By George Ralph (pictured), RFA – Cybersecurity has never been as important as it is today. Cyber attacks are becoming ever more ambitious and overt. The two big recent malware attacks, Petya and WannaCry both used phishing attacks to spread malware through networks, with Petya in particular, engaging sophisticated, multi-pronged methods which renders the user's computer inoperable, but also provides the hackers with full access to the usernames and passwords stolen from the computer.
The Cyber Security Breaches Survey 2017, published by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport and undertaken by Ipsos Mori stated some frightening figures about the preparedness of businesses to deal with these sustained and frequent attacks. Whilst 74% of the 1500+ businesses surveyed said that cyber security is a very high priority for their senior management, and 67% have spent money on cyber security in some shape or form in the past year, only 33% have a formal policy that covers cybersecurity risks. In addition, only 11% have a cyber security incident management plan in place.
I believe firms need to take a systematic approach to cybersecurity, covering three main elements. These are policy and procedures, technology, and education and training. Firstly, firms need documented policies and procedures in place to safeguard business data, systems and networks and to meet regulatory compliance mandates. The cyber incident response plan identifies the key systems, processes and personnel involved, and documents how the firm will go about preparing for an incident, detecting one, most importantly containing an incident, recovering from it and how the firm will undertake post-incident analysis.
The business continuity plan outlines the critical business processes and IT systems, and the recovery procedures and timescales. Finally, the cybersecurity framework details the user training the firm will undertake, the physical security measures they will put in place, how internal audits will happen, how risks will be identified and classified and how the supply chain will be de-risked.
The next step, getting the technology right, the hardware, software and systems, that protect every layer of data, is also more complex than it seems. A robust cybersecurity strategy should be multi-layered, and include email, mobile devices and other endpoints, web traffic and the network. Firms should also take into account data governance, and data should be encrypted, the physical environment should be secure, access should be managed closely, and firms should run regular penetration testing and vulnerability scanning across the technology estate.
The final component to the framework is to educate employees about cybersecurity, and provide effective training to help them identify malicious behaviour and to act accordingly to avoid or mitigate the risks.
One way of doing this is by regularly and without warning, testing users with simulated email, voice and SMS phishing attacks, personalised landing pages, attachments and spoof domains in order to highlight risks and employee weaknesses. When employees fall victim to these attacks they can be given immediate feedback and a refresher on spotting the red flags.
With the threat of attack becoming increasingly more prevalent, it's not enough to do one of the components without the others. Precisely why a thorough and systematic approach is needed.
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