Cybersecurity and its impact today
As computing technology advances, various attempts have been made to exploit security flaws and vulnerabilities. With the expansion of the internet and our increasingly connected world, where most individuals in developed countries own multiple internet-enabled devices, cyberattacks have experienced a significant increase.
A prime example is the growth of web-based cyberattacks, which increased by nearly 6,000%, reaching over 1.4 billion instances in 2022. This figure highlights the importance of effective cybersecurity management in addressing potentially severe consequences, such as substantial economic losses.
H2 – Is Complete Cybersecurity Possible?
Absolute security does not exist in either the physical or virtual worlds. However, minimizing the risks and chances of a cyber threat materializing and causing damage to computer systems and the valuable information they generate and store is possible.
“Vulnerability” refers to the weaknesses and gaps in protection that enable a cyber threat to materialize, resulting in negative impacts on a computer system. For example, inadequate fire protection or a weak password system for an organization’s computer system would constitute vulnerabilities. The likelihood of these vulnerabilities being exploited is known as “risk.” In essence, cybersecurity focuses on reducing risks in the digital realm.
The Covid-19 pandemic has created a challenging environment for many businesses, benefiting some sectors while disadvantaging others. According to PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ (PwC) article, “The Future of Financial Services” (2020), the pandemic has accelerated trends toward e-commerce in financial services. This development has been positive for the logistics sector and contactless/mobile payment industries but negative for retail sales. As internet transactions increase, so do cybercrime and cyber threat rates.
PriceWaterhouseCoopers’ “Global Economic Crime and Fraud Survey” (2020) demonstrates that fraud, customer scams, and cybercrime have experienced the most significant increases, with cybercrime representing 34% of the overall frequency. The report also reveals that “nearly 47% of survey respondents have experienced some form of fraud in the past 24 months, marking the second-highest level of security incidents in the last twenty years.”
Tools for the analysis and detection of Malware
“Malware” refers to any software that inflicts harm or damage upon a user, device, or network, taking various forms such as Trojans, viruses, worms, rootkits, or spyware. Consequently, analysis tools must be versatile enough to detect malware, assess the damage inflicted, and identify any other affected files.
Upon locating and identifying a malicious file, it is added to a malware signature database to prevent future infiltration into the network or device. There are two primary methods of conducting malware analysis: static and dynamic. We will provide details on both approaches.
Static analysis is the process of inspecting a file to obtain information about its structure and functionality without executing it. This approach is more fundamental and secure, as it avoids running any potentially harmful code. However, it is less efficient in dealing with obfuscated malware files. The prevalent technique for detecting malware involves using signatures. When a suspicious file enters a system, its hash is produced and cross-referenced with a database of known malware signatures. The drawback of this approach is that malware creators can effortlessly modify their code, which enables them to bypass this form of analysis.
This analysis enables the observation of malware behavior during system execution and the detection and operation of the malware. Dynamic malware analysis requires a secure environment in which malicious files can be safely executed without causing damage to the device or network. As a result, these analyses are typically conducted in virtual machines known as sandboxes, which have pre-installed software for malware examination and create virtual networks to observe malware interactions.
Malware analysis tools in 2023:
- Yara: A cross-platform application for Windows, Linux, and macOS systems, Yara helps identify and classify potential malware families. It works with binary or textual file information stored in rules, determining whether a file belongs to a specific class. Each rule has two keywords: “strings” (the established sequences YARA searches for in the binary) and “condition” (the specified criteria for detection).
- Metascan: A free online malware analysis tool, Metascan scans files using multiple analysis engines and provides a Java API. A password, obtained upon registration on the OPSWAT portal, is required. It allows for 1500 hash search requests and 25 file analysis requests per hour.
- Cuckoo: A free, open-source application automating dynamic malware analysis, Cuckoo acts as a sandbox that runs and analyzes files in real time. It comprises central software managing file execution and analysis within isolated virtual machines, with a host machine and multiple guest machines running files. The host manages the entire analysis process while safely delegating file execution to each guest.
- Fuzzy Hash: Hashing algorithms uniquely identify files, but malware creators can easily modify the source code to evade detection. Fuzzy hashing focuses on comparing the similarity between two files, allowing for the detection of software that may be a modification of another by comparing their fuzzy hashes.
The concept of cybersecurity has gained prominence in contemporary society alongside related terms such as cybercrime, cyberterrorism, and cyber defense. Broadly, cybersecurity involves safeguarding the availability, accessibility, authenticity, integrity, and confidentiality of data stored or transmitted through computer systems or web-based digital services from various forms of attack.
admin is a senior staff writer for Government Technology. She previously wrote for PYMNTS and The Bay State Banner, and holds a B.A. in creative writing from Carnegie Mellon. She’s based outside Boston.