2017 may be remembered as the ransomware year, but in truth, it was a year of cybersecurity breaches beyond the popular WannaCry incident. These breaches took on a political perspective last year, with the aftermath of Trump’s surprise victory over Clinton, and the ongoing investigations into possible collusion, further buttressing the major point – a security breach can be devastating to nations, businesses, and individuals alike. They also put cybersecurity front and center as every business’s top concern.
There is no getting around it anymore. As the technological landscape continues to change and as businesses take advantage of the latest technological trends today, so do malicious users trying to gain unauthorized access or disrupt business processes. In this article, our first for 2018, we analyze some of the top security concerns for the year, particularly for Nigerian businesses in the various active sectors within the country.
In 2017, Ransomware attacks made headlines around the world. The devastating effect of this attack was on full display when WannaCry tore through parts of Europe causing massive business service disruptions and forcing a substantial sum of ransom money to be paid by organizations twisted past a resistance point by the attack.
Ransomware kits are relatively easy to acquire and use. Furthermore, payments of the ransom are usually requested in bitcoin, making the entire operation completely anonymous and virtually untraceable. This and the crippling effect of the attack (which forces a reaction from the victim in the form of a payment), have made this attack very popular. We expect ransomware attacks to increase in 2018, particularly on other platforms businesses use to operate, such as mobile devices.
We advise customers to evaluate their security solutions to ensure they can identify, stop and if need be, decrypt/recover already encrypted files. A comprehensive business recovery/continuity plan is needed and should be tested to make sure a business does not come to a grinding halt in the event of a successful attack.
However, the best way to tackle the ransomware problem is the preventive way. Majority of the Ransomware attacks happen by exploiting the human element and then a vulnerability in a platform/OS the business uses. This means training human resources until an acceptable baseline is met, and making sure all updates are done on time. The quicker updates that apply fixes to vulnerabilities are installed, the shorter the exposure time of a latent vulnerability that may be exploited.
As organizations increasingly empower their users to take advantage of the now ubiquitous mobile platform, they also expose themselves to a borderless environment where every mobile device is a gateway into their internal IT structure and a host/harbor for their critical information.
More importantly, these harbors are constantly in motion and are more exposed to various threats – thievery, peeping, copying, hacking – than hosts that more or less permanently reside within an organization’s controlled IT network infrastructure.
Because of their mobility and the fact that mobile devices have become virtually as powerful as laptops created a decade ago, they are susceptible to the same threats static hosts are, and the unique ones that come with mobility. Organizations should be thinking beyond mobile device or mobile application management solutions that focus on compliance, access policies, and data/app control. They should be thinking about extensible endpoint control that truly protects the mobile device from penetration, and malware (including ransomware).
More businesses in Nigeria, are migrating their infrastructure, data, and applications to the cloud. As such, more hackers are turning their attention to cloud service providers in a bid to gain access to business-critical resources for varying purposes. Perhaps, even more, dangerous is the hacker that focuses on the common gaps in understanding between a cloud service provider and a customer. It is important for organizations to understand what level of protection they are getting from a cloud service provider and that it is limited to the service the provider is offering. For instance, software as a service providers will protect the software they provide, but not the access to the software. That is the organization’s responsibility. While most SaaS providers will provide tools to protect that access such as Single Sign-On, Multifactor Authentication and the like, it is up to organizations to implement/activate these features. Activating them means knowing about them in the first place.
Hackers are also the consummate opportunists and a slip up by an organization’s employee in managing their corporate identity, could spell disaster for that organization. This corporate identity which has always been important, is now critical to the protection of an organization’s cloud resources, no matter how small or extensive. Furthermore, organizations that have invested in extensive cloud resources such as infrastructure and platforms, need to understand the importance of implementing the same security controls they would with an on-premise facility. That means Virtual Perimeter protection, network segmentation, and the like. The location of the resources may have changed, but the principles of security, remain the same.
Recent major security breaches have exposed the danger of having even one employee that doesn’t understand the importance of best practices to the business or doesn’t appreciate why these checks and controls are in place. Human error is one of the biggest factors playing into the sequence of events leading up to a major breach.
Awareness training will probably go up in 2018, as organizations seek to make cybersecurity more of a business process than a departmental responsibility. It isn’t enough to spend millions implementing state of the art controls. Those who manage those controls and those who interact with the business resources those controls are supposed to protect must also be sensitized and trained in order to sure up the weakest link of security – the human element.
Effective security is about taking proactive steps to protect your business assets before suffering from the potentially massive damages a breach can cause. We strongly advise taking steps to improve your organization’s security posture and contacting a local cyber security services and solutions company to discuss your concerns and your trajectory for the next twelve months.
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