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Knowledge and visibility leads to security

Following on from the article on threat detection and solutions, John Mc Loughlin, CEO of J2 Software highlights the importance of knowledge in the fight against cybercrime, as well as the importance of visibility into all your systems, processes, digital assets and people. The following pointers are presented as a starting point to improved cyber awareness and security.

Knowledge is key

Knowing where the risks are is a great step in the fight against cyber-attacks, which must then be continually augmented with live, inline and ongoing user cyber-awareness training. Without helping your users know what they need to be aware of, they cannot be expected to be part of the fight. It is important to not simply shift the blame to the user when you have not taken adequate steps to make them aware of the threats.

Some of the areas that require visibility and actionable intelligence are:

  • User activity – both on and off the corporate network.
  • Access to in-house and cloud-based platforms.
  • Behavioural monitoring of users and the applications they install.
  • End-point protection, with correlation to global threat intelligence.
  • Email access and usage. This must cater for external and internal email attacks.
  • Asset detection and management with ongoing vulnerability assessment to discover where the gaps are before the compromise takes advantage of the vulnerability.
  • User cybersecurity awareness that is relevant to the organisations. You cannot expect users to help prevent breaches when they do not know what to look out for.

Visibility is key

As we work in a hyper-connected world, it is no longer good enough to only monitor what happens on the corporate network. You also need to know where your assets are used out in the wild. Breaches from third-party contractors or online applications can lead to your organisation losing data because of poor cyber-hygiene or password reuse. The area of risk is vast and includes:

  • The network – as in the physical network with switches, routers firewalls and similar equipment.
  • The systems – as in the business applications that run your business. Some of which are in-house and some may be sitting out in the cloud.
  • The equipment – as in the computers, laptops, VoIP, mobile devices that your users jump on every day to interact with the systems, customers and suppliers of your business. It is important to know where and what assets are being used across your landscape. It is more important to know whether these are vulnerable to attack and compromise.
  • The people – this is the easiest part to hack. The attacker does not need to hack a system; it is far easier to hack a human. Using social engineering and deception it is easy to compromise individuals to part with their knowledge or access credentials.
  • The dark web – the cyber underground is where compromised details are shared and traded. This is a critical part of the programme because if you do not know that your corporate records are being traded, you cannot take any steps to close the hole created by these breached records.

A layered solution

Layered, overlapping solutions are required to win the fight against evolving threats. It is not enough to have only a firewall and antivirus solution in place when you do not have any idea regarding access and standard behaviour. Using the layered approach, when one layer is defeated you immediately detect the breach within another. Once detected you then have the capability to update all other layers to make sure the attack is nullified in future. Some of the layers will include, but not be limited to:

  • End-point protection with automated updates and behavioural monitoring.
  • Inline Domain Name System (DNS) or Internet monitoring and security – on or off the network from any connection.
  • Email gateway and internal security measures to identify malicious attacks via email. This must include advanced capabilities to prevent phishing, whaling, impersonation attempts and armoured attachments.
  • Backup – managed and monitored backup is crucial. It is also a key aspect to make sure that you have built-in and automated ransomware protection. If it is not the corporate standard, then it cannot be encrypted. Why allow something to take hold. It is cheaper, faster and more convenient to prevent than recover.
  • User activity monitoring which must include known and unknown deviations from standard behaviour.
  • Network, wireless and machine intrusion detection along with the complementary vulnerability assessments and remediation.

Mc Loughlin concludes: “All of these should be tied together in order to get a single 360-degree view of the overall threat and risk landscape for your organisation. Once you have the knowledge and total visibility, you have the capability to respond. Many of the basic tasks can be automated, which also ensures consistency and immediate reaction.”

BY John McLoughlin, MD, J2 Software

First Appeared on Hi-Tech Security Solutions Magazine