In today’s world, we are faced with an inescapable reality that influences many aspects of how we interact with technology. The simple fact is that the more our technology advances, the more advanced the threats that endanger our technology will become.
When attackers attempt to gain unauthorized access to a system, all they need is one vulnerability that they can successfully exploit. Once they are to infiltrate a system, they can then install malicious software onto devices, steal sensitive information, encrypt system data, and remotely control your computers and servers.
And without the proper security measures in place, they may even be able to achieve this completely undetected, allowing them to carry out their illicit activities undercover.
However, since the earliest days of modern computing, individuals, and organizations have been actively developing means to detect, deter, and combat these kinds of malicious activities.
In this article, we will be taking a brief look at the history of cybersecurity to get a better understanding of how the computing industry has advanced to where it is today. We will also discuss some of the most common vulnerabilities that can often be overlooked in security monitoring network efforts and the attacks used to exploit them.
When electronic computers were first developed in the 1940s, these massive machines were very few and far between, with only a handful around the entire world. These early computers were designed to carry out advanced mathematical calculations for defense purposes, such as breaking codes and determining trajectories for artillery.
During this pivotal time in computing history, computers were so large that they required entire rooms or warehouses to store their many components, and they were extremely limited in their processing power when compared to modern computing capabilities.
In addition to their immense size and meager computing power, early computers were also standalone units, meaning they could not communicate with one another. However, this changed in the early 1960s when a computer scientist by the name of J.C.R. Licklider developed the concept of the first computer network.
Licklider envisioned a network of independent computers that would be able to communicate with one another remotely. This idea was of great interest to the US military because they were looking for ways to decentralize data in order to protect it against foreign threats. Licklider’s work ultimately resulted in his appointment as the head of the Information Processing Techniques Office at the Advanced Research Projects Agency (now known as the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency).
A few years later, the project was officially funded by ARPA to develop a network of computers that would be able to send and receive data over vast distances. This first computer network was originally known as ARPANET, which is commonly regarded as the predecessor of the modern internet.
In 1969, the first message was sent over this network from UCLA in Los Angeles to the Stanford Research Institute in San Francisco, marking the beginning of electronic communications.
Unsurprisingly, it didn’t take long for computer scientists to begin developing ways to exploit this groundbreaking technology. Just a couple of years later, in 1971, the first computer “virus” was created by a programmer named Bob Thomas. However, this virus was not created with malicious intent but rather as a means of experimenting with the idea of self-replicating code.
Thomas’s virus was known as the “Creeper,” and its only function was to infect devices and replicate itself throughout a network. Although this piece of rudimentary code was fairly easy to detect and detain, this was an extremely important development in the world of computing because it demonstrated a need to secure networks against these kinds of attacks.
At the time this prototypical virus was created, there were very few computers in the world, and most of them were not capable of communicating with other devices. So at the time, implementing “cybersecurity” measures was simply unnecessary.
Nonetheless, another pioneer in computing decided to respond to Thomas’s invention by developing the very first “antivirus” software. Ray Tomlinson’s antivirus program was aptly named the “Reaper,” and its only purpose was to remove Creeper from infected computers.
By the 1990s, cybersecurity had become its own industry in response to the growing number of attacks being carried out over the internet. In order to protect individual devices and the information they were transmitting, cybersecurity experts began developing new protocols and protective software that would be compatible with commercial and industrial applications.
However, as software and hardware continue to evolve, the means for protecting them against advanced threats have also had to evolve and expand. In recent years, we have seen a massive increase in the number of attacks, which is becoming a serious issue that can potentially threaten not only businesses but national governments as well.
This is especially true now that AI and machine learning are becoming more prevalent in the domain of computing. As with any technology, AI and ML can be used for nefarious purposes just as much as they can be used to improve and advance today’s tech realm.
Since the development of the modern internet and wireless router technology, our networks have become saturated with devices that can pose serious threats to an organization’s security. As people come and go, endpoints like laptops, smartphones, and tablets are constantly connecting and disconnecting from our networks, and these devices are often allowed to do so completely unchecked.
Furthermore, many businesses rely on a large number of IoT devices (Internet of Things) to carry out basic functions within their network. The problem with IoT devices is that they are typically regarded as innocuous and are rarely protected with security measures like antivirus and firewalls.
Because of the lack of security applied to IoT devices, they can often provide a backdoor for hackers to access a network without anyone noticing. This is one of the many reasons why a security monitoring network is of the utmost importance for businesses and organizations.
Let’s take a look at some common IoT devices and the vulnerabilities they can present to the overall security of a network.
Although these devices are used to enhance an organization’s physical security, they can become a huge liability for digital security when the proper precautions are not put into place.
Many networked security cameras will come with weak default passwords, and these passwords may even be publicly accessible to those who know where to look. Additionally, hackers can use what is known as a “brute force attack,” in which they use an automated program to “guess” different username/password combinations until they find the right one.
Once a security camera is successfully infiltrated, hackers can use the camera to send data packets to other computers, allowing them to gain an additional foothold within the network.
You would probably never think of a heating and air conditioning unit as being a potential threat, but the reality is that any device that is connected to a network can act as an entry point for a hacker to carry out their attack.
Because smart HVAC systems are integrated into other aspects of the building’s network, hackers may be able to send data containing malware to computers, servers, routers, switches, etc., once they have successfully made their way into the HVAC system.
Inadequately protected point-of-sale devices can pose a serious security risk for businesses because of the sensitive information they contain. While these kinds of IoT devices will often be the ultimate target for hackers, they can also be used to gain access to the network level of a business to scrape additional financial data.
Another important consideration for an organization’s cybersecurity is the use of personal devices. Most organizations will install and maintain adequate security software to protect their endpoint devices, but this doesn’t address the additional security risks that come with allowing employees to connect to the organization’s WiFi.
Because personal smartphones, laptops, and tablets are not strictly used for business purposes, they can often become infected with malware when individuals use them to access questionable sites and content on the internet. And when these devices are then connected to an organization’s network, they could potentially expose the rest of the network to malicious software without even knowing.
In order to mitigate the risks presented by IoT devices, personal devices, and other network endpoints, it is essential for organizations to employ security monitoring network measures. Monitoring traffic at the network level allows security personnel to identify and contain threats before they are able to cause significant damage.
In the past, most businesses have traditionally relied on endpoint protection through the use of antivirus software, but this approach to security is simply insufficient due to the sophistication of modern cybersecurity threats. Through continuous security monitoring networks, organizations can strengthen their security posture by going a step beyond endpoint monitoring.
Every time communication takes place between two devices on a network, there are data packets sent back and forth using a variety of different protocols, depending on the types of devices and data in question. These data packets can include information such as time stamps, user information, source and destination IP addresses, and payload data.
A security monitoring network is the practice of capturing and analyzing all of this data as it is transmitted at the network level. After implementing such a security monitoring network system, IT personnel are able to continuously monitor the data to identify threats and vulnerabilities within the network.
This approach to cybersecurity is especially important for organizations that use a large number of IoT devices because it allows them to monitor data that would otherwise go unchecked.
A security monitoring network is typically carried through the use of a network detection and response system. Network detection and response is a security apparatus that is responsible for collecting and compiling data into a central repository for security personnel to review and analyze.
Let’s take a look at how these security monitoring network systems function:
In order to effectively monitor network traffic, security monitoring network systems must first capture the data as we mentioned above. This can be accomplished in several ways, and the security monitoring network system will likely employ a combination of these methods, including network traps, port mirroring, and packet capture agents.
Once the security monitoring network system has captured the data as it is being transmitted, it will compile all of the data for further analysis by IT staff and automated programs.
From this data, security monitoring network systems will use a series of advanced algorithmic calculations to identify patterns, behaviors, and deviations within the data to identify potential threats.
These security solutions are capable of detecting a wide range of threats, including malware, data exfiltration, insider threats, lateral movements, and suspicious communications within the network.
This advanced level of threat detection is made possible by incorporating threat intelligence from third-party platforms into the analysis carried out by the security monitoring network system. Upon completing its initial analysis of the network data, the system will create a baseline behavior model for what is considered normal network activity, providing a benchmark for the system to compare future network traffic.
When a deviation from this baseline takes place, or when there is a network-level event that contains known threat signatures, the security monitoring network system will detect the threat and notify security personnel.
One of the best aspects of the security monitoring network system is that it can carry out these processes and notify the appropriate parties in real-time. This means that most attacks will be detected before they successfully infiltrate the system.
Security monitoring network systems can also be customized to deploy predetermined responses based on the perceived severity of the threat. For example, suppose the security monitoring network system detects a device or user attempting to transmit a file containing a known threat signature. In that case, the system can automatically quarantine the device from the rest of the network within a matter of seconds.
As cybersecurity continues to grow and evolve, one thing is more evident than ever: modern cyber threats require a modern security solution. And the antivirus and firewalls of the past simply aren’t enough to protect your organization.
While many businesses rely on wireless and IoT devices to make their jobs easier and streamline their operations, it is important that they recognize the additional security risks associated with these essential pieces of equipment.
If you want to learn how to protect your organization at the network level, click here to request more information on BlueShift’s cutting-edge cybersecurity solutions!