How to Respond to a Vertical Specific Attack: Protecting Your Industry

Responding to an vertical-specific attack can be daunting for any company. Knowing how best to protect your vertical from potential cyber intrusions is essential for success and security. This guide outlines the steps businesses need to take to remain safe from verticall-specific attacks, as well as what to do if one occurs. With the right planning and preparation, companies can effectively protect their vertical from these ever-evolving threats.


What is a vertical Specific Attack?


A vertical-specific cyber attack is an attack targeting a specific vertical or sector. These types of attacks often take advantage of weaknesses in specific vertical infrastructure, such as outdated software, lax security protocols, and inadequate data protection. As these attacks are highly targeted and focused on certain industries, they can be difficult to detect and defend against. Organizations need to be aware of the risk posed by these attacks and take steps to mitigate them.

There are a few sectors or verticals that are more vulnerable to cyber attacks due to the nature of the work. Industries that didn’t traditionally rely heavily on network technologies must now make sure their networks are properly protected to avoid successful cyber attacks. A few of the most at-risk industries are manufacturing, retail, and healthcare. Let’s look at each sector. 


Manufacturing attacks

According to a recent Netwrix Report half of manufacturing businesses surveyed reported experiencing an attack on their network in 2022. The most common type of attack was phishing. The vertical was more prone to account compromise attacks and supply chain attacks. The report also found that 19% of manufacturing organizations experienced supply chain compromise as compared to 15% of organizations across other industries. 

Many manufacturing companies have adopted cloud technologies to support remote workers, although cloud adoption is slower than in other sectors. The report found that most manufacturers are concerned with their own employees as the main risk for cyberattacks.  Manufacturers that are adopting the cloud for their operations will need to secure their networks across three main facets: data, user identity and access, and infrastructure. 


Retail attacks

vertical-specific attacks targeting the retail vertical can be particularly damaging due to the sheer amount of customer data and sensitive information stored in retail systems. Retailers are particularly vulnerable to cyber-attacks, as malicious actors can exploit weaknesses in a company's security measures in order to gain access to confidential data and financial information. 

Computer systems used for point-of-sale (POS) transactions are especially vulnerable, as any type of breach or attack could lead to significant theft or fraud. Retail organizations must stay vigilant and invest in robust security measures, such as encryption and two-factor authentication, in order to protect against vertical-specific attacks.


Healthcare attacks

Healthcare organizations are increasingly vulnerable to vertical-specific cyber-attacks due to the large amounts of sensitive patient data stored in their systems. Cybercriminals may target healthcare organizations for access to this information, as it can be used for identity theft, insurance fraud, and other illicit activities. 

Additionally, medical devices such as pacemakers and insulin pumps are often connected to medical networks and can be exploited through maliciously-crafted software or firmware updates. Hospitals and other healthcare providers must take steps to ensure they have robust defenses against these types of attacks, such as personnel training, device authentication protocols, strong encryption methods, and regular system security assessments.

Institutions such as HHS and ECRI have issued alerts this year warning providers about the cybersecurity risks associated with the use of third-party analytics tools. Tools like Meta Pixel, Google Analytics, and Adobe Analytics are usually free and can give providers insight into the way consumers use their websites, but the tech companies who provide this software can also use patient data to profile Internet users as they browse. A managed security service is definitely the safest bet.


How to Stop Vertical Specific Attacks

As we’ve mentioned, each vertical has specific weak points that can serve as the starting point for building out a comprehensive cybersecurity plan. 


Types of attacks

vertical-specific attacks can involve malware, phishing campaigns, denial-of-service (DoS) attacks, and other malicious activities designed to compromise security measures and gain access to sensitive data. As the manufacturing report pointed out, supply chains are particularly vulnerable to phishing attacks to compromise user login information. 

However, all industries are susceptible to all kinds of attacks. Organizations need to beware of malware, including ransomware, trojans and worms, unpatched security vulnerabilities, hidden backdoor network entry, admin account privilege compromise, automated running of scripts, unknown security bugs, and of course, phishing. It’s a lot to handle.


Conducting a risk assessment

Whatever vertical your organization is in, the first step to staying safe from vertical-specific attacks is to engage in a cybersecurity risk assessment.  You can begin the assessment with vertical-specific threats, then expand it as needed to cover your entire organization and network. A risk assessment will provide you with a detailed snapshot of how your existing security measures are working (or not) and help determine the best next steps for your organization. 

Risk assessments normally include, but are not limited to an analysis of mission-critical applications, a review of any sensitive data, flagging any subpar device management, identification of network vulnerabilities, and insider threat protection. A risk assessment can also provide you with an idea of the cost should an incident occur, and a plan for responding to an incident. 


Developing a cybersecurity strategy

Developing a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy is essential for any organization to protect its data and systems from threats. Such strategies should encompass everything from identifying potential risks to implementing appropriate countermeasures. At the core of this process is creating a culture of security, which includes awareness training for employees, regular security reviews and audits, and regular patch management. 

Additionally, it’s important to consider how an organization responds in the event of a breach or attack, formulating plans that include incident response procedures as well as developing relationships with law enforcement agencies in order to have resources available if needed. By developing a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy and staying informed on best practices, organizations can ensure they are taking the necessary steps to protect their data and systems.


Understanding your vertical's specific vulnerabilities is a great place to start with developing your strategy. Bringing in a team of experts is a great way to make sure you are covering all of your bases.


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