Posted by Tyler Chancey, GCFA on

Tyler Chancey is a seasoned cybersecurity professional currently serving as the Director of Cyber Security at Scarlett Cybersecurity Services, With a solid foundation in Computer Software Engineering from the University of Florida, Tyler holds a repertoire of certifications that underscore his expertise. These include the prestigious Microsoft 365 Certified: Enterprise Administrator Expert and Microsoft 365 Certified: Security Administrator Associate, showcasing his mastery in Microsoft's enterprise solutions. Tyler's commitment to comprehensive security is further evidenced by his CompTIA Security+ certification, demonstrating proficiency in core cybersecurity principles. Additionally, his GIAC Certified Forensic Analyst (GCFA) credential attests to his advanced skills in forensic analysis—an invaluable asset in today's complex cybersecurity landscape. Tyler's dedication to staying at the forefront of industry standards is evident in the active pursuit and maintenance of these certifications, making him a trusted authority in the field.

Post-Inoculation Attack

Assuming you are here reading this guide, your organization must have been hit by a cyber attack right after you thought you had it under control. Such an attack is known as a Post-Inoculation attack.

So what is a Post-Inoculation Attack? Simply put, a Post-Inoculation Attack is a cyber security attack that occurs after your organization has completed a series of security measures and protocols to remediate a previous attack. It occurs when the attacker finds a way to bypass your security protections and exploit vulnerabilities that were not identified or addressed during the initial remediation process.

The term "inoculate" means treating an infected system or a body. So, a post-inoculation attack happens on a system that is in a recovering state or has already been deemed "fixed".

The consequences of cyber attacks go far beyond financial loss. Statistics show that 57 percent of organizations worldwide experienced phishing attacks in 2020. Data security experts say cybercriminals use social engineering techniques in 99.8% of their attempts. According to the FBI 2021 Internet crime report, over 550,000 cases of such fraud were identified, resulting in more than $6.9 million in losses.

In this guide, we will learn all about post-inoculation attacks, and why they occur. How to recover from them, and what you can do to avoid them.

Why Post-Inoculation Attacks Occur and How to Prevent Them?

Post-Inoculation Attacks  occurs on previously infected or recovering system. So, obviously, there are major issues at the organization’s end. They lack the resources and knowledge about cybersecurity issues. They don’t go towards recovery immediately or they are unfamiliar with how to respond to a cyber attack. Let’s see why a post-inoculation attack occurs.

Determine What Was Lost

It is the most important step and yet the most overlooked as well. If your company has been the target of a cyber-attack, you need to figure out exactly what information was taken. Sometimes this is due to simple laziness, and other times it's because businesses don't want to confront reality. 

The information that has been stolen immediately affects what you should do next. That’s why if your organization tends to be less active in this regard, there’s a great chance of a post-inoculation attack occurring.

Replace The Old With The New

During the post-inoculation, if the organizations and businesses tend to stay with the old piece of tech, they will lack defense depth. It is necessary that every old piece of security technology is replaced by new tools and technology. Your organization should automate every process and use high-end preventive tools with top-notch detective capabilities.

Use All Resources to Find the Virus

If your system is in a post-inoculation state, it’s the most vulnerable at that time. Being lazy at this point will allow the hackers to attack again. This is one of the very common reasons why such an attack occurs. Organizations should stop everything and use all their resources to find the cause of the virus. 

The stats above mentioned that phishing is one of the very common reasons for cyberattacks. So your organization should scour every computer and the internet should be shut off to ensure that viruses don’t spread. This will also stop the chance of a post-inoculation attack.

Only a few percent of the victims notify management about malicious emails. By the time they do, significant damage has frequently been done to the system. Providing victims with the confidence to come forward will prevent further cyberattacks. You would like things to be addressed quickly to prevent things from worsening.

Invest in Proper Software

No matter what you do to prevent a cyber crime, there’s always a chance for it if you are not equipped with the proper set of tools. Assuming an employee puts malware into the network, now taking precautions to stop its spread in the event that the organizations do are the first stages in preparing for an attack.

Employee error is extremely difficult to prevent, so businesses require proper security tools to stop ransomware and spyware from spreading when it occurs. 

Make the Most of The Backups

Organizations and businesses featuring no backup routine are likely to get hit by an attack in their vulnerable state. So, as part of your recovery readiness strategy and ransomware recovery procedures, it is crucial to keep a persistent copy of the data in other places. 

Businesses that simply use snapshots as backup are more vulnerable. The source is corrupted when the snapshot or other instance is replicated since it comes after the replication. It is essential to have a protected copy of the data from earlier recovery points. Ensure your data has regular backups. You don't want to scramble around trying to get back up and running after a successful attack.

Another choice is to use a cloud library as external storage. It would need more skill to get your cloud user credentials because the local administrator operating system account cannot see the cloud backup. 

Stop the Spread of Virus

After a cyber attack, if there’s no procedure to stop the attack, it’ll keep on getting worse and spreading throughout your network. This will make your system vulnerable to another attack before you get a chance to recover from the first one. 

After the cyberattack, some actions must be taken. The first step is to turn off the internet, disable remote access, modify the firewall settings, and update the user passwords for the compromised machine or account in order to potentially thwart further attempts.

It's crucial to monitor the damaged system and make sure the virus doesn't progress further. Inform all of your employees and clients about the attack as soon as it reaches the commercial level, and assist them in taking the required precautions to protect themselves from the cyberattack. 

By reporting the incident to your cybersecurity providers and cybercrime departments, you can take action against it.

Make Passwords Secure and Enable Multi-Factor Authentication

A hacker tries 2.18 trillion password/username combinations in 22 seconds, your system might be targeted if your password is weak. Make your password complicated. A mixed case, mixed character, the 10-digit password is very different from an all lowercase, all alphabetic, six-digit password. 

A successful cyber attack is less likely as your password complexity rises. Make multi-factor authentication necessary. A prospective hacker can only seek access to your account by sending a request to your second factor if multi-factor authentication (MFA) is configured on your account. Hackers are likely to be locked out of your account since they won't have access to your mobile device or thumbprint.

MFA is when you have to enter a code sent to your phone in addition to your password before being able to access your account. If possible, use both types of authentication together so that even if someone gets access to one of these verification forms, they still won’t be able to access your account without both working together simultaneously.

Types of Social Engineering Attacks

We believe that a post-inoculation attack happens due to social engineering attacks. They are an essential part of social engineering and can be used to gain access to systems, gather information about the target, or even cause chaos.

They involve manipulating the victims into getting sensitive information. Getting to know more about them can prevent your organization from a cyber attack. 

Phishing Attacks

According to the FBI, phishing is among the most popular form of social engineering approaches, and its use has expanded over the past three years. The attacker sends a phishing email to a user and uses it to gain access to their account. The email appears authentic and includes links that look real but are malicious. 

According to the report, Technology businesses such as Google, Amazon, & WhatsApp are frequently impersonated in phishing attacks. 

The primary objectives of any phishing attack are as follows:

  • Ensure you click on a link: Malware is often installed on your devices when you click on links in phishing emails. The link contained in the email leads to a website that looks like a business or government agency but isn't trustworthy. The link contains malware or ransomware that can then infect your system.
  • Encourage you to download the attached file: Malware & viruses can also be disguised as genuine attachments by scammers. A hacker might pretend to be a law firm and send an email with an extension of a "court notice to appear." However, it would corrupt your device after downloading.
  • Persuade you to log in to a website: Hackers frequently use websites that appear trustworthy to trick victims into giving up sensitive information. They might, for instance, advise you to reset your password because your online account has been hacked. They will access any information you input, including your username and password.

Spear phishing

No specific individuals are targeted in regular phishing attempts. Spear phishing, on the other hand, occurs when attackers target a particular individual or organization. Almost sixty percent of IT decision-makers think targeted phishing attempts are their most significant security risk.

In 2015, cybercriminals used spear phishing to commit a $1 billion theft spanning 40 nations. The fraudsters sent bank staff phishing emails, including an attached software payload. The hackers could infect ATMs remotely and take control of employee computers once they clicked on a link. 

Whaling

Whaling attacks are not as common as other phishing attacks; however, they can be more dangerous for their target because there is less chance that security solutions will successfully detect a whaling campaign. Cybercriminals often use whaling campaigns to access valuable data or money from high-profile targets.

In a whaling attack, scammers send emails that appear to come from executives of companies where they work. They pretend to have lost their credentials and ask the target for help in getting them to reset. The email asks the executive to log into another website so they can reset their account password. The link sends users to a fake login page where they enter their credentials into a form that looks like it comes from the original company's website. Once the user enters their credentials and clicks the submit button, they are redirected back to the original company's site with all their data intact!

In 2016, a high-ranking official at Snapchat was the target of a whaling attempt in which the attacker sent an email purporting to be from the CEO. The FBI investigated the incident after the worker gave the attacker access to payroll information.

Another prominent example of whaling is the assault on the European film studio Pathé in 2018, which resulted in a loss of $21.5 million. A group of attackers sent the CEO and CFO a letter pretending to be high-ranking workers, requesting a secret financial transaction. The CEO & CFO sent the attackers about $800,000 despite warning signs. It was just the beginning of the company's losses.

Smishing

What is smishing? The threat actors have taken over your phone in a post-social engineering attack scenario. You might not even notice it happened or know how it happened. It is smishing. Smishing can happen to anyone at any time.

How does smishing work? Smishing works by sending a text message that looks like it's from a trustworthy source, such as your bank or an online retailer, but comes from a malicious source. The message will ask you to confirm your information or perform some action that transfers money or sensitive data into the bad guy's hands. If you follow through with the request, they've won.

Voice Phishing/Vishing Attacks

Voice phishing is one of the most common and effective ways to steal someone's identity in today's world. Vishing attacks use recorded messages to trick people into giving up their personal information. They're often successful because they sound so convincing.

A scammer sends a phone call to the victim's number pretending to be someone else (such as a bank employee). The attacker may pretend to be an employee suspended or left the company and will ask for sensitive information such as PINs or passwords.

Global statistics show that phishing emails have increased by 47% in the past three years. The number of voice phishing calls has increased by 37% over the same period.

Account takeover

An attacker may try to access your account by pretending to be you or someone else who works at your company or school. If they're successful, they'll have access to all information about you and your company, including personal data like passwords, credit card numbers, and other financial information.

Baiting

Baiting is the act of luring people into performing actions on a computer without their knowledge by using fake information or a fake message. A scammer might build pop-up advertisements that offer free video games, music, or movies. It is possible to install malicious software on your computer if you decide to open the link.

Protect Your Business From Social Engineering Attacks

Post-social engineering attacks are more likely to happen because of how people communicate today. It's very easy for someone with bad intentions to impersonate a company's social media account or email account and send out messages that try to get people to click on malicious links or open attachments.

Keep Your Team Regularly Tested

Learn how to use third-party tools to simulate social engineering attacks. Design some simulated attacks and see if anyone in your organization bites. The purpose of these exercises is not to humiliate team members but to demonstrate how easily anyone can fall victim to a scam.

When in a post-inoculation state, the owner of the organization should find out all the reasons that an attack may occur again. That’s why if you are lazy at any time during vulnerability, the attacker will find the way back into your network. Make sure that everyone in your organization is trained. 

They should never trust messages they haven't requested. If the email appears to be from a service they regularly employ, they should verify its legitimacy. You can find the correct website through a web search, and a phone book can provide the contact information. 

Never download anything from an unknown sender unless you expect it. Don't let a link dictate your destination. To ensure you reach the intended website, use a search engine to locate the site. Over an email hyperlink, you'll see the genuine URL in the footer, but a convincing fake can still fool you. 

Update your Hardware, Software & Site

Malware can infect a website when hackers discover and exploit security holes.  Keep your firewall, email spam filtering, and anti-malware software up-to-date.

Monitor your data: Analyzing firm data should involve tracking down and checking on potentially dangerous files. Verify the timestamps of the downloads, uploads, and distributions. Keep an eye out for odd conduct, such as employees accessing confidential files outside working hours.

Social Media Cleanup

Clean up your social media presence! Hiding behind those posts is less effective when people know who is behind them and what they stand for. Make sure everything is 100% authentic, and no one has any reason to suspect anything other than what appears on their posts.

Final Thoughts

Anyone may be the victim of a cyber attack, so before you go into full panic mode, check if these recovery ideas from us might assist you. There are cybersecurity companies that can help in this regard. If you've been the victim of identity theft or an insider threat, keep in mind that you're not alone. Learn what you can do to speed up your recovery. 

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