The internet was created with the goal to foster global connectivity. But that connectivity also created a fertile ground for not only launching cyber attacks but also perpetuating them further and magnifying their impact. A cyber attack is an attack on one or more computer systems or a network by malicious actors. The goal could be to steal or manipulate data, cause disruptions or remotely control the victim’s computer.
As cybercriminals become more organized and well-armed, their intentions become more grotesque. Today, cyberattacks go beyond causing mere inconveniences and small losses. A successful attack can erode the trust of customers and result in a drop in sales. And this is in addition to the direct cost of cyber incidents which includes regulatory fines, incident response, and cybersecurity improvements.
Cyber attack statistics indicate that cybercrimes cost the global economy almost 1 trillion USD last year. Essentially, cybersecurity is now a matter of survival rather than competition and convenience.
The Basics of Cyber Attack Prevention and Protection
It’s important to realize that cybersecurity is not a ‘one-and-done’ kind of a thing. It must evolve along with the changing threat landscape and scenarios. People, processes, and technology, all three elements combine to form the key pillars of cybersecurity. A comprehensive cybersecurity strategy must consider all three aspects and equally focus on prevention, detection, and response.
Train Your People
People can pose the greatest risk to an organization’s cybersecurity even with the best-in-class tools and technologies. People include everyone – from c-level executives to management to employees. All it takes is a single negligent employee falling prey to a carefully crafted phishing email to gain a strong foothold in an otherwise well-protected network. So, it’s essential that all employees receive training about cybersecurity best practices and understand the consequences of not adhering to them.
Security teams can minimize the cybersecurity risks posed by individual employees by implementing the principle of least privilege, automating patch management, and enforcing strong password policies. Companies must educate their employees about maintaining good cyber hygiene and the importance of online privacy. Conducting phishing assessments can also give much-needed insight into the cybersecurity awareness and preparedness of a company’s employees.
Create Standard Processes
Cybersecurity teams should define and document processes to ensure cybersecurity. These processes will then provide a framework for evaluating each new tool, asset, third-party vendor, or employee added to the organization’s security fabric. Well-documented security processes make sure that everyone within the organization stays on the same page with regard to cybersecurity and knows what to do to prevent or respond to a potential threat.
Relevant security processes include forming a comprehensive incident response plan for mitigating cyber threats and minimizing disruptions. Security teams must also define processes for gathering and analyzing the latest threat intelligence and updating the security strategy accordingly. Finally, there should be well-defined procedures for choosing and managing vendors throughout their contract lifecycle. However, security processes will only be effective if people follow them diligently.
Implement Security Technologies
Cybersecurity tools and technologies have come a long way since legacy firewalls and antivirus software. As organizational boundaries blur and supply chains become more complicated, cybersecurity tools have also become more adept. However, security tool sprawl is a real issue. Instead of choosing isolated tools with overlapping functionality, security teams must select tools that can integrate well with each other to create a resilient cybersecurity framework.
Technologies like network segmentation can allow security teams to separate critical and non-critical apps and data and implement security controls accordingly. Additionally, a zero-trust network architecture can drastically reduce the attack surface by disabling free lateral movement within a network. Tools for user behavior analytics, incident detection and response, and authentication monitoring can reduce the burden of overworked security teams. Security tools should make the jobs of security experts easier, not over-complicated.
Assume Joint Responsibility for Cybersecurity
Modern cybersecurity is an ongoing process instead of something that’s only ever addressed at specific intervals. So leaving it up to the security teams alone is simply not enough. People across the board must adopt good cyber hygiene and remain vigilant to play their part in facilitating their security teams. Instead of chasing after the threats and gaps, the responsibility of cybersecurity teams should be to train the employees, define security procedures and ensure adherence to the organization’s policies.
And finally, sharing threat intelligence is the key to successfully navigate the ever-changing threat landscape. Knowing is half the battle; organizations must readily share information about security incidents as soon as they occur to warn others. Only by banding together can organizations stay ahead of the invisible but highly-skilled cybercriminals.
Contributed by guest author Ashley Lukehart. Ashley has been writing about the impact of technology and IT security on businesses since starting Parachute in 2005. Her goal has always been to provide factual information and an experienced viewpoint so that business leaders are empowered to make the right IT decisions for their organizations.