The top 5 most dangerous cyber security threats

Cyber security threats are everywhere. Learn what they are, when they are most dangerous, and how to identify and prevent them today.

Orani Amroussi | August 25, 2021

What are  cyber security threats?

Cyber security threats are vulnerabilities that live in your network, infrastructure, cloud, or applications that pose a risk to your organization’s assets

The FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3) released a report revealing over $10 billion in losses from the 800,000+ cyberattack complaints they received in 2022.

As threats become more serious, every organization must clearly understand the severity of its vulnerabilitiesand act on them with appropriate methodologies. 

The types of attacks are legion, but we’ll take a close look at the top five cyber security threats.

1. Malware. The most common type of cyber attack. 

Malware is malicious software that includes spyware, ransomware, viruses, and worms. When the user clicks on a malicious link or email, these are installed into the system. Malware can then hinder access to the network, intercept critical information, and more.

493.33 million ransomware attacks were detected globally in 2022. Ransomware as a service (RaaS) is a contributing factor, in which cyber criminals sell a successful malware model to other cyber criminals. 

In the first months of 2023 alone, 29 hospitals have been impacted by ransomware attacks on 15 healthcare systems.

Multiple malware attacks in 2023 are believed to have leaked private keys used by Intel’s Boot Guard security feature, affecting 57 MSI products with compromised image signing keys and 116 MSI products with compromised Intel Boot Guard private keys.

Also in 2023, PharMerica was attacked with malware that exposed the personally identifiable data of more than 5.8 million patients.

2. Social engineering. This is where human psychology is manipulated for an attacker’s goal. 

Examples of social engineering are phishing emails, scareware, quid pro quo, and more.

A third of breaches in 2020 included social engineering90% of those techniques were phishing—with no end in sight. Over three billion spoofing messages are emailed every single day, and spam defenses only catch a fraction. 

Phishing attacks reached an all-time high of 4.7 million attacks in 2022, with sextortion scams rising in number. While SSL certificates offer a sense of safety to users, 84% of phishing sites now use SSL certificates as well.

3. Generative AI. Large language models (LLMs) and natural language processing (NLP) lead to the unintended consequences of emerging technology.

Phishing scams are a formidable threat on their own, but generative AI arms attackers with a new, more advanced skill set. The ability to probe AI’s large language models for the most effective messaging has led to a new level of sophistication in these phishing scams.

ChatGPT has built-in protections to prevent users from generating malicious code, but security firms are detecting cases where attackers are working to uncover ways to trick it “into generating hacking code.”

Vulcan Cyber has conducted research and has uncovered a significant threat to industries that have integrated AI into daily use: ChatGPT can generate responses with code libraries that do not exist. 

Vulcan was able to create a proof of concept (PoC) exploit to demonstrate how generative AI often recommends nonexistent code packages intermingled with legitimate ones. This gives attackers the ability to use one of these hallucinated names to publish a package containing a virus, causing generative AI to recommend the malicious update.

4. IoT.The everyday items we rely on can broaden the global attack surface for cyber threats.

The Internet of Things (IoT) offers an expanding attack surface with insecure hardware, challenges involving firmware exploits, unencrypted data, malicious nodes, and a long list of other vulnerabilities.

It is predicted that there will be 75.4 billion IoT devices installed by 2025. Smart TVs, media players, and even entire smart homes open people’s daily living environment to potential compromise. 

This can include cyber attacks to gain personal data, but also dangerous physical attacks on home features like door locks and privacy breaches using in-home cameras.

5. Vulnerabilities within cloud computing. With the transfer of services through the internet, systems are prone to vulnerabilities.

Cloud use across industries increased by 50% due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Attention to proper cloud storage configuration, security of application user interfaces (APIs), and end-user actions on cloud devices could save your network. Preventative measures such as these strengthen your cloud computing defenses. 

The National Cybersecurity Alliance identifies the top 10 major threats in enterprise cloud computing as the following:

  1. Insider threats
  2. Misconfigurations
  3. Insecure interfaces/APIs
  4. Excessive permissions
  5. Data storage
  6. Non-person identities
  7. Unauthorized access
  8. Data breaches
  9. Lack of visibility
  10. Tool sprawl

The potential risks can come from within an organization or an outside attacker and can also stem from an organization’s inability to properly view its assets, especially when those assets reside off-site.

Vulcan Cyber offers powerful security for cloud environments. Learn more here.

How  do  you  prevent  these  cyber  security  threats

A comprehensive risk remediation strategy lets you intervene before these breaches can happen. Vulcan Cyber can help prioritize risk in your environment, enrich risk data, and orchestrate and remediate risk as needed.

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Name Namerson
Head of Cyber Security Strategy