Wednesday, September 28, 2022

Reconnaissance – An Organization’s Cybersecurity Nightmare and How to Stop It

By: Sentia   Categories:Security, Cyber Security, Data Security

Reconnaissance – An Organization’s Cybersecurity Nightmare and How to Stop It

Cybersecurity experts predict that at least 33 billion records will be compromised by 2023. The number may increase as cybercriminals leverage advanced technologies to develop sophisticated malware and tools for scanning for vulnerabilities in a target network. While most organizations focus on reactive cybersecurity measures to stop an attack after it has started, they overlook that they can stop an attack right at the reconnaissance stage. Reconnaissance is one of the first phases of an attack. Attackers use various tools to understand the target’s networks and systems to determine the possible entry points and exploitable vulnerabilities.

The Reconnaissance Phase

Reconnaissance is the information-gathering stage before hackers can stage an attack. In particular, attackers conduct reconnaissance activities before attempting an attack to uncover the potentially exploitable vulnerabilities, determine whether they can launch stealth malware attacks, know the security layout of the target network and how to bypass the implemented controls, and generally understand who they are dealing with. It is a crucial phase where attackers collect the necessary information to understand their victims. Therefore, understanding the initial step can assist companies in detecting cyberattacks early to prevent data breaches, network intrusions, and the execution of malware payloads.

The Increasing Reconnaissance Activities

During the reconnaissance stage, hackers utilize techniques like digital research and physical tools to probe a network for weaknesses. For example, social engineering scams, which account for 98% of successful attacks, enable attackers to trick employees of a targeted organization into revealing information about a system’s weaknesses and design an attack based on the collected information. They can gather relevant target information by probing the network for security flaws, such as outdated patches, open ports, and security misconfigurations, to determine how to exploit them and compromise customer or company sensitive information. Techniques like port scanning, packet sniffing, and ping sweeps allow hackers to gather the necessary information.

In 2021, 25% of the hostile incidents in the manufacturing sector were due to reconnaissance activities, with attackers using advanced port scanning tools for 56% of the activities. Additionally, the finance industry was the most targeted and accounted for 23% of all attacks, and 12% of the attacks revolved around reconnaissance activities. However, organizations can detect and prevent reconnaissance activities to protect themselves. Ethical hacking and penetration testing can help reveal what your company’s cybersecurity looks like to cyber adversaries, implement preemptive solutions to mitigate possible security flaws, and diagnose attacker behaviors to derail their attack campaigns. Deloitte Cyber Reconnaissance and Analytics revealed that reconnaissance activities can:

  • Reveal at least 1,000 exploits that attackers can exploit to attack a target organization
  • Uncover privileged targets, such as critical infrastructure and personnel with privileged access, that hackers can target to cause the most damage
  • Identify potential entry points through which hackers can gain illegal access to a network and essential data.

Making Reconnaissance Harder is Key to Preventing Attacks

A reconnaissance activity aims to enable attackers to identify a weakness or vulnerability that can help them bypass the implemented cybersecurity controls to breach and exfiltrate data, use ransomware to hold crucial assets hostage for a ransom payment or sabotage critical systems for malicious reasons. A reactive cybersecurity approach prevents organizations from identifying and stopping reconnaissance activities, exposing them to destructive attacks. Nevertheless, making reconnaissance harder for cybercriminals is vital to stopping attacks. Several measures can help companies to limit attackers’ reconnaissance actions, disrupt their planning stages, and stop attacks before they begin.

1. Securing the Network Design

Preventing attackers’ ability to perform reconnaissance activities begins with implementing a secure network design. The network is a company’s front door because it provides a pathway for communicating to the outside world through the internet. Thus, it is a potential source of reconnaissance activities. Moving the network’s point of access to the internet to dispersed geographical locations can limit reconnaissance activities. For example, disguising network pathways at the interaction points and varying the IP addresses can limit the time an attacker requires to perform reconnaissance, restricting their ability to detect weak points or confirm whether you are the target.

2. Red Teaming and Penetration Testing

It is always a matter of when your organization will fall under an attacker’s radar. By arming yourself with the knowledge of how vulnerable you are to attacks, you can implement proactive cybersecurity measures to increase resilience and the overall security posture. Red teaming and penetration testing are essential elements you can use to stop reconnaissance. A team of ethical or white hat hackers evaluates your network and system security from a hacker’s mindset to determine how a malicious hacker can compromise vulnerabilities to execute malware attacks or data breaches. In other words, ethical hackers help identify and mitigate the security weaknesses hackers look for during a reconnaissance activity. Mitigating them means attackers will not find useful security weaknesses, thus halting their reconnaissance and attack attempts.

3. Leverage Smart Cybersecurity Solutions

Combating the modern, sophisticated cyberattacks requires scalable and holistic cybersecurity infrastructure that provides full visibility across the deployed technology stack. Such solutions include extended detection and response (XDR), endpoint detection and response (EDR), and SIEM systems. Smart cybersecurity solutions leverage powerful AI and ML technologies coupled with managed service providers’ security professionals to continuously monitor your networks and systems for threat activities. These include reconnaissance processes. Detecting patterns in the early stages of an attack can ensure real-time response to stop hackers from nosing around your network, thus protecting against breaches, intrusions, and attacks.

Stop Reconnaissance Activities with Sentia

As IT security grows in complexity, so does the maintenance of the necessary in-house skills to protect your business – not to mention the costs. Sentia will work with you to design the optimal services to keep your IT infrastructure safe and operational. For example, Sentia’s cybersecurity consulting services, including penetration testing, vulnerability and risk assessments, and application vulnerability scanning, allow you to detect and mitigate existing weaknesses to ensure a malicious reconnaissance activity does not yield information that attackers can use to compromise your network. In addition, Sentia’snext-generation firewall includes useful features like application awareness and control, integrated intrusion prevention, and cloud-delivered threat intelligence.

Contact us today to learn more.



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