Another year, another run of cyberattacks.
Advancements in technology are occurring at an increasingly dizzying pace. New technologies emerge to join the ranks alongside ‘new and improved’ functionalities of existing ones. And all the while, increased adoption of these technologies has led to an exponential growth of data breaches.
Verizon’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report listed nearly 2,200 data breaches and more than 53,000 total cybersecurity incidents reported from 65 countries from April 2017 to March 2018—an average of six breaches and 145-plus incidents every day. However, this next statistic puts the issue into perspective whether you’re reading this in your office, sitting in a traffic jam, on a plane, or at home with your family. Look to your left and see one person. Then look to your right and see two others. By the law of averages, one of those three people experienced a compromise of their personal information in the U.S. within the past year.
The problem is real, the problem is persistent, and it gains momentum the more technology becomes intertwined with the fabric of our everyday lives.
The ever-growing trend of data breaches is in full force as several high-profile cyberattacks have crippled networks across the world. One instance that hit close to home here in Northeast Ohio: A malware attack installed on City of Akron servers resulted in a disruption of the city’s 3-1-1 information line, with a ransom demand in exchange for its unlocking.
All organizations at some point will have to deal with a cybersecurity incident that can cause business disruption, lost productivity, lost data and lost money (the Ponemon Institute’s 2017 Cost of Data Breach Study put the average cost of a data breach at $3.6 million, with the cost-per-compromised-record at $141).
Threats come in many forms, from many directions
Cybercrime has grown into an estimated $600-billion industry worldwide. With every new functionality, feature and access port to technology comes new opportunities for cyberthieves and hackers to enter and corrupt networks. Here are the six most common types of attacks:
Attack No. 1: Hacking/malware. Malicious software including spyware, ransomware, viruses and worms
Attack No. 2: Phishing. The sending of fraudulent communications that appear to come from a reputable source, typically via email
Attack No. 3: Man-in-the-middle attacks: AKA Eavesdropping Attacks, these occur when attackers insert themselves into a two-party transaction, most commonly through unsecure public Wi-Fi networks or malware
Attack No. 4: Denial-of-Service attacks. Flooding systems, servers or networks with traffic to exhaust resources or bandwidth, leading to a fulfillment disruption of legitimate requests
Attack No. 5: Structured Query Language (SQL) injection: Occurs when an attacker inserts malicious code into a server that uses SQL and forces it to reveal proprietary information
Attack No. 6: Zero-day exploit: Hits after a network vulnerability is announced but before a solution is implemented
How can you stay safe?
Want to learn how you can take steps to protect your data from cyberthreats? Here are five quick but helpful tips to keep your IT safe.
Cyber-security tip No. 1: Implement a cybersecurity training program
In its survey of over 1,000 small business owners and C-level executives, information security company Shred-It’s 2018 State of the Industry Report found that 47% identified human error (such as unintentional loss of a device or document, leaving a device unlocked while unattended, etc.) as the catalyst of a cybersecurity breach at their organization. This evidence clearly indicates a disconnect between where employees currently sit in their grasp of secure technology practices and where they should be.
Make it a priority to integrate a cybersecurity awareness and training program into your organization processes. Some ideas for protocol implementation include:
- Creating a policy about the use of personal email accounts and social media platforms on work devices;
- holding quarterly training seminars for recognizing threat indicators, app installs and updates, and Virtual Private Network setup and usage when working remotely;
- making any training programs a core part of your onboarding program for new employees;
- bringing in guest cybersecurity speakers and instructors for lunch & learns; and
- scheduling regular data access audits to ensure that the right employees have appropriate access to information, and that ex-employees don’t have access.
Cyber-security tip No. 2: Get a firewall solution that protects your entire network
When evaluating your firewall product, there are many questions to consider, especially:
- How effectively does your firewall monitor your network’s incoming and outgoing traffic?
- How well does it prevent viruses and other threatening intrusions?
- Does your firewall properly manage bandwidth so that your network can operate at peak performance?
- Does its identity and access management protocols consistently weed the bad users out?
Your network’s firewall is the dataflow and coverage epicenter of your IT. It needs constant monitoring to ensure that your entire network is both efficient and secure against advanced threats. Cyber-attackers are getting smarter every day, and your firewall needs to have every network entry point protected.
Cyber-security tip No. 3: Make sure your employees are protected, regardless of where they’re located or connecting
There has been a shift in workplace dynamics from only office headquarters to a structure involving multiple satellite/home locations, employees with non-traditional hours, and more mobile and remote workspaces—all requiring real-time connectivity on a multitude of devices. Protecting your information everywhere your employees go on your network becomes exponentially more difficult when they’re connecting in myriad places, on an increasing number of devices. Will your cybersecurity setup protect against a data intrusion over an unsecured Wi-Fi network at the local coffee shop? At an an airport gate? In an employee’s hotel room while traveling on business? While answering emails at their child’s soccer practice?
Not knowing the answers to these questions leaves a huge gap in your cyber-defense and creates opportunities for breachers to leverage a singular entrypoint to create havoc for your entire organization.
Cyber-security tip No. 4: Be more diligent in conducting ongoing internal threat tests
Regular phishing simulation tests are a turnkey way to test the effectiveness and recognition of phishing attempts. Such attempts—which are becoming more sophisticated, especially with the explosion of social media platforms—can be successfully stifled using a variety of approaches.
Additionally, penetration tests—commonly referred to as ‘pen’ tests—should be a dedicated part of your company’s continuing cybersecurity plan. A planned simulated attack on a system using the same tools and techniques that a cyberthief would, it reveals the strengths and vulnerability points in a cyberdefense plan. Such tests should be performed at least quarterly to maintain optimal security levels. The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard mandates a regular testing schedule, including immediately after any system changes or upgrades.
Cyber-security tip No. 5: Consider using single sign-on or multi-factor authentication to buoy password security
LinkedIn’s 2012 data breach, which resulted in nearly 7 million encrypted passwords posted to a Russian crime site, yielded some interesting insights. Among them, more than one in three passwords were classified as ‘weak’ (easily guessed ones ‘123456’ and ‘password’ are still routinely among the most commonly used; a recycled one; one that can easily be decoded; etc.).
Look into the advantages of Single Sign-On (SSO) and Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) resources, which exist for this express purpose. SSOs leverage other trusted sites to verify users’ identities, then allows them access with a single ID and password (which, because they are verified by other trusted sites, are not held in that site’s database). MFAs grant the user access to a network only after successfully presenting two (or more) pieces of evidence from among:
- Something they know (i.e. a password).
- Something they have (i.e. an access card, chip, etc.).
- Something they are (i.e. fingerprint, voice, etc.).
A golfer and gamer in his free time, Frank Keogh is also a 15-year IT and cybersecurity expert who is a highly-certified Senior Systems Engineer for TEC Communications.
TEC Communications is a Cleveland-based Cisco Premier Certified Partner—in fact, the first Cisco technology partner in Northern Ohio—and trusted IT solutions provider celebrating its 40th Anniversary in 2019. Cisco’s solutions give employees top-level protection regardless of where they’re located or connecting, and TEC can help train your employees to identify cyberthreats that attempt to access your network via their endpoints. Go to https://tec4it.com or call us at 440.333.5903 to find out how TEC Communications can help you identify, combat and prevent attacks on your sensitive data.