The rise of cybercrime is evident in all spheres of personal and business activities, with hackers preying for the illiterate users’ sensitive data and banking information to commit financial and identity theft crimes. These emerging security threats also affect the telecommunications sector because telecom providers keep much valuable user data. Thus, there is a need for more effective and workable telecom security solutions, which would help businesses secure user data, ensure regulatory compliance, and avoid litigation. Here we cover the common types of threats faced by telecom businesses, the sources and types of security breaches observed in the sector recently, and offer solutions to mitigate those cyberthreats.
- Why Do Hackers Target Telecoms?
- What Cyberthreats Do Telecoms Encounter?
- Initiatives to Mitigate Cyber-Risks in the Telecom Sector
- Are Telecoms Prepared Well?
Why Do Hackers Target Telecoms?
The reason for telecoms’ appeal to hackers is the huge volume of sensitive user data they store. Besides, telecoms receiving payments from users for communication services also have valuable data about global banks’ two-factor authentication (TFA) systems, which hackers may also use to their advantage. Over 30% of telecom businesses reported being victims of user data thefts over the past year, while more than 40% of businesses have suffered some kind of a DNS attack within the same period. As a result of growing cyber-crime sophistication and the diversity of methods that cybercriminals use to elicit sensitive data, telecoms are facing the pressure to adopt rigorous security measures and advance user data protection policies and strategies.
Criminals attacking telecoms typically pursue two aims – either the company itself, with its operations and valuable user data, or the telecom’s subscribers whose accounts may be accessed via infiltrating malware. Here’s how the data stolen from poorly secured systems of telecoms can be abused:
- Customer and staff data is sold to criminals on the dark web for identity theft and financial fraud.
- Via SIM swapping attacks, hackers manage to manipulate the protective TFA protocols of financial organizations and commit massive financial thefts.
- Hackers backed by non-democratic governments can infiltrate the telecom systems of other countries and conduct cyber espionage.
As you can see, the threats are evident, and the task of telecoms is to address the current cyber challenges proactively. Effective preventive measures and responses to attacks are possible only under the condition of knowing the types of anticipated challenges, identifying their sources, and developing rigorous response protocols.
What Cyberthreats Do Telecoms Encounter?
To date, cybersecurity experts distinguish several types of potentially dangerous attacks telecoms suffer.
#1 DDoS Attacks
DDoS stands for the distributed denial of service. This type of cyberattack is common in many other industries, though telecoms suffer the most. During a DDoS attack, the provider’s network experiences unexplainable overloads and capacity restrictions, which increases traffic costs and causes numerous access problems for the company’s users. At times, if DDoS attacks go unattended for some time, they end up with a total collapse of Internet access for the company’s clientele. Sophisticated hackers use such attacks to test the waters and prepare the ground for larger-scale attacks directing sensitive business systems and data.
Today’s tools that hackers can use to arrange DDoS attacks are highly accessible, making this type of offense more common. They include mobile botnets and MITM attacks at the Border Gateway Patrol system of information transfer and attacks on the NTP protocols with the aim of traffic and data hijacking.
#2 Social Engineering
Social engineering attacks are also directed at telecom provider clients, involving the unsuspecting people in the spread of malware, sharing their personal information and banking details, and giving sensitive passwords and accesses to hackers. The underlying principle of such attacks is the manipulation of user behavior based on their ignorance and lack of digital literacy.
Phishing attacks involve sending malware and viruses to the users’ emails under the guise of a reputable, well-known source. Once the user opens those emails or smartphone messages, they are urged to click links or insert personal information, which usually leads to either hijacking of sensitive data or financial/identity fraud. Hackers can also install their viruses, malware, or spyware via phishing emails.
#4 Malware Attacks at Users
At times, hackers don’t target the telecom businesses as such, using these companies’ IT systems to access the mobile and desktop devices of their users. In this way, cybercriminals can easily infect the gadgets of telecom clients with malware, thus getting access to people’s financial information, banking passwords, and private emails.
#5 Insider Threats
Finally, insider threats to telecom cybersecurity should be mentioned as a significant source of problems in the sector. Current and former employees account for over 30% of telecoms’ data leakages and security breaches, suggesting that staff is a serious risk factor. Besides employees, trusted advisors can also become the source of cyber threats, with current service providers, consultants, contractors, suppliers, information brokers, and business partners also helping hackers infiltrate the telecom’s system, intentionally and unintentionally.
#6 Attacks at SIP signals
Session Initiation Protocols (SIPs) are a vital component of VoIP communications. Hackers have learned to intercept the voice calls, interfere with the protocols, and distribute malware into the unprotected systems of the callers. By gaining access to the callers’ devices, hackers can steal valuable information, manipulate sensitive data, or prepare the ground for more disastrous attacks. These issues are usually addressed by rigorous encryption of calls, integration of anti-spoofing measures.
#7 Network Threats
The telecom’s network is its most valuable asset and, in most cases, the most appealing target of attack. Hackers use network congestion methods, routing and Sybil attacks, and eavesdropping to affect the provider’s network and infiltrate it via minor identified vulnerabilities.
Each of these types of attacks has many potential consequences for the firm, threatening with reputational damages, data losses, and customer data breaches. An extended business IT infrastructure downtime can also lead to serious business problems, such as losing dissatisfied clients and financial losses because of service interruption.
Initiatives to Mitigate Cyber-Risks in the Telecom Sector
With so many risks emanating from insiders and outsiders of the telecom business, entities have gone the extra mile to enhance information security measures and adopt new security strategies. Security budgets are mounting, and IT spending rises as well. A change of approach to cybersecurity is evidenced in the following steps:
- Increasing commitment to cybersecurity targets at senior management level, including CEOs, CFOs, and COOs.
- Improved collaboration between departments (inside the organization) and with competitors (inside the sector) to exchange intelligence data and share experiences.
- Increased use of technology safeguards, such as threat detection, asset management tools, path management, encrypted user data storage, and intelligence software.
- Investment in threat detection and prevention measures.
- Development of rigorous incident response methods to protect user data, critical business systems, and minimize system downtime.
- Deployment of investigation resources to build and update security strategies based on the results of cybersecurity intelligence.
- Use of access control lists (ACL) for management of user access and DDoS attack prevention.
Are Telecoms Prepared Well?
Today’s business landscape of the telecom industry is evolving rapidly, giving businesses new possibilities and imposing new threats. Still, with the security of user data being protected at the legal level now, telecoms cannot put their cybersecurity to chance. Thus, security is a critical component of modern business strategies, with rigorous activity protection and ecosystem vulnerability assessment becoming commonplace across the industry.