Eavesdropping attacks are possible if a connection between two endpoints (think a client and server) is weak or not secure.
Fremont, CA: When cybercriminals or attackers listen to network traffic traveling over computers, servers, mobile devices and Internet of Things (IoT) devices, Eavesdropping attacks happen.
Network eavesdropping, also called network snooping or sniffing, happens when malicious actors exploit insecure or vulnerable networks to read or steal data as it travels between two devices. Eavesdropping is most general for wireless communication.
A detailed look at eavesdropping attacks and how to guard against them.
How do eavesdropping attacks work?
Eavesdropping attacks are possible if a connection between two endpoints (think a client and server) is weak or not secure. For example, insecure network connections exist when encryption isn't used, when applications or devices aren't up to date or when malware is present.
Data packets traveling across the network could be intercepted with an insecure network connection—typically a Wi-Fi hotspot or websites not running the HTTPS protocol. That data might be your web, email, messaging traffic, or confidential corporate data.
But how do hackers "sniff" this data? Many legitimate sniffer programs were developed for network monitoring and vulnerability management and employed by security teams. But, of course, these applications can also be exploited for wicked purposes by cybercriminals.
Sophisticated attackers employ social engineering methods like phishing to install malware and sniff programs onto victims' networks.
Understanding the risks
Eavesdropping attacks aim to steal confidential and valuable data by peeking at insecure or unencrypted traffic.
For attackers, the possible bounty from an eavesdropping attack can be considerable. Anything from credit card information to PII(personally identifiable information), customer or employee passwords, and intellectual property are up for grabs. In addition, with the rise of IoT, more devices are on business networks than ever before.
How to protect your company?
Detecting eavesdropping attacks is hard. A proactive approach is hence critical for eavesdropping attack prevention.
The most general form of protection against eavesdropping is a virtual private network (VPN), which encrypts data between two points. Using the highest form of encryption possible for corporate wireless networks and utilizing HTTPS for all web-based communication is recommended.
According to the 2021 Data Breach Investigations Report, organizations that neglected to implement multi-factor authentication and virtual private networks (VPN) represented a substantial percentage of victims targeted during the pandemic.
For many companies, VPN and HTTPS are the minimum standards. However, to better protect against eavesdropping (and many other attacks, for that matter), your organization must consider the following additional cyber security best practices.
• Authentication. Ensure your IT or security teams use some form of authentication for incoming network packets. Standards and cryptographic protocols include S/MIME (Secure/Multipurpose Internet Mail Extensions), TLS (Transport Layer Security), IPsec (Internet Protocol Security) and OpenPGP.
• Network monitoring. Monitoring your networks for abnormal activity or traffic is an essential cyber security best practice. Deploying intrusion identification systems and endpoint detection and response solutions can streamline this process. Security teams may also want to employ the same eavesdropping software as attackers to detect vulnerabilities.
• Cyber security awareness. Many eavesdropping attacks are launched because an employee clicks on a link in an email. That link installed the malware, which made it all possible. Training employees about the risks of phishing and how to avoid becoming a victim is crucial.
• Network segmentation. This process partitions the network into separate segments so traffic cannot flow from one segment to the next. For example, computers connecting to a network containing critical data will be unreachable to people or computers connected to a network with general office documents or other data. If one network segment is compromised, the hacker won't be able to infiltrate into others.
Fostering a cyber security culture with a robust and engaging training program may be the best form of prevention. Make sure your program encourages strong password use, defeats phishing and discourages the use of public Wi-Fi networks without a proven VPN solution.
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