The Cybersecurity Challenge:
Defending Your Business Against the Unknown
When was the last time you took a calculated personal risk? Maybe you accepted a new career opportunity or invested in a high-growth retirement fund. Every day, each of us performs our own individual risk assessment of our activities, such as driving to and from the office, where we purchase goods, and whom we choose to interact with.
Now, think about the last time you made a decision that created risk for your company. At the executive and management levels, these types of decisions are made multiple times a day. They’re pretty much second nature.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology defines risk as the extent to which an entity or organization is threatened by a potential circumstance or event. Risk, then, is the basis for identifying, monitoring, and if necessary, responding to the ever-changing threat landscape that exists today.
A Threat We All Face
There is one risk we all share at both a personal and a business level, and that is the risk of data breach. No matter who you are or what type of organization you’re a part of, potential loss of sensitive or personal information is a threat that’s not going away.
The Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) has been tracking U.S. data breaches since 2005, and its most recent data are eye-opening:
• The number of reported data breaches has been at an all-time high for the last two years in a row.
• In 2015, hackers were to blame for 38% of data breaches (a nine-year high).
• The number of breaches that exposed consumer credit-card data is also at its highest since 2011.
Keep in mind that the above are for only reported data breaches: “[The] ITRC is aware that many breaches go unreported, and we are certain that our ITRC Breach List underreports the problem. One thing we can say with certainty is that this is NOT a new problem.” (ITRC, July 12, 2016)
Regardless of whether it becomes public knowledge, a data breach event will significantly disrupt your business. Ponemon Institute research estimates that in 2016, an organization that experiences a breach or loss of sensitive data can expect to lose an average of $4 million to the cleanup effort.
The Breeding Ground of Unknowns
Today, the Internet of Things (IoT) has created a breeding ground of cybersecurity unknowns within the workplace. Web applications, mobile technologies and “cloud-based” infrastructure have softened and blurred what were previously well-defined network boundaries and security best-practices.
The challenge becomes even greater when a business has multiple locations, each with its own technologies and processes for payment acceptance, third-party connectivity, data security, standards compliance, and more. Any one of these factors can create a potential entryway by which your organization’s information technology (IT) infrastructure could be targeted and compromised.
And, when multiple factors are present, your business becomes an even more appealing target for potential hackers.
The scale of the task at hand – defending against the unknown while implementing strategies that evolve and support the business – is overwhelming to many IT teams. Often over-tasked and understaffed, an in-house IT team may be more reactive than proactive, and resort to focusing on what’s known and immediately within their control.
This creates a potential for more serious threats or attacks to be missed.
Making the Unknown Known
Most IT leaders recognize that there are many unknowns surrounding their organization’s true amount of cybersecurity risk. In fact, 74% of respondents to the ControlScan 2016 State of Security Threat Management survey said they are less than confident that an intruder or malware isn’t already operating undetected in their IT networks.
IT teams and their organizations can no longer afford to overlook cybersecurity unknowns. Uncovering these unknowns – and making them known – is the only way to fully understand and manage the associated business risk.
Here are three steps your organization can take now to uncover the unknowns in your IT environment and, at the same time, effectively manage day-to-day security threats:
1. Assess Your IT Security Gaps
You can’t know what to fix until you know what’s broken; therefore, an IT risk assessment is the logical first step in pinpointing the threats and vulnerabilities that can impact your organization’s sensitive data. Once these shortcomings are known, you can determine the likelihood of a compromise occurring and establish composite risk levels for each of your business’ functional areas.
ControlScan recommends that businesses work with a third-party security expert for the risk assessment. The external resource will not only provide an unbiased, holistic viewpoint, they will also do all the heavy lifting, so that the in-house IT team can remain on task according to its current priorities.
2. Engage a UTM Firewall Service
Unified threat management (UTM) technology functions as its name implies, providing an all-in-one solution for detecting and preventing network intrusions from a variety of possible sources. UTM firewall services also add security personnel who work with you or your internal IT teams to deploy and maintain the appliance, but also help secure and optimize your network infrastructure.
Your business’ technologies and processes aren’t static, and neither are the tools and techniques that hackers use. Engaging a UTM firewall service increases your internal team’s efficiency, while ensuring that your defenses remain aligned with the external threat landscape.
3. Monitor and Manage Event Logs
If your event logs could talk, what would they say? Turns out all you have to do is ask, because they contain a complete record of the activity taking place behind the scenes of your business network.
Event logs detect malware, unauthorized system access, and other significant network security events as they happen. Event logs are filled with the unknown, until you make that information known.
By keeping an eye on your event logs, you can quickly identify and respond to intrusions before they become a data breach.
Log monitoring and management are also available as a managed security service. Like the UTM firewall service, the log monitoring and management service provides dedicated security expertise and manpower to supplement your existing IT operations, along with your organization’s security posture.
A Clear Path Forward
Your business doesn’t have to become the next data breach statistic. Building your defense begins with a cyber-risk-management strategy that applies security in layers to increase visibility into your secure environments and allows for vastly increased reaction times when problems are detected.
The good news is that you don’t have to go it alone, and you don’t have to overextend your budget to get expert assistance. For more information on how to maximize your cybersecurity efforts, go to www.controlscan.com/blog.
Chris Burgess, Lead Network Security Engineer at ControlScan, can be reached at (800) 825-3301, Ext. 2; or at firstname.lastname@example.org.