A Comprehensive Guide to Cyber Security
“68% of business leaders feel their cybersecurity risks are increasing.” (Accenture)
It is not just a feeling, it is a fact. Cybersecurity is the need of the millennia. The evolving nature of cyber attacks and the damage they cause is enough to consider hiring the most talented cybersecurity team, getting the best tools and software, and implementing a solid policy.
The preventive controls of even a few years ago are no longer feasible or appropriate for current security needs due to the significant changes that technology and cyber attacks have witnessed recently. Earlier, corporate cyber security was completely on-premises, and IT simply needed to secure the office's perimeter.
However, now hackers are tech savvy and know how to carry out advanced threats on objects and individuals that function outside the workplace boundaries. Security is no longer only an IT issue; it now affects every department in the company, particularly finance, HR, marketing, and operations. The company's management must comprehend the significance of cyber security policy and guide to ensure corporate and executive security.
You are vulnerable to critical risks if you have not adopted the right technology or trained your workforce on identifying cyber attacks. Of course, risks cannot be eliminated entirely. Security flaws in the devices will persist, and social engineering & phishing scams will continue to affect people. The most you can do is prioritize your spending on cyber security to reduce risks.
It is truer than ever that "If you don't plan, you plan to fail." The fastest way to a severe security breach harming your company is to believe that your company is not in danger, your data is inconsequential, or your infrastructure is invincible.
This blog discusses a wide range of high-level insights on cyber dangers and defenses for non-technical executives. You'll better grasp the security technology and procedures your company is using—or not using—and ask the right questions.
Table of Contents
- What is cyber security?
- Why is cyber security important?
- Cyber security breakdown
- What are the most prevalent cyber security threats?
- Who is at higher risk?
- How to plan a cyber security program?
- How to understand threats
- How to respond to a cyber threat?
What is Cyber Security?
Cyber security aims to secure your company against cyber attackers, nefarious employees, and other unauthorized entities. Because of this, they cannot access, damage, disrupt, or alter your IT systems, apps, or data. Effective cyberattacks are expensive and can cause a variety of harms, including monetary loss, injury to one's reputation, business loss, legal trouble, and more. Since more of your business moves online, "cyber attackers" (hackers) are increasingly motivated to attempt to breach your systems for monetary gain, exploitation, socially or politically motivated causes, or just plain destruction.
Data breaches exposed 22 billion records in 2021. (RiskBased Security)
Data security is the primary goal of cyber security. To achieve this, you must preserve all elements of your technology, including networks, users, devices, and apps. You must consider that cybercriminals will take advantage of weak points. Multiple levels of security should be included in robust cyber security policy. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) may be added to help reduce security breaches caused by password leaks. By educating staff members and advocating the best cyber security measures, you may also incorporate cyber security into your work environment.
Why Is Cyber Security Important?
"60% of small companies go out of business within six months of a data breach." (My Business)
Cybersecurity guards a business's digital assets, including its financial data, trade secrets, and confidential customer and employee data. It is possible to sell stolen data to rival companies or foreign states. Data theft may lead to financial fraud or identity theft. According to IBM's Data Security Report, a data breach costs a business around 3.6 million USD, with 1/3rd of that coming from customers' loss.
The average price for small to medium-sized firms is $200,000. It takes an average of 206 days to identify a data leak and 73 days to control it, regardless of the business size. Outside assistance may be needed for confinement, and penalties may be imposed for noncompliance. Despite a possible decline in their financial situation, companies with more resources still thrive but suffer severe damage.
Cyber Security Breakdown
Cybersecurity consists of tools, systems, and policies that guard against hacking, damage, and illegal use of networks, programs, devices, and other digital assets. There is a lot to cover; therefore, to achieve efficiency, you must take a thorough strategy that takes the following into account:
- Network security is in charge of protecting against unauthorized cyberattacks on the system.
- Endpoint security preserves devices that permit remote connection to a corporate server.
- Application security calls for regular software updates and attack simulation testing.
- User and ID management determines who has access to virtual assets inside a company.
- Executive security protects the top management with access to the most crucial data and assets.
- Data security is an additional defense layer for company and client data.
- Database security guards data stored or in transit in a corporation's databases.
- Cloud and mobile security guards corporate assets from remote locations in real-time.
10 Most Prevalent Cyber Security Threats
Cyber threats vary in their forms. Some cyberattacks use brute force to break passwords or encryption keys. Others use more advanced phishing or social engineering techniques, resulting in ransomware or BEC scams. Here are the most popular cyber security threats:
Phishing is sending fraudulent emails to someone to make them think they are from a reputable source, such as a bank, a colleague, or a federal agency. The victim is prompted to click on a link, open an attachment, or download a file that grants attackers illegal access. Once inside, hackers may steal sensitive data, harm a system, or download deadly malware. Phishing has been present since the 1990s but still contributes to about 33% of security breaches today. Phishing assaults account for 78% of all cyberattacks. Read more on phishing here and how to get rid of phishing attacks here.
Malware is software intentionally used to harm a network or computer system. Malware attacks against individuals have decreased, while they have surged by 13% against organizations. There are many types of malware attacks, but the most common are the following three:
- Ransomware: The most prevalent kind of malware is ransomware. A ransomware attack encrypts data on a victim's device and prevents access until a ransom is paid. Emails, hacked websites, corrupted software, and external storage devices are all ways that ransomware is distributed.
- Spyware: a malicious program that intends to gather data about an individual or business and send it to a third party in a way that is harmful to the user. Such as by invading their privacy or jeopardizing the security of their device.
- Adware: This type of malware software tracks a user's browsing history to identify behavior patterns and preferences so that marketers may deliver the user customized advertisements. Adware is similar to spyware, but it doesn't require the user to install the software on their devices, and while it may not always be used maliciously, it could be used without the user's knowledge and endanger their privacy.
An MITM attack is when an attacker puts himself into a conversation between a user and an application, either to listen in on the conversation or to pretend to be one of the participants and create the impression that standard data transmission is taking place.
The MITM exploit aims to collect personal data, including credit card information, bank details, and credentials. Users who use financial apps, SaaS companies, e-commerce sites, and other online platforms that require signing in are often the prey. The use of data collected during an assault may include identity theft, unauthorized banking transactions, or unauthorized password changes.
Business Email Compromise
BEC Attacks are targeted against businesses that involve email compromise and utilize email to deceive them into sending money to a fake account. A corporate network gets accessed through a hacked or spoof email address. From there, hackers linger on the network until they gather enough data to launch a request for payment from an authorized partner. A new account number for the money transfer is specified in the invoice.
It is unlikely to reclaim the payment once it has been deposited because it is swiftly moved to another account. When the vendor requests payment, the corporation recognizes its mistake, revealing the fraud. The FBI estimates BEC caused losses from cybercrime totaling $1.7 billion, or almost 50% of all damages.
DoS and DDoS Attacks
A DoS attack aims to bring down a computer system or network so its potential audience cannot reach it. Denial of Service attacks achieve this by providing the victim with excessive traffic or data that causes a collapse. Both times, the DoS attack denies the service or resource that legitimate users (such as staff, customers, or account holders) requested.
A DDoS attack is an attempt to obstruct a server, application, or network's regular traffic by saturating the victim or its working system with excessive Internet junk traffic. By using numerous hacked computer networks as sources of malicious traffic, DDoS attacks are executed.
SQL Injection Attack
An SQL injection attack involves inserting, or "injecting," a SQL query through the client's input data into the program. An effective SQL injection exploit can access, modify, and delete confidential data from the database. It can also perform database administration operations like shutting down the DBMS, recovering the content of a specific file that is available on the DBMS system files, and in some instances, providing commands to the operating system.
Supply Chain Attacks
Supply chain assaults are a brand-new risk for suppliers and software engineers. Its goal is to spread malware through software upgrade systems, source code, and build processes, to infect simple apps. Hackers utilize insecure coding approaches, network protocols, and server infrastructure to thwart developing and updating procedures, alter system software and conceal harmful data.
Since the programs being infiltrated by hackers are certified and approved by reputable suppliers, supply chain hacks are severe. In a software supply chain assault, the software provider is unaware that any upgrades or applications have malware. The infected application's authority and permissions are shared by the malicious code.
A cyber security danger that comes from inside an organization is referred to as insider attacks. It often happens when a former or current employee, consultant, client, or business partner exposed to the company's systems, networks, and data abuses their privilege. Insider threats might be carried out purposely or accidentally. Whatever the motivation, compromised enterprise data and systems security, privacy, and/or reliability are the ultimate results.
Zero Day Attack
A general phrase for freshly identified security flaws that cybercriminals can use to exploit systems is "zero-day." Since the seller or programmer has only become aware of the vulnerability, they have "zero days" to remedy it, hence the term "zero-day." When attackers take advantage of the vulnerability before engineers have a chance to patch it, it is known as a zero-day assault.
Cryptojacking is the illegal use of another person's computing power to mine cryptocurrencies. To illegally mine for cryptocurrency, hackers attempt to gain control of every device they can, including computers, servers, cloud infrastructure, and more.
How to Understand Threats?
Executives are responsible for understanding cyber threats. To lead your organization, ask the right questions, and comprehend the business reasons put up for your authorization, an executive needs to be familiar with cyber security ideas. Even the best security professionals may need some time to completely comprehend the novel, inventive, or technically advanced techniques used by attackers because cyber security is such a complicated subject.
We give a high-level understanding of cyber security threats in this section. You must comprehend the strategies hackers or other individuals use to assault your company because many of these cyberattacks target senior executives like you.
Threats Keep Evolving
Many individuals mistakenly believe that firewalls, patching, antivirus software, and maintenance are all part of the IT function of cybersecurity. Nevertheless, the days when your IT systems were on-premise and operating inside offices are pretty much gone. Your team works from workstations in their homes, airports, restaurants, and cafés, among other places. They use current cloud services maintained outside your organization's perimeter and available from many locations and devices. They might be utilizing software and systems that you (and IT) are unaware of. Threats have also altered as highly skilled hackers spend a lot of time and money honing their abilities.
Motives Behind These Attacks
Cybercriminals may spend a lot of time and money trying to breach your security if you store valuable information on your servers. Don't believe hackers won't directly target you because your company is too insignificant to be targeted. You are given an illusion of security by the concept of "security by obscurity." You are a victim if you have sensitive information. Many eager hackers are trying to find anything they can use against you.
Identifying your potential attackers is the next step toward understanding threats. These hackers are mostly:
- Criminals seeking financial gains by phishing, ransomware, etc.
- Hackers looking for commercial gains via theft of IP.
- Vandalists attacking you because they can without any proper motif.
- State actors for terrorism or manipulation.
Electrical shortages, equipment failure, and disclosure of sensitive national security information can all be brought on by cyberattacks. They may lead to the theft of priceless and private information, including medical records, criminal records, crypto keys, corporate data, and wealth. They can disable systems, immobilize cellular and computer networks, and prevent access to data.
Who Is At Higher Risk of Cyber Attacks?
Cybercriminals are now targeting your employees rather than your company's software. Security breaches against enterprises globally are increasingly one of the primary outcomes of cybercrime that targets people rather than technology.
The causes, according to experts, are evident. Since targeting a human is much simpler than attacking a highly developed modern operating system or cloud network. Simply said, hackers exploit the weak spots.
Organizations continue to face a lot of difficulty from threats that try to attack systems, like malware and deceptive URLs. But today, phishing and account breaches are two of the most common ways hackers defraud businesses worldwide.
You can put the most nuanced threat security measures in place for these specific users by determining who is most frequently targeted inside your company.
In fact, the most targeted individuals within a company are not typically what you may anticipate. Very Attacked People (VAPs) are not always Very Important People (VIPs). They may also be CEO assistants or anyone with a readily identifiable profile, as 36% of precisely focused persons have contact information on business websites, social media platforms, and blog posts. Executives who get most of the email attacks have contact information that may be quickly located on Google.
Highly Targeted Personnel:
The highly targeted personnel are:
Executives (CEO, CFO, CMO, CIO): Have access to all the company's secrets, sensitive data, and corporate accounts. They travel frequently and usually access the company's assets remotely.
Executives Assistants: They are the doorway to all the corporate data executives manage and are usually untrained on cybersecurity policies.
Programmers: manages all the code for remote access to business assets, company's websites, and more.
Finance Team: Have access to organizational finance data, bank account details, revenue stream, and vendor information.
Cybersecurity Team: They manage the cyber security policy, oversee threats, and devise techniques to combat cyberattacks. Attacking a cybersecurity team means making the business vulnerable and hacking into the systems.
Marketing Team: Have clients' data, marketing strategies, competitor's details, and more.
Freelancers/Contractors: They are responsible for 60% of cyber attacks as they have remote access to some of the most confidential data and usually do not follow cybersecurity protocols.
Most Targeted Industries:
Now, since we know who are the most targeted personnel, next is to understand the highly targeted industries. Industries that face the most cyber threats are:
Business: Have data for intellectual property, product concepts, marketing strategies, employee and client databases, client pitches, contract deals, and more.
Healthcare: Have repositories for patients' health status, clinical research data, and health records.
Banks: Have bank account details, credit card information, and client data.
Government: Have sensitive government trade data, military secrets, weapons details, and more.
Education: Have academic research, enrollment data, financial records, and more.
Crypto Investors: Have access to crypto wallets, cryptocurrency keys, and exchanges.
Lawyers: Have clients' sensitive data, case reports, criminal records, etc.
Hedge Fund Firms: Have investment data, clients' details, and access to business accounts of the most reputed firms.
What's The Solution?
Cybersecurity awareness training, establishing a fool-proof policy, and enhancing executive security is the first thing you should do. Let's discuss this further in the next section.
How to Plan A Cyber Security Program?
Now, since we know which industries and personnel are highly targeted. The next step is to understand how to plan a cybersecurity program. As an executive, it is your utmost responsibility to recognize the importance of having a cyber policy and work towards creating one. Here is how to do that.
Design A Security Framework
Organizations use several well-known frameworks to develop their cyber security program. NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) proposes a five-step security methodology:
- Identify: Recognizing and managing security threats and vulnerabilities
- Protect: Introducing and implementing security measures to minimize security risks
- Detect: Understanding and detecting cybersecurity events
- Respond: Responding to cybersecurity incidents
- Recover: Recovering from cybersecurity attacks
Cybersecurity Program Elements
A program's effectiveness depends on how well it is designed and adapted to the specific company mission, objectives, and goals. However, a few essential components are present in every successful security program. The following common actions must be used to incorporate these different program elements:
- Putting in place an efficient governance model and agency-specific strategy;
- Showing support from top management for cybersecurity;
- And combining the components into a comprehensive cybersecurity program.
Here is how to develop an effective cybersecurity plan using the main elements:
Security planning starts at the organizational level and sifts down to the system level. It is critical to building a corporate system that sustains security planning, setting the suitable team into leading roles:
- Chief Information Officer (CIO)
- Senior Agency Information Security Officer (SAISO)
- Chief Information Security Officer (CISO)
- Information System Owner
- Information Owner
- Information System Security Officer
- Authorizing Official
Adhere to a systematic corporate capital planning and investment control approach that is intended to simplify and regulate the use of organization funds. Companies must direct available funds toward their primary cybersecurity initiatives because of increased competition for scarce resources and funding.
Security awareness and training are crucial elements of the cybersecurity plan. The employees, especially executives, depend on it to disseminate sensitive data they need to execute their tasks. These initiatives will ensure that employees at all organizational levels know their cybersecurity obligations and how to use and safeguard the data resources assigned to them.
Cybersecurity governance aims to ensure that organizations regulate developing cyber threats while actively adopting the necessary policies to meet their goal. Governance of cybersecurity comes with its own demands, difficulties, tasks, and potential structure types. In addition to defining important cybersecurity roles and responsibilities, cybersecurity governance also affects the creation of security policies, supervision, and ongoing surveillance operations.
System Development Life Cycle
The entire process of creating, putting into use, and discarding data sources is known as the SDLC. Different SDLC approaches have been created to direct the procedures, and some techniques are more effective than others for particular project types. These phases are:
Security Products and Services Acquisitions
The main components of every company's security program are cybersecurity services and solutions. When choosing security goods and services, organizations should employ risk management procedures. Given the possible consequences of those dangers, it is crucial to methodically manage the process of acquiring cybersecurity services. The expenses involved, the basic security requirements, and the influence of a choice on the organization's goals, processes, strategic functions, people, and service-provider arrangements should all be considered by cybersecurity stakeholders.
Many personnel from different departments within a company are involved in choosing cybersecurity solutions and services. Each employee or team associated with the process should be aware of the value of cybersecurity for the organization's benefit. An organization may need the following people (or a combination of them) based on its needs:
- Chief Information Officer (CIO)
- Contracting Officer
- Contracting Officer's Technical Representative
- Information Technology (IT)
- Investment Review Board (IRB)
- Security Program Manager
- Information System Security Officer
- Program Manager
- Acquisition Initiator
- Privacy Officer.
Protecting the company and its capacity to carry out its goal, rather than only its data resources, is the main objective of a company's risk management process. There are three steps included:
- Risk assessment
- Risk mitigation
- Evaluation and assessment
Certification and Security Assessments
A risk management approach needs the backing of security certifications. They guarantee that a data system will function with the proper management review, that security measures are continuously monitored, and that periodical reaccreditation takes place. The administrative, technical, and architectural precautions or defenses recommended for the system to preserve privacy, reliability, and the system's integrity and data are in place.
Configuration management ensures that the possible security effects of specific changes to a data system or its surroundings are appropriately considered. It should reduce the impact on a data network or a system of modifications or setup variations. The CM approach lessens the possibility that any system modifications may jeopardize the privacy, authenticity, or reliability of the system or of the data.
A business may detect problems immediately, reduce loss and damage, spot vulnerabilities, and quickly resume IT operations using a well-defined incident response strategy. Organizations should be able to share knowledge about common threats and vulnerabilities and assist users following a system security incident.
It is a more significant continuity, and contingency of operations plan that includes IT, risk management, business processes, financial management, safety and security of people and property, crisis communications, and continuity of organization is comprised of several components
Performance measures are vital feedback systems for a successful cybersecurity program. Cybersecurity measures that quantify an organization's program effectiveness and give data for analysis can be developed.
How to Respond to A Cyber Threat?
You have all the policies in place, yet you are attacked. What next? Learning how to respond to a cyber threat is crucial to containing the loss. Here is how to do this:
It can be extremely costly to respond to a cybersecurity issue. Thus we strongly advise getting the right cyber insurance to cover these expenses. Your firm may invest a lot of time and resources into investigating the incident, even if it is trivial.
Containing the disruption is the first stage in a cybersecurity incident response. Usually, this entails shutting down impacted devices or eliminating a system's unauthorized access. In some circumstances, it may be preferable to wait before deleting unauthorized access so that you may keep an eye on their behavior. IT teams must strike a balance between the apparent urgency of stopping the assault and the necessity to locate or preserve evidence to comprehend what occurred.
After completing the initial confinement procedure, thoroughly and in-depth evaluate the system to ensure that the unauthorized party hasn't devised new ways to regain access or cause more harm. For instance, the attacker might have created different user profiles or put harmful malware on the machines they exploited.
You must have a full grasp of the data the unauthorized party accessed, stole, modified, or damaged to decide how to move forward. To do this, it might be necessary to examine hundreds or even thousands of log entries and hundreds or even thousands of emails and files to analyze their contents and identify the kind of data they included.
This may require several hours, days, or even weeks. Any system won't work unless the threat is eliminated and contained. Any systems taken down can be put back online once the threat has been eliminated and mitigated. Before this occurs, they might need to be deleted and modified or restored from backups.
The next step is to report the leadership to the incident. You have a legal duty to alert impacted parties and relevant governmental institutions if a hacker gets sensitive information. Under the Privacy Act, you are most likely required to tell everyone whose Personally Identifiable Information (PII) was obtained and advise them on how to keep their identities safe. Additionally, you might need to seek legal counsel or submit reports to industry-specific governmental agencies in certain situations.
We designed this guide to educate business leaders on cyber security threats and protection measures. Understanding the importance of having a solid cybersecurity policy, recognizing the threats and VAPs, and knowing how to respond to cyberattacks is the only way to survive these challenging times.
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