Cybersecurity 101 – Your Secret Weapon To Keeping Hackers Out

Cyberattacks continue to make headlines in the media. Multi- million dollar organizations like Equifax and Yahoo have been victims. But what does that actually mean for the organization being attacked and their customers?

Think of the Equifax breach of 2017. According to various news sources, the breach was one of the largest recorded, exposing the personal information of nearly 150 million consumers in North America. Confidential information like names, addresses, social insurance and credit card numbers were among some of the critical information that was released. This attack left Equifax’s database vulnerable to financial and identity theft and created distrust in the brand among the public.

The costs associated with cyberattacks can be huge. Organizations can spend millions trying to find and close security holes. Not to mention the auxiliary costs, like hiring security experts to help with recovery, fines from third-party regulatory bodies, ongoing services for customer credit monitoring, investments in new security technology,  and  business interruption costs.

There is no denying that digital threats are happening more frequently and because organizations rely so heavily on technology, each attack becomes more disastrous. The rise of cyberattacks is a huge concern for organizations of all sizes and across all industries.

No matter what your role is, which department you’re in, or what industry you work in – every employee should be trained on what a cyberattack is, how to identify one, and how they play a key    role in defending against cyberattacks.

What is a Cyberattack?

Unlike what we see in television and movies, major cyberattacks don’t usually happen overnight. They are carefully planned, orchestrated, and executed over a period of time. Which begs the question – if they take so long to execute, how do organizations miss them?

Have you ever been to a crowded party where the music was playing loudly, people were moving from room to room chatting, and in all of the confusion  you  realize  that  you lost track of who was actually supposed to be there? Think about your organization’s computer system or corporate network in the same way; with pieces moving in every direction and multiple people involved in activities, it can be difficult to recognize when a cyberattack is taking place.

A cyberattack is defined as an attempt by hackers to damage or destroy a computer network or system. But it’s so much more than that.

Here are a few common ways that a cyberattack can happen:

  1. Phishing: Attackers prey on human curiosity and habits to infiltrate their system through phishing tactics.  These usually take place via email, where an attacker will pretend to be someone you know or a company you trust, baiting you to click on a link or download an attachment. If you fall for this bait, you have let them into your system.
  2. Malware: This can refer to various types of software that, once installed on your computer, can cause all kinds of trouble. From monitoring your activity to accessing your organization’s network, malware sends your confidential data straight to the hacker.
  3. Social Engineering: This type of  attack  manipulates the user into divulging their credentials by posing as IT staff or security personnel. Once they have access to a trusted employee’s credentials, they are able to access confidential data.
  4. Social Media Threats: These attacks usually  come in as an unexpected friend request or application update/installation. Don’t underestimate this type of Social Engineering: This type of attack manipulates the user into divulging their credentials by posing as IT staff or security personnel. Once they have access to a trusted employee’s credentials, they are able to access confidential attack because with the number of social media users increasing daily, these attacks are more prevalent.
  5. Mobile: Having access to your work email and documents on your mobile device can be super convenient but it also opens up potential for intrusion. Clicking on unsolicited links or updating apps from untrusted sources that you receive via text or email could put you at risk.
A hacker is not always a single person sitting alone in a basement; an attack can be orchestrated by a sophisticated network of people.

Hackers come in all shapes and sizes, so understanding why someone is motivated to attack a certain company over another is difficult to say for sure. Attacks can be orchestrated by a single hacker looking to make a name for themselves or it could be groups of hackers that are paid to disrupt, steal from or harm their victim.

Who Is Susceptible?

Unfortunately, the answer here is simple. Everyone.

Depending on the type of data that a hacker is after – financial, health records, social insurance numbers, product information or plain old publicity – any organization or person with an online identity is susceptible to cyberattacks.

Even though some industries have  historically  done  a better job at protecting themselves, no one is safe from cyberattacks. The banking industry,  for  example,  has  a long history of operating over the internet and is heavily regulated, thus have to continue to monitor their networks around the clock to protect confidential data. It’s important for individuals and organizations to continue to be vigilant   in protecting their personal and professional information by monitoring their online accounts regularly.

Is Prevention Realistic?

The general consensus across industry experts is that it’s not a matter of if a breach will happen, but when. Since there really isn’t one fool-proof prevention plan to follow, organizations should put measures in place to help spread awareness of potential risks and educate employees on how to mitigate them to avoid breaches. Effective prevention practices require an understanding of the many processes that affect the security of an organization and the barriers of implementing these programs.

According to a SANS Institute report, the top four barriers  to prevention are the inability to secure budget, lack of management buy-in, lack of justification, and no firm requirements as to what exactly is needed.1 That said, here are a few things that IT Security teams have to consider when implementing a prevention program:

1. Prioritize

Classifying and categorizing data can be a significant challenge but doing this is a crucial first step toward bolstering cyber defenses. Having a full understanding   of the various processes that affect the security of an organization helps your team create impactful programs with a full scope of everything that is required to make them successful.

2. Don’t be afraid to talk dollars!

Breaches cost money and sometimes executives underestimate the overall cost of the breach for the organization. This can lead to under-prioritizing  cybersecurity, leaving organizations susceptible to digital threats. Providing executives with  meaningful  figures  can go a long way in helping risk managers gain buy-in for cybersecurity programs and initiatives. These figures should include how much money your organization can stand to   lose in the event of a single successful attack and how a cybersecurity program can mitigate these costs.

3. Implement security policies

As breaches get more sophisticated, organizations have to ensure that their security policies are keeping up. Policies and programs should maximize data safety and set specific guidelines that close any windows for attack. By reviewing and updating policies regularly, organizations can better defend against potential attacks.

The Human Factor of Prevention

As mentioned earlier, attacks can happen through phishing, malware, social engineering, malicious insiders, remote access or other means, but the greatest hurdle for cybersecurity teams is the human factor.

The role of people is critical in an attack – both as a vulnerability that allows organizations to be exposed, but also the people on the other end of the attack that can mitigate its impact and protect against future attacks.

Employee training on the different types of cyberattacks is the first step to prevention. Ensure that all employees are vigilant on not clicking suspicious links in emails, downloading unknown attachments or leaving their passwords accessible. Be sure that employees know who to contact within your organization if they have any concerns.

An open environment of knowledge-sharing and communication is a key part of the  prevention  plan.  Start by giving employees insight into the risk analysis that your organization is doing and the concerns that your IT Security team may have. The more knowledge employees have about what a cyberattack is, the preventative measures your organization has in place and the potential repercussions of an attack, the more diligent employees will be in defending against them. Creating an open dialogue about prevention measures also makes it more likely that an employee will come forward if they notice something suspicious.

It’s important to remember that employees may be hesitant to come forward if they’ve accidentally done something that played a part in letting an attacker into the organization.

There could be a fear of reporting the incident due to potential punitive measures against the individual. That’s why consistent, clear communication about protocol is the best way to ensure employees feel empowered to come forward. The faster the employee comes forward, the  quicker the IT Security team is aware of the potential threat and can act to remedy the situation.

Information sharing is critical in terms of building threat intelligence, and thanks to the newly issued statement and interpretive guidance by the Security and Exchange

Commission’s (SEC), this is happening more often. The SEC encourages public organizations to disclose cybersecurity risks and incidents even before a breach or attack happens. By publicizing threats, organizations can better prepare and protect themselves against an attack.

3 Key Elements of an Efficient Cybersecurity Program

All cybersecurity programs need to continue to evolve as  new types of attacks emerge, attackers get smarter, and the overall opportunity of attacks grows. Cybersecurity is about establishing a program, living within that program, and evolving it. Just because it worked yesterday, doesn’t mean that it will work tomorrow.

There are 3 key elements of an efficient cybersecurity program:

  1. Protect: Ensure that the appropriate processes are in place to protect your systems. The best form of this includes auto-ticketing and response systems that can handle hundreds of thousands of assets and vulnerabilities.
  2. Detect: If and/or when protection fails, you need to be able to detect what happened and how the hackers gained access to your systems.
  3. Respond: A proper plan and/or workflow should be in place to notify the person responsible for this aspect of your It has to be able to notify them in a timely manner about the attack, and explain how it happened.

How to Stop Hackers at the Door Through Automation

Cybercriminals are constantly developing new techniques to deploy attacks. By using automated techniques, hackers can scale attacks and make them more effective. On the flipside, if we combat them through automated and intense defense layers, we can quickly identify new and existing threats and make actionable decisions on how to prevent them as threats evolve.

Automating cybersecurity programs releases the skilled professionals from event management  and  incident response duties to focus on policy development, compliance activities, and proactive planning to address unknown  threats. Security automation is critical to achieve efficiency and reduce human-error, especially when third parties are involved. A security solution that is able to identify the stages of a threat and then automatically block attacks at network speeds can reduce the reliance on humans who often miss or lack the necessary speed to respond efficiently.

Security automation is critical to achieve efficiency and reduce human-error, especially when third-parties are involved.

How Can Resolver Help?

Automating your information security activities with Resolver’s Threat and Vulnerability Management solution can help your IT team  prioritize  vulnerabilities  based  on risk score and business criticality to ensure better decision- making and immediate remediation. Here are some of the ways it does this and more:

  1. Easily onboard all asset, vulnerability and threat data into one system. Integrate with technologies like scanners, CMDBs, threat and exploit feeds, SIEMs, ticketing systems, and more, making the data collection process quick and
  2. Having centralized data allows you to correlate assets with business context and threat intelligence, map vulnerabilities with threat exploits and see the complete picture with event
  3. Visualize your risks with multi-attribute risk scoring. Weight risks based on business priorities, internal and external threat exploits and vulnerability impacts.
  4. Prioritize vulnerabilities with automated ticketing capabilities. Group vulnerabilities based on asset criticality, compliance regulations, vendors, SLA commitments, or other variables that are important to your organization.
  5. Close the risk management loop with mitigation verification. After vulnerabilities have been patched, see how your risks were re-scored to verify whether the actions taken were truly effective in protecting the organization from threats.
  6. See the complete picture of your risk management efforts with real-time data, trend reports and customizable dashboards. Get clear visibility into the entire risk management process that can easily be shared organization-wide.

Contact us today to learn more.

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