WARNING from Government Of Canada: Cyber Criminals Targeting Vulnerable Networks
The Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity released an alert about an increase in cyber attacks on vulnerable organizational networks in Canada. Here’s everything you need to know about the attacks and how to keep your network secure.
Cyber Attacks on Canadian Networks Are on The Rise – Here’s How to Combat the Risk
Last year, The Government of Canada released an important alert via The Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity (Cyber Centre). This cybersecurity alert was a warning for IT professionals and organizational leaders of all shapes and sizes. The Cyber Centre reported an increase in recent and continuing attacks on vulnerable organizational networks in Canada.
As a result of these increased network exploitations, The Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity is urging all organizations to take the reasonable measures necessary to patch existing vulnerabilities and implement additional layers of security. Doing so will help organizations ensure that they have done everything possible to protect themselves from these increasingly common attacks on critical network infrastructure.
As a team of cybersecurity professionals, we stay constantly up-to-date on these warnings from the Government of Canada and we take them very seriously. Why? Because The Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity shares our mission and purpose. This mission is to enrich the cybersecurity efforts of all Canadian organizations through a commitment to proactive educational awareness and strategic risk prevention.
However, we realize that many organizational leaders are busy and thus aren’t necessarily staying up-to-date with these updates in the same way that we are. Further, we understand that some of the language used by The Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity can be difficult to understand in clear terms. How are organizational leaders supposed to implement the strategies laid out by the Government if they’re too focused on trying to decipher all the jargon?
That’s why our team of IT professionals is committed to joining the Cyber Centre in its mission to educate all Canadians about important cybersecurity incidents and warnings. However, our goal is to translate the warnings from the Government of Canada into more digestible language so that your organization can easily identify threats and implement actionable tools that will patch vulnerabilities and better secure your critical network resources. We breakdown everything you need to know below.
First Things First: What Is The Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity (Cyber Centre)
Before we dive a bit deeper into the government-issued alert about vulnerable Canadian networks being exploited, let’s briefly explore what The Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity (Cyber Centre) is, how it was founded, and what its mission is all about. By coming to understand more of what the Cyber Centre is trying to do, your organization will be better positioned to keep a finger on the pulse of their updates and alerts.
What Is The Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity?
The Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity is the central hub for cybersecurity expertise, guidance, services, strategies, and support regarding cybersecurity in Canada. The Cyber Centre was created by uniting existing cybersecurity expertise programs from Public Safety Canada, Shared Services Canada, and the Communications Security Establishment to create a high-functioning and responsive central cybersecurity authority for all Canadians.
The Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity is built upon 70 years of experience and expertise in the cybersecurity game. Their team is made up of professional hackers, builders, creators, developers, researchers, and cyber-scientists. This team is committed to creating a safer online environment in Canada by providing critical insights and guidance to Canadian individuals and organizations in all fields.
What Is the Cyber Centre’s Mission?
The Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity is tasked with creating collaborative partnerships with government agencies, the private sector, academic institutions, and the general Canadian public to protect and defend cyber assets across the country. Overall, the Centre’s mission is to keep Canadian individuals and organizations informed and empowered in a way that helps all partners better understand, respond to, and mitigate cyber-attacks.
Above all, The Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity is committed to going above and beyond to strategically solve some of the country’s most complex cyber issues. They do so by investing in the very best cybersecurity professionals the country has to offer, insisting on a teamwork approach, and creating targeted projects that help to inform and protect Canadians while developing and sharing cutting-edge cybersecurity strategies and solutions.
What is A Cyber Centre Alert and Why Does It Matter?
An alert issued by The Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity is used to increase awareness of recently identified cyber threats. These are threats that have the capacity to impact the data and network assets of Canadian organizations or individuals. The entire goal of issuing an alert is to provide the information necessary for the efficient detection and mitigation of these existing cyber threats.
In its history, The Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity has issued countless alerts and advisories that are designed to identify significant risks and vulnerabilities that could result in organizational networks being targeted and exploited by cybercriminals.
Staying on top of the alerts issued by the Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity is critical because it will help your organization stay a step ahead of existing threats. It might sound cliche, but information truly is power. The more you know about the threats you’re up against, the better chance you have of eliminating key risk factors.
Recent Alert From the Cyber Centre: Canadian Computer Networks Increasingly Compromised
Now that we’ve gone over the basics about The Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity, let’s dive into the alert they issued last year regarding the increased exploitation of organizational networks in Canada. The alert explained that in recent months, the Cyber Centre had recorded exploitation attacks on several Canadian computer networks. Most important to note, however, is that the attacks largely targeted vulnerable and less-secure remote access network infrastructures.
Last year saw a huge surge of organizations make the transition to remote working arrangements. While the option to keep business moving remotely has been incredibly convenient, there has been a significantly increased risk of cyber-attacks because of increased business traffic online. In the hustle and bustle of this unexpected transition, many organizations likely failed to implement sufficient security measures, and cybercriminals we’re waiting in the wings to take advantage of these more vulnerable network conditions.
How Cybercriminals Think: Targeting & Attacking Vulnerable Networks
The attacks on Canadian networks were all reported to the Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity in June and July of 2020. In all of the cases recorded by the Cyber Centre, a cybercriminal was able to exploit networks because they were not properly secured using 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) technology or because organizational software running on an exposed server had not been updated and patched to the most recent version.
Cybercriminals worked tirelessly to target vulnerable networks and determine the best points of access to exploit them. Once they were able to gain unauthorized access to improperly secured networks, these cybercriminals did as much damage as possible by installing malware, attempting to exploit additional networks and organizations, and remaining active on compromised networks for months before any malicious activities were detected and reported to the Cyber Centre.
While the majority of targets consisted of vulnerable organizational networks, it’s important to note that non-vulnerable and more highly secured networks can still be subject to attack. Cybercriminals are getting savvier by the day and are constantly looking for new and easy ways to exploit networks of all shapes and sizes.
Even if your organization has multiple layers of cybersecurity resources in place, a cybercriminal could still gain unauthorized access to your network by getting their hands on valid access credentials – even if those access credentials only provide limited system privileges. That’s why, no matter what cybersecurity looks like at your organization, it’s always a good idea to review the strategies and advice offered by the Cyber Centre in the wake of these attacks.
Combatting Cyber-Attacks: Strategies For Keeping Your Network Sufficiently Secured
Don’t worry. The Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity isn’t just focused on telling you about all the scary risks you’re up against. The more central part of their mandate is to help empower your organization by providing actionable strategies to mitigate risks and keep your network and data secured.
In light of the increase in attacks, the Cyber Centre urges all Canadian organizations to assess and update their cybersecurity efforts using a risk-informed approach. Should organizations choose to ignore these warnings and not heed the advice offered, their networks will remain exposed and they are leaving their organizations open to information theft, ransomware attacks, and major threats to their continued operation.
Here are some key risk-informed strategies that Canadian organizations can implement to stay a step ahead of cybercriminals:
- Conduct thorough and detailed assessments of organizational networks. The goal here is to identify hardware, software, and network vulnerabilities – especially at points of access where internet exposure is the highest. Once vulnerabilities have been detected, be sure to conduct all necessary updates and implement all necessary patches immediately.
- Implement 2-Factor Authentication (2FA) technology on all remote access services. 2FA technology adds an additional layer of security by requiring users to provide not one, but two means of legitimation before accessing network resources.
This means users would be required to enter their regular username and password, but would also be required to verify their identity with a second means of authentication including an alternate contact method, a designated security question, or even biometric data like fingerprint-or-face-scanning technology.
Above all, 2FA technology should be implemented on all security devices like Firewalls and remote access gateways for teleworkers and administrators. However, while you’re at it, it’s a great idea to implement 2FA technology on all user accounts and any point of access for your network.
- Implement cybersecurity strategies that are designed to limit the amount of sensitive information that cybercriminals can target and exploit. Some ways to do this include:
- Implementing a strategic and reliable intrusion protection system that reduces the effectiveness of malicious scanning activities that seek out vulnerable networks.
- Deploying open-source tools to automate the assessment of networks and more efficiently identify unnecessary or inadequately secured points of access.
- Ensuring internet-facing web servers produce limited error pages that do not release any hardware, or software version information.
Communication & Consultation: Final Strategies for Staying Protected
We hope we’ve laid out the information provided by the Canadian Centre for Cybersecurity in a way that helps you understand the importance of their alerts. In addition to the strategies outlined by the Cyber Centre, our team of IT professionals has three final strategies that will help your organization remain strategically secured.
- Talk to your team – The more you talk openly with your team about existing cyber threats and reported attacks, the better chance you’ll have at engaging all lines of defence. Encourage your team to be vigilant and institute an open-door policy where team members can come to you with questions and concerns about cybersecurity or reports of suspicious activity.
- Stay informed & up-to-date – The only way to keep your team informed and stay a step ahead of existing threats is to know what you’re up against. Stay up-to-date on the alerts issued by the Cyber Centre and take their cybersecurity advice seriously. The more you know and the more you act on what you know, the better chances you’ll have of avoiding network exploitation.
- Call in a team of IT professionals for a consultation – We understand that organizational leaders don’t have the time or desire to become state-of-the-art cybersecurity professionals. You want to remain focused on your own business, and we commend you for it. That’s why, above all, we recommend calling a team of IT professionals to help you assess and protect your network. The right team of cybersecurity experts will be able to efficiently identify vulnerabilities and get them patched in no time. When in doubt, call in the pros.
Ready to get serious about cybersecurity? We have the experience and resources to help. Give us a call anytime at (613) 634-8125, or visit our website at www.onserve.ca to chat with a live agent and book a cybersecurity consultation.