Every October is recognised as Cybersecurity Awareness Month, during which governments and the private sector collaborate to promote awareness about digital security, empowering everyone to safeguard their personal data against digital forms of crime. In conjunction with the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), the month is dedicated to developing resources and communications for businesses to use when talking to their employees and customers about online safety. Organisations may strengthen their cybersecurity in a variety of ways, beginning with employee cybersecurity training. As a result, this year’s topic is appropriately themed “See Yourself in Cyber.”

With ransomware on the rise and new attacks occurring daily, Cybersecurity Awareness Month aims to provide businesses with a call to action, to arm themselves with the best available information and resources. According to a Forbes study, the average number of cyberattacks and data breaches increased by 15.1% from the previous year. As dangers to technology and sensitive data become more widespread, it is evident that individuals must be assisted in protecting themselves online. Information Security Buzz spoke to a range of industry professionals to gather insights about how businesses can bolster their cybersecurity.

See Yourself in Cyber     

Although the CIO or CISO retains the main responsibility for cybersecurity in an organisation, the whole organisation bears secondary accountability. Cyberattacks can be directed at anyone in a company. A recent report shows that 32% of breaches involve phishing attacks, and 78% of cyber-espionage incidents are enabled by phishing. Employees who are informed of the threat ransomware poses to their privacy can play an important role in avoiding data breaches. Paul Holland, CEO and Founder of Beyond Encryption, stresses the importance of training: “Education is not a one-stop-shop, and a single e-learning module within an employee’s induction won’t be enough to prevent the majority of risks. Instead, education must become a routine occurrence.”

Cyber-savvy network administrators may be able to minimise typical dangers by avoiding easy passwords for credentials which can expose the organisation to cyberattacks. Will Liu, Managing Director of TP-Link UK, puts it into real terms and adds: “The most common network management security issues arise from network administrators using excessively simple passwords for their credentials. It might sound like common sense, but password best practice is sometimes overlooked.”

See Your Organisation in Cyber

The next step for businesses is to put practical tools and procedures in place to safeguard themselves against vulnerabilities. Nehal Thakore, Country Head UKI at Bosch CyberCompare, explains the role of the organisation and the advantages of automation, he adds: “Organisations can invest in automation to remove as many manual interventions/legacy systems as possible. Finally, businesses must have responsible individuals who oversee cyber security in the organisation.” 

Another solution to consider is patching. According to Ben Jenkins, Director of Cybersecurity at ThreatLocker, “System patching is a tool that businesses must consider when upgrading their security strategies. Patching enables a company to address software and application vulnerabilities while keeping everything up-to-date and running smoothly.” Patches are upgrades to the software and operating systems (OS) that correct security flaws in a programme or product. Updates may be released by software providers to address performance issues as well as to include better security features.

The First Line of Defence

The biggest barrier preventing most online accounts from being hacked is a strong password. Businesses must ensure that they have the capabilities to increase network security as the number of devices accessing networks expands. Putting in place a strong password policy is a quick and easy way to defend networks from current and emerging cyber threats. Eric Mink, CTO of Pax8 EMEA, asks probing questions: “Consider whether you have a multifactor authentication (MFA) setup for all of the apps you use. Do you have strong passwords used only once per app? Do you have a strong password manager?”

Two-factor authentication provides an extra layer of protection to the authentication process by making it more difficult for attackers to obtain access to a person’s devices or online accounts because a password alone is not enough to pass the authentication check, even if the victim’s password is compromised.

Liu of TP-Link also ways in on the importance of passwords and adds: “To avoid security issues, anyone with the responsibility of creating a password needs to have a good understanding of safe practices, such as password creation that will be highly effective against dictionary attacks. This involves using complex passwords, with combinations of uppercase, lowercase, numbers and special characters of a reasonably long length. This can be applied to admin credentials and pre-shared keys in order to secure SSIDs as well as many other passwords. It is also recommended to change passwords every three-to-six months to make sure that networks remain secure over time.”

Employ Further Solutions

Access control is a critical component of data security that governs who has access to and uses corporate information and resources. Access control rules ensure that users are who they say they are and have proper access to corporate data through authentication and permission. Application allowlisting, also known as application control, is a security feature that limits the execution of malicious security threats by allowing only trusted files, apps, and processes to execute. An allowlisting strategy can also be used to prevent malicious software assaults. ThreatLocker’s Jenkins explains allowlisting: “All untrusted software (e.g. ransomware and malware, but also many others) are denied by default. This is a great place to start when trying to remove or restrict a single person’s privileges and abilities over software and applications.”

Jenkins, however, believes allowlisting alone is not enough, adding: “Businesses should think about incorporating a Ringfencing™ strategy, which reduces the likelihood of an exploit succeeding even further. Ringfencing™ allows for granular control over what applications can do after they have been executed. This proprietary solution creates firewall restrictions that enable users to limit application interaction, applications’ access to files, registry, and the internet.”

Awareness is the Greatest Agent of Change 

Cybersecurity Awareness Month is a critical reminder for businesses to assess their strategy and consider taking action to boost their cybersecurity defences. Finally, the greatest advice is that it is never too late to be secure and that being overly cautious is always better than exposing data to attacks. Given that ransomware is a continuing, fast-expanding worldwide issue, and that data privacy is frequently jeopardised, keeping organisations safe is no longer an optional feature; it has become crucial in today’s cyber landscape to remain ahead of the bad actors. The words of Beyond Encryption’s Holland must resonate throughout the industry. He opines: “While this month does a brilliant job of raising awareness of the need for robust practices and vigilant attitudes toward cybersecurity, it must be a year-round priority for everyone.”

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