6 Types of Security Incidents and How To Handle Them

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Eduardo Messuti

Founder and CTO

November 02, 2023

6 Types of Security Incidents and How To Handle Them

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Bad news: Cybercrime is surging, emerging AI tools offer hackers new paths of attack, and the ever-present reality of human error frequently exposes private information.

The effects of security incidents can wipe out entire businesses. Estimates predict the annual toll of cybercrime and security breaches to reach $10.5 trillion by 2025. But you can still protect your business if you know how to handle and respond to these security incidents.

Content index

The Importance of Effective Incident Handling

A lot of businesses lack incident response plans. Many view security as a patchwork job, only addressing incidents when they arise. Weak incident preparedness significantly increases the likelihood of future occurrences and can leave businesses devastated by breaches, leaks, and attacks.

If it's so critical, why do so many businesses fail to implement security policies to combat the persistent threat of these incidents? They often just don't understand the various security events. As a result, they fail to construct processes and solutions to mitigate and reduce the likelihood of incidents of all types.

In addition to using security tools, policies, and best practices, you need an effective incident communication strategy for when incidents occur. These communication plans are critical to preparing a priority-based matrix that provides proper rollout, response, and resolution.

Businesses must also learn how to prepare for threats and security incidents long-term. Automated security patches, frequent software updates, and regular employee training can secure businesses against the inevitable swarm of evolving cyber threats.

There are many types of security incidents, some malicious, others unintentional. In order for businesses to combat and manage either type, they must build an effective incident response framework.

Types of Security Incidents and How To Handle Them

Incidents can occur in many ways: internally, externally, maliciously, and accidentally. Security teams must familiarize themselves with common attack strategies and mishaps to evaluate their network's unique risks. Awareness is the first step to gaining the ability to assess risk and implement solutions, even as threats change.

Below are six common types of security incidents and tips for guarding against them.

1. Security Breaches

A security breach is when unauthorized users gain entry to data or systems without permission. Usually, this data is sensitive information, including:

  • Medical records
  • Financial data
  • Personal Information (addresses, SS numbers, ID numbers)
  • Intellectual property, such as software code

A security breach could be a hacker with stolen credentials, but 95% of security breaches occur due to internal user error. Take phishing emails, for example. Phishing attacks may come from external threat actors but become viable only if someone falls for them internally. Always train and update your team on the latest threats so they can avoid falling for phishing attacks.

Contain and Eradicate the Breach

Left unchecked, relatively small data breaches can turn into full-scale attacks. The entry point must be identified and closed off to contain the effects. For example, if an unauthorized user gains access by stealing login credentials, it's necessary to suspend user logins until the precise account details are discovered. Then, security teams can identify affected user accounts and change the login information to close the security gaps.

Remember to communicate details and updates with affected accounts throughout the process. Communication helps maintain the client's peace of mind and avoid reputational damage.

Organizations must avoid running on unsecured networks or outdated software to eradicate breaches. Automating alerts and updates helps ensure this doesn't happen. Also, as a preventative measure, you can order a black box test. A team simulates a real-life hack to identify and eliminate any vulnerabilities before malicious actors spot them.

2. Malware Infections

Most computer users are familiar with the term malware. Malware is a malicious software program installed in a device, server, or network. Different types of malware attacks include:

  • Ransomware
  • Spyware
  • Adware
  • Trojans
  • Keyloggers

It's crucial to understand how each form occurs in the real world. This way, you can educate employees, allowing them to identify signs and risks of malware invaders in their day-to-day correspondence. Email accounts for [92% of malware distribution](https://www.techopedia.com/cybersecurity-statistics#:~:text=As of 2023%2C 300%2C000 fresh malware instances are,networks. 4.1 million websites are infected with malware.), but it can also come from illegal downloads, file-sharing on unsecured websites, and pop-up ads.

Identify and Remove the Malware

The effects of malware usually include symptoms like:

  • Slow devices
  • Continuous crashes
  • Repeat error messages or pop-ups
  • Devices that won't power on or off

A common method to identify malware is running a scan on all systems. When malware is detected, cease all digital financial transactions and sensitive information sharing. Typically, the security scan has built-in features to remove any identified malware. However, in severe cases, you might need to reboot and recover the entire OS. Regularly backing up your data is a smart move.

3. Insider Threats

Insider threats aren't always an intentional type of attack. Yes, sometimes those within organizations commit fraud or deliberate harm, like selling confidential data. But most insider threats come from user negligence or oversharing files. For example, users might:

  • Alter or delete files on accident
  • Mismanage user access controls
  • Misdirect an email to unauthorized accounts
  • Use weak passwords, allowing malicious actors easy entry

Third-party threats are also a concern. Often, companies must grant third parties access to sensitive data for a time but forget to close off access after the partnership ends. These accounts are harder to trace and more easily compromised by hackers. Also, a third party could use the data for their own nefarious purposes.

Implement Security Controls To Mitigate Insider Threats

No matter how great your relationships with employees, contractors, or third-party vendors are, businesses must never place blind trust in those who have access to their servers.

Instituting strict security measures, including access controls, protects businesses, employees, and third parties from potential danger and conflict. Always limit access to sensitive information. In many cases, it's wise to monitor activity and set up alerts for attempts by internal users to access data beyond their scope of work.

Legitimate users with too much access to information are just as problematic as malicious threat actors trying to break in. When employees have access to data beyond their purview, the likelihood of accidentally sharing it increases massively.

Another culprit: Weak passwords. Poor password practices are always targets for hackers to find their way into sensitive information. From there, they can steal it, delete it, or hold it for ransom.

Identify and Block Unauthorized Access Threats

The best way to manage unauthorized access internally is by using the principle of least privilege (POLP). POLP requires setting core responsibilities and mirroring access to data, systems, and networks to reflect those responsibilities. With POLP, nobody has access beyond what's necessary to perform their job.

Also, take steps to eliminate weak passwords using multifactor identification (MFA). MFA is an incredibly effective method, and estimates show it eliminates [90% of target account attacks](https://slate.com/technology/2022/02/google-multifactor-authentication-effective-research.html#:~:text=The more secure form of multifactor authentication%2C in,phishing attacks%2C and 90 percent of targeted attacks.).

5. Data Leaks

Leaks are almost always the fault of poor infrastructure rather than malicious activities. But they are a persistent threat nonetheless.

Data leaks occur from many different sources, including:

  • Leaving databases unsecured or without proper security updates
  • Human error, such as employees sending files to incorrect email addresses
  • Third-party vulnerabilities
  • Server errors

Contain and Assess Data Leaks

As businesses rely more on cloud storage to house sensitive information, keeping cloud storage databases updated and equipped with top-of-the-line firewalls, security, and access controls is essential for eliminating leaks.

It's also vital to monitor any third-party usage. Sometimes, third parties receive access for a short period, but that access is never revoked. Loose ends like these present additional paths of attack for hackers.

If a data leak occurs, identify the at-risk data and who has access to it. Then, monitor all the network access and traffic to see who accessed it and identify where the leak originated. After identifying the leak, secure all endpoints to ensure devices with access are secure and updated.

6. Denial of Service (DoS) Attacks

There are two primary forms of DoS attack. The first is called web flooding. Here, groups of users overrun a network, site, or app with massive amounts of traffic, causing the website to slow until it's essentially unusable.

Then, there are crash DoS Attacks. These attacks exploit weaknesses in servers or networks to crash entire systems. For example, one vector of attack is triggering a buffer overflow. This attack targets exposed software, overloading the available memory to the point of crashing.

Identify and Mitigate the Attack

The best way to identify DoS attacks is by implementing strict network traffic identification measures, which can help you determine between regular spikes in traffic and DoS attacks.

However, you can also defend against these attacks by:

  • Installing smart firewalls to decipher and block illegitimate traffic
  • Install a black hole router that automatically reroutes excess traffic
  • Have a backup internet service provider in case of crashes

Mitigate All Types of Incidents by Effectively Communicating With Your Team

Securing your business for future incidents begins with communication. An effective security ecosystem requires centralizing security resources, solutions, and channels for external and internal communication channels. The benefits of strategic incident communication are many, including:

  • Retaining trust among loyal customers
  • Streamlining incident resolutions
  • Enhancing regulatory compliance
  • Mitigating the impact of potentially devastating incidents

Every year, security threats become a more pressing issue. About 66% of businesses experience at least one attempted cyberattack a year.

Consider a partnership with StatusPal as the next step to secure your incident communication strategy. Our centralized dashboard offers simple and effective tools for status page hosting, allowing you to tailor response strategies to meet all types of security incident mishaps. Automate incident reporting, track dependency statuses in real-time, and receive alerts to keep your response swift and security breaches to a minimum.

Set yourself apart as a leader in cybersecurity practices. Register with StatusPal for a free trial today.

Gravatar for eduardo@messuti.io

Eduardo Messuti

Founder and CTO

November 02, 2023

Eduardo is a software engineer and entrepreneur with a passion for building digital products. He has been working in the tech industry for over 10 years and has experience in a wide range of technologies and industries.
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