Sertainty has redefined how information is protected to ensure data privacy even where firewalls fail. Using cutting-edge protocols and embedding intelligence directly into data files and datasets, Sertainty leverages proprietary processes that enable data to Govern, Track, and Defend itself. These protocols mean that the data remains secure even if systems are compromised.

At Sertainty, we know that data is the most valuable asset to your organization’s continued success. Our industry-leading Data Privacy Platform has pioneered what it means for data to be Intelligent and Actionable, helping companies move forward with a proven and sustainable approach to their cybersecurity needs.

As the digital landscape evolves and networks become more widely accessible, Sertainty is committed to providing Self-Protecting Data solutions that evolve and grow to defend your crown jewels. Instead of focusing on your network’s inherent shortcomings, we enable you to safely and confidently embrace the potential of a new online-oriented world. Data breaches may be inevitable, but with Sertainty, privacy loss is moot.

The Implications of International Tensions on Cybersecurity

As international tensions rise around the globe, experts in all areas of security are taking a closer look at data protection. While cybersecurity threats are an ever-present risk, increasing international tensions have led to the emergence of various other threats, including transnational terrorism and the use of chemical and other unconventional weapons.

The ensuing chaos from the increase in international tensions opens the doors for opportunistic hackers and cybercriminals to wreak havoc in vulnerable regions worldwide. Even in areas not in direct conflict, instability has presented challenges in keeping government and organizational data safe in increasingly at-risk environments.

Rising Overseas and Domestic Threats

The war in Ukraine, Chinese incursions into Taiwan, continuing Iranian-US tensions, and various other emerging potential issues have opened doors for all cyberattacks.

As recently as December 2022, the Center for Strategic and International Studies identified potential spyware hacks of US government employees, including diplomats in multiple countries. In the previous month, the CSIS identified 12 different incidents where the US, Ukrainian, Polish, Bahraini, Pakistani, and numerous other governments were targeted by cybercriminals.

Although many of the attacks reported by the CSIS come directly from foreign entities, data breaches can come from anywhere, and accessing confidential, vulnerable information can impact a country’s operations or wreak havoc on critical infrastructure. The number of nation-state cyber attacks against critical infrastructure has doubled in the past 12 months

In late 2022, the Danish State Railways’ network was temporarily shut down by hackers. However, in 2021, an even more powerful attack against the Colonial Pipeline cut off oil supplies to a large section of the eastern United States. While neither of these attacks appeared to be the work of hostile governments, as tensions rise, so does the potential for damage from similar breaches. 

When it comes to threats against intelligence data gathered by government agencies, the dangers can sometimes be exponentially more dangerous. While direct attacks against critical assets have immediate, tangible consequences, the sensitive nature of national intelligence data means that breaches can have cascading effects. Not only do intelligence data breaches potentially endanger the lives of operatives currently in foreign countries, but the revelation that intelligence operations are ongoing can also justify more direct actions. 

In some cases, information gathered and the methods by which it was acquired can have catastrophic effects on international relations. When tensions are already high, volatile data can be the final straw that dismantles international relations when compromised. Even friendly countries can find themselves at odds over foreign agencies’ methods of collecting data. Because of these factors, securing intelligence data takes on particular importance during times of rising international tensions, even if the countries in question are not directly in conflict with each other. 

Another genuine factor that makes securing intelligence data particularly critical is the potential for harm from compromised internal sources. Whether an operative leaks data themselves or is unintentionally compromised, it can devastate national security or national trust. Examples of these security compromises include the WikiLeaks release of 2010 and the reveal of the PRISM program. 

Challenges to the Private Sector

While the threats to government or infrastructure assets may be the most immediately apparent, data within the private sector can also see increased incidences of targeting during times of international tension or conflict. In addition to purely profit-motivated attacks like the Colonial Pipeline, governments may encourage hackers to after businesses in other countries. Hacking businesses internationally can be a strategic move to disrupt industry during wartime or destabilize other countries’ economies to their advantage. 

Additionally, the increased attacks can compromise sensitive information between the public sector and private contractors, as demonstrated by major security breaches at General Dynamics, Boeing, and Raytheon in the United States in recent years. By exposing private and public security vulnerabilities, international adversaries can access anything from personal information to blueprints for thermonuclear warheads. 

Responding to Threats with Truly Secure Data

With heightened global tensions, securing sensitive data in all sectors is more crucial than ever. Traditional “perimeter security,” which protects data by keeping outsiders from accessing a system, becomes increasingly inadequate in the face of motivated attacks. 

In many cases mentioned above, compromised passwords and user information were to blame for breaches. Even when attacks take on more sophisticated forms of cyberattacks — such as the DDoS attacks against the Italian and Finnish governments and several major US airports in 2022 — attempting to secure sensitive information with traditional perimeter security is inadequate.

Both conceptually and in practice, Zero Trust addresses data privacy’s greatest weaknesses. Rather than relying on a series of firewalls and assuming that users within a system have the right to access information stored on the server, Zero Trust security enables data files to protect themselves through independent verification. Through a Zero Trust security framework, users are continuously verified and authenticated — ensuring that data remains secure even if the system is compromised. 

Integrate a Zero Trust Architecture with Sertainty

Sertainty has redefined how information is protected to ensure data privacy even where firewalls fail. Using cutting-edge protocols and embedding intelligence directly into data files and datasets, Sertainty leverages proprietary processes that enable data to govern, track, and defend itself. These protocols mean that the data remains secure even if systems are compromised.

At Sertainty, we know that data is the most valuable asset to your organization’s continued success. Our industry-leading Data Privacy Platform has pioneered what it means for data to be intelligent and actionable, helping companies move forward with a proven and sustainable approach to their cybersecurity needs.

As the digital landscape evolves and networks become more widely accessible, Sertainty is committed to providing Self-Protecting Data solutions that evolve and grow to defend your crown jewels. Instead of focusing on your network’s inherent shortcomings, we enable you to safely and confidently embrace the potential of a new online-oriented world. Data breaches may be inevitable, but with Sertainty, privacy loss is moot. 

Securing Private and Intelligence Data

When it comes to information security, no sector can be overlooked. Both private sector and intelligence data gathered by government agencies require care in their handling, storage, and transmission. And while there are a number of universally-accepted best practices for maintaining data confidentiality, the unique nature of information relevant to national interest necessitates additional measures. 


Much of the work of information security is the result of policy and training, but tools like the Sertainty Data Privacy Platform also play a central role in securing data in both the public and private sectors. 

What Is Intelligence Data?

Generally, intelligence data refers to any data gathered by intelligence operatives or agencies. This data can be collected for a variety of purposes, from predicting and mitigating potential threats to informing government policy and even military operations. This can include information about people, finances, transportation, infrastructure, or any other data that may be of use in a particular scenario. 

Often, the identities of the agents gathering the data, as well as the methods used, are highly protected. This amplifies the need for airtight privacy, as each step of the process must remain strictly confidential, even from other agents within the organization. 

Similarities Between Private and Intelligence Data Security

At its core, data privacy is a universal concern. Any organization, whether public or private, that gathers information relies on a certain level of exclusivity in order to make that data useful. Not only is secure data vital to making informed decisions, but it can also provide a business edge over the competition. Likewise, in many industries, information security protocols are required in order to obtain (and maintain) the licenses and certifications needed to conduct business. 

When it comes to creating an organizational security policy in the modern world, there are a number of factors that need to be accounted for — whether you’re protecting private or intelligence data.

Defense-in-Depth Safeguards

The foundation of any organization’s security plan, regardless of its industry, can’t be one-dimensional. A defense-in-depth approach combines multiple levels of security protocols into a single, cohesive privacy plan. This can include elements such as firewalls, encrypted networks, security training, and any other layer of protection. 

Two-Factor Encryption

Another vital piece of the puzzle in a comprehensive security plan involves user authentication. Users may be familiar with the process of imputing a code received on a separate device, but two-factor authentication can include even more secure measures, such as physical access keys, biometric scans, and answering security questions. 

Remote Access Protocols

Unlike in the past, virtually all data storage networks need to be accessible to users outside of a specific office or closed LAN. This can apply to work-from-home employees and intelligence field operatives alike, and ensuring that only approved users can enter the system is vital. Furthermore, both of the above concepts around safeguards and encryption can and should play a role in how remote access protocols are designed. 

Special Considerations for Intelligence Data

The above represent some of the most common security measures, all of which can be found in many civilian applications. Others, however, are less common outside of high-sensitivity industries. 

There are two primary factors that make intelligence data different from other private information. For one, the potential implications of an intelligence data leak are far greater than those in any private company. Consequences can be felt on a national or even global level. This level of significance means that there is absolutely no room for mistakes of any kind. 

The second factor is the need for multi-level confidentiality. As we mentioned above, in addition to the data itself, the identities, locations, and methods by which it was obtained are often extremely sensitive. Due to the need for internal privacy, conventional perimeter security is often insufficient. 

Let’s take a look at some of the unique ways in which intelligence data can be protected, as well as examine the value of Zero-Trust security. 

Compartmentalization

Perhaps the most critical element of intelligence data security strategies involves keeping different sources and stores of information separate from each other. The reasons that compartmentalization is so important are twofold. Firstly, even if one data store is compromised, compartmentalization ensures that the breach is contained to that single, limited store. The other primary benefit is that users have less potential to interact with each other, allowing for an increased level of anonymity. 

Asymmetric Access

Rather than relying on a secured messenger application, sending sensitive communications in the intelligence world is often handled using asymmetric access. In these types of systems, two virtual keys are needed to receive messages: one public key, findable within a database, and one private key, accessible to only a specific designated user. Sending messages can be done using a public key, but each user’s private key is needed to open the messages intended for them.

Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facilities

In the most sensitive cases, extremely important data can only be accessed within the confines of a Sensitive Compartmentalized Information Facility (SCIF). To gain access to the information stored in these physical locations, users must be pre-screened and authorized, as well as pass through a series of checks and authentications. Once inside, they can access and discuss the information stored there but cannot send or receive any communications while they are in the facility. 

Zero-Trust with Sertainty

In virtually every area we’ve discussed, traditional network security falls short in a number of key areas. Insider threats, human error, and a number of other inevitable vulnerabilities can leave information of all kinds open to malicious actors. Unlike other technology platforms, which are fundamentally limited in their scope, Sertainty data protection is ideal for both intelligence data and private applications. 

Self-protecting data from Sertainty has redefined how information is protected to ensure data privacy even where firewalls fail. Using cutting-edge protocols and embedding intelligence directly into datasets, Sertainty leverages proprietary processes that enable data to govern, track, and defend itself. These protocols mean that even if systems are compromised, data remains secure. 

Ignore These Rising Cybersecurity Threats at Your Peril

As computer systems become more complex and interconnected, the potential for devastating data breaches also grows. Industry leaders and security experts recognize that to stay safe, data protection systems need to be one step ahead of hackers constantly. With the rapid development of new technologies, keeping track of emerging cybersecurity threats is more challenging and vital than ever before. 

Whilst a hacker’s targets and methods constantly change, current trends point to the threats we’re most likely to face. Hence, we have identified four growing cybersecurity threats to be sensitive to in the coming year. 

Attacks on Critical Infrastructure

Some of the most potentially devastating and escalating new cybersecurity dangers are aimed at critical infrastructure systems and public works worldwide. In 2021, the Colonial Pipeline fell victim to a crippling ransomware attack. The hack infiltrated some of the pipeline’s digital systems, shutting it down for several days, which compelled President Biden to declare a state of emergency. This cyberattack was deemed a national security event due to the shutdown of pipelines moving oil from refineries to industrial markets. This shutdown affected consumers and airlines along the East Coast. 

Consequently, this cyberattack garnered substantial public attention due to a potential contagion effect. Attacks targeting public infrastructure will take out essential systems, such as hospitals, water facilities, electricity, and energy production, and are often referred to as “killware” for their ability to cause disruption leading to real-life deaths. 

Access to Crypto Wallets

While the blockchain technology that powers cryptocurrencies is often lauded as “incorruptible,” there are a number of very real emerging threats aimed at cryptocurrency users. While the blockchain is not particularly vulnerable to attacks due to its decentralized nature, Bitcoin private keys, associated addresses, and crypto wallets can all be compromised by malware, allowing hackers to deplete accounts. 

These malicious programs are often delivered using classic phishing scams. Emails containing attachments (such as a Word document) that can execute macros to run the programs are sent to unsuspecting users. Similarly, fake Amazon gift cards, another phishing favorite, are being rigged with Remote Access Trojan (RAT) programs that steal crypto wallet information by keylogging and taking screenshots of the victim’s computer. 

Threats to Linux Systems

Historically, users have considered the Linux operating system to be safer from cyberattacks than other operating systems. Hackers have generally left Linux users alone, but there has been a significant rise in attacks on Linux systems. Unlike Windows, which is a targeted OS system, Linux does not have the support or proper patching capabilities to provide its users with the confidence that incoming cyber threats will be countered or remediated. The knowledge basis regarding how to deal with cyber threats is almost non-existent. 

What will aggravate matters is the development of a Windows Subsystem for Linux (WSL) in Windows 11. This will make Linux systems vulnerable to Windows attacks and vice-versa. 

In addition to being less understood, threats to Linux systems can also target more vulnerable areas than other types of attacks. Because of its relatively specialized nature, Linux is often utilized on the “back end” of businesses. It is often used to manage critical business and IT processes, making breaches to these systems particularly worrying. 

For example, many Internet of Things (IoT) systems and devices run on the Linux infrastructure. IoT devices have become less niche and will play a vital role in economic growth. Furthermore, Linux environments often have valuable data like Secure Socket Shell (SSH) credentials, certificates, applications usernames, and passwords, and are in need of protection from adversarial activities. 

Widening Network Edges 

Even as most governments and companies move away from COVID-19 safety protocols, the number of people working remotely has been steadily increasing. While accessibility is generally a positive feature, remote work means that there are more devices and locations needing to access databases, increasing what is known as the “network edge.” Workers’ at-home devices are often more vulnerable to attack than those in an office, and hackers have been taking full advantage of these new doors into private networks. 

Likewise, “bring-your-own-device” policies further increase the network edge by opening networks to an even wider variety of devices. This creates new opportunities for hackers to gain entry to information by compromising employees’ personal computers and phones rather than resorting to attacking a company’s system directly. 

Managing Cybersecurity Threats with Sertainty

In the face of these (and other) emerging cybersecurity threats, securing sensitive data is more crucial than ever. Traditional “perimeter security,” wherein data is protected by keeping outsiders from accessing a system, becomes increasingly inadequate as connectivity increases. With information becoming ubiquitous and available to users anywhere, the process of granting access to approved parties becomes a difficult balance between security and convenience, often leaving numerous doors open to malicious actors. 

Sertainty has redefined how information is protected to ensure data privacy even where firewalls fail. Using cutting-edge protocols and embedding intelligence directly into data files and datasets, Sertainty leverages proprietary processes that enable data to govern, track, and defend itself. These protocols mean that even if systems are compromised, the data remains secure.

At Sertainty, we know that data is the most valuable asset to your organization’s continued success. Our industry-leading Data Privacy Platform has pioneered what it means for data to be intelligent and actionable, helping companies move forward with a proven and sustainable approach to their cybersecurity needs.

As the digital landscape evolves and networks become more widely accessible, Sertainty is committed to providing Self-Protecting Data solutions that evolve and grow to defend your crown jewels. Instead of focusing on your network’s inherent shortcomings, we enable you to safely and confidently embrace the potential of a new online-oriented world. Data breaches may be inevitable, but with Sertainty, privacy loss is moot. 

How “Bring Your Own Device” Policies Are Feeding the Rise of Mobile Threats

Driven by the shift to remote and hybrid work models, more and more people are using their personal devices for work purposes. A vast majority of Americans own smartphones, and many use those phones to access internal company documents and databases. But while this may be a convenient habit, it also introduces complex security risks.

Sensitive data is at a greater risk than ever before, with high-profile breaches making headlines. Understanding the threats to workers’ personal IT assets is vital in today’s connected landscape. As the proliferation of devices opens up potential network vulnerabilities, innovative security has to stay one step ahead of evolving digital threats. 

The Shift to BYOD 

Over the last decade, companies have been moving toward “Bring Your Own Device” policies, encouraging employees to use their own devices for work tasks. The onset of COVID-19 and the subsequent shift towards remote working has only increased this trend. But why are employers so quick to embrace this approach?

In addition to lower equipment costs for companies, BYOD means that employees can spend less time training to use new systems and harness the increased productivity of more familiar devices. BYOD also involves less accountability for managing IT assets, which workers can take to and from home at will. But for all of the conveniences and seeming efficiency, adding unmonitored devices that may have varying levels of security measures presents numerous opportunities for data breaches. 

Growing Mobile Use Statistics

Mobile devices are more ubiquitous than ever before for both professional and personal use. According to Statista, more than 91% of the global population (7.26 billion people) owns a mobile phone. The agency also found that 83.4% of people own a smartphone. This is a considerable rise, up from just 49.4% in 2016. 

Now that the overwhelming majority of the world owns smartphones, people commonly use them for tasks that were previously relegated to desktops and laptops. An August 2022 study found that 41.6% of emails were opened on mobile, with desktop browser email accounting for only 16.2% of opened emails. With so much of our information being stored and exchanged on mobile devices, understanding the potential data risks is essential. 

Misconception: Mobile Operating Systems Are Less Vulnerable 

Contrary to what consumers may assume, mobile devices are no more secure than other computers. Recently, the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT) issued a report highlighting the dangers present in mobile devices. The report cited the increase in threats specific to mobile phones and existing vulnerabilities in all operating systems. This report also points out that typical attacks leverage mobile devices’ portability and their similarities to PCs. The mistaken perception that mobile operating systems are fundamentally more protected is dangerous, allowing hackers to take advantage of users’ naivete to exploit holes in their device security.

The Rise in Attacks Targeting Mobile Platforms and Devices

Mobile devices have many unique features, some of which introduce unique vulnerabilities. As global smartphone users increase, so do cybersecurity dangers. Recent years have seen a number of growing threats to mobile users. Among these, one of the most prevalent threats is mobile app fraud. A prominent breach in 2020 saw hackers use a massive network of devices to drain millions of dollars from online bank accounts, and single emulators can spoof thousands of devices simultaneously. Cross-border fraud is another rising concern, with 60% of businesses in the US and UK reporting incidents of this fraud type in 2021. 

Account takeover (ATO) attacks present yet another serious data security threat. Countless data breaches have leaked user identity information over time, making it easy for malicious actors to steal credentials that open doors to sensitive information. ATO attacks are one of the fastest-rising threats currently facing organizations and consumers alike. 2021 saw a nearly 20% increase in data breaches compared to 2020. Combined with phishing, social engineering scams, and AI-assisted machine-learning hacks, compromised login credentials are creating deep concerns among data security experts. 

The Need for Truly Secure Data

Known threats are not the only danger. According to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s 2022 H1 report, approximately 40% of data breach notices issued in the first half of 2022 did not include the root cause of the compromise. The top cause of data breaches so far this year is “unknown” due to a lack of missing root cause identifiers. For the first time since the ITRC began tracking data breach causes, the majority are unknown. Patching all of the potential holes in a security perimeter is especially challenging when not all threats are easily identified. The only truly safe solution is data that protects itself at every stage and, crucially, when accessed through any gateway.

BYOD policies are opening your network to a multitude of devices, many of which you cannot track or control. And while basic security measures like employee training, firewalls, and multi-factor authentication are still essential, they lose their value as soon as a breach has occurred. That’s why it’s vital to partner these measures with self-governing data, which protects against perimeter breaches. 

Traditionally, organizational data has been hidden behind firewalls and is left vulnerable to those already inside the system. However, Sertainty has redefined how information is protected to ensure data privacy even where firewalls fail. Using cutting-edge protocols and embedding intelligence directly into datasets, Sertainty leverages proprietary processes that enable data to govern, track, and defend itself. These protocols mean that even if systems are compromised, data remains secure.

At Sertainty, we know that data is the most valuable asset to your organization’s continued success. Our industry-leading Data Privacy Platform has pioneered what it means for data to be intelligent and actionable, helping companies move forward with a proven and sustainable approach to their cybersecurity needs.

Instead of focusing on your network’s inherent shortcomings, we enable our partners to safely and confidently embrace the potential of a new online-oriented world. Data breaches may be inevitable, but with Sertainty, privacy loss doesn’t have to be.

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