Be on the Lookout for These Five Common Network Security Threats

Kaitlyn Graham | October 5, 2021 | tag: Cyber Risk Network

Network security threats are constantly evolving, and right now we’re in the middle of a particularly challenging time. While big-name breaches like SolarWinds and others grab headlines, multitudes of smaller incidents continue to occur everyday, costing companies millions of dollars. 

The fact that these attacks come in different forms presents a significant challenge for security administrators, who have to stay on their toes and defend against multiple types of threats. To help, we’ve compiled a list of the five most common network security threats, along with recommendations on how to protect against them.

1. Ransomware


Ransomware attacks can be profitable and devastating, which makes them extremely popular among hackers. In a ransomware attack, an attacker infiltrates a victim’s network with malware and essentially holds the network hostage until the victim pays the ransom (usually in Bitcoin, since it’s difficult to trace). This creates a number of issues for the target, including loss of revenue due to downtime and ransom payments and potentially long-lasting reputational damage (the words “cyberattack” and “Colonial Pipeline” will be synonymous for the foreseeable future).

The risk of becoming a victim of ransomware can be reduced. Indeed, a new BitSight study shows a direct correlation between ransomware and poor cybersecurity hygiene. Having a higher security rating can help. In fact, enterprises with a low or medium security rating are six times more likely to be a victim of ransomware. Learn more in our ransomware ebook.

2. Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS)

The 2021 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report found that DDoS attacks are the most prevalent form of network security threats. In a DDoS attack, a hacker takes down a site or network by swarming it with fake page requests. This can cause massive outages resulting in lost productivity and revenue -- and they’re only getting bigger.

Preventing a DDoS attack requires constant vigilance and continuous monitoring of one’s network for anomalous activity. A massive burst of website traffic from unusual sources is a defining trait of a DDoS attack. Employ threat detection tools -- like BitSight for Security Performance Management -- to better understand and defend your attack surface.

3. Supply Chain


Supply chain breaches are increasingly commonplace. A study by Opinion Matters found that 92% of U.S. organizations have experienced a breach that originated with a vendor.

In the wake of large-scale supply chain hacks like SolarWinds, the question of how to understand and mitigate the risk posed by third and fourth parties looms large for all businesses. Security audits and assessments can help, but they fail to provide a complete view of supply chain network security threats. That’s because they only capture a point-in-time and don’t account for evolving risk. 

A better option is to use a continuous monitoring solution like BitSight for Third-Party Risk Management that provides an immediate, near real-time snapshot of the security postures of third parties. The insight can be used to identify cyber risk in the supply chain during onboarding and for the life of the relationship. For a deeper view of risk, BitSight also brings the capability to continuously monitor fourth parties for a complete view of your organization’s risk surface.

4. Widespread international business


This may not crop up on a traditional list of security threats, but businesses that operate across geographies and regions are at heightened risk of cyberattacks due to their complex and large digital footprint. Oftentimes, the security posture of different hubs may be different or fail to align with established security policies. Many companies also rely on a vast, interconnected ecosystem of vendors who are based or operate overseas, further complicating cyber risk management efforts.

To ensure that networks are protected -- domestically and globally -- you must continuously analyze your attack surface to discover where risk is hidden across geographies, subsidiaries, and even in the cloud. With this visibility you can then prioritize high-risk assets -- like a misconfigured firewall on a server that stores sensitive data -- and take action to reduce risk, before the bad guys spot the vulnerability.

And, using BitSight for Third-Party Management, you can also expose risk that lies hidden in vendor networks worldwide. 

5. Unpatched applications or servers

Maintaining a regular patching cadence is one of the easiest things you can do to mitigate network security threats. Yet this basic cybersecurity hygiene measure is often overlooked due to the frequency of updates, the scale of enterprise systems, and a lack of resources.

The consequences can be grave. Outdated or unpatched systems are easy targets for bad actors. In fact, research by BitSight found that less mature patching programs increase ransomware risk sevenfold.

Take steps to continuously assess your network for unpatched systems, prioritize areas of disproportionate risk, and allocate resources where they have the greatest impact on your organization’s security performance.


Mitigating network security threats -- beyond the SOC


Each of these network security threats have the potential to impact the health of your organization and must be considered as part of your strategic cyber risk management program. That’s why it’s so important to understand and take measures to reduce the risk of ransomware, DDoS attacks, and other attack vectors. 

But as these threats proliferate, conversations about cyber risk management must also extend beyond your Security Operations Center (SOC) to the C-suite. As they plan business expansion, strategic partnerships, and vendor relationships, it’s imperative that senior executives and board members understand the cybersecurity ramifications of their decisions so that they can provide you with the right resources so you can ensure your company is sufficiently protected.


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