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New Tech and New Hacks: How Are Cyber Risks Changing?

Ominous figure standing over a laptop, working on hacking your secure data

Like much of the tech world, cybersecurity is constantly moving forward. New data security requirements, new best practices, and new threats mean that standing still is risking being left behind.

Choices that were made one, five, or 10 years ago may not hold up to the latest best practices or hacking threats, and could hold your organization back as new requirements emerge – or worse, put you at risk.

Data breaches are a major threat, and the cost to recover from one – including ransoms, fines, customer compensation, and new data security solutions – grows year over year due to increasing ransoms, new fine schemes, and a better understanding of how valuable lost personal data can be. The number of compromised records grew by 200 percent from 2018 to 2019. Entering 2020, cybersecurity researchers predicted that the number of records compromised would continue to grow. Then came COVID-19, during which hackers honed existing attack strategies and created new ones.

Keeping your data secure is easier said than done. Data breaches don’t only consist of illegal access following a ransomware attack or phishing attempt; any unauthorized or accidental access, destruction, or alteration can mean your data has been breached. Despite what may feel like vulnerabilities on all sides, there are steps you can take to effectively safeguard your organization’s data.

Who is at Risk for a Data Breach?

Anyone, from small businesses to huge enterprises, is at risk for threats ranging from phishing to ransomware to PowerShell attacks. Further, newly remote workforces have opened novel avenues into previously secure servers as workers exchanged the security of office networks for the unknown security of a home office.

In their annual Threat Intelligence Report, IBM delved into how regions, countries, and industries are impacted differently. Globally, the United States is most at risk for any type of data breach, especially organizations in financial services, healthcare, transportation, and manufacturing – risks that extend north into Canada, as well. Within IBM’s interactive map, you can learn the specifics of how your region is targeted and which industries are the most at risk. However, finance leads the pack as the most-impacted industry, followed closely by retail, transportation, and media.

Related Reading: How a Data Security Breach Puts Your Organization at Risk

IBM found that 2019 also saw changes in the industries under attack and methods used; sectors gaining interest from attackers include retail, entertainment, education, and government industries. And in 2020, COVID-19’s disruption led to more interest in healthcare organizations already pressed with increasing patient numbers and a lack of protective gear, as one German company discovered.

The Biggest Cyber Risks Organizations Face Today

1. Data Breaches: Internal & External Risks

Data breaches can occur for a variety of reasons, but it’s important to keep in mind that internal unauthorized access is also part of the definition of a data breach. In fact, nearly 50 percent of all data loss is caused by internal actors. While some is intentional, half is simple human error, including unsecure file sharing, low-security passwords, and too much access. In fact, 70 percent of users have more access privileges than required for their role, which provides dual inroads for a data breach. This means that a successful phishing attempt will yield better results with more access, or curious employees can peruse data they’re not authorized to view in the first place.

Get the Guide: 6 Internal Users to Put on Your Security Watch List

Establishing and embracing education and training for your workforce is key to building a strong cybersecurity base. When your employees are consistently exercising the best security practices, you reduce the risk factors within your organization and focus the bulk of your energy on external threats.

Reviewing the latest data breaches making headlines can help you jumpstart an overhaul of your security systems. Looking at industry-specific or organizations with similar setups can provide granular details that will help you adjust your data security approach, while a meta-review can help you take a step back and ensure you’re following best cybersecurity practices across the board.

2. Ransomware

The last couple years have seen a shift in the cyber threat landscape and the re-emergence of ransomware as a popular attack method, with new twists. Ransomware is a type of malware that encrypts your data and demands a ransom to unlock access; some ransomware is also capable of erasing your data completely or encrypting it with an unencryptable algorithm.

In some cases, ransoms can bleed into data breaches and exposure. Sophisticated, hands-on ransomware will target businesses and threaten to release the breached files if the ransom is not paid. This has led to skyrocketing ransom costs for organizations, with the average payment per incident going from around $13,000 in the first quarter of 2019 to $111,605 in the first quarter of 2020.

3. Software Vulnerabilities

Software, even ubiquitous, everyday tools, can inadvertently impact your data security, as a Google Chrome zero-day vulnerability recently reminded users. When software users fail to update software to new versions as they are released, they can expose your organization to attacks, especially when the update is a security patch.

Aside from old software versions, software shortcomings including lack of encryption, homegrown custom tools, and even user access restrictions can open inroads for malicious actors to get their hands on your data. Ensure you’re using the appropriate tools for each task, and that they uphold the data security requirements and regulations your organization follows. For example, many compliance requirements outline the minimum security benchmarks that organizations should meet, such as encryption standards.

Bonus: Using file encryption software can help you keep your data secure both in motion and in storage, rendering it useless to both employees and external threats unless they hold the appropriate key.

4. Remote Workforce & Inadvertent Insiders

Cybersecurity came second to operationality when businesses – overnight – transitioned to remote workforces. Alongside the monitors, snacks, and family photos left behind at workstations were the layers of preventive security controls that offices typically have in place. Ensure your employees are still following best practices at home, as they would in the office by:

  1. Using work-specific devices that have up-to-date security layers in place.
  2. Educating your employees on the technology and software that’s available to them, and why they shouldn’t cut corners on your specified processes.
  3. Understanding your vulnerabilities and how effective your defenses are.

Human error is what hackers rely on: an employee clicking on a risky link or an unsecure (or off-the-books) process in place, or unsecured devices and networks. Nipping human error in the bud goes a long way towards keeping your organization secure.

Keep reading: 5 Ways to Tighten Cybersecurity Working from Home

Putting it All Together

Each of today’s cyber risks influences the others. Secure software and educated employees are less likely to leave a crack in their processes that attackers can exploit, which reduces the surface area available for malware or data breach.

Avoid Today’s Cyber Risks by Improving Your Processes

The key to making cybersecurity work for your organization is to ensure that all employees are on the same page about best security practices, common risks, and how to identify potential attacks.

Understand Your Risks

As referenced earlier, finance and insurance companies are the most-attacked organizations. However, IBM found that they disclose fewer data breaches. This ratio may indicate that finance and insurance companies are more prepared thanks to “effective tools and processes in place to detect and contain threats before they turn into major incidents.” Further, these companies prepare for cyberattacks by testing their response plans to ensure they are effective and to find potential gaps.

The lesson: rather than assuming that your organization won’t be attacked, or that your cybersecurity program is effective, assume that it isn’t. Understand your greatest weaknesses and vulnerabilities, identify risks and cracks in your cybersecurity defenses, and take proactive steps to monitor your network. Further, ensure that your data is secure at all the points in its lifecycle: assign appropriate access, ensure sensitive data can’t leave its borders, and verify that data in transit is secured.

Understanding the risks within your industry (including from non-compliance!) can provide a basic guideline for building up your security system and keeping your data out of harm’s way.

Update (or Establish) Your Cybersecurity Program

Every organization, large or small, needs to be concerned about cybersecurity and cyber risks. While big-ticket organizations, like large enterprises and financial groups, are popular targets due to large and rapid ransom payouts, small organizations are increasingly targeted in order to gain access to covetable third parties.

Your organization’s cybersecurity program, also known as a security policy, is the full set of your security policies, produces, and standards, and is built to protect your business and respond effectively when needed. If you need to update your cybersecurity program but aren’t sure where to start, following these steps is a good place to begin:

  1. Review your policy and ensure that it’s still applicable for your specific needs. These may have changed due to a remote workforce, or you may want to create a work from home policy.
  2. Check that your policy takes any new or updated data security compliance requirements into account. Tip: using software solutions to help with aspects of these compliance requirements can keep you from recreating the wheel when you work to safeguard data.
  3. However complex your system is, make sure your cybersecurity policy can easily keep up with changes to your organization, system setups, and other policies.
  4. Educate your employees! Informed employees are the number one stopgap for your organization’s data security.

Related Reading: Cybersecurity for Small Businesses | Plans and Templates

Modernize Your Processes

Undertaking a complete overhaul of your infrastructure, processes, and overall setup can sound less than ideal, but the ROI is usually well worth the time and effort spent. For example, the BBC recently undertook a project to move their system from the 2010s to the 2020s, with advantageous results:

  • Moving to the cloud allows the BBC to have instant scalability and flexibility as news items brought millions to the site in the blink of an eye.
  • Revisiting each unit’s solutions to similar problems allowed the BBC to consolidate within one generic system that is both more cost-efficient and more manageable for IT teams.
  • They’re poised to tackle future requirements, but not at the expense of today’s needs; without a crystal ball, there’s no telling what precise functions the BBC will need to perform.

When you update your processes to better fit today’s needs, requirements, and risks, it’s tempting to set things up for the future. However, the best compromise can be using a system that is built for your needs today, but with more features and scalability available should you need them down the road. You can start your transition for future usability without worrying that your solution will be obsolete before you’re done implementing it.

One New Zealand healthcare provider, WellSouth Primary Health Network, modernized their process by moving from FTP and email to managed file transfer (MFT). Responsible for transferring sensitive files between healthcare professionals and storing data for thousands of patients, they needed a better way to move data and audit file transfers and access. With MFT, a streamlined, secure, and scalable solution, WellSouth IT staff could easily share sensitive information and send secure messages. As their needs increased, they were able to plan future data transfer projects, including transferring labs and data analytics.

Solve Your File Transfer Security

Solutions that prioritize data security and improve your processes go a long way in the fight for better data security. While homegrown scripts and solutions can be tailor-made to fit your organization and give you ultimate control over your data, the cost – both in setup and maintenance – can be huge.

There’s no need to solve what’s already been solved. Off-the-shelf solutions can deliver similar results and processes, but within a fraction of the time and offer more room and flexibility to grow as requirements change. Managed file transfer, like GoAnywhere, is no exception. Discover how you can secure, streamline, and centralize your organization’s data movement with one easy to use tool. It’s a flexible, scalable solution that can meet you where you’re at now and stick with your business processes into the future, all while safeguarding your data from common cyber risks.

Discover Managed File Transfer

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