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The Importance of Cyber Security and How to Get Started
In today's increasingly digital world, cyber security is one of the most important components of any organization. With malicious actors utilizing sophisticated methods to access sensitive information, it is essential that businesses have a comprehensive cyber security program in place to protect their data. This article will cover what cyber security is, why it's important and how to get started.
What is Cyber Security?
Cyber security is an umbrella term used to describe processes, technologies, and practices designed to protect networks, systems, and information from attack, damage, or unauthorized access. It includes secure development practices for creating applications that are resilient against attack; strong authentication and authorization measures for granting user access to resources; logging, monitoring, and alerting systems for detecting threats; vulnerability management programs for patching weaknesses; secure network architecture designs; encryption technologies for protecting data in transit and at rest; and response plans in the event of an incident.
Why Is Cyber Security Important?
Without cyber security measures, organizations risk losing sensitive customer data such as financial records, confidential emails, and medical information. This can lead to significant financial losses due to data breaches or compliance fines. It can also damage the reputation of companies that fail to protect their customers' data adequately. With billions of connected mobile devices across the globe that are vulnerable to attack or manipulation, organizations must be confident that their products are not contributing towards a larger attack surface which could potentially cause significant systemic disruption.
The Evolution of the Cyber Security Threat Landscape
The cyber security threat landscape has drastically changed over the years. Gone are the days when cybercrime was limited to a few masterminds with specialized knowledge. Now anyone with access to the internet and knowledge of computer systems can perpetrate a cyber attack and steal sensitive data. Each new application introduced presents its own set of cyber security threats, meaning continuous vigilance is necessary to keep our data safe from malicious actors and malicious software.
Companies and cyber security professionals have responded with rigorous cyber security protocols, introducing multi-factor authentication, auditing their systems for signs of a cyber attack, and taking precautions to secure customer information at rest and in transit. Although threats will always exist, it's reassuring that organizations can leverage innovative solutions like robust application security tools and technologies to guard against cyber criminals threatening today's digital world.
Getting Started With Developing a Cyber Security Program
Create a Risk Management Plan: A risk management plan should include an assessment of potential risks, such as common threats like malware or phishing attacks and less obvious ones like insider threats or supply chain vulnerabilities. It's important that organizations identify areas where they may be at risk before investing in solutions.
Build Awareness Around Cyber Security: Ensure all employees understand basic cyber security principles, such as not sharing passwords over email or clicking on links from unknown sources. Regularly inform staff about new threats to ensure they remain vigilant when online. Consider providing training sessions for employees who handle sensitive data more often than others about best practices for handling customer data securely, such as using encryption technologies when necessary and setting up multi-factor authentication whenever possible.
Implement Technical Controls: Use tools such as firewalls, antimalware software, and intrusion detection systems (IDS) on key points within your networks and as a part of your perimeter security so you can detect suspicious activity quickly and respond appropriately if there is an incident detected by these tools. Use the most up-to-date encryption technologies, such as TLS (transport layer security), whenever possible when transmitting confidential data across networks or communication channels so that only intended parties can access it. Finally, review your systems regularly for known vulnerabilities so you can patch them before someone exploits them.
Formulate an Incident Response Plan: Have procedures in place so your team knows exactly what steps must be taken should a breach occur. Having clear roles assigned, predetermined communication channels set up between different teams involved, ethical hacking procedures documented, etc. This allows everyone on your team during an incident response effort to remain organized while dealing with incidents swiftly.
Types of Cyber Threats That Impact Businesses Today
Businesses today face a broad range of cybersecurity risks from various sources, including malicious actors, technological vulnerabilities, and human error. Some of the most common types of cyber threats include:
Malware is a malicious program that can be used to gain unauthorized access to systems and steal data or corrupt files. It is often sent via email or hidden in downloads and can be spread rapidly across an organization's network.
Phishing attacks involve sending emails to users with malicious links or attachments that, when opened, install malware on the user’s computer. To increase the chances of success, attackers often use social engineering techniques such as impersonating high-level company executives to trick users into divulging sensitive information or downloading malware.
A denial-of-service (DoS) attack is when an attacker attempts to disrupt service for legitimate users by flooding networks with requests or traffic until resources are exhausted and services become unavailable. In a distributed denial-of-service (DDoS) attack, the attacker uses multiple devices from different locations to initiate these requests simultaneously to amplify their impact on the target system.
Insider threat refers to any malicious activity perpetrated by current or former employees who have knowledge of their employer’s systems and processes. Examples include leaking confidential information, stealing customer data, sabotaging corporate systems, or selling trade secrets to competitors.
Supply Chain Vulnerabilities
Supply chain attacks involve penetrating layers of vendors that provide goods and services to gain access to a company’s internal network. Attackers may exploit weaknesses throughout the supply chain to access sensitive data or implant malware on company systems.
Business Email Compromise (BEC) Attacks
Business email compromise (BEC) is a type of cyberattack that involves criminals sending fraudulent emails to employees of an organization, pretending to be the CEO or another executive, to gain access to sensitive information. The emails may contain requests for wire transfers or other financial transactions that result in significant losses for the organization if the request is acted upon without proper verification. BEC attacks may also be used as part of more sophisticated phishing campaigns where malicious links or attachments are sent with the goal of stealing passwords or installing malware on company systems.
Why are BEC Attacks So Prevalent?
Cybercriminals are increasingly turning to business email compromise (BEC) attacks to make easy money. These cyber attacks target organizations, exploiting weaknesses in their cyber security protocols to gain access to confidential data or financial accounting systems. In some cases, BEC attackers can even transfer funds from accounts with much higher payouts than other forms of cybercrime. With higher rewards come more risks; which is leading cyber attackers to innovate new ways to carry out their cyber attacks as effectively as possible while minimizing the chances of detection. Therefore it is vital that companies are aware of the dangers posed by BEC attacks and put strong cyber security practices in place that can help protect against such threats.
Cybercrime often takes advantage of access management vulnerabilities to execute financial theft. The attacker will typically employ social engineering tactics to manipulate their victims into acting quickly and transferring funds urgently. Social engineering can involve fake emails and phone calls, making use of seemingly legitimate authority or urgency to access credentials, as well as more sophisticated tactics like CEO fraud. In any form, it is used to bypass access management controls and exploit information access vulnerabilities.
Payroll diversion scams, where identity thieves pretend to be an employee and request their direct deposit account details be updated, are increasingly common. It's often difficult to detect these frauds due to the method used in identity management. As identity verification becomes more digitalized, it's important that companies take extra precautionary measures when approving changes that involve sensitive information, such as payroll records. From using advanced authentication systems to scrutinizing identity documents before authorizing any changes, companies can put safeguards in place to prevent fraudulent activity from occurring.
Current BEC Trends
Business email compromise (BEC) continues to be an alarming security threat, with the financial losses associated with it totaling nearly $2.4 billion in 2021 alone, which sounds like a lot until you realize that the FBI estimates the totals in 2022 will amount to over $43 billion. These security-related losses are a concerning reminder of how vigilant organizations must be regarding their security solutions. Companies should prioritize security protocols and take proactive steps to protect their networks from BEC-style attacks before they can do immense damage. Building a secure base is the best way to ensure that your organization remains protected from future BEC threats.
Next Steps to Protect Your Business
As an MSP, we encounter businesses in all stages of cyber security maturity. Regardless of the size or industry, we hear concerns about the complexity of implementing security solutions. Due to the nature and breadth of evolving threats, many clients recognize the need for endpoint security, network security, cloud security, and mobile security. Still, they do not have the expertise in-house, and they are under the impression that cyber security solutions will make it more difficult for their team's to be productive. Security controls must be implemented; there are too many security vulnerabilities in the wild today to take risks with your business.
Leading an organization that implements security solutions for our clients to protect against successful cyber attacks, I am admittedly biased regarding how you should address your cybersecurity challenges. On the other hand, if you or your company prefers a DIY approach, I would encourage you immediately take the following steps, which are easy to implement and will provide a first line of defense against malicious attacks.
First Steps to Better Security
Implement strong authentication. Methods such as two-factor authentication for all user accounts are essential in today's environments.
Implement a phishing email solution. Utilize anti-phishing technologies such as email filtering solutions; - Establish clear policies regarding online transactions, including wire transfers; - Have multiple people review any potentially suspicious requests before acting on them; - Regularly back up data so it can be recovered if lost due to a BEC attack.
Provide end-user education. You can immediately begin conversations with your staff regarding known threats and common digital attacks, educating employees on recognizing phishing emails and fraudulent requests. There are some great software solutions and companies that provide cybersecurity education, but even before implementing a full-scale education program, a quick conversation will make a difference.
Protect critical infrastructure. If your company is in a situation where you must decide between one path or another, always choose to protect your critical systems first. I would always recommend that you take a holistic approach, but if you have to choose, start with the infrastructure and assets that are most likely to be the initial target of a security breach.
Businesses, in particular, need to be extra vigilant against cyber-attacks because these scams often involve spoofed emails that look like they're from a trusted source - such as a company executive or vendor. The best way to combat this threat is to implement security solutions that will help protect you and your business from phishing and other nefarious means of attack. Investing in security resources, like firewalls, will go a long way toward preventing attackers from infiltrating your system and having the access they need to damage your organization.