Types of cyber security vulnerabilities

Ayush Saxena

Ayush Saxena

Jan 12, 2024

Types of cyber security vulnerabilities

With $4.35 million as the average cost of data breaches in 2022, data breaches are on the rise with each passing day.  

The ever-changing threat landscape is making it challenging for businesses to secure sensitive information. The repercussions of a breach incident are severe and can often suspend business operations.  

Hackers constantly look for exploitable vulnerabilities and anomalies to break security networks and gain unauthorized access. Understanding and assessing vulnerabilities in your organization is the first step you take when setting up your cybersecurity strategy. 

A robust security framework is based on effective vulnerability management to prevent as well as mitigate the effects of data breaches. Let us look at them in more detail.

What are cyber security vulnerabilities?

A cyber security vulnerability is a weakness in an organization’s infrastructure (internal controls, information systems, or system procedures). These points of weakness are targeted and exploited to gain unauthorized access to their critical systems.

Vulnerabilities are not inherently dangerous until a hacker tries to take advantage of the same. Vulnerabilities serve as attack paths for nefarious actors, which can lead to the compromise of entire security systems and result in data breaches. 

Vulnerabilities for different operating systems, applications, and software are released periodically by Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) and assigned a Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) score to reflect the potential risk. Hackers tend to use this publicly available information or methods such as weak passwords, missing encryption, or misconfigurations to exploit weaknesses in the system. It should be the top priority for organizations to identify and address these flaws in systems.

Also check: 15 Best Cybersecurity tools in 2024

How are cybersecurity vulnerabilities formed?

Cyber security vulnerabilities form when misconfigurations lead to bugs, weak passwords, and poor data encryption practices are some of the most common vulnerabilities sources. The volume of vulnerabilities are not limited to specific practices and can be attributed to the size and complexity of the organization as well as the employees within the company.

Some of the causes of cyber security vulnerabilities are:

Complex business environments

Every application, system, or software comes with its own set of vulnerabilities. The more components there are in an organization’s infrastructure, the higher the chances of weaknesses. IT and security teams might not be able to keep pace with every infrastructure component, thus creating a wider attack surface.

The vulnerability blackbook

Common Vulnerabilities and Exposures (CVE) are databases where vendors for operating systems, applications, and systems publicly declare vulnerabilities. Hackers make use of these weaknesses, which might be otherwise unknown to the organization.

Accessibility when done wrong can become the attack source

While cloud connectivity and remote access to data have their advantages, they can create points of weakness in the organization’s cybersecurity posture. Every endpoint device(especially in the case of personal devices) can be exploited. Oftentimes, these devices are not adequately secured and may use unsecured networks such as local WiFi to access sensitive data.

Poor Password Management

Human error is one of the most common causes of data breaches. Employees often use weak passwords or the same password across multiple applications. Hackers employ sophisticated tools to guess user passwords and gain access.

Operating System Flaws

Operating system vendors often release patches and updates to address evolving cyber threats. Failure to update operating systems or misconfigurations can lead to vulnerabilities, creating an attack path for hackers.

Software Bugs

At times, developers may overlook certain blocks in the source code during development. These could include unsecured APIs with a public IP, old malware, misconfigured firewalls, or the absence of data sanitization and encryption measures during the development stage.

Unchecked User Input

SQL injection is another popular technique employed by hackers where a SQL query is inserted or “injected” via the input data from the user, without their knowledge, to the application, which is otherwise presumed secure by the software or website.

People

Using social engineering attacks hackers impersonate key stakeholders(leadership roles) of a business and convince its employees to share access to sensitive data. In this model, the employee(s) and the lack of training to deal with phishing and spear-phishing leads to vulnerabilities in the network. 

Malicious actors еxploit softwarе vulnеrabilitiеs, unpatchеd vulnеrabilitiеs, and cybеr vulnеrabilitiеs to carry out ransomwarе attacks, malwarе attacks, cybеr thrеats, zеro-day attacks, and nеtwork attacks. Organizations must implement security policies, deploy security patches, conduct penetration testing, employ antivirus software, and address common vulnerabilities to address these challenges.

Prevent breaches, address vulnerabilities now

What are the different types of cyber security vulnerabilities?

Cybersecurity vulnerabilities fall under the purview of the organization and not the cybersecurity criminals who just exploit the existing weaknesses. Organizations can proactively address these vulnerabilities to minimize the probability of data breaches. Understanding different types of cybersecurity vulnerabilities is imperative when reviewing your organization’s cybersecurity posture and approach.

Here are the most common types of cybersecurity vulnerabilities and ways to address them:

Misconfigurations

Many application security tools require manual configuration. This can lead to errors, and IT security might miss periodically updating the configurations as per the changing security landscape. These misconfigurations, in turn, create opportunities for hackers to breach cloud and app security.

Prevention: Organizations must look for security tools and technologies with options to automate the configuration process, thus minimizing the element of human error while setting up the IT environment.

Unsecured APIs

Application programming interfaces or APIs allow an application or any of its components to communicate over the internet or via a private network. APIs are an easy target for hackers as they have a public IP address. Unsecured APIs are often exploited by hackers to gain access to an organization’s data and resources. 

Human error is another critical element when it comes to misconfiguration of APIs. IT teams may follow standard cybersecurity procedures and overlook the unique security risk posed by an asset.

Prevention: IT security teams must be trained on best security practices in tune with cloud security and keeping up with the latest cybersecurity threat landscape. Encryption, IT hygiene during development, and key rotation are some of the aspects the training program should touch upon.

Outdated or Unpatched Software

With the ever-changing cybersecurity landscape, software vendors release new features, product updates, and patches to address the latest threats. Sometimes the IT security staff is unable to stay current with security patches, leaving systems that are out-of-date or unpatched vulnerable. Hackers exploit these weaknesses, leading to compromise of the organization’s security.

The hackers can exploit even a single weakness in outdated systems, leading to malware, ransomware, and a host of other possibilities, which may compromise the entire organization’s security. 

Prevention: The organization should take up the responsibility of ensuring that all systems are up to date. With multiple tools and systems employed by the organization and updates being released almost on a day-to-day basis, IT teams may find themselves overburdened, thus failing to keep up with all the updates. Leveraging automation tools and prioritizing software updates and patching can help address this issue.

Zero-day Vulnerabilities

A zero-day vulnerability is a flaw or weakness unknown to an enterprise or software vendor but which has been discovered by a threat actor. Since the vulnerability is previously unknown to organizations until exploited, the term ‘zero-days’ implies organizations have literally had 0 days to rectify the issue. Zero-day vulnerabilities are extremely dangerous as they can be difficult to identify.

Prevention: A coordinated defense plan must be established that takes into account both the prevention technology as well as a disaster recovery plan to effectively identify and mitigate zero-day vulnerabilities. Organizations should also focus on securing all their endpoints with endpoint security solutions that offer a mix of endpoint detection and response (EDR), next-gen anti-virus (NGAV), and threat intelligence.

Weak or Stolen User Credentials

Human error is attributed to most of the data breaches. Despite organizations placing stringent security measures and controls, something as simple as a weak password could be exploited by hackers to gain access. Also, a lot of users have the same passwords across multiple accounts, which creates another potential avenue for hackers.

Hackers employ brute force methods, where a systematic approach is taken towards trying to guess as many usernames and passwords as possible. Weak credentials are often hacked faster and allow hackers to enter the system masquerading as legitimate users. The hackers exploit these opportunities to gain access to sensitive information, install backdoors, engineer social attacks, and create the right circumstances for future attacks.

Prevention: Organizations should enforce and verify if strong password practices are being adopted by the employees. Passwords should be strong, unique, and changed frequently. An environment can be secured by adding additional security layers, like multi-factor authentication, in addition to passwords. In order to verify their identity, users using multi-factor authentication must carry out additional steps, such as providing a fingerprint scan or a one-time security token, in addition to entering their passwords.

Access Control or Unauthorized Access

Employees often have more access to resources than required for their job function. Organizations often fail to monitor who has access to what. This creates a wider attack surface for both internal and external threat agents.

Prevention: Organizations need to adopt the principle of least privilege (POLP), a security concept where user access is limited to what is needed for their job function. POLP helps secure sensitive data and systems by ensuring only authorized personnel have access to them. POLP is a widely recognized industry practice for strengthening cybersecurity posture and allows organizations to monitor and manage data and network access.

Control who has access to what with Sprinto’s access control capabilities.

Get in touch with us to learn more

Misunderstanding the “Shared Responsibility Model” (or Runtime Threats)

Organizations often employ cloud infrastructure for their day-to-day functions. The “shared responsibility model” applies to cloud infrastructure, wherein both the client and the cloud service provider are both responsible for the data’s security.

Companies often mistake that the cloud providers shoulder the entire responsibility of cloud security. The organization is accountable for its data and applications, whereas the cloud service provider is responsible for the infrastructure. Organizations unintentionally run their applications on public clouds and place inadequate security controls that enable hackers to enter the system.

Prevention: Organizations using cloud infrastructure must consider the risks associated with cloud security. Their cybersecurity strategy should account for cloud-based vulnerabilities and threats and go beyond traditional security measures.

How to control cyber security vulnerabilities?

With the various kinds of cybersecurity flaws, we must develop a well-thought-out plan to address these security gaps. The plan should establish comprehensive security measures for all systems, networks, and endpoint devices.

Here are some ways to control cybersecurity vulnerabilities:

Vulnerability Scanning

Organizations can employ vulnerability scanning tools to identify and mitigate vulnerabilities. These tools help continuously monitor the entire organization’s infrastructure and provide deep insights as well as recommendations to help address the security gaps. 

Effectively identify and address vulnerabilities with Sprinto’s vulnerability management system. Get in touch to learn more.

Access Control

At times employees have unrestricted access to an organization’s sensitive data. This level of access is sometimes not required for the employee’s responsibilities. This could lead to data leakage, intentionally or unintentionally. This level of access is often a human error. This error percentage can be minimized significantly by implementing an access control protocol that is inspired by the principle of least privilege (POLP)

Validate User Input 

Hackers often take advantage of poor input validation through SQL injection attacks. In such cases, the application treats the input as secure, whereas it may be embedded with malware. Organizations should take steps to validate input data before moving it to the processing stage.

Automate Security Monitoring 

Conducting security monitoring manually comes with its own inherent risks and may not always yield the most accurate results. Organizations should make use of security automation tools to get real-time insights into their organization’s cybersecurity posture and address gaps as soon as they are identified.

Monitor your organization at scale and at the entity level with Sprinto’s continuous monitoring capabilities. Get in touch to learn more.

Deploy Security Solutions

Organizations should adopt comprehensive cybersecurity solutions that offer endpoint protection, firewalls, vulnerability, and incident management capabilities to achieve an integrated security architecture.

Get comprehensive security with Sprinto

Understanding and identifying vulnerabilities is the first step towards building a robust cybersecurity system. But a lot more goes into securing your organization’s infrastructure and networks. From continuous monitoring of the entire infrastructure to incident management as well as disaster recovery, an organization must be prepared for everything.

Don’t worry; we are here to help!

Sprinto is a comprehensive security and compliance automation software that runs fully automated checks, consolidates risk, and maps entity-level controls. A user-friendly yet powerful software, it seamlessly integrates with any cloud setup to monitor your cybersecurity posture, get compliant across frameworks, and place security controls across your organization– all in real-time, all from a single dashboard.

FAQs

What is the biggest security vulnerability?

Employees constitute the biggest security vulnerability to any organization, as most data breaches can be traced back to an employee. Employees may accidentally or intentionally leak company data. For instance, being targeted by social engineering attacks is intentional, whereas abusing access rights for sharing sensitive data is intentional.

What are the 4 major types of security vulnerability?

The 4 main types of vulnerabilities in information security are

  • Process (or procedural) vulnerabilities
  • Operating system vulnerabilities
  • Network vulnerabilities
  • Human vulnerabilities

What is the difference between vulnerability and cyber attack?

A vulnerability is a weakness or flaw in a system that hackers can exploit to launch a cyber attack. Cyberattacks can take any form, such as malware, malware, or viruses intended to steal confidential information, and can also occur when a vulnerability is exploited

What is the difference between vulnerability and exposure in cyber security?

A vulnerability is a software coding error in information security that can be exploited by hackers to carry out unauthorized activities acting as authorized users, whereas exposure is a software error that enables threat actors to break into a system.

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Ayush Saxena

Ayush Saxena

Ayush Saxena is a senior security and compliance writer. Ayush is fascinated by the world of hacking and cybersecurity. He specializes in curating the latest trends and emerging technologies in cybersecurity to provide relevant and actionable insights. You can find him hiking, travelling or listening to music in his free time.

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