Uncovering the Threat Landscape: Understanding the Motives and Methods of Cybercriminals

The computer technology that surrounds us — the devices and software we use every day, as well as the systems upon which our businesses rely — has made cybersecurity an ever-present concern.

From phishing scams to ransomware attacks, cybercriminals are constantly finding new ways to exploit vulnerabilities in our systems. To protect against these threats, it's essential to understand the motives and methods of those behind them. In this blog, we'll enter the world of threat actors, explore the definition of cybercriminals and learn why it's so important to understand them in today's threat landscape.

Who Are Threat Actors?

Threat actors are individuals or groups who initiate cyberattacks or other malicious activities with the goal of causing harm, stealing data or disrupting day-to-day operations.

- Nation states: Governments or state-sponsored groups that use cyberattacks for espionage or to gain a strategic advantage over other nations.

- Serious organized crime groups: Groups that are well-funded, organized and have the ability to use sophisticated techniques in their attacks. They're also often involved in other illegal activities, such as drug trafficking and money laundering.

- Highly capable criminal groups: Sophisticated groups that are capable of carrying out complex cyberattacks, but aren't necessarily a threat to national security or the global economy.

- Motivated individuals: Individuals who hack for fun, fame or profit. They're not necessarily well-funded and their attacks can be fairly unsophisticated. However, they can still be dangerous if they have access to sensitive information or infrastructure.

- Script kiddies: Inexperienced amateurs who hack using pre-written or easily accessible programs. 

Why Do Threat Actors Target Your Cloud Infrastructure?

Figuring out why threat actors might target your cloud infrastructure is one of the most important things you can do to protect your organization. In many cases, it will help you determine which threats are most likely to be a serious concern and how best to address them. There are many reasons that threat actors may target your cloud infrastructure, including:

- Monetary gain: Threat actors often target cloud infrastructure because it can be lucrative. The data that passes through the cloud is often valuable, and the services offered by cloud providers are appealing targets for criminals.

- Political or ideological motivations: Cybercriminals with strong political or ideological beliefs may target cloud infrastructure to make a statement or to disrupt organizations or governments that they perceive as unethical or against their interests.

- Personal grudges or revenge: In some cases, threat actors may be motivated by a personal vendetta against an organization or individual. This could be due to a past disagreement or conflict.

- A desire for notoriety: Threat actors can target cloud infrastructure to gain notoriety or to prove their skills to their peers. This type of attacker is often motivated by a desire to be recognized and respected within the hacking community.

What Tactics and Techniques Do Threat Actors Use To Operate?

When it comes to cloud infrastructure and the Salesforce environment, there are a number of common tactics that threat actors use to gain access to — and operate within — the cloud environment. These tactics include:

1. Social engineering: Manipulating individuals into divulging sensitive information or performing a specific action. It often involves exploiting human psychology and trust. The five most common attacks that stem from this technique are:

Phishing: Tricking users into opening malicious attachments, clicking on links in emails or downloading malware masquerading as legitimate software.

Pretexting: Creating a false scenario or pretext to gain access to sensitive information. Involves impersonating coworkers, the police or other authority figures.

Baiting: Enticing individuals with an offer or reward in exchange for sensitive information or access.

Scareware: Tricking individuals into thinking their computer is infected with malware, and then offering a fake solution or antivirus software for purchase to fix the problem. The attacker may use pop-ups, banners or other alarming messages to scare the victim into taking action.

Spear phishingSending personalized emails or messages to a specific individual or group, often using information obtained from social media or other sources to make the message seem more legitimate.

2. Advanced persistent threats (APTs): APTs are targeted attacks that are designed to remain undetected for long periods of time. Threat actors use APTs to gain access to sensitive data or to disrupt operations.

3. Insider threats: Disgruntled employees might leak sensitive information or use their access to steal intellectual property, trade secrets or other proprietary data. Their motivations may include revenge, financial gain or even self-interest.

4. Ransomware attacks: A form of malware that blocks access to computer files, networks, and systems then demands a ransom to restore them. This type of cyberattack can result in significant disruptions to operations and the loss of critical data, which can be expensive to recover.

Related resources

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