Keeping up with the cybercriminals

Keeping up with the cybercriminals

The threat to data is nothing new, but the scale of the problem is ever expanding

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28th November, 2021

No doubt about it, there is a real problem out there: businesses today revolve around data, but the systems that allow this make for an increasingly juicy target for professional cybercriminals.

“Data is not just the ‘new oil’, it’s the lifeblood of most businesses,” Trevor Coyle, chief technology officer at managed IT security specialists Typetec, said.

Nonetheless, we know that many businesses are flummoxed when faced with both escalating threats and an array of solutions. One issue is that, typically, the only reason we ever hear about security is due to the flaws. Unfortunately, this is when it is too late, and businesses need to think about security before breaches occur.

“We generally only hear about security after a big breach but, having been in the industry for 24 years, I can say that the threat has always been there,” Coyle said.

Indeed, one only has to think back to headlines around lost laptops to realise that data threats pre-date the current wave of ransomware.

Today, the threat is increasingly sophisticated, so it is important to understand what your exposure is. In other words, the technology should only be put in place once the business is understood.

“You have to start from the ground up: the technology is there to use, but you have to understand your data, what is private and what is public, and the technology slots in,” Coyle said.

A major issue for businesses is a lack of internal resources. A survey conducted by Typetec found that this was particularly the case for small businesses.

In addition, there can be overconfidence, with many businesses thinking either that they are already protected or that they are not threatened. In reality, any business can be the subject of an attack, and the reputational damage can be enormous.

“Sixty per cent of those who suffered a ransomware attack had their data leaked on the dark web,” Coyle said.

Traditional thinking about security feeds into that false sense of security, such as only thinking in terms of the perimeter rather than the data. New methodologies are out there, though, such as the Centre for Internet Security (CIS) Security Controls.

“The way people measure security is crucial,” Coyle said, “and there is a real need to do it from the ground. Things like CIS are good measuring tools.”

Coyle said that, in fact, there were more breaches than people realised, as a lot went unnoticed in the news.

“A lot of companies get hit, but it doesn't get reported because they’re not big enough,” he said.

Typetec recommends starting with low-hanging fruit, and Coyle said that implementing two-factor authentication is a start, and noted that it can be combined with single sign-on to reduce user frustration.

However, working with a managed security provider should result in a close look at how business operations work. Rationalised processes and the implementation of secure access service edge (SASE) can have a huge impact, dramatically reducing a business’s exposure.

“The vast majority of users are using Microsoft 365 or other software as a service so they are connecting into HQ and then [from there] going to the cloud, but that doesn't make sense. If you're flying to London do you fly to Belfast first?

“SASE acts as a proxy and for a small company CASB [cloud access security broker] is an option,” Coyle said.

Of course, there remains the age-old balance to be struck between security and functionality, but with the nature of the threat mutating from the viruses of old to ransomware injected by criminal gangs, proper preparation means ensuring even back-ups are locked down, immutable and ‘air-gapped’ away from operational systems

“The hackers are getting more clever, they're going straight to back-up, including cloud. Immutable back-ups mean you have permission to make back-ups, not to alter or otherwise go in, and so you can then use them to restore,” he said.

The race never stops, though, and Typetec is now deploying artificial intelligence (AI) for its clients. Coyle said that key AI technologies such as endpoint detection and response (EDR) were really changing the game as it responded to potential threats faster than any human ever could.

“AI is the future. It's not about having individuals responding to alerts; that's too slow,” he said.

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