Identity risk takes centre stage

Cyber Resilience 16th May 2024

With over 69,000 cases of identity theft recently reported in the UK, identity risk and privilege escalation have emerged as some of the most serious cyber threats to pay attention to this year. 

These attacks can be detrimental to your organisation, allowing hackers to compromise access levels and confidential data to disrupt or halt operations, damage your reputation or hold your business to ransom.  

In this article, we will look at how identity risk has evolved and the identity risk management measures you can put in place to prevent attacks in 2024. 

Identity risk and privilege escalation

Identity risk refers to the possibility of a cybercriminal gaining unauthorised access or misusing sensitive data after compromising a legitimate user’s identity. Privilege escalation is a type of attack in which a cybercriminal tries to obtain unauthorised high-level access to a system. This type of attack typically begins with attackers exploiting vulnerabilities to gain access to a system with limited privileges. 

Both identity risk and privilege escalation pose a serious threat to the security and integrity of your business. Every business is vulnerable to unmanaged, misconfigured and exposed identity risks and managing and securing identities has grown hugely complex. Most businesses have invested in tools and multi-factor authentication (MFA) to protect privileged accounts, but the scale of identity risk remains.

The development of identity risk in 2024

Cybercriminals are no longer looking to steal random usernames and passwords; instead, they are targeting specific users with privileged-level access, system admin control, or access to sensitive or financial company data. 

A cyber-attack to obtain your identity and the level of access you have within your organisation may not end there. This identity information has the potential to sell for much more money on the dark web than a list of random usernames and passwords. 

We’ve also recently seen the use of AI in social engineering, where users are extorted for financial information and data by a cybercriminal who manipulates and exploits them by impersonating a celebrity with a ‘safe face.’ Two examples include the Martin Lewis ‘deepfake’ scam and cybercriminals using Zoe Ball’s likeness in an advertisement for cryptocurrency investments. 

How businesses can mitigate identity risk

Identity risk and privilege escalation are serious security threats that can compromise your business’s data and systems. To protect your business from these threats, you should consider implementing a comprehensive and proactive identity risk management process that includes the following:

  • Cyber awareness training – employees are often the weakest link in an organisation’s cyber defence. It’s critical to educate your users on the importance of security awareness and hygiene, the risks and consequences of sharing credentials, and what to look out for with phishing, malware, and social engineering attacks. By sending out regular training simulations and advice you can help to mitigate these risks. Read more about the importance of ensuring your employees are security aware here
  • Cyber Essentials Certification – This UK Government-backed scheme which is operated by the NCSC can ensure an organisation has the correct technical controls in place to reduce cyber risk. The Cyber Essentials certification will enhance your business defence, protecting your infrastructure from the most common cyber threats and demonstrating to your customers that you take cybersecurity seriously. 
  • IT support (MSP) –  investing in comprehensive IT solutions will help ensure you have the correct infrastructure and device management in place, implementing least-privilege and zero-trust principles. These practices limit the access and permissions of users and systems to a minimum required for their role and support your end users in helping to safeguard your data. 

By following these steps, you can reduce the likelihood and impact of identity risk and privilege escalation attacks, while also enhancing the security and resilience of your business.

We hope you have found this information useful and have gained an understanding of how to successfully implement an identity risk management plan. 

For more information on how Net Defence can support you with cyber security, get in touch with a member of our team today. 

Further reading:

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