The threat landscape means the entire scope of potential and recognized cybersecurity threats affecting user groups, organizations, specific industries, or a particular time.
As new cyber threats emerge daily, the threat landscape changes accordingly.
The main factors contributing to the dynamic threat landscape include:
- Increasingly sophisticated tools and attack methods;
- Greater reliance on information technology products and services, such as SaaS offerings;
- Networks that encourage and enable the distribution of cybercrime profits, such as the dark web;
- Greater availability of skills, personnel, and finances to drive cyber attacks;
- External factors, such as a global pandemic or financial crisis;
- Faster software releases with added functionality;
- New hardware development, such as Internet of Things (IoT) devices.
What Cyber Threats Does the Threat Landscape Cover?
The threat landscape consists of the factors that pose a risk to each entity in their respective contexts. Context relates to the specific elements that affect the level of risk posed to a user group, organization, specific industry, or a particular time, such as:
- The value of sensitive information available;
- The level of information security in place;
- Geopolitical factors – many threat actors target groups or individuals from specific countries or regions, such as Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs).
The Current Cyber Threat Landscape
The threat landscape changes every time a new event causes a significant shift or impact on the context of affected entities.
Below are examples of recent events contributing to the current threat landscape.
1. The COVID-19 Pandemic
Global lockdowns began in 2020, forcing organizations to shift to facilitate work-from-home (WFH) arrangements. Remote working broadened organizations' attack surfaces dramatically.
The introduction of Bring-Your-Own-Device (BYOD) policies introduced new attack vectors. Security professionals needed to develop strategies to secure unmanaged endpoints, such as smartphones and personal laptops. Threat actors quickly took advantage of these vulnerabilities, with the healthcare sector experiencing a 35% rise in data breaches between 2020 and 2021.
2. The Russia-Ukraine Conflict
Growing tensions between the two nation-states have escalated into war. Well known for its sophisticated cyber attacks, Russia has been the suspected perpetrator in a slew of global attacks in 2022.
3. The Growing Adoption of Third-Party Vendors
The ever-growing trend of outsourcing critical operations has seen a distinct rise in third-party data breaches. Cybercriminals have recognized this opportunity and are now directing their efforts toward large-scale supply chain attacks. By targeting several third-party and fourth-party providers in one attack, hackers can gain unauthorized access to larger amounts of sensitive data with less effort.
How to Protect Against the Threat Landscape
While the threat landscape is unpredictable, effective risk management is achievable. Here are three ways to protect your organization against the threat landscape:
1. Understand the Different Types of Threats
There are many different cyber threats, each becoming more sophisticated daily. Gaining a comprehensive understanding of these threats improves your ability to defend against hackers.
Common cyber threats include:
- Advanced Persistent Threats (APTs)
- Social engineering attacks, such as phishing scams
- Ransomware attacks
- Zero-day vulnerabilities
- Human error
2. Gain Visibility Over Your Attack Surface
The most effective way of understanding the current risks affecting your organization is by having visibility over them. A well-managed attack surface enables the creation of a more tailored cyber threat intelligence program in the future.
3. Use Defensive Measures
Implementing a robust information security policy with effective mitigation strategies is the key to minimizing an organization’s cyber risk. Common strategies include:
- Using two-factor authentication (2FA) or multi-factor authentication (MFA)
- Patching software regularly
- Deploying anti-virus software
- Implementing an attack surface management security solution