Malicious actors and automation: what’s the connection?

Cyber criminals are turning towards automation to scale up their malicious operations more and more. According to a recent study, malicious automated bots are costing US businesses an estimated 3.6% of their annual revenue. This equates to about $250 million per year for 25% of the businesses surveyed.

You need to constantly be on your toes to keep up with the rapidly changing landscape of malicious actors who are using automation in their attack chains to reach a greater number of potential victims. It is becoming ever more apparent in this digital age that businesses need to look at efficient and effective tools to protect their networks and data.

Automation benefits the cybersecurity industry as much as it does cyber criminals, when implemented correctly. It can be a proactive and powerful barrier against ever-increasing, sophisticated cyber threats targeting valuable data.

What is automation?

Automation refers to software and systems created to replace repetitive processes and simple tasks and reduce manual intervention. The goal is to minimize human input and streamline activities and functions.

Within cybersecurity, automation is a tool that can be used to accurately predict behaviors and execute actions to protect against malicious threats. If implemented and used correctly, automation can help prevent cyberattacks from breaching networks and stealing sensitive information.

How are malicious actors utilizing automation?

Malicious actors are automating cyberattack processes for the same reason the cybersecurity industry does: it’s quicker and more efficient. Automation deploys tools to the target and gets data and sensitive information back automatically.

Active cyberattack campaigns now generally use some level of automation. It is an incredibly effective tool for conducting malicious activity, and as a result, operations have scaled up.

Tools that malicious actors use automation for:

  • Keyloggers: preconfigured tools that are used to steal logins or monitor activity by an infected user to steal data.
  • Phishing: automated software that creates emails and sends out viral scams to many potential victims.
  • Sniffers/card skimming: malware designed to steal credit card data from online store checkouts.
  • Brute forcing: an automated system that logs into accounts multiple times very quickly until it finds a set of credentials that work.
  • Banking injects: typically bundled with banking Trojans that inject code into processes to redirect users from legitimate banking sites to fake ones to steal their details.
  • Exploit kits: automates the exploitation browser vulnerabilities to deliver other forms of malware.

Malicious automation comes in many different forms. Cyber criminals can easily build tools or online bots that can learn the flow of an application or browser in the same way cybersecurity builds tools to monitor those same automation applications for suspicious patterns or behaviors.

Data breaches are one of the most common results of actors using automation. The actors use automation tools to pick out information from a database like email addresses and passwords to sell or ransom – rather than selling all the contents of the database.

Fighting fire with fire

To successfully defend your business’s networks against automated malicious cyberattacks, you should look at incorporating automation into your cybersecurity.

Potential cybersecurity threats can be identified with automation, which significantly frees up time. Automated data collection and processing is rapidly gaining momentum in the cybersecurity industry, thanks to its use in protecting against data breaches and cyberattacks. Some of its uses are:

  • Data aggregation: compiling large amounts of data and presenting it in a comprehensive summary.
  • Validation alert: warnings that alert the user about possible problems or dangers if they proceed with an application or site.
  • Evidence collection: information derived from digital devices following a successful or attempted cybercrime, to help in forensic investigations.

Constant monitoring and ongoing maintenance of networks will level the playing field by reducing threats and enabling faster protection. It also helps security teams respond to threat alerts faster, further negating the damage cyberattackers can cause.

When used by cybersecurity experts – like managed service providers or security vendors – automation also provides real-time 24/7 monitoring and analysis. This constant vigilance is a strong tool for the prevention against cyberattacks.

IT cybersecurity experts generally utilize automation tools within IT infrastructure and networks for tasks such as:

  • Automating updates
  • Managing logs
  • Containing endpoint threats
  • Scanning for systems vulnerabilities
  • Security policy enforcement

Automation is a powerful tool in the war against cyberattackers when implemented and utilized by security experts. If your organization is struggling to keep its network endpoints secure or dangerous emails out of your system, talk to the cybersecurity specialists at Merit Technologies about how their advanced security monitoring and incident response can help you prevent a data breach.

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