[Blog] NetUtils’ 3 Top Cyber Security Predictions for 2022

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From tighter regulations for public sector to ransomware and the continued rise of the remote workforce, read all about it from our senior management team as they weigh in on their thoughts for 2022.

Looking at 2022, and it seems clear that there will be tighter regulatory oversight for the public sector. 

Steve Nicholls, Commercial Director

The NHS is already going through Data Security Privacy Toolkit (DSPT) processes and several recent tenders for large public sector organisations have made compliance to Cyber Essentials Plus a mandatory requirement for every supplier. If the NHS is a template, then more public sector organisations will be required to adhere to CE+ within a few years. And I would expect these requirements to spread to anybody that supplies into the public sector. The framework is not onerous, but it is audited which means that organisations need to do more than just a “check box” exercise so it’s wise to start looking at these optional processes now and before they become mandatory. 

Although Ransomware is certainly not new, the last year has seen its meteoric rise in the public consciousness and the coming year will unfortunately be more of the same.

Malcolm Orekoya, Chief Technology Officer

However, the move by AXA, one of Europe’s largest insurers, to stop offering new insurance policies that cover ransom payments to criminals for French policy holders may be the start of a wider trend across the region during 2022. The logic is that ransom payments encourage more ransomware attacks and drive up the cost of cyber security insurance policies. Although UK companies can still gain insurance policies that will pay ransoms – assuming you can prove no liability, it’s likely that AXA’s position might spread. The whole market for insuring against all forms of cyber-attack and outage is an interesting area and I suspect that 2022 will be a year where its starts to get a lot more attention from enterprises.

The ‘great return to the office’ has not materialised as expected by most, with more organisations opting to have more staff working remotely as a permanent option.

David Bundock, Chief Operations Officer

The first of the studies that have looked at issues such as productivity and mental wellbeing are starting to emerge and, in many instances, home working seems to be on parity with office working and, in some cases, proving a benefit. However, organisations must now look at the often-temporary measures rushed out to support home workers that are now becoming standard. Where masses of laptops were hurriedly deployed, and cloud based filesharing systems were utilised to help teams collaborate – these devices and platforms need to be audited for security and compliance to standards such as GDPR. This will inevitably trigger more use of cyber security as a service – especially as the current shortage of skilled IT and Infosec staff grows.

Knowing where to start with your organisations cyber security can be confusing. Have you considered a dedicated cyber security platform to help reduce the risk of a cyber incident?

Password danger is escalating with no ceiling in sight!

A combination of bad employee behaviour and dark web data spells trouble for businesses! From SMBs to giant multinationals, it doesn’t matter how high-flying a company is, unfortunately password problems will still plague them. 

The struggle to get users to make good, strong, unique passwords and keep them secret is real for all organisations and IT professionals. It can be hard to demonstrate to users just how dangerous their bad password can be to the entire company, even though an estimated 60% of data breaches involved the improper use of credentials in 2020. There’s no rhyme or reason to why employees create and handle passwords unsafely, no profile that IT teams can quickly look at to determine that someone might be an accidental credential compromise risk. Employees of every stripe are unfortunately drawn to making awful passwords and playing fast and loose with them – and that weakness doesn’t look like it’s going away anytime soon. 

Everyone is managing too many passwords 

The average adult has an estimated 100 passwords floating around that they’re using. That’s a bewildering tangle of passwords to manage. The global pandemic helped put even more passwords into circulation as people either working from home or on furlough created an abundance of new online accounts. According to the conclusions of a global study conducted by Morning Consult for IBM, people worldwide created an average of 15 new online accounts, per person, during the main thrust of the pandemic.

Many of those logins were compromised from the start thanks to abundant dark web data. An estimated 15 billion unique logins are circulating on the dark web right now. In 2020 alone, security professionals had to contend with a 429% increase in the number of corporate login details with plaintext passwords exposed on the dark web. That dramatic increase in risk per user comes back to haunt businesses. The average organisation is now likely to have about 17 sets of login details available on the dark web for malicious actors to enjoy. That number is only going to continue to grow thanks to events like this year’s giant influx of fresh passwords from the RockYou 2021 leak. 

Employees are dedicated to making bad passwords 

Research by the UK’s National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) shows that employees will choose memorability over security when making a password every time. Their analysts found that 15% of people have used their pet’s name as their password at some point, 14% have used the name of a family member,13% have used a significant date, such as a birthday or anniversary and another 6% have used information about their favourite sports team as their password. That makes the criminals jobs easy even if they’re trying to directly crack a single password. After all, those users have probably told them everything that they’d need to know to do the job in their social media profiles. 

US companies aren’t any better off. In fact, their bad password problems are just a little bit worse. 59% of Americans use a person’s name or family birthday in their passwords, 33% include a pet’s name and 22% use their own name. We can’t chalk that blizzard of bad passwords up to ignorance of good password habits, because even employees who know better are slacking on password safety. Over 90% of participants in a password habits survey understood the risk of poor password hygiene, but 59% admitted to still engaging in unsafe password behaviours at work anyway.

Password sharing is rampant 

Worse yet, employees are also sharing their passwords with other people at an alarming rate, even if the people they’re sharing a password with don’t work at the same company. Over 30% of respondents in a Microsoft study admitted that their organisation had experienced a cyber security incident as a result of compromised user credentials that had been shared with people outside their companies. 

43% of survey respondents have shared their password with someone in their home22% of employees surveyed have shared their email password for a streaming site17% of employees surveyed have shared their email password for a social media platform17% of employees surveyed have shared their email password for an online shopping account

Based on analysis of the top 250 passwords found through the application of Dark Web ID’s dark web search function that uncovers exposed credentials, these categories of information were used to generate the weakest passwords in 2020 which were: Names, Sports, Food, Places, Animals and Famous People/Characters.

The most common passwords spotted by Dark Web ID by category

Names: maggie
Sports: baseball
Food: cookie
Places: Newyork
Animals: lemonfish
Famous People/Characters: Tigger

Top 20 most common passwords that Dark Web ID found on the dark web in 2020

123456
password
12345678
12341234
1asdasdasdasd
Qwerty123
Password1
123456789
Qwerty1
:12345678secret
Abc123
111111
stratfor
lemonfish
sunshine
123123123
1234567890
Password123
123123
1234567

Every organisation in every industry is in password trouble 

No industry is immune to the powerful lure of terrible password habits, especially that perpetual favourite password recycling and iteration. In a study of password proclivities, researchers determined that some sectors did have a little more trouble with passwords than others though. The telecommunications sector had the highest average number of leaked employee credentials at 552,601 per company. The media industry had the highest password reuse rates at 85%, followed by household products (82%), hotels, restaurants & leisure (80%), and healthcare (79%).

A trove of exposed data about Fortune 1000 companies on the dark web was uncovered by researchers earlier this year, including passwords for 25.9 million Fortune 1000 corporate user accounts. Digging deeper, they also unearthed an estimated 543 million employee credentials from Fortune 1000 companies circulating on commonly used underground hacking forums, a 29% increase from 2020. Altogether, they were able to determine that 25,927,476 passwords that belong to employees at Fortune 1000 companies are hanging out on the dark web. That’s an estimated 25,927 exposed passwords per Fortune 1000 company, marking a 12% increase in password leaks from 2020. 

Busted credentials are plentiful on the dark web 

If data is a currency on the dark web, then credentials are solid gold. Credentials were the top type of information stolen in data breaches worldwide in 2020, (personal information took second place just over financial data in third), and bad actors didn’t hesitate to grab batches of credentials from all over the world. Cyber criminals snatched them up in about 60% of North American breaches, 90% of APAC region breaches and 70% of EMEA breaches. Researchers disclosed that the average company experiences 5.3 credential compromises that originate from a common source like phishing every year, a number that should give every IT professional chills. 

An abundance of records on the dark web has spawned an abundance of passwords for cyber criminals to harvest, and that’s bad news. Giant password dumps on the dark web like the 100GB text file dubbed RockYou2021 have ratcheted up risk too. That giant dump of data is estimated to contain 8.4 billion passwords. Bad actors make use of that bounty quickly and effectively. 

In the aftermath an enormous 2020 hack, ShinyHunters breached the security of ten companies in the Asian region and brought more than 73 million user records to market on the dark web. A group like ShinyHunters will of course try to profit by selling that stolen data at first, but when the data has aged or there are no interested buyers, cyber criminals will just offload it in the vast data dumps of the dark web making it available for anyone to sift through.   

Protect your business from password danger quickly & affordably

With our support we can discover if any of your employee’s reused passwords have been exposed on the dark web so that you can change them right away. 

What next?

By utilising our certified dark web monitoring tool we’ll perform a non-invasive scan of your company’s domain and produce a pdf report that will highlight any compromised credentials.

Request your free live scan today (and get 3 months free on us).  https://netutils.com/dark-web-scan/

3 Facts About Cyber Security to Factor into Your Strategy Now

Last week I read this blog titled 3 Big Facts About Cybersecurity In 2020 To Remember For 2021 which talks about phishing, ransomware and The Dark Web. Whilst I agree with these 3 threats, it’s important to remember that a layered security approach for any organisation is key to the sustainability of growth and development. Yes, last year saw a rise of the distributed workforce, the fast adoption to the cloud and a massive increase in COVID related scams, which are still being executed by cyber criminals, thus making your company and all your employees more susceptible and an easy target especially when security most certainly was not and is not top of mind. 

For many the need for business continuity and getting up and running as soon as possible those few days before lockdown announcement number 1 massively outweighed concerns over networking and security. And why wouldn’t it! However now we face being in lockdown number 3, with no real idea of when we will be normal again or what normal might look like and still you’ve not addressed those ‘pesky’ security concerns.

So, following on from the blog mentioned above here are 3 key takeaways so you can start to take your cyber security back into your own hands. Remember cyber security is companywide and not just and IT issue.

1. Phishing Rules the Roost

Most of today’s nastiest threats have a common denominator: phishing. More than 80% of all cyber attacks are phishing based. That means that an essential part of keeping your business safe from cyber crime is keeping your business safe from phishing. Phishing attacks skyrocketed by over 600% in 2020, and that’s not going to go away. 

How to mitigate the risk?

People are a critical layer within your cyber security posture and with greater reliance on email communication, the dangers of phishing are even more apparent for businesses, especially in the form of ransomware. 

By committing your company to Security Awareness Training in this ever changing world will help protect against the growing and varying threats organisations face today. Don’t let those criminals leap to the golden opportunity that increased email usage creates for them to launch phishing attacks – and they’re branching out with more attempts through voice, text, messaging, and SMS.

2. Ransomware is Here to Stay

Ransomware was the most devastating and disruptive single threat type in 2020, and that looks set to keep going through 2021. More than 50% of businesses were impacted by ransomware in 2020. It’s become a favoured tool of hackers from sophisticated nation-state groups to cyber criminal gangs on The Dark Web. Experts estimate that a ransomware attack will take place every 11 seconds in 2021.

Cyber criminals aren’t just using ransomware to steal data anymore. In 2020 there’s been a trend towards ransomware being used to disrupt operations at businesses, manufacturers, essential services, infrastructure targets, and hospitals plus many organisations in other sectors worldwide. Just before the COVID-19 vaccine news started rolling in, cyber criminals were deploying ransomware against hospitals, pharmaceutical developers, laboratories, even cold storage trucking companies. They weren’t trying to steal data, they were trying to disrupt operations at critically needed organisations in order to score a big, quick payday, and they were successful in many cases.

How to mitigate the risk?

  • Don’t click links in emails
  • Scan emails for malware
  • Firewall and endpoint protection
  • Keep data backups, regular
  • Protect your information

3. Dark Web Danger is Real and Growing

The Dark Web is a complicated place, and just like everything else in the world, the chaotic nature of events in 2020 impacted the way it operates too. It hasn’t stopped growing – Dark Web activity has increased by more than 300% in the last 3 years. While it hasn’t been as much of a newsmaker as flashier things like nation-state hacking, make no mistake – it’s still an enormous threat to all businesses, and that threat is only growing larger with time.

The proliferation of information gathered in data breaches, especially in last year’s record-breaking year, provides ample fuel for cyber crime like credential stuffing and spear phishing. An article published on the 3rd February 2021 states more than 3 billion unique pairs of cleartext emails and passwords were leaked online from previous data leaks.

The growth of the cybercrime-as-a-service sector of the Dark Web economy also puts companies squarely in the crosshairs of bad actors. Plus, in a challenging economy, even cyber criminals are feeling the pinch and looking for new ways to rake in cash.

How to mitigate the risk?

Dark Web monitoring solutions are a security essential because it provides your company with something incredibly precious: time. By having your business credentials monitored 24/7/365 with our expert human and machine-powered analysis, you’re making it possible for you to find out if you’ve been a victim of credential compromise fast. Which gives your IT team time to address vulnerabilities before the bad guys even find them.  

No Company Can Afford A Cyber Security Nightmare.

Let NetUtils help you add strong cyber security protection at a price that won’t keep you up at night. To get you started we’d like to offer you a complimentary Dark Web scan and we’ll show you how our solutions can help you secure yours and your clients’ systems and data against today’s (and tomorrow’s) biggest threats fast.

Sources:

Webinar: Prepare for tomorrow’s cyber threats today!

Watch our on demand webinar and take a dive into today’s data and cyber security threat landscape with our Principle Technology Strategist; Malcolm Orekoya and hear about:

  • The evolution of ransomware
  • How to boost cyber security awareness within your organisation
  • Data portability in your organisation
  • The importance of encrypted data visibility
  • How to prepare for the impact these cyber threats will have on your organisation

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