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11/2/2017
10:30 AM
Sam McLane
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What Blue Teams Need to Know about Targeted Attacks

A malicious intruder only has to be right once. But defenders must be right 100% of the time.

Unlike in a courtroom, the defense never rests when it comes to enterprise cybersecurity. And for good reason: successful hackers are constantly devising new ways to penetrate vulnerabilities in company networks and gain access to critical data, finances, intellectual property, and all sorts of other valuable information. IT security teams can never be comfortable because a malicious intruder only has to be right once, while we on the blue team must be right 100% percent of the time.

In an increasingly wired world, cybercrime is big business and attacks are always on the rise. According to Anti-Phishing Working Group, there were more than 1.22 million phishing attacks in 2016, a 65% increase compared to the year before. What's more, damages caused by ransomware are expected to reach $5 billion by the end of 2017, a 15-fold increase over two years. If your company is unable to respond immediately to phishing, ransomware, and malware threats, business productivity and the bottom line suffers for days or weeks on end.

Unfortunately, even the most comprehensive response means little if too much time passes between a successful intrusion and its detection. With enterprises constantly under attack, all security teams seem to employ spam filters, antivirus software, security firewalls, and a host of other measures to combat potential threats. Nonetheless, attacks happen, and when they do many companies are ill-equipped to adequately respond.

There are also limits to employee awareness training that put employees on guard against the latest dangers that can cripple their devices and spread like a plague throughout the company. Should a user land on a website that "smells phishy" or suspect anything untoward on their computing device, it's important for them to proceed with caution and immediately alert others, including managers and IT personnel. But with targeted attacks increasing in frequency and sophistication, there is only so much a basic tools-and-awareness approach can do before an intruder solves a firm's perimeter and endpoint defenses, and then threatens to steal your data or infect your network.

Learn more from Sam about "Targeted Attacks: How to Recognize Them from the Defender's Point of View" on November 30 at the INsecurity Conference, sponsored by Dark Reading. Sam will describe a step-by-step process, including information correlation, effective mitigation, and future strategies. 

For security experts and engineers who defend against cyberattacks for the blue team, these threats come in many forms. Sometimes it's a server sending encrypted traffic to a known malicious website, or it could be suspicious DNS queries or user names and passwords entered "in the clear." Perhaps most commonly of all, the first signal comes in the form of odd traffic flow patterns, including those to and from foreign countries. Upon discovering such instances, organizations need to undertake an immediate investigation that can quickly determine the nature of the threat — and avoid an overly extensive hunt down a non-malicious trail of innocuous alerts and false positives that can prove quite costly in its own right.

Bottom line: even the best security engineers and experts can be helpless without the right security tools and processes at their command. It takes both human and machine intelligence working in combination to adequately defend corporate data, finances, and intellectual property.

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Sam McLane leads security engineering at Arctic Wolf, bringing over 20 years of security experience to the team. Prior to joining Arctic Wolf, Sam led product management and other sales functions for Blue Coat Systems' cloud security services business. Before Blue Coat, Sam ... View Full Bio
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