To Fight Cybercriminals, Follow the Money Trail

Follow the money! That is the famous first rule for investigating white collar criminal activity. It should also be the first rule for protecting your organization from a data breach, ransomware attack or other malicious activity.

A basic fact of modern cybersecurity life is that the lone hacker of yore has long since vanished, replaced by sophisticated cybercriminals. And like most other nefarious actors, cybercriminals are in it for the money.

The Sophisticated Ecosystem of Cybercrime

Today’s cybercriminals are supported by a complete ecosystem, the Dark Web, which provides them with everything from sophisticated hacking toolkits to a marketplace where they can readily fence their stolen goods. As Infosec Island reported, the going rate for personally identifiable information (PII) in this marketplace is $20 per record.

Multiply that figure by the millions of such account records that can be stolen in a single breach, and it adds up to an impressive haul for cybercriminals. It is no surprise, then, that 2016 saw a record number of breaches: 1,093 in all — a 40 percent increase over the previous year, according to Infosec Island.

The growing cybercrime threat has led many organizations to make major investments in sophisticated security technology. These solutions can be highly capable, but they are also expensive. And if they are deployed haphazardly — as is all too often the case — they end up providing less protection than they should because they are wasted on guarding assets of limited value.

Keeping Cybercriminals Out of Your Network

The good news is that following the money trail also provides a road map for organizations seeking to protect themselves from money-seeking attackers: Once you know where the money is in your system and how it flows through your network, you know where to concentrate your protective measures.

According to the Infosec Island article, organizations “need to have deep insight into their network in order to best orchestrate and manage solutions, traffic and, in turn, threats.” Without this network visibility, companies are “haphazardly plugging holes — often, too late.”

Put Your Money Where Your Protection Is

Leaders and security teams should take a step back from the technical details of security to evaluate their systems as a whole. Where does money (or valuable data) flow through the network? Where and how is it stored? If you were leading a team of cybercriminals, where would you want to concentrate your efforts to maximize your haul?

Once you can answer those questions, you are ready to concentrate your security defenses where they are needed most, and you can provide those areas with the maximum level of protection.

Download the Ponemon Institute 2017 Cost of Data Breach Study

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Rick Robinson is a writer and blogger, with a current 'day job' focus on the tech industry and a particular interest in the interplay of tech-driven factors and business considerations - think of the relationship between virtualization and cloud computing. Rick also blogs at Rocketpunk Manifesto on outer space, possible futures, speculative technology, and speculative literature. He has also had print articles published on aviation and military history.