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Glossary of Terms

What Are Cyber Criminals and How Do They Use Malware?

Cyber criminals are individuals or groups of people who use computers and networks to commit online crimes. Using malware programs, they aim to harm other individuals, companies, and governments. Though their methods are varied, cyber criminals frequently employ ransomware, which holds your data hostage, and data exfiltration, the unauthorized retrieval and extraction of your data.Cyber crime became a concern as early as the 1980s and since then, it has only continued to expand and evolve in unimaginable ways.

With time, the sophistication and techniques of cyber crime have also evolved and multiplied. For most companies, the enormous risks of ransomware and data exfiltration are clear. Thus, guarding against cyber crime requires the awareness and participation of everyone in an organization, not just the CIO, CISO, or CTO. Let’s look at why cyber criminals might target your organization.

The Dangers of Cyber Criminals and Cyber Crime

Cyber criminals are usually motivated by financial gain, though other motivations can include desire for political influence, some concept of social justice, or just the malicious thrill of causing trouble for others. The threat of cyber crime is so widespread that in 2002, the United States government designated an FBI division devoted to investigating cyber crime and prosecuting cyber criminals in both the U.S. and abroad.

This allocation of FBI resources is heartening. At the same time, there’s no guarantee the FBI will be able to act quickly against cyber crime before your data is compromised, if they’re able to combat it at all.

Learn more about cyber criminals

The cyber criminals who create malware are generally highly skilled in technology, while government investigators are sometimes not. In fact, in October 2022, ProPublica provided insight into this problem with its publication of a book excerpt entitled, “How the FBI Stumbled in the War on Cybercrime.”

Ultimately, it’s up to your organization to prioritize cyber security and malware detection proactively, to adopt a Zero Trust model for network security, and to determine how to prevent ransomware from targeting your network in the first place—long before a security breach and data exfiltration can occur. Tools like A10 Thunder® SSL Insight (SSLi) are purpose-built to help you do this via TLS / SSL decryption and TLS / SSL Inspection.

How You Could Become the Target of a Malware Attack

Malware is one of the biggest threats to your network security. Short for “malicious software,” malware is a kind of program that is written to infiltrate and access devices on your network in order to steal your date or sabotage your network. Cyber criminals use malware to steal financial data, intellectual property, personally identifiable data, and login credentials; to scramble or delete crucial operational data and code; to highjack elections and skew election results; or launch distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks.

It should be pretty clear that malware detection and removal of malware are essential for any organization that has confidential data. While there are various kinds of malware, the schemes involving ransomware and data exfiltration are especially prevalent and disruptive.

How to Prevent Ransomware and its Costs

Ransomware is a kind of malware that attempts to extort payment from the victim of the attack. The ransomware program breaches your network firewall, then accesses and encrypts your data so it’s no longer readable or usable by your company. To view your data once again, you would need a decryptor key, a program that unscrambles your data so it’s usable once again. Of course, there’s a price to pay for the decryptor key, in the form of a ransom demanded by the cyber criminal. To make the payment untraceable and the cyber attacker anonymous, the ransom payment is demanded in bitcoin.

How a cyber criminal infects your system

Unfortunately, some companies have paid ransoms because they had no other recourse but it’s extremely risky to negotiate with cyber criminals. For one thing, paying a ransom doesn’t guarantee that the cyber criminals will give you a decryptor key that actually works or that the ransomware will subsequently be removed from your network. In addition, you remain susceptible to further attacks and demands for ransom payment by the same cyber attacker or others. To avoid this disastrous scenario, you need to deal with the problem of how to prevent ransomware attacks in the first place.

Cyber Criminals and the Threat of Data Exfiltration

Data exfiltration is the unauthorized export of your confidential data, content, and code by unauthorized users. This export can occur accidentally or be orchestrated by a cyber criminal working either inside or outside your company. The data that is stolen could include user login credentials, intellectual property, confidential sales or financial information, business plans, and so much more.

The methods cyber criminals use to exfiltrate data are equally numerous. One of the most common ways of gaining unauthorized data access is email phishing. Phishing emails contain links or executable code—malware—that can highjack a user’s identity and access to sensitive data. Given the sheer volume of emails, including spam, that users routinely deal with, phishing emails can be significant vectors for data exfiltration attacks.

The data stored on a company’s networked devices and repositories are extremely valuable. Therefore, even a single data exfiltration has the potential to derail a company’s operations and even put it out of business. In fact, a recent article on The Hacker News posited that data exfiltration may now be a greater threat then ransomware. That’s why it’s critical for companies to have visibility into their network traffic, so they can inspect activity, look for patterns that might indicate a security breach, eliminate threats, and allow only trusted traffic and activities in their network. If you’re charged with preventing data exfiltration, you’ll need to implement a Zero Trust model of cyber security.

The Value of Malware Detection and the Zero Trust Model

To maintain your network and data integrity, you need to adopt a Zero Trust model. This model assumes that any person or device accessing your network must have their identity and access level verified; they won’t gain access just based on trust. Security protocols based on a Zero Trust model will continuously monitor your network for external and internal threats, secure your network perimeter, constantly monitor for cyber security breaches, and neutralize threats. The Zero Trust model ensures every user and access point is authorized to be on your network using strict authentication procedures. This technology builds in malware detection to prevent data exfiltration, deliver ransomware protection, and remove malware itself.

If malware detection and the prevention of ransomware keep you up at night, A10 Thunder SSLi can help. It is a comprehensive SSL/TLS decryption solution that helps you perform traffic analysis and malware detection as part of a Zero Trust model. For your company, that means protection from ransomware and reduced threat of data exfiltration. Thunder SSLi decrypts your network traffic, performs malware detection and malware removal, isolates threats to your network security, and re-encrypts the traffic before it is released into your network.

Why A10 is the Right Security Partner

A10 Networks is recognized as a top cyber security and infrastructure company with an integrated suite of solutions. In September 2022, A10 was awarded the award at CPI’s Future Security Awards. Our innovations in cyber security, malware detection, and ransomware protection can help you build an effective network security strategy that will scale to serve you for years to come. For more information, download our eBook “Combating the Surge of Modern Malware and Ransomware.”

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