Securing the Digital World

Defending Your Digital Universe: Know Your Enemy

Oct 09, 2017 | by Angel Grant, CISSP |

October marks Cybersecurity Awareness Month in both the U.S. and Europe. These annual initiatives are intended to raise consumer and employee awareness of cyber threats affecting individuals in their personal and professional lives. However, when you consider that nearly two billion identities were compromised in breaches in the first half of 2017 alone, it's probably fair to say we need to do much more than simply raise awareness.

Hence, this two-part blog series is all about what businesses can do to better understand and identify cybercriminals--how they think, how they work, when they're after you--and top tips on how to defeat them.

Five Ways to Get to Know Your Digital Adversaries

Getting to know the enemy is half the battle, but how can you do that when the whole business of cybercrime is, by its very nature, so secretive? Our five tips help you get behind their defenses.

  1. Think Like a Cybercriminal
    You're launching a new digital service or app, and the last thing you want to contemplate is how it might go wrong, but it makes very real sense to consider from the outset how it might be exploited. So ask yourselves: what would you do if you wanted to break into your own service?

    Even after launch, it is important to keep revisiting the question. Cybercriminals are nothing if not adaptable, and the rock-solid defenses you put in one day might be a piece of cake to crack the next.

  2. Assume You Are Compromised
    A little healthy paranoia goes a long way here, so assume you are compromised already. Think of all the ways you might be vulnerable (see tip 1), and act to find out more about who might be hunting you and how. For example:
    • If your customers encounter phishing attempts, is it easy for them to report incidents to you (through a dedicated email address, for example), so you can track the nature and characteristics of this type of fraud?
    • If your 'crown jewels' were to be sold on the dark web, what kinds of agents would be behind that? Who is collecting data on them, and how can you tap into that surveillance to gain insight that can help your business?
    By doing this, you'll be better able to stop fraud before it happens, reducing the risk to your organization of cyber attacks, identity theft, and account takeover.

  3. Know Who's Knocking at the Door
    You'd only answer your front door without knowing who's there if you were feeling very safe. Since the assumption is that you're vulnerable (see tip 2), our advice is to always check first. Use session authentication to check that users are who they say they are before granting them access to enter.

  4. Don't Relax Once They're In
    Closely related to tip 3 is the need to keep an eye on your visitors once you've let them in. To do that, you need to know how a "normal" person behaves. For example, a visitor to your house might take a seat and make conversation. If they leap to their feet and start checking out your valuables, you'll want to keep a closer eye on them.

    Continuous web session analysis recognizes that cybercriminals don't behave like other site visitors; they move faster, navigate differently, and often leave more than one device trail behind. To spot these differences, you need a reliable baseline to measure against. Do this by consistently identifying and tracking the interactions that occur across the entire customer web session, from login and browsing to the completion of a transaction. You'll be amazed at how quick you will discover anomalies between how a genuine customer and a cybercriminal interact with your web and mobile services.

  5. Turn Fraud Data into Intelligence

As tip 4 shows, data is one of the most powerful tools in your quest to profile your enemy. Optimize the security investments you've already made by correlating data from your various anti-fraud tools to get a more complete picture of normal and anomalous behavior. Advanced data analytics technologies mean you can do this without compromising your customers' experience or data privacy.

Ready to do Battle?

The impact of cybercrime is staggering. Check out RSA's new dynamic infographic, The Mind Blowing Cost of Cybercrime Every 60 Minutes, to see the scale of the problem, and look out for part 2 of this blog series: Defeat Your Enemy, coming soon.