Understanding the types of Cyber Criminals and their techniques can help protect your organization from a data breach. Here are some common threats and steps a business can take.

1. The Social Engineer

Cyber Criminals pretending to be someone else can trick unsuspecting employees to compromise data. In one scenario, a spoof email purporting to be from the CEO of the company directs an employee to send a PDF with employees’ 1099 tax forms for an upcoming meeting with the Internal Revenue Service. The social engineer is able to capture Personally Identifiable Information (PII).

“We often see people making mistakes like this,” said Jennifer Coughlin, a partner at Mullen Coughlin LLC, a data breach law firm that works with Travelers Insurance. “Encourage employees to make a phone call and speak to the person, instead of leaving a voicemail, to verify all requests for sensitive, confidential or protected information and financial information before they reply with the requested information. Employees should also ensure the ‘reply to’ address is, in fact, the email address of the requesting employee and send this type of information via an encrypted email message.” Beware time-sensitive requests, as social engineers sometimes use a sense of urgency to compel victims into unsafe behavior.

2. The Spear Phisher

Social threats factored into just under one-third of confirmed data breaches, with phishing the tactic used in 92% of social-related attacks.1 An email can appear to be from a legitimate sender but actually contain a malicious attachment or link that can give spear phishers access to banking credentials, trade secrets and other information that they are able to access.

“Companies can have employee training that both prepares and tests employees to recognize and respond to malicious phishing attempts,” said Tim Francis, Travelers Enterprise Cyber Lead. If a phishing attempt is successful, having the proper security in place provides another line of defense: protecting the rest of your network by segmenting the network and implementing strong authentication between the network and important data.

3. The Hacker

Nearly two-thirds of confirmed data breaches involved leveraging weak, default or stolen passwords.2 Malware poses a serious threat, as it can capture keystrokes from an infected device even if employees use strong passwords with special characters and a combination of uppercase and lowercase letters.

Still, strong passwords are the first line of defense against hackers, according to Francis. “Use multifactor authentication, enforce strong password requirements, patch operating systems, software and apps, and increase redundancy and bandwidth,” Francis said.

5 Types of Cyber Criminals: The Social Engineer, The Spear Phisher, The Hacker, The Rogue Employee, and the Ransom Artist

4. The Rogue Employee

Disgruntled employees present an insider threat to data. Insider threats accounted for 15% of breaches across all patterns,3 and they can be especially challenging for companies because employees often have both access to data and knowledge of what is stored and where.

Restricting access to sensitive data to only employees with an immediate need to use the data can help reduce the threat. Companies can limit, log and monitor internal account usage to protect against rogue employees, as well as protect against external attackers disguising themselves as legitimate users.

5. The Ransom Artist

Bad actors have been modifying codes and implementing new ransom attack methods, sparking a rise in ransomware as the fifth most common form of malware, up from the 22nd most common in the 2014 Verizon Data Breach Incident Report.4 Many companies are paying ransom, often via anonymous bitcoin payments, to have their data restored.

“The people who fall victim to ransomware are not following the information security rules, including encryption and frequent backups,” said Pascal Millaire, Vice President and General Manager of Cyber Insurance at Symantec. If you are able to independently restore the data, you will be less affected by the ransom attempt, but you will still need to determine how the cyber thief gained access to your network before making their ransom attempt.



Views expressed here do not constitute legal advice. The information contained herein is for general guidance of matters only and not to provide legal advice. Discussion of insurance policy language is descriptive only. Every policy has a different policy language. Coverage afforded under any insurance policy issued is subject to individual policy terms and conditions. Please refer to your policy for the actual language.