Who is a cybercriminal?
You might be thinking about that iconic masked, hoodie-wearing mastermind hidden in plain sight in some internet cafe or tucked away in some dark room filled with computer monitors.
But as cyberattacks have gotten more threatening to organizations like yours, that long held image of a cybercriminal has faded. More common, cybersecurity experts have found that true penetrating cybercrime takes a village.
The days of single geniuses touting their mad skills, siphoning money and information from your network with a few well-crafted lines of code is no longer the norm. Today cybercrime has a face of many rather than a masked face of one.
Modern cybercrime is made up of a wide range of people with ranging skills. Yes, there are still coders skilled at snaking around network detection—mainly in organizations that lack proper network security (Note: most cybersecurity experts advise you get a second opinion on your network security to ensure i’s are dotted and t’s crossed).
But more so than the solo hacker, cyber rings are made up of many different kinds of criminals. There still are very technical experts that write the code, but there are many more that simply deliver and spread the infectious malware—targeting specific organizations like yours.
When you really look under the hood of a cybercrime ring, their structure nearly identically resembles the structure of a typical business. Someone is responsible for moving money around, there are low-level criminals tasked with targeting and implementing code to get onto your network and people writing craftier messages to convince users they are legitimate.
In essence, it takes a village to hack into your network.
Each job within the cybercrime “village” knows his or her job and are very specialized at effectively using their skills. Programmers collaborate with each other and develop malware to extort your organization. Merchants trade and sell your sensitive data—to other criminals looking to further exploit identities. There are even IT technicians who build and maintain the infrastructure—servers and databases—needed to keep their crime rings running.
Bottom line: there is no such thing as simply a one man hacker.
For any effective phishing campaign (many of which have gotten much more convincing over the past few years), experts find at minimum 5 to 7 people involved in designing and implementing the attack. Both technical and non-technical skills are needed to successfully rake in cash (or cryptocurrency).
How can you protect your organization from more sophisticated, multi-actor attacks?
Cover your bases—make sure you’re not the easiest network to penetrate. You see, the programmers that code the virus attacks train lower, budding criminals to identify very specific points of entry. Typically these entry points are vulnerabilities that major software companies have already identified and patched (but many IT teams have failed to follow up on).
Understand where your risks lie—let’s face it, it’s impossible to make your network completely impenetrable. There are always going to be risks in doing business and having a network connected to the outside world. What you want to do is understand where your risks lie and how to minimize those risks to stay as safe as possible.
Know your network—the biggest problem with many organizations is that they do not understand whether they are safe or insecure to cyberattacks. I hate seeing countless events where a business or organization thinks they’re safe and doing their due diligence with cybersecurity, but ends up falling victim to easy attacks because their network was left completely vulnerable. Cybersecurity experts recommend a network security assessment to check up on the state of your IT infrastructure.