A security vulnerability or weakness found within a computer or software system that a threat actor can exploit.
Security Hole Details
In information technology (IT), a security hole is a weakness or vulnerability within a computer system that can be exploited by unauthorized users, also known as cybercriminals. Cybercriminals use technology to conduct illegal activities; they exploit security holes to access systems and steal sensitive data.
Most workplaces use antivirus software to protect computer systems against unauthorized entry. However, even with antivirus software, a skilled cybercriminal can find and exploit a security hole. When they are aware of a vulnerability, cybercriminals exploit code and gain entry to computers; then, they launch attacks.
Some common cybercrime examples are the theft of personal information like credit card numbers, company data, and even personal information. To protect users and various computer systems, software vendors issue patches or security updates by fixing the security holes. These patches work to restrict access to cybercriminals and guarantee the security of users from costly theft.
Real-World Example of a Security Hole
Despite the efficiency of patches and security updates businesses create to fix security holes, cybercriminals remain an active threat to computer users. Hackers use automated tools to develop exploits just a few minutes after looking at a patch.
Mossack Fonseca saw one example of the negative impact of security holes in 2016 with the "Panama Papers" incident. During the 2015 attack, hackers targeted Mossack Fonseca (MF) databases, one of the world's largest law firms, and gained access to sensitive information. At least 11.5 million records were stolen and leaked to journalists in the massive heist, exposing high-profile financial deals.
The security hole exploited in the "Panama Papers" case was a vulnerability in Mossack Fonseca's WordPress, hosted on the same network as its email servers. For the hackers, entry through WordPress facilitated a data breach, revealing over 4.8 million emails. The attack exposed many public figures' secrets, including connections to drugs, terrorism, and tax evasion. The cyberattack revealed that security holes could be a major weakness to businesses and the valuable information they have in their systems.
Types of Security Holes
In computer security, threats are always a possibility, and in every activity, experts urge caution and prevention. Some of the broad classifications of security holes or vulnerabilities are network, operating system, human, and process vulnerabilities.
- Network Vulnerabilities: The holes within a network's software or hardware, such as insecure WIFI connections and firewalls.
- Operating System Vulnerabilities: Holes within operating systems can be exploited, such as remote code execution and denial-of-use, to launch attacks.
- Human Vulnerabilities: Human users are considered the greatest threat to cybersecurity since they can unknowingly carry out commands or expose sensitive information to cybercriminals.
- Process Vulnerabilities: Cybercriminals take advantage of specific process controls such as weak passwords that are easy to decode or passwords that are not changed often enough.
Ultimately, these security holes reveal that managing vulnerabilities is the only way to protect systems and prevent any individual or business exploitation.