Is malicious automation really a threat?

Florida International University - international

Automation is a common business tool used to make systems and processes more efficient for various industries, from financial services to manufacturing. Companies can automate tasks such as data entry, customer service, and forecasting, increasing productivity and reducing overheads.

The cybersecurity industry is also using automation tools in a bid to increase protection against malicious attacks. Cybercriminals have increased their use of automation to scale up malicious campaigns and generate more rapid and efficient attacks.

It’s common for cybercriminals to go after small to medium sized businesses, as they tend to have less robust cybersecurity systems in place compared to larger corporations. Regardless, malicious attacks cost businesses around the world trillions in lost revenue, regulatory fines, and decreased customer trust.

Malicious actors and automation

Automation has become a part of our everyday life – from the robot vacuum cleaner at home to the coffee machine at work. We know automated tools are designed to do a job normally performed by humans and for the most part, we don’t think too much about them.

In business, automation is technology that is used to improve efficiency and productivity and can be applied to protect sensitive data from being hacked. Technology such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning automate data mining and processing, to predict events and launch programmed actions as prompted.

The cybersecurity industry relies on automation tools to collect data and process it rapidly, with the goal of preventing cyberattacks. However, this type of automated decision-making is helping cybercriminals to expand the scope and success of their attacks.

In the past, cyberattacks moved at human pace, moving through each step manually. This allowed security teams time to get in front of attacks before major damage was done. Today, malicious actors are applying automation tools to create sophisticated and rapid attacks at machine speeds. With the use of AI, they can rapidly detect multiple vulnerabilities simultaneously which can be exploited with less chance of being stopped or caught.

Types of malicious automation

The most common type of cyberattacks are malware (malicious software), which are programs that are designed to infiltrate devices or programs and steal or access data.

A common example is ransomware, when data is stolen and a ransom is demanded by the cybercriminal, or the information is released onto the dark web. Phishing can be automated, allowing attackers to send millions of messages that appear legitimate to an organisation, hoping to access personal or financial information.

Denial of service attacks are automated to enable many thousands of internet-connected devices to target a server to shut down or disable it, making it inaccessible for users. In 2020, more than more than 10 million (DDoS) attacks were recorded in a single year.

Bad bots, which are internet-connected computers and devices controlled remotely by malicious actors, are automated attacks used to take part in click-fraud campaigns, send email spam, or generate malicious traffic in DDos attacks.

Automated attacks can also be credential stuffing, where multiple automated login requests are made to gain usernames, passwords and email addresses for web applications. Trojans, such as financial or banking Trojans, are used to pose as legitimate programs and steal funds from bank accounts.

What to do about malicious automation?

Automated defense technology, such as security orchestration automation and response (SOAR) is being hailed as the answer to preventing automated threats from being successful. Automated security tools can collect vast amounts of threat intelligence data much faster and more accurately than humans, increasing the visibility of potential and imminent threats.

However, an automated security system should be properly integrated and managed alongside other security measures. Businesses today are shifting to cloud computing, on-site and remote working models. The scope and complexity of organisations can be outside the ability of in-house security teams to protect, requiring cybersecurity expert planning, overview and ongoing management.

Managed security service providers can take on the responsibility of overseeing the design, implementation and management of security solutions. For robust security strategies and protection for your business against malicious automated attacks, talk to the security experts at Lindentech.