Justin Slaten is the Chief Information Officer at Venbrook Group, LLC.
As chief information officer at a company that sells insurance solutions, I’m in a unique position because I’m also a customer looking to protect an enterprise from the same cyber threats facing every other company. I need to stay ahead of the same risks as the next guy to protect our environment, build trust and safeguard data.
In other words, my team eats its own dog food.
This is no small task, as cyber threats constantly evolve and many remain unknown. You can only be so proactive.
When assessing the cyber landscape facing your company, consider the following six cybersecurity threats to protect your proprietary information. Because there’s more to risk than simply buying an insurance policy.
1. Leaky Integration
Your business is a complex system, and every bit of data should fit seamlessly. Data and systems integration are the thoroughfare, powering innovative services and positive customer experiences. But with great integration also comes great responsibility. As you embrace third-party technologies in a quest to offer better service, you also open the door to unseen and future threats with new updates and service changes. It’s important to evaluate for change routinely because as technology evolves, system infrastructure changes.
Integration also requires vendor accountability to avoid honest mistakes. First, audit yourself. It’s just as important as auditing third-party vendors. Build partnerships with vendors so you can hold them accountable for their promises. But the job doesn't end there. A vendor works to prevent attacks on its systems, while your team assumes overall responsibility for hardening the system according to industry best practices, securing front-door access using single sign-on / multifactor authentication, automated (de)provisioning, log integration with security information and event management (SIEM), and managed security alerting.
2. You’ve Got Ransomware
A terrifying scenario is a cybercriminal locking away your business' data and demanding a ransom, manipulating you into taking drastic action to retrieve your customers’ data. CNA Financial, which paid $40 million in 2021, provides a cautionary tale.
With every endpoint a potential target, detection and response software are important tools. Equip every computer with industry-leading EDR software or consider outsourcing network management to experts. Prepare early by backing up your backups, providing a failsafe in the event of a worst-case scenario. And forget weekly backups; today’s daily data torrents demand a more routine protocol. Also, store backups in a separate physical and network location, far from a data-napper’s grasp. Make backups immutable without having to move the data offline, which can stop bad actors.
3. Hackers Scam Your Team
Social engineering is an age-old con. With large amounts of sensitive data at stake, your network can become unwitting targets for cyber predators looking to get into your system.
Routine training of your team is your best response. Instead of PowerPoint decks, embrace interactive training to immerse your team in a cybercriminal’s mind. Metrics can guide the training, showing who is paying attention, enabling you to strengthen your defenses where needed. Cybercrime is relentless, so don't rely on once-a-year training. Training sessions throughout the year will create a well-prepared and vigilant team capable of warding off savvy scammers. Additionally, metrics can measure the effect that training has on behavior—a key when you need to show a return on your technology investment.
4. An Inside Job
One of your biggest cybersecurity threats may be an insider, perhaps a disgruntled employee, ex-colleague or employee’s innocent mistake. Your data's safety depends on locking down access, monitoring behavior rigorously and deploying a top-notch security task force. Consider a scripted onboarding and offboarding process to combat employee and contractor turnover to help keep digital keys out of the wrong hands.
Developing a robust identity architecture is also critical. Your primary focus should be on risk-based authorization, using emerging capabilities alongside traditional data loss prevention tools to create baselines of normal user behavior. When an anomaly is detected, the system then alerts and restricts access. Modern identity technology helps ensure that users can access only the data and technology they need. While data loss prevention has been the primary guard against malicious behavior, emerging technologies now make DLP almost a secondary enhancement.
5. People Working Remotely
Remote work has become the norm, but it also has removed crucial barriers that once helped separate your organization from outside threats. Today’s customer databases have become a cloud of distributed vulnerabilities, but your security technology still must protect everyone, regardless of location.
Protecting the endpoint and the data flowing to and from it is a key strategy with remote workers. You’re no longer monitoring data flowing to and from a corporate network. Instead, you’re now securing individual applications and the data within them. So don’t focus solely on endpoint security, but make sure to monitor and protect the data and service layers as well.
6. Hidden Gaps In Expertise
One big cybersecurity challenge comes down to insourcing versus outsourcing, a balancing act between in-house self-reliance and external mastery. Are you willing to trade expertise for system control? Are you ready to allocate resources to monitor the experts you’ve hired to monitor your system? Insourcing gives you control, but building in-house proficiency requires investment. Outsourcing offers elite expertise but also introduces third-party risk. Are your consultants truly loyal? It’s a tough decision.
Before you’re even aware you’re a target, a sophisticated hacker already has collected all publicly available information about your organization and its system. At this point, security shifts from prevention to detection, which is critically important to minimize the hacker’s impact. Prepare by identifying and addressing gaps using red and blue team table-top exercises, which highlight areas for operational improvement while testing your detection and response capabilities.
Robust Cybersecurity Is Your First And Best Line Of Defense
From seamless integrations to remote work challenges, your organization requires a strong defense to protect against cybersecurity. But if you remain vigilant and strategic, your organization can safeguard your business and earn the trust of your customers.
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