Like any criminal activity, Cyber Attacks are unpredictable and cannot be completely avoided. Nearly 1 in 5 charities reported a Cyber Attack in 2017 and this number is growing year on year, with hackers exploiting the vulnerabilities in less robust security systems.
Although Cyber criminals are getting wiser and more tactical, there are ways you can reduce the risk to your organisation. Just as you lock your valuables out of sight and install alarms on your possessions to deter physical crime; due diligence on your digital systems and investment into digital security, will not only lessen the opportunities for Cyber criminals, but could ultimately prevent an unprecedented attack.
Here are 6 simple methods that could ensure your organisation is protected from the detrimental lasting effects of a Cyber Attack.
Most people associate software updates with improving performance and stability, enhanced features, or better compatibility with different devices or applications - allowing the software to run more efficiently. These important updates also allow essential patching of potential “holes” within the security of your system.
The infamous WannaCry attack in May 2017 detected outdated IT systems, including Windows XP - a 17 year old operating system, as an entry point which unfortunately cost the NHS an estimated £92m. When companies such as Microsoft, Adobe and Apple push out high severity updates, they do so to avoid malicious and strong vulnerability. Skipping an update because it takes up a few minutes of time could end up costing permanent repercussions.
For piece of mind, you can set up auto-updates for trusted software across mobile devices and computers.
Antivirus acts as the “policeman” standing at the gate of a computer system, protecting, destroying and warning of possible threats to the system. With new viruses coming out all the time, the job of the antivirus software keeps up with the latest threats in real-time. It locates the unique identification information linked to each virus, known as it “signature definition file” and counteracts to provide constant protection.
By not choosing antivirus, is like inviting a criminal into your home. As with software updates, antivirus programmes may need to be updated every so often, if not automatically enabled and will prompt the user to do so.
A firewall is a network security device that acts as the first line of defence, monitoring incoming and outgoing network traffic, deciding whether to allow or block based on a defined set of security rules.
Firewalls typically fall into 4 categories:
- Proxy - Proxy servers can provide additional functionality such as content caching and security, by preventing direct connections from outside the network.
- Stateful Inspection - Considered a traditional” firewall, this type allows or blocks traffic based on state, port and protocol. It monitors all activity from the opening of a connection until it is closed. Filtering decisions are made based on the administrated defined rules, as well as context.
- Unified Threat Management (UTM) – A UTM device typically combines, the functions of a stateful inspection firewall with intrusion prevention and antivirus. It may also include additional services and often cloud management. UTMs focus on simplicity and ease of use.
- Next-Generation (NGFW) – As cyber criminals are more adept at finding new ways of intrusion, firewalls are being deployed with increased functionality to block advanced malware and application-layer attacks. A number of NGFW’s also provide threat detection and remediation.
Email encryption protects the content of messages from being read by entities other than the intended recipients. Encrypting an email message means it's converted from readable plain text into scrambled cipher text. The encryption relies on a Public Key Infrastructure or PKI; in most cases, a combination of a private key (known only by you) and a public key (known only to those you choose to distribute it to).
Only the recipient who has the private key that matches the public key used to encrypt the message can decipher the message for reading. Any recipient without the corresponding private key, however, sees indecipherable text.
(Here's a handy guide on how to encrypt email.)
Additionally many people have started to whitelist email address’ to “safe sender” lists, which are manually managed by the individual. This option will require you to regularly update if you are communicating to senders outside your main organisation or they will be re-routed to your junk mail.
Just as you use an ATM which asks initially for one proof of identification - your card, following with a second - your pin. Your phone has options of finger print and pin, telephone/online banking asks for two or more ways of unique identification, these are all combinations of Multi-Factor Authentication. Yet many people still don't protect their business in the same way.
As cloud-based remote working is becoming the norm, multi-factor authentication for business applications provides that additional layer of protection and security against compromised credentials. Common implementations of multi-factor authentication include the “something you know” factor (i.e. a password) and “something you have” (i.e. a one-time passcode sent to your smartphone or provided via a token).
While having a strong password provides one level of safe guarding an account, the multi factor authentication adds that extra layer of security and can be utilised as an alert of potential threat. For example, if a hacker is attempting to authenticate an account, the targeted employee would receive the second authentication factor notification and realise something has been compromised.
Surprisingly often overlooked, yet the most crucial way to prevent a cyber-attack, is by investing in employee awareness. A report by the International Association of Privacy Professional (IAPP) indicated that over 92% of data breaches occurred due to human error. While this cannot be completely eliminated, this number can certainly be lessened by providing adequate training surrounding two main functions that serve as security assets for your business
- Policy Compliance
- Incident Response
Teaching employees how to accurately spot common IT security threats, like phishing emails or sending reminders about which security software to regularly update, create a more security-conscious employee base, providing an additional layer of security for your organisation. Building an incident response is essentially the same as preparing employees for potential fire breakouts. Should an incident occur; your organisation is able to respond in an organised fashion - allowing control and reducing the amount of damaged suffered.
Never underestimate the power of stating the obvious and regular check backs within IT security. Confidential records printed and left on desks; post-it-notes with passwords; screens with private information left on with the user not being present; CCTV cameras set up so they are directly pointing at screens; all these “obvious” potential risks serve as a free pass for a cyber criminal.
Additionally, as cloud-based working is custom for most organisations, this in turn encourages widespread use of more personal computing devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets which have connectivity onto the corporate network. Deploying a mobile device management solution allows the organisations IT department to manage the mutilate of devices with a single software product, making security simpler to maintain and reducing risk.
Even with the most stringent vigilante, cyber criminals are getting wise to emerging technologies and can unfortunately find loop holes, gaining access to precious data. A crucial safety net for any organisation is to ensure they have a sufficient back-up in place, should the “worst-case scenario” occur. Having a regular (i.e. current and automated) backup can be the difference between smoothly recovering from a destructive virus or ransomware attack, or facing a stressful, frantic and costly downtime/data-loss.
Traditionally back-ups were in the form of tapes or a static server, which meant they could become outdated; yet the development of cloud technologies such as Microsoft Azure, allow a more dynamic back-up, including the restoration of individual files and machines; providing ease of use, cost effectiveness and peace of mind for organisations across the globe.
For more information about keeping your workplace secure speak to one of our experts, we specialise in IT Security, Support and Solutions for Charities.