Lead Cybersecurity Writer & Consultant at VPNBrains
In addition to writing and consulting on cybersecurity and other tech topics, Therese is completing an MS in Computer Engineering at Northwestern University. For her MS Project, she is working on a tool at Northwestern University’s Lab for Internet and Security Technology that helps users set up Docker containers in a secure manner. She has also held various software engineering positions at Medtronic and at various labs at Northwestern University.
Zero Trust architectures treat all network traffic as a potential threat, following the principle "never trust, always verify". These architectures help prevent attackers from moving through a network and accessing confidential data. Zero Trust architectures utilize techniques such as requiring frequent user authentication, providing users with minimum necessary privileges, and restricting Internet traffic among certain areas of networks. Precautions such as these help prevent attackers from gaining unauthorized access to networks, which can result in data breaches, the deployment of malware, and the damaging of networks. The U.S. government has access to essential computer systems and data, making it a prime target for politically or financially motivated attackers seeking to deploy ransomware or obtain classified information.
Companies and other organizations would benefit from following the U.S. government's lead in adopting Zero Trust architectures. Many of these organizations have access to financial, medical, or other confidential data or provide essential operations and services on which consumers and the supply chain are heavily reliant, such as software and electric power. Zero Trust architectures help stave off cyberattacks to keep this data private and allow these essential networks to continue to function properly.31 January 2022
Phishing is the use of deception in email or other types of electronic messaging to obtain private information, such as credit card data, from users. An example of phishing is an attacker sending an email impersonating a well known brand advertising a major sale. Unsuspecting users could click on the link in the email and enter their credit card information or other confidential data, unknowingly sending this information to the attacker. This strategy is a convenient way for attackers to gain entry into a computer system, since they can trick users into revealing information that can be used to compromise a system, rather than gaining entry into the system in a more forcible manner.
It's a good idea to look out for some common indicators of phishing attempts. Phishing emails are often sent from suspicious email addresses and may contain suspicious links that somewhat resemble those of legitimate companies, but may differ by a few letters. Spelling and grammar errors, as well as the use of language to instill fear or urgency in targeted users, are also common red flags. For example, a phishing email may urge a targeted user to click a link in the email to take a survey as soon as possible in order to win a prize that is in limited supply. If an email ends up in your spam folder, there's a chance it contained some indicators of a phishing attempt.
In the unfortunate event that someone falls victim to a phishing attack, there are a few steps they can take to mitigate it. They can run antivirus software scans to determine whether their computer was infected with malware. If the victim of the phishing attack revealed personal information to the attacker, such as by submitting passwords through a phishing link, they can change these passwords on the legitimate company websites to prevent attackers from using functioning login credentials to compromise their account. Victims of phishing attacks can also monitor their accounts for unusual activity so that they can address it as soon as possible. For example, if they detect suspicious purchases made using their credit card, they can report this activity to their bank in a timely manner.31 January 2022
Remote access trojans (RATs) allow attackers to obtain remote access, with administrative privileges, to a computer. RATs are installed when users click on links, often contained in phishing emails or on websites, that result in the downloading of malicious programs that install the trojan. Once installed on a computer, RATs often imitate other legitimate applications and "hide" from tools such as Task Manager to avoid detection. Using communication protocols, attackers can use RATs to obtain photos and videos using the webcam on the compromised device, exfiltrate data such as login credentials, modify files, install ransomware or other additional malware, and infect other computers.
It can be difficult to identify the presence of a RAT because attackers often take careful precautions to evade detection. Instruction detection systems can be used to identify malicious network activity that may be indicative of a RAT. Anti-malware software security scans can often detect RATs, and users can take steps to remove RATs from their computer by following the steps suggested by the software. IT staff and other technical professionals can examine the processes, connections, and file system changes on a computer to identify the presence of a RAT. Users whose computers have been infected by RATs should change their passwords and monitor their accounts for suspicious activity since the attackers likely have the ability to compromise these accounts, even after the RAT has been removed.31 January 2022