Business communications can be some of the most sensitive messages sent across the network. Employees collaborating on projects must share mission-critical details that, if placed in the wrong hands, could prove valuable for malicious actors. Hackers these days target a range of important data – from customers’ personal information to overall business processes – and enterprises must ensure that this content is safe.
Recent research shows a rise in attacks on corporate communication networks, spurring the need for more protection of individual endpoints and UC systems. While this is by no means a new trend in the corporate environment, hackers are more often seeking to breach and steal information from employees’ email, SMS and voice messages, and businesses must be aware and ready to mitigate such a threat.
Study shows increased attacks on communication networks
According to a new report from Alcatel-Lucent’s Motive Security Labs, cybercriminals increased their attacks on communication networks in 2014, impacting individual devices as well as company-wide communications technologies. The report estimated that a total of 16 million devices across the globe have been affected by mobile malware. While the purpose of such malicious software varies, hackers can leverage such programs to steal sensitive information, launch denial of service attacks and carry out malvertising and banking schemes.
Overall, infections of mobile devices rose by 25 percent last year. These types of attacks have been increasing in frequency in recent years, with a 20 percent rise in mobile malware infections in 2013 as well. As more corporate employees utilize their mobile devices for work purposes as part of BYOD programs, it increases the chances that hackers will gain access not only to the device owner’s sensitive information, but mission-critical details belonging to their employer as well.
This threat is compounded by the fact that more than half – 65 percent – of mobile device users expect their service provider to help safeguard their mobile and home endpoints, preventing them from taking the necessary preventative measures themselves.
“Malware growth continues to be aided by the fact that a vast majority of mobile device owners do not take proper device security precautions,” Alcatel-Lucent noted.
But attacks don’t end with mobile devices. The report also found that business’s payment systems have seen increased attacks lately, putting not only the company at risk, but its customers as well. The threat is so prevalent that it currently outpaces risks involved with e-commerce transactions.
“The report also found that consumers who avoid shopping online out of fear their credit or debit card information may be stolen are actually exposing themselves to greater risk: a rash of retail cybersecurity breaches in 2014 were all the result of malware infections on cash registers or point-of-sales terminals, not online stores,” Alcatel-Lucent stated.
In addition, the report cited a rise in attacks on residential networks last year, with 13.6 percent of all home networks being malware-infected, a 5 percent increase over 2013. This shows that even individual end users aren’t safe from these types of risks – their communications include sensitive information that is valuable to cybercriminals as well, and as a result, hackers are targeting both corporate and residential networks.
“With malware attacks on devices steadily rising with consumer ultra-broadband usage, the impact on customer experience becomes a primary concern for service providers,” noted Patrick Tan, Alcatel-Lucent network intelligence general manager. “As a result, we’re seeing more operators take a proactive approach to this problem by providing services that alert subscribers to malware on their devices along with self-help instructions for removing it.”
Enhancing network and device protections
Whether an enterprise firm, a telecom service provider or an individual consumer, there are ways to boost network protections to help mitigate the risk of an attack that could expose sensitive information.
When it comes to wireless networks, there are several strategies that can serve to better protect activities taking place. The Federal Communications Commission recommended that network administrators change the default network settings, including the name and password, to something more unique to the user base. In both instances, however, users should be sure not to use personal details like their address number, pet’s name or other easily identifiable information.
Network monitoring programs can also help combat the risk of an attack. This technology offers more granular control over network activities, and can notify users when suspicious tasks are being carried out. In this way, users can quickly respond, and check to ensure that the activities being flagged are genuine and are not being performed by an external malicious actor.
The FCC also recommended ensuring that encryption capabilities have been turned on and that the protocol being used is an effective standard, such as WPA2 encryption. Leveraging encryption can help mask network activities to everyone but authorized users. Even if a cybercriminal is able to breach the network, all sensitive details are scrambled and illegible to all those without access to the decryption key.
Users must ensure that their individual endpoints are protected as well. Mobile devices especially have become a more attractive target to hackers, and utilizing some of the built-in security features included on most handheld hardware can go a long way toward protecting information stored on and accessed through the device. Screenlocks, for example, can keep out those with physical access to the device, and individual authentication credentials for each application can help keep programs more secure. Encryption can be applied to mobile devices as well, and can add an extra layer of protection to smartphones, tablets and laptops.
Corporate and consumer communications are increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals, but putting in place certain proactive security measures can help ensure networks and devices are protected.