Multi-vector cyber attacks: what they are and how to deal with them

Multi-vector cyber attacks: what they are and how to deal with them

Using multiple cyber attack vectors increases the likelihood of success. If the attack involves attacking various network entry points — for example, through email phishing, voice phishing and exploitation of VPN vulnerabilities — it is enough for at least one of these methods to work for the entire attack plan to be considered successful. Phishing is a common part of these multifactor attacks because it often exploits human error rather than software vulnerabilities, making it difficult to prevent.

Unfortunately, as remote work increases, these risks become more likely. The widespread use of personal devices and untrusted wireless networks is eroding network security boundaries. More less trusted accounts and devices accessing sensitive data over the Internet increases the number of vulnerabilities and reduces control and visibility for systems cybersecurity.

Countering multifactor attacks: effective ways and possible difficulties

Recent examples show that attackers often combine different attack methods in a single campaign. For example, in 2022, a group known as 0ktapus used a mixture of SMS phishing and background malware download tactics to remotely access more than 160 organizations — many of which have been compromised to varying degrees. However, an independent analysis of the attack showed that the attackers were unexpectedly inexperienced — this fact is fundamentally different from the expected level of sophistication of multi-factor attacks.

Similarly, a recent series of Royal Ransomware attacks have used a combination of phishing, remote desktop protocol compromise, and malware downloads to attack critical infrastructure organizations. And the well-known Log4j vulnerability gave attackers the opportunity to combine a supply chain compromise with several other attack methods.

Network security vulnerabilities: attack methods

Multi-factor attacks on corporate networks can be difficult to stop for many reasons:

  • The constant predominance of security policies at the perimeter, which makes it easier for attackers to access the network through a single vector.
  • Limited personnel and resources, making it difficult to hire enough security personnel and limiting the budget for external services.
  • Use of traditional security mechanisms that have reached their limits due to the increase in hybrid work and cloud storage.
  • Insufficiency of firewalls and gateways to protect the network during an attack on personal devices or cloud deployments.
  • A complex and fragmented security stack that may have hidden vulnerabilities that go undetected even by security experts.
  • No automatic notification to other security solutions when malicious activity is detected. This means that when one security tool detects suspicious or malicious activity, it is not able to automatically notify other security tools on the network. As a result, each security tool generates its own notification about the detected threat, resulting in a large number of notifications that overwhelm the security team.

Concepts for effectively countering multifactor attacks

Historically, organizations have preferred to protect their networks by using separate products for each potential attack vector. However, this approach is ineffective against modern multi-factor attacks. Instead, an integrated approach to security is required that:

  • Cloud-oriented and distributed , allowing all traffic to pass through a single security platform, regardless of its origin, destination or protocol used. You can no longer rely on corporate resources and data to be accessible only through company-controlled network connections.
  • Tightly integrated with access control mechanisms through authentication, authorization and auditing. This helps prevent lateral movement by attackers who have too broad access rights. It is important to verify both the user's identity and the context of use. For example, no user role or device type can be automatically trusted.
  • Resistant to phishing and social engineering. Because many attacks begin with phishing emails, it is important to implement protection against targeted campaigns that seek to deceive users across multiple communication channels (e.g., email, web, social media, instant messaging, and SMS).
  • Provides convenience to the end user. Because interactions with browser-based threats are inevitable, it is important to have a remote browser isolation solution that provides protection against unknown and untrusted web content while maintaining a great experience for the end user.
  • Cost effective. It is important for organizations to mitigate threats with limited resources. This is achieved by optimizing security costs by reducing the number of vendors and prioritizing a platform-based security organization.

Individual products and hardware devices are no longer able to implement these principles. Today, organizations need comprehensive threat protection that covers all possible attack vectors both inside and outside the network.

Private VPN server: an effective network defender against multifactor cyber attacks

A private VPN server, being an element of a corporate network, in its local area of responsibility is able to minimize the effectiveness of multi-factor cyber attacks thanks to: traffic encryption, hiding the network address, secure connection to public Wi-Fi networks, bypassing geo-restrictions, maintaining a consistently high overall level security.

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