Cyberattacks and Data Exfiltration
By |Published On: October 5th, 2020|5 min read|Categories: Cybersecurity, Ransomware|

The threat of data loss, data breaches and ransomware is on the minds of everyone, from the CEO and CISO, to the IT Department, as every organization is responsible for ensuring that their customers data remains private and secure. The role of data exfiltration is crucial in understanding how these attacks can be detected and prevented. Successful cyberattacks often lead to the hasty departure of the CISO, Capital One, Equifax and Uber are just a few high-profile examples. However, it’s not just the CISO that’s in the firing line, leading analyst firm Gartner predicts that CEOs could be held personally liable for cyberattacks by 2024.

As the war against cyberattacks rages on it’s clear that existing techniques are no longer effective. Evidenced by the number of attacks reported almost daily, the unprecedented level of data breaches and the rise in successful ransomware attacks, it seems organizations of all types are losing the fight.  Many organizations assume that winning a few battles is enough, but when an organization is under siege, a single data breach can bring a company to its knees. Downtime is only the beginning. When you factor in customer attrition, regulatory reporting, remediation costs, reputational damage and even class action law suits, there is a lot to be concerned about. Recent examples include DXC Technology and Cognizant, two well-known companies who may never fully recover from the fallout of their cyberattacks.

No matter how much you secure the fortress, or how high you build the walls, the attackers are going to get in, or, they already are. This is a very common scenario that we see on a daily basis. Organizations have a plethora of tools using outdated approaches such as antivirus software and firewalls. Insider threats or advanced persistent threats (APT’s) are just waiting for the perfect moment to exfiltrate company data, often in the middle of the night while those responsible for protecting it are asleep.

It’s all About the Data

The goal of any attack is to steal information for competitive, disruptive or monetary gain. An attacker infiltrating a network or a device in and of itself does not make a successful cyberattack. An attack is only successful if unauthorized data is stolen or removed from a device or network.

When you think about successful cyberattacks, all roads lead to data exfiltration, without it there is no gain for the attacker. No exfiltration of data = no data loss, no data breach and no data being held to ransom.

At face value it seems simple, and actually with the right technology it can be. Modern attacks are predicated on the ability to communicate with third party servers to steal data, so by deploying a solution that monitors, detects and prevents the unauthorized transmission of data in real-time, the threat of data loss is mitigated.

Detecting Data Exfiltration

So what exactly is data exfiltration? By definition it is the unauthorized copying, transfer or retrieval of data from a device or network. It occurs when malware and/or a malicious actor carries out an unauthorized data transfer from a device.

The problem with data exfiltration is that it is very difficult to detect as it happens silently in the background, with the victim often not even realizing it has occurred. This of course leaves organizations highly vulnerable to data loss. In a typical threat scenario an attacker will insert malware onto a network based device via malvertising or a phishing email. The malware will then crawl other network devices in search of valuable information before attempting to exfiltrate it. Because data routinely moves in and out of an organization, data exfiltration can closely resemble normal network traffic, meaning that data loss incidents can go unnoticed by IT staff until the damage has been done.

When you think about the problem of cyberthreats in this way, it’s easy to recognize that your defenses require a new approach. If you’re relying on antiquated firewalls and antivirus technology to prevent data loss, it’s probably only a matter of time before your organization experiences a costly breach. By making the assumption that bad actors have already infiltrated your network and deploying a solution that monitors data exfiltration in real-time, it is possible to outsmart cybercriminals and avoid becoming the next data breach headline.

Learn more about how BlackFog protects enterprises from the threats posed by data exfiltration.

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