Breaking common cybersecurity myths
- Cyber awareness is not necessary for small or medium organizations
- Cybersecurity measures are very expensive to implement
- Cybersecurity solutions and tools can be implemented only during the growing phase of the organization’s lifecycle
The world is heavily dependent on the internet in one way or another; everything is now stored in the cloud, giving us remote access to our sensitive data. Banking and payment transactions have been digitalized worldwide and are being accepted as a payment medium. Proof in point; we transact virtually on smartphones, at least once a day. We read online, we book travel online, we manage our banking online, and now more and more of us are working online.
Simply stated—the internet has completely transformed our lives into a digitally connected global hub. Although the internet has made seemingly impossible things possible, we cannot avoid the risks it brings along. Organizations are swiftly adopting cloud infrastructure, using system portability, connecting through multiple servers, and interlinking various gadgets to the network. Similar to this trend, the occurrences of cyberattacks have increased exponentially over time. As a protective measure, organizations need to implement technological upgrades to reinforce their infrastructure with cloud cybersecurity solutions.
Additional reading: The 3 components of a cybersecurity strategy
Organizations are investing heavily in cybersecurity best practices to safeguard themselves against any potential threats and attacks. The global cybersecurity spending on critical infrastructure sectors like transportation, water, electricity, and waste management is expected to reach $23 billion by the end of 2022. This spending is expected to escalate at an annual growth rate of 10%, reaching $36.67 billion by 2027.1 Most cybersecurity spending is focused on integrating the Internet of Things (IoT), artificial intelligence, robotic process automation, and hyper-automation, and with such statistics, a general perception built around cybersecurity is that it’s an expensive, time-consuming, and complex affair.
There are some truths in this myth. However, the cost of containing and forensically investigating a cyberattack without a plan or defense in place is far higher for any organization.
Here are 5 cost-effective, easy-to-implement, cybersecurity best practices to help organizations get ahead of cyber threats.
- Educate your workforce
Many organizations, regardless of revenue, capital investment, employee skill level, or manner of operation, should create a comprehensive employee program on cybersecurity awareness. Ensure staff are aware and educated about cybersecurity threats and hacker strategies including phishing scams and related social engineering attacks such as smishing and vishing. During the COVID-19 pandemic, when COVID-themed scams were at their peak, briefings on new scams greatly aided businesses in avoiding dangerous attacks and online frauds. Organizations should ensure that employees change their passwords frequently (about every 90 days), set multi-factor authentication, and have strong passwords set for their accounts. The use of passphrases provides even better security than complex passwords. This in turn helps in improving the efficacy of network security protocols.
- Adhering to local Government compliance status
Mitigating the risk of cybersecurity threats means following the guidelines and compliance framework set by the government. The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has put together standards for cybersecurity for the U.S., including subsets developed for specific industries. While leveraging NIST, organizations need to understand the exact regulations to be applied to their business. Deploying an IT security governance framework to address cyber threats should be highly preferred and prioritized. Organizations can hire or engage an internal legal team to check the existing policy status and monitor any new regulatory bindings, policies, and other government compliance that may need to be immediately implemented within the organization.
- Periodic cyber security audits
The increase in malicious cyberattacks can be attributed to the quick adoption of digital transformation and cloud optimization, and with cybersecurity measures not keeping pace, many networks have vulnerabilities. As a solution, the adoption of cybersecurity audits can provide a realistic view of the organization’s cybersecurity posture and risks and mitigate threats to data security. A cybersecurity audit includes identification, detection, protection, response, and breach recovery checks for complete compliance adherence in areas of risk management. These risks can be related to; hardware, software, digital assets, data privacy, sharing options, data portability, cloud cybersecurity, payment gateway pathways, system interconnection, and more.
A holistic cybersecurity audit can prove to be of immense value to an organization’s IT infrastructure. In general, these audits involve:
- Reviewing data policies
- Centralizing cybersecurity policy checks
- Reviewing network structure and operations
- Hardware and software checks
- Ensuring compliance adherent of relevant standards
- Analyzing your organization’s entire digital structure to uncover any loopholes or probability of malicious cyber fraud/attacks
- Identifying all the IT security employees and understanding their responsibilities
Apart from audits, organizations should also focus on prioritizing cybersecurity risk assessments, the first step in planning a cybersecurity awareness program. Risk assessment aims to help you choose the most appropriate security controls for your organization based on your risk exposure. It is the complete process of identification, assessment, and understanding of all the risks associated with any organization, the related damage, trends, and the likeliness of occurrence. The best way to conduct an effective cybersecurity risk assessment is to follow the guidelines as outlined in the international standard for information security management, ISO 27001.
- Restricted access to sensitive data
Organizations should be very specific about who has access to sensitive data to mitigate threats to data security, and it should be based upon the principle of ‘least privilege.’ That is, only those who need to have access to perform their roles are given access. The smaller the access group, the lower the risk of vulnerabilities or data breaches. Granting credentials or access to sensitive company information to a larger than required group can create massive pressure on the cyber security team to ensure strict surveillance of these group members’ systems and networks. The concept of least privilege will ensure restricted access to this confidential information. An organization can also implement time-bound access and multifactor authentication for anyone working with these data sets temporarily, to further safeguard any unauthorized admission.
5. Regular data backups
Regular data backups are considered a best practice in the information security industry. Organizations should make sure that their data is encrypted, stored off-site, and backed up routinely (at least daily). It is also advisable to not stack data or hold any one person responsible for important data and information; rather it should always be backed up at an organizational level to avoid insider cyber threats. A detailed document on different data backup options has been outlined by the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT).2
Now knowing that cybersecurity can be easily and cost-effectively implemented in an organization, it’s time to develop a plan to educate your teams, brush up on local government compliance laws, run a cyber audit, restrict access to sensitive data, and run regular data backups. Though this article lists these 5 best practices, cybersecurity can still seem daunting, and it does require consideration of an organization’s requisites, infrastructure, size, and cyber vulnerabilities. CAI’s comprehensive cybersecurity solutions offer end-to-end assessment, governance, planning, management, and administration to take the uncertainty out of the project. Get more information on a customized cybersecurity assessment and consultation according to your organization’s requirements.
- Smith, Ryan. “Global Cybersecurity Spend to Hit $23bn in 2022 – Report.” Insurance Business America. Insurance Business, June 3, 2022. https://www.insurancebusinessmag.com/us/news/cyber/global-cybersecurity-spend-to-hit-23bn-in-2022--report-408361.aspx#:~:text=03%20Jun%202022-,Global%20cybersecurity%20spend%20to%20hit%20%2423bn%20in%202022%20%E2%80%93%20report,a%20report%20by%20ABI%20Research. ↩
- Ruggiero, Paul, and Matthew A Heckathorn. “Data Backup Options - CISA.” CISA. CISA, 2012. https://www.cisa.gov/uscert/sites/default/files/publications/data_backup_options.pdf. ↩