As data continues to determine crucial business decisions by providing insights into customer behaviour, many opportunities open up for organisations and the tech industry alike. Thanks to a combination of raw data and sophisticated business intelligence solutions, business owners are now able to obtain a bird’s eye view on the many workings of various operations, while churning the numbers to disclose further insights that are based on custom queries. While users like you and I have the autonomy to observe much through the manifestations of data, who really has the power in such a situation?
In spite of the high-tech gadgets and software that make data analysis so bespoke and versatile, the threats that lurk within also come to light at the same time. In other words, the breakthroughs that data has presented us with isn’t with a pitfall or two – with the likelihood of cyber breaches being one of the biggest. As data gives us the insight we are dependent on day in and day out, prying eyes aren’t far away. Therefore, it’s no surprise to hear about frequent cyber breaches, many of which have taken place (and still continue to happen) to some of the world’s leading corporate giants.
Cyber breaches do more than just steal data. From wilfully corrupting existing data or holding it at ransom, companies be they big or small are bound to face severe repercussions in the event one happens. While cybersecurity has since been strengthened, criminals have also evolved to attack in newfound and unconventional ways – thereby keeping security experts on their toes and challenging existing security systems in terms of reliability. In the midst of all these conundrums, who is responsible in maintaining optimum levels of security?
It all boils down to every stakeholder that is involved in the organisation; from strong perimeter security to having employees that you can trust, cybersecurity measures go beyond simply having sophisticated IT infrastructure and competent cybersecurity experts. Prevention is always better than cure, and the same principle also applies to cybersecurity; with the average breach taking approximately 197 days to be identified and approximately 69 days to be contained (as reported by IBM), you’re surely much better off by preventing such a mishap from happening in the first place.
Nonetheless, hacks are always a probability – no matter how spot-on your security measures are. But before a breach does occur, having an action plan put in place so that your staff is informed of what needs to be done goes a long way than simply running ad hoc tasks to contain the damage. As your business relies on data to make key business decisions, your customers rely on you to keep their data safe. Any leaks can not only signify financial losses, but also lead to a loss of reputation (which is incredibly difficult to win back, most of the time).
So before we discuss potential strategies that you can consider for the purpose of strengthening your company’s cybersecurity systems, let’s start with getting acknowledged on some unconventional means of compromising cyber systems – and ones that go well beyond the regular ransomware.
No matter how strong your network security systems are, the smallest error on the part of an employee can lead to severe consequences, as hackers latch onto the loophole that was accidentally created. That is why it is imperative to have validation procedures set in place to ensure that such mistakes are noticed well ahead in advance, at least well before something drastic happens. On the other hand, resentful employees can also cause breaches by either stealing data before they leave, or by gaining unauthorised access to systems for unlawful benefit.
As a result, this calls for vetting staff members thoroughly, especially during the recruitment process. Additional challenges loom across the horizon though, as the cybersecurity industry presents a demand for experts that is seldom satisfied with equal supply; in other words, less professionals exist for this field, thereby putting more pressure on companies who are looking to hire reliable individuals. While the prospect of finding trustworthy team members is a challenge that is present across businesses (whether it’s cybersecurity or not), it’s surely not an impossible feat.
By closely monitoring staff operations, maintaining two-factor authentication as well as using technologies such as blockchain to create additional transparency, such risks can be prevented and even mitigated, lest a compromise does take place. While most businesses pay most of their attention by looking from the outside in, observing your company’s security situation from the inside out can reveal many insights that will help you to strengthen your cyber profiles in the long run.
Building custom software for your business? While this is great for maintaining operations that are precise to your preferences, it can cause security compromises if codes malfunction or consist of loopholes that hackers can take advantage of. Of course, off-the-shelf software variants are also subject to such breaches, so long as there is code which contains any gaps that cyber criminals can manipulate.
That is why it is important to constantly monitor code structures and release security updates as soon as a bug or loophole is fixed. This way, your company’s sensitive data, including that of customers is well protected, while ensuring your customers that you are at the forefront of being secure with the services you provide. Alternatively, this also goes the other way around – by refraining to install and use software products that are not necessary or that are suspected to be infected with malware, both businesses and users can save themselves a lot of hassle as well as retain their data safely.
Certain forms of malware are fast spreading across app repositories such as Play Store, by automatically embedding within numerous apps – including popular products. Due to this, almost any user is susceptible to having his or her data stolen or corrupted. Likewise, if businesses also keep a watchful eye on third-party software that they make use of, they can safeguard their company’s valuable data from the hands of malicious individuals who may possibly even have criminal intent.
Also, don’t forget the Cloud; while the Cloud in itself isn’t risky (contrary to popular perception), some of the interfaces used to access the data can be substandard. This is why services pertaining to Amazon Web Services in Sri Lanka focus not just on providing bespoke off-site solutions, but also developing enhanced entry points that feature heightened security.
Phishing done through emails with the prospect of large sums of money is a classic – and one that is extensively covered when educating the public about how their information can be stolen. Although an old trick in the bag, phishing attacks are still relatively successful among individuals who are oblivious or tempted by the promise of a lottery-like fortune. Even amongst those who are more vigilant, some (if not as many as before) do still end up falling victim to such scams through emails that look extremely convincing.
Cyber criminals have therefore become much smarter at concealing themselves via creating emails that are as convincing as the real thing. On top of that, phishing attacks don’t just aim to target individuals who are less tech-savvy – they are meticulously crafted to also target company employees for the purpose of having data divulged. More advanced operations include the grooming of multiple staff members simultaneously, as all of them are scammed in to disclosing sensitive company information either through databases directly, or via unauthorised access to internal systems.
All in all, while phishing has been around for a very long period of time, it’s not going to go away soon – and will only get stronger in its concealment as time passes by.
While the issue of deepfakes applies only to select situations, it is wise to be mindful of the repercussions that could possibly take place in the event it does happen. But what is a deepfake, in the first place? A form of AI that is used to replace the face of an individual with someone else’s, deepfake videos are counterfeit publications that consist of a variety of fabricated elements, including audio. Such videos are made to defame people of interest, particularly if they are under scrutiny prior to a significant political/financial/entertainment event.
Although deepfakes are mostly discussed under the context of notable personalities being affected by it (such as politicians in the wake of an election, for example), they can also be used to target individuals on a personal level. Likewise, it is easy to see how deepfakes can also be applied to corporations and their leaders, in order to spread fake news and rumours. While deepfakes don’t directly hamper with the data present within company systems, it can significantly influence numbers collected after, by impacting users’ opinions.
Therefore, deepfakes are bound to mostly concern larger businesses, as well as well-known individuals who run their own brands such as sportspersons and celebrities. While not as worrisome for the smaller business, it still pays to be watchful of the ways that deepfakes are released, and the clues that can be observed to denote their counterfeit nature.
Before you decide on the strategy you need to strengthen your security protocols, encourage yourself and your team to stay abreast of what’s happening in the world of security, how breaches are happening, what other companies are doing as a means of prevention/mitigation etc. Knowing what’s going on and how others are counteracting such problems can give you a sense of perspective on what you can expect in terms of a breach (as morbid as that sounds) and the precautionary measures you can take in order to protect and prevent.
While staying acknowledged about the latest security happenings can keep you informed in general, it can also keep you on your toes about the steps you need to take for your own enterprise. Which brings us to our next point…
This isn’t breaking news, so to speak. But considering the complexity of today’s cyber breaches, security solutions have also spanned out to include an intricate set of categories out of which you need to take your pick. There isn’t a generic solution that will take care of all your security needs; a virus guard won’t provide password protection, and vice versa. So you need to carefully decide which solutions you need, how they can be integrated, and whether they can be scalable in the long term.
To start off, conduct a risk assessment with your team (especially with those who are directly involved in using your company systems). Ask questions pertaining to usage, devices used, internet connections used and the nature of breaches that have happened in the past (if applicable). Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list, and you will need to determine exactly which concerns have to be addressed depending on your specific situation.
Once you have completed your assessment, approach multiple security vendors in order to discuss suitable solutions available. Make sure you also ask for demos, so that you can gauge the efficacy of the solutions being suggested, and whether they’re a good value for money. Also remember that the solutions of your choice need to be integrated with your existing systems, so clarify this with your vendor before you make the big purchase.