You are not strangers to cyber-attacks as executive leaders of the Ghanaian financial services, critical infrastructure, oil and natural gas, health and education sectors. Cyber criminals are constantly evolving their tactics, so it is more important than ever that you understand how an attack works to protect your digital assets.

Cyber attacks for example Phishing usually consist of several stages that are designed to accomplish the attacker’s goal. These stages include reconnaissance and initial access, as well as command and control, data exfiltration, and lateral movement. We’ll examine each stage in detail and see what tactics attackers use.

  • Reconnaissance- The attacker will gather information during this phase about the target’s network, vulnerabilities and possible entry points. To collect this data, attackers often use social engineering and open-source intelligence tactics (OSINT).
  • Initial Access – After identifying a vulnerability the attacker will try to gain access to a target system. This can be done by a variety of means, such as exploiting unpatched programs, phishing or weak passwords.
  • Command and Control (C2) – Once the attacker has gained initial access, he will set up a channel for command and control to maintain control of the compromised system. This may involve the installation of malware or remote access tools.
  • The attacker will then attempt to move lateral across the network, identifying and compromising additional systems. This could include using stolen credentials, exploiting weaknesses, or installing more malware.
  • Data Exfiltration: The attacker will then exfiltrate the sensitive data from the compromised computer, either by copying the data to a remote system or sending it to his command and control server.

Let’s look at an example of a cyber attack that occurred a few years ago in a financial institute in Ghana to illustrate these stages. To gain access to the network, attackers first used a phishing e-mail. Once inside the network, the attackers established a C2 and installed malware on several systems to move laterally across it. They were able to gain access to sensitive information about the organization and performed a number of unauthorized payment transfers. This had a severe impact on the company, resulting in significant financial losses as well as damage to its reputation amongst its partners within the financial banking community.

How can you protect yourself from these attacks? Here are a few tips to help you:

  1. Update software and systems regularly to fix vulnerabilities.
  2. Employees should be educated on social engineering and phishing tactics.
  3. Multi-factor authentication and strong passwords are recommended.
  4. Use firewalls and antivirus software to detect and prevent intrusions.
  5. Monitor and analyze the network traffic regularly for suspicious activities.

Cyber attacks are a growing and real threat for businesses in Ghana. Understanding the attack’s anatomy will help you better protect your digital assets and defend yourself against threats. Do not wait until a cyberattack occurs. Implement these best practices to protect your business today.