Everyone Plays a Role in Cybersecurity

Hollywood would have us believe that cyberattacks are elaborately planned and use expensive, sophisticated tools developed by James Bond’s tech guru, Q. Yet in real life, most hacks are nothing like that. The cybercriminals often simply fool a human to gain access.

Phishing remains a primary way to attack. A scammer sends an email that looks legitimate, and an unsuspecting victim clicks on a malicious link. They might download malware or end up on a webpage that looks credible but is set up to gather their personal data.

Social engineering targets the human desire to help. A hacker might drop an infected thumb drive in the office parking lot of the target business – they need only one well-intentioned person to pick it up and plug it into the office system – or they call, saying they represent a contractor and urgently need important credentials.

Your cybersecurity is only as strong as its weakest link. In many cases, your employees are that weakest link. They are busy working hard, so they don’t stop to question things, or they can be too trusting. A supply-chain attack compromises your vendor. The hackers change the details on the vendor’s invoice so that the money ends up in their bank account. Your people don’t notice, because they usually trust the vendor.

Educate Employees about Their Cybersecurity Role

Every business needs to educate employees about the part they play in cybersecurity. They need to care, but they may feel that it’s not their concern. They’ll expect IT or someone else at work to handle malware and prevent cyberattacks, but each individual has a role.

It can help to put the potential threat in personal terms. Help them to understand that they are not only protecting work data on the network, and it’s not just client personal details: it’s their names, addresses, and tax numbers, too. Plus, it’s how much they get paid, healthcare records, resumes, and more, which is exactly the kind of information hackers exploit in identity theft. That one hack can have a huge ripple effect.

There’s also the argument that if your business suffers a breach or downtime, everyone could be out of the job. Particularly bad data breaches or hacks can destroy a business. Of course, the individual didn’t mean to do anything wrong, but their ill-advised action costs your company, which can mean downtime, lost productivity, damaged brand reputation, compliance issues, and more. Recovery is difficult.

Cybersecurity Is an Ongoing Concern

It’s also important that you don’t treat cybersecurity training as a one-off. Running through a list of “do nots” in employee onboarding and then moving on is not going to work. Build cybersecurity literacy into your workplace culture.

Remind employees about strong passwords and thinking twice before sharing any sensitive data. Require them to use protected networks for remote access and to encrypt files.

Your business can also show the importance of employees taking responsibility by:

  • discussing cybersecurity in hiring processes;
  • outlining policies and procedures in the handbook;
  • reminding employees to regularly update and upgrade technology;
  • monitoring applications downloaded onto work devices;
  • having a clear policy for people bringing in their own devices;
  • adding multi-factor authentication to remote access.

Ransomware threats are on the rise globally, cybercrime gangs are targeting any weakness, regardless of business size or industry. Enlist your employees in the ongoing fight against hackers.

Lessons Learned from an Oil Pipeline Ransomware Attack

Your business may not be supplying oil to the United States, and you may not even be in the critical infrastructure business, but don’t think that means ransomware can’t happen to you, too. This article shares lessons learned from a headline-grabbing event, and they’re applicable to businesses of all sizes in all industries.

First, what happened? The May 2021 ransomware attack crippled a 5500-mile gasoline pipeline. The Colonial Pipeline serves up nearly half of the gasoline used by the East Coast of the United States. The attack, thought to be the largest ever on US oil infrastructure, encrypted almost 100 gigabytes of data. Russian hacker group DarkSide took the systems hostage, demanding an undisclosed ransom. The pipeline was offline for days, and the disruption plagued the country for weeks.

The lesson learned? Businesses cannot underestimate the importance of being proactive about preventing cybercriminal attacks. The Colonial Pipeline attack originated in Russia and attacked the US, but the motive was financial. The majority of cyberattacks come down to money. That means your business could be at risk, too.

Lesson #1: Educate employees

Avoid falling victim to a devastating ransomware attack by educating employees about cybersecurity. Train your employees to recognize phishing emails and other scams, teach them about the importance of strong passwords, help them understand potential dangers of using unsecured wireless networks or unencrypted devices, and prevent their downloading unsanctioned apps onto work computers.

Lesson #2: Use firewalls and email filtering

Configure firewalls to protect your network and block access from malicious IP addresses. Geo-fencing can reduce traffic from foreign actors in known cybercrime hubs.

Additionally, set up advanced spam filters. These help identify and stop phishing emails before they even get to your employees.

Lesson #3: Limit access

You’re thinking you’re doing that already with firewalls and filtering, but this refers to limiting access for the people who work for you. Configure credentials so that employees can access only what’s needed to do their job. Limiting administrative access makes it more difficult for bad actors to do damage.

Also, limit permissions to reduce access. One employee may need to read certain files but have no need to edit them. Configure the file and directory access accordingly.

Lesson #4: Monitor and patch

Even if you’re not online at all hours of the day, you should be monitoring IT 24/7. Set up alerts to identify any suspicious activity. You want to know as soon as possible if there is a vulnerability so your business can limit its exposure.

Also, patch: don’t ignore update notifications from your software providers or operating system manufacturers. Every piece of technology in your office could be an entry point for a bad actor. Cybercriminals are always finding new modes of attack and vulnerabilities. You have to be vigilant and keep your systems updated to cut your risk.

Lesson #5: Have a backup plan

If cybercriminals take your system hostage, you don’t want to have to pay a ransom. It’s costly, and you can’t guarantee you’ll get a functional system back. You will still suffer downtime and damaged reputation from the attack.

Having several system backups, tested regularly for accuracy, helps protect you from catastrophe. We recommend a 3-2-1 approach. That’s three separate copies of the backup on two different storage types, and at least one of them should be off-site.

Customize your backup plan around the specific needs of your business. One company might be fine backing up daily, whereas another may suffer if it loses even a few hours of data.

Cybersecurity doesn’t have to be complicated

Ransomware attacks are expensive and time consuming. Partner with a managed service provider to keep an eye on your systems. Our IT experts can configure protection, track activity, and provide backup solutions. Take preventative action to protect your business against ransomware and other cyberattacks. Work with professionals to install a layered IT security strategy today.