Unconventional Thinking — Four Practices to Help Mitigate Risk

Monday, April 02, 2018

Sanjay Ramnath

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Taking a conventional approach to cybersecurity typically refers to “keeping the bad stuff out” of your network, meaning blocking any number of malicious threats such as spam, viruses, malware, and DDoS attacks. The truth is if you want your organization to be secure in today’s cyber landscape, you must proactively assess your security posture and focus on mitigating risk. This not only drastically reduces the probability of a successful attack actually transpiring, it will enable the ability to remediate and recover your business quickly in the event of exposure. How do you implement this approach?

1. Mitigate risks posed by targeted email attacks

Email is still the top threat vector used by attackers. More cunning methods such as spear phishing and business email compromise (BEC) are highly targeted and researched attempts where cybercriminals often seek to defraud individuals and lead unsuspecting employees to transfer money or willingly share credentials. The FBI estimates that upwards of $5 billion has been lost to BEC in recent years.

In these attacks, criminals engage in casual conversation with victims through email in an attempt to gain the users’ trust before actually doing anything malicious. In many cases, bad guys investigate and gather information about their targets via social media, which gives them ammunition in making their email threats more convincing. Unfortunately, traditional security solutions such as email security gateways and anti-virus solutions fail to detect these attempts, as there are no malicious attachments or links. An entirely new approach is critical, and currently the most effective technologies are artificial intelligence solutions for cyber fraud defense, domain fraud protection using DMARC authentication, and fraud simulation training for individuals of high risk within your organization.

2. Mitigate the risk posed by careless or untrained users

A significant part of mitigating the risk of targeted email attacks means having the ability to provide security training to high risk individuals. What about the mid to lower-level employees who are either careless or simply clueless? They require training just as much as high risk individuals, as attackers often begin their attack campaigns targeting these employees. Regular security and awareness training with simulation testing of their knowledge is a major key to reducing and mitigating organizational risk.

3. Mitigate the risk posed by rapid application development

Of course, risk is present in other areas beyond email and employees including websites and applications. Identifying and remediating application vulnerabilities while maintaining development agility is a challenging balance. This is particularly true when adopting cloud platforms like AWS and Azure that enable rapid application deployments. In fact, studies have shown that as many as 86 percent of websites contain at least one serious vulnerability, and the average time critical vulnerabilities remain unfixed is 300 days. This is unacceptable as vulnerabilities in websites and other public facing applications can lead to costly data breaches and infiltration. Organizations must proactively check for vulnerabilities in their sites and applications on a regular if not continuous basis.

4. Mitigate the risk of data loss

Sometimes you can do everything right in your approach to security and still have something ugly happen—such as your data getting lost or held for ransom. That’s why there is one important step to take to mitigate the risk of data loss. Protect it.

Implement a data protection strategy that not only includes a backup plan, but one that allows for easy recovery as well. The ideal solution would automatically create updated backups as files are revised, and then have the ability to duplicate them to a secure cloud or to a private off-site location. That way, if criminals encrypt your files with ransomware, you will be able to eliminate the malware, then delete the encrypted files and restore them from a recent clean backup. The whole process can take as little as an hour with the right solution, helping you to get right back to business while leaving criminals empty handed.

By taking these proactive steps to mitigate the security risks in your organization, you will greatly reduce the probability of successful attacks, and have the ability to remediate and quickly recover in the event of exposure. Being truly secure requires a lot more than just focusing on keeping the bad stuff out, but rather learning how to mitigate the potential risks before they ever come your way.

About the author: Sanjay is a 20 year veteran in technology and has a passion for cutting edge technology and a desire to innovate at the intersection of technology trends. He currently leads product management, marketing and strategy for Barracuda’s security business worldwide.

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