Placing importance on protecting people

Cybersecurity is now front and centre of everyone’s minds thanks to the many horror stories out there and no matter the threats, the focus should always be on protecting people, writes Quinton O’Reilly

Michael Conway, director at Renaissance: ‘Everyone is impacted to some degree by lesser or greater technology threats’

It’s hard to appreciate good security practices when they’re working correctly. Much of the challenge over the years was moving organisations from a reactive approach to proactive, and multiple high-profile attacks have helped that shift.

The overall picture looks encouraging with the latest Grant Thornton’s International Business Report (IBR) highlighting the progress and challenges ahead.

In Ireland, it found that 48 per cent of business leaders plan on increasing their spend on controls throughout the year. Additionally, 52 per cent said they’d introduced or upgraded new risk testing measures over the last 12 months.

That said, there are still concerns. Some 48 per cent of Irish businesses said they weren’t increasing their spending on security controls this year. Within this group, 19 per cent said it was because they had controls in place, 18 per cent said they already had other priority investment areas, and 11 per cent said they didn’t have the resources to do so.

It does highlight that while awareness is increasing, the challenge is keeping up with cybercrime, a definition that gets broader and broader.

“Everyone is impacted to some degree by lesser or greater technology threats,” said Michael Conway, director at Renaissance. “You see that with authentication, which is now more elaborate, you have multi-factor authentication, facial recognition, fingerprints because all of these threats are in place.

“It’s pushing back against the incoming tide of attacks.”

As Conway points out, the concept of fraud has been around for a long time. Technology has just changed the approach.

The volume of attacks will only increase over time and it’s important to keep the focus on protecting people. Thankfully, awareness is growing among businesses as horror stories put their minds on the task at hand.

The one thing Conway warns against is the fear of spending more and more to keep themselves protected. The goal is to spend wisely instead of throwing money at the problem.

“What we’ve definitely seen is people who have become complacent, buying something for a reasonable amount of money and thinking they’re done,” he said. “They have to spend the money wisely.

“If you put something in place and fine-tune it, it will be more beneficial. Even with the latest Cyber Expo we’re hosting in May, you can listen to the sessions and understand what’s happening out there and the real threats and challenges.”

The lack of perimeter

Even for things like permissions, adjusting them to be appropriate to people’s setup, be it working from home or on location, can have a massive impact on your security posture. What you can access becomes crucial when you’re outside of the EU as GDPR prevents you from accessing sensitive data based in Europe.

“It’s a great thing to consider for peace of mind,” he said. “Technologies can be put in place relatively easily, which will geolocate where you are. If you access data in your office in Dublin, that’s acceptable. If you’re in Shanghai, that will bring up questions.”

If you’re accessing sensitive data that’s not supposed to leave Europe, that can cause problems for your organisation. The positive benefit of hybrid working is that it allows greater flexibility, but that brings with it responsibilities to ensure data safety.

“Technology is enabling people to be more sophisticated in handling that approach because we’re now in a hybrid environment,” explained Conway. “When the threat evolved, the response capabilities also evolved to include the working environment.”

It’s also important to know what kinds of attacks are out there, from targeted, which aim at specific persons or entities, to random attacks.

Many random attacks are trying to take advantage of lax attitudes towards security. If you’re sloppy with your setup or leaving yourself vulnerable, bad actors will take advantage of it. It’s a big reason why the cybersecurity industry views attacks as a ‘when’ rather than an ‘if’.

Thankfully, all services have tools and controls like 2FA and geolocation that allow you to secure your perimeter better.

“It’s very quick and easy for the bad guys to do something if you leave yourself vulnerable,” he said. “It’s a lot better if you have some appropriate layers in place that will give you the level of protection you need. It’s not rocket science.”

The other area that Conway is seeing an increase in attention is the area of managed detection response. When a physical alarm goes off, it’s not much use unless someone monitors it and can respond to the threat.

The same principle applies to your digital assets and it’s where managed security services play a role in addressing.

“They’re providing a layer of monitoring and cover which they can intervene if needed,” he said. “They don’t even have to call you and say there’s a problem, they can intervene, shut down your systems and stop the attack.”

You can do several things there as managed security services have evolved how they operate and deliver their services.

“The perimeter has disappeared, but the perimeter is virtual and everywhere.” If you have a hundred PCs in an organisation but they’re outside your office, you need to protect them all and keep them at your level.

“You need to manage and minimise your vulnerabilities, and it’s important to have those levels of protection. To be able to maintain and manage them is where the market is moving.”