Don’t score a security own goal

A certain major sporting event is underway this month with the eyes of the world glued to their televisions, smartphones, tablets and laptops looking for the latest news coming out of Brazil and the fate of their national sides and favourite players.

The cybercriminal gangs know this as well, and you can bet that they will be doing all they possibly can to snag the unwary into doing something that would compromise their internet security.

It is true that we are all getting a little wiser to the threat. Most people are not likely to click on a link in an email to a cuddly kitten site sent by a stranger, but if the email suggests a key player in the national side is set to miss the rest of the tournament and click for an update, we might just do that.

Unfortunately, the truth remains that we as individuals are the weakest link in the battle against cyber criminals. Many people continue to click on links or open attachments sent via email without taking any steps to verify the origin of the email or the validity of the link or attachment.

And we know it only takes one click to for an attacker to establish a foothold in the target’s systems. The 2013 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report finds that sending just three emails per phishing campaign gives the attacker a 50% chance of getting one click. With six emails the success rate goes up to 80% and at 10 it is virtually guaranteed.

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So with the world watching the news and matches in Brazil, what chance does the Chief Security Officer in the companies we work for have in protecting the business networks we use day to day? After all we all know that work time or not, employees are watching for the latest news and analysis of the matches and games taking place. And no matter what corporate policy says, you can be sure most are using their corporate devices to access that information.

We know that security as a people problem is not going away anytime soon, and the advent of the Internet of Everything is going to make this even more of a problem. Not only will users be able to inadvertently expose their systems to malware from their laptops and tablets, they will also be able to click on links from their smartwatches, cars, etc. It won’t take long once that malware is on their device for it to proliferate across the entire network and any connected devices, simply from a seemingly trusted news link sent from a ‘friend’s’ email address.

In order to address this growing concern, we need to move beyond securing devices and data to addressing the people and process aspects of this problem via education. Organisations must recognise this gap in their security and implement internal programs to ensure users know how to recognize and cease to click on potential malware. 

They must also understand when and how to inform the organisation of any suspicious occurrences so future attempts can be minimized and/or blocked. Raising awareness and offering simple suggestions such as hovering over a link without clicking to view the intended URL, or not opening attachments you didn’t request, can go a long way in the fight against cyber-attacks.

Even with the best of education, malware will still make its way onto the network. So organisations need security solutions that couple visibility and control to help protect against these inevitable attacks.

After all you can’t protect what you can’t see. So you need comprehensive visibility into the devices, users, applications and systems that connect to your network day in and day out with the right context. Security solutions that have contextual awareness can see and intelligently correlate extensive amounts of event data related to IT environments—applications, users, devices, operating systems, vulnerabilities, services, processes, network behaviours, files and threats. They can also correlate that local data with global intelligence for even greater insights.

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This correlation provides the context needed to make more informed decisions. To turn those decisions into immediate action and protect your organisation from today’s advanced threats, security solutions must be able to give you control to automatically and flexibly tune and enforce policies across the entire network.

In the same way the attackers are continually learning as they hone their skills to increase the chances of success, we as defenders need to do the same. Education is an essential component of any well-rounded security strategy but it needs to be combined with visibility and control. That way we can all enjoy the football and at the same time help minimise cyber-attacks and protect our networks.

Sourced from Graham Welsh, EMEA Managing Director of Cisco

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...