Our ever-increasing reliance on technology, networks, software, and even social media, can inadvertently invite cyber-attacks, resulting in a catastrophic loss of business data.
It’s no longer enough to rely on traditional technology protection or security controls for information security. There is a clear need to perform threat assessments and implement cyber security measures to reduce your organization’s risk of cyber attacks.
Assessments help to identify vulnerabilities within your infrastructure, including: inadequate security, substandard backup plans, hidden viruses, non-compliance, a weak contingency plan, and the potential for human error.
Reason #1 – To Identify Cyber Security Vulnerabilities
There are countless IT security vulnerabilities for every business. When you consider all of the computers, tablets, smartphones, printers, etc that are connected to multiple networks (on and off-site) – each device is exposed to cyber security threats in their unique way – it would be impossible (and mind-numbing for you) to list them all.
Knowing there are a lot of moving parts when it comes to identifying all of the potential threats to your cyber security, we’ll stick to the most critical things to assess…
- Malware – The goal of malicious malware is to access sensitive data. A firewall and antivirus software doesn’t cut it anymore. A multilayered cyber security approach is the only solution to combatting malware.
- Unpatched Security Vulnerabilities – Unpatched vulnerabilities allow attackers to run malicious code by leveraging an unpatched security bug in the software protection systems you use.
- Hidden Backdoor Programs – Backdoor installation takes advantage of vulnerable components in a web application. Once installed, detection is difficult, as the Trojans – typically masquerading as an email attachment or file – tend to adapt to their environment, making them virtually invisible.
- Admin Account Privileges – The less information employees can access, the less damage they can do – intentionally or otherwise. It’s imperative to put security measures in place – unique to each team member – that block access to information that is not necessary for them to do their job.
- Automated Running of Scripts Without Malware/Virus Checks – Some attackers use certain web browsers that run scripts automatically, without requiring a malware or virus scan. As a result, cybercriminals get the browser to run malware without the knowledge of the user.
- Unknown Bugs in Software or Programming Interfaces – Software bugs can introduce security vulnerabilities to every device your company’s employees use. The earlier vulnerabilities are exposed, the sooner security teams can analyze the risk and take the necessary steps for patching them.
- Phishing Attacks – Hackers, masquerading as a trusted entity, lure victims into opening an email or text message. A single click on a malicious link can lead to the installation of malware as part of a ransomware attack or the stealing of sensitive information.
- Your IoT Devices – Botnets, advanced persistent threats, distributed denial of service (DDoS) attacks, identity theft, data theft, man-in-the-middle attacks, and social engineering attacks are all possible when using IoT devices.
- Human Error – Employees may click on a malicious link in an email, download a corrupted file, visit an unsecured website, or share credentials with the wrong people, allowing hackers easy access to your company’s sensitive data.
Reason #2 – Identifying Substandard Backup Plans
In an article by TechTarget, they wrote, It’s important to protect data from any potential threat so that an organization isn’t blindsided when disaster happens. A proper data backup plan will enable users to return to the last known ‘good point in time’ before the security breach occurred. In a best-case scenario, your backup should lead to a quick recovery of mission-critical data.
In a remote work environment, cloud backup is a valuable off-site resource. Remote work is especially risky, from a data protection point of view, because cybersecurity isn’t as strong on home networks, and users might be working on less-secure personal devices.
In excerpts from an article by Acronis, they wrote, “An important decision is how often you need to back up and define a backup schedule. Your colleagues are constantly changing data, and in the event of a disaster, all the data created from the latest backup to the moment of failure will be lost. This period is called the Recovery Point Objective (RPO) — the maximum period that you are willing to lose data on your systems because of an event.
A shorter RPO means losing less data, but it requires more backups, more storage capacity, and more computing and network resources for the backup to run. A longer RPO is more affordable, but it means losing more data.
Many small and medium-sized companies usually define an RPO of 24 hours, which means you need to back up daily. With modern backup solutions, you can implement RPOs in as short as a few minutes. You can also have tiered RPOs — shorter RPOs for critical systems, and longer RPOs for secondary systems.
Another important variable is the recovery time objective (RTO) — how fast you can recover from the moment of a disaster to the moment you return to normal operations. When systems are down, your company loses money, and you need to recover fast to minimize losses.
Reason #3 – Discovering Hidden Viruses
In an article by The New Daily, they say, Most viruses are designed to remain hidden, drawing as little attention to their existence as possible. They infiltrate your hard drive, appearing like a normal file, and slowly go about their nefarious ways. Of course, there is also malware designed to do just the opposite; pose as a legitimate program and hide in plain sight.
The following signs may be signs that you’ve been compromised…
- Signs of slowing. Unfortunately, there are many pieces of malware around that are designed to simply annoy, such as endlessly replicating files to fill up hard drive space and slow down your PC.
- You shall not pass. Have passwords stopped working for programs or websites you’ve previously been able to access? It could be that a virus is present and locking you out of programs and files.
- Not-so-social media. Your social media accounts get hacked, with the culprit leaving all manner of posts and updates under your name. It could be that malware has been harvesting login credentials from your PC and sending them to a malicious actor.
- With friends like these. Your friends and family may begin receiving emails or messages from you that you never sent.
- One person’s trash. Files can start behaving oddly, like appearing in the trash when you never deleted them or becoming corrupted so they cannot be used at all.
- Faking it. You suddenly get anti-virus warnings popping up on your desktop, but you don’t have anti-virus software installed. This is a ruse to encourage you to install malware, usually instigated by another piece of malware.
- Just Google it. Your web browser may start redirecting searches to another search engine, usually with a strange name.
Some other things to look for: Pop-up messages that appear out of nowhere and are hard to remove. Unrecognized computer programs launching on their own. The sound of the hard drive is in constant action.
Reason #4 – Identifying Non-Compliance
Cybersecurity compliance should extend much further than the rules that are mandated by the government. Laws are basically the bare-minimum requirements that you need to comply with. As you know, every business and every individual working within them is unique. There is a myriad of other internal compliance protocols that must be documented to prevent cyber threats to your business.
And, unlike onboarding – which is done only once with a new employee – it’s imperative to have consistent reminders about cyber security protocols, which can be ever-changing in today’s environment.
In an article by CLA, they wrote: ‘The current cyber threat landscape is incredibly active — given the rush to remote work as a result of the pandemic, a significant increase in security incidents has occurred. Meanwhile, hackers recognize this and continue to exploit weaknesses in cybersecurity systems and practices.
Regulators understand most businesses are not interested in the investment needed to keep themselves and their data safe, and would rather live under the unwise assumption that they are too small or inconsequential to get targeted by hackers. But proven time and again, hackers are rather indiscriminate when it comes to targets, and sometimes the smaller the organization, the easier to operate undetected for months on end.
As a result, cyber regulations have been developed with two general objectives: pre-breach, which forces businesses to spend money to implement protocols to reduce the likelihood of a breach, and post-breach, which requires businesses to notify impacted individuals of potential damages as a result of a breach.
Reason #5 – Uncovering a Weak Contingency Plan
According to a fantastic article by AMUEdge, titled Preparing for a Cyberattack: Creating Contingency and Backup Plans, “Organizational leaders are expected to conduct due diligence in order to protect valuable resources and assets within their information systems. While many leaders clearly understand this need and their responsibilities, very few have the expertise and technological background to make an informed decision about how to actually protect their systems from intruders.
The first thing leaders must understand is that an organization’s networked systems can never be 100 percent protected from attackers. No matter how many detection systems or proactive measures are installed to protect a network, there is no guarantee against intrusion.
The best way for an organization to protect itself is to prepare as if the network is going to be attacked. Then, the organization can take measures to mitigate the risk by developing strong contingency plans and instituting comprehensive backup and restoration measures to minimize data loss.
Reason #6 – Identifying Bad Practices
Human error can compromise your business’ security in an almost endless number of different ways, but some types of error stand out in frequency above all others. Let’s take a look at some of these highly common errors.
According to an article by Cyber Security Magazine, they write, “A few common human errors are:
- Using weak passwords or storing passwords in unreliable places: plain text, Google sheets, or even on sticky notes on the office desk or around the house.
- Improper handling of sensitive data: accidentally deleting sensitive files, often without knowing they’re important, sending sensitive data to the wrong recipients, and not backing up important data.
- Using outdated (or unauthorized) software, ignoring software updates, or downloading compromised software.
- Opening suspicious email links or attachments.
- Using public Wi-Fi without using a VPN. [Yes, even smartphones and tablets need this protection]
- Plugging in insecure devices, like unknown USB storage devices.
- Using unencrypted IoT devices.
According to an article by usecure, they write, “Human error can only occur where there is opportunity to do so, as such, it is essential to eliminate opportunities for error as much as possible. Employees will continue making mistakes if they don’t know what the correct actions and risks are. To bridge this gap, it is essential to approach human error from both sides to create a comprehensive defense for your organization.
The mitigation of human error has to come from two angles: reducing opportunity and educating users. The less opportunities there are for error, the less your users will be tested for their knowledge – and the more knowledge your users have, the less likely they are to make a mistake even when they come across an opportunity to do so.
Identifying security vulnerabilities allows you to fix potential weaknesses in your organization’s cyber security network, thereby protecting you from cyber attacks. The main objective is to continuously fix the security gaps before attackers use them to create a cybersecurity breach.
Cybersecurity vulnerabilities and threats are always changing. Every day, new vulnerabilities and exploits are discovered. Doing vulnerability testing and providing immediate solutions are crucial for putting an end to new cybersecurity threats each time they arise.
What is a Cyber Risk Assessment?
In excerpts from an article by UpGaurd, they wrote, “Cybersecurity risk assessments help organizations understand, control, and mitigate all forms of cyber risk. It is a critical component of risk management strategy and data protection efforts.
Risk assessments are nothing new, and whether you like it or not, if you work in information security, you are in the risk management business. As organizations rely more on information technology and information systems to do business, the digital risk threat landscape expands, exposing ecosystems to new critical vulnerabilities.
The National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) has developed a Cybersecurity Framework to provide a base for risk assessment practices.
Cyber risk is the likelihood of suffering negative disruptions to sensitive data, finances, or business operations online. Most commonly, cyber risks are associated with events that could result in a data breach.
Though commonly used interchangeably, cyber risks and vulnerabilities are not the same. A vulnerability is a weakness that results in unauthorized network access when exploited, and a cyber risk is the probability of a vulnerability being exploited.
A few things to keep in mind is that there are very few things with zero risk to a business process or information system, and risk implies uncertainty.
The primary purpose of a cyber risk assessment is to keep stakeholders informed and support proper responses to identified risks. They also provide an executive summary to help executives and directors make informed decisions about security.
Why Perform a Cyber Risk Assessment?
According to UpGaurd, there are a number of reasons you want to perform a cyber risk assessment and a few reasons you need to. Let’s walk through them:
Reduce Long-Term Costs
Identifying potential threats and vulnerabilities, then working on mitigating them has the potential to prevent or reduce security incidents which saves your organization money and/or reputational damage in the long-term.
Create a Cybersecurity Risk Assessment Template for Future Assessments
Cyber risk assessments aren’t one of the processes, you need to continually update them, doing a good first turn will ensure repeatable processes even with staff turnover.
Gain Better Organizational Knowledge
Knowing organizational vulnerabilities gives you a clear idea of where your organization needs to improve.
Avoid Data Breaches
Data breaches can have a huge financial and reputational impact on any organization.
Avoid Regulatory Issues
Customer data that is stolen because you failed to comply with HIPAA, PCI DSS or APRA CPS 234.
Avoid Application Downtime
Internal or customer-facing systems need to be available and functioning for staff and customers to do their jobs.
Prevent Data Loss
Theft of trade secrets, code, or other key information assets could mean you lose business to competitors.
Beyond that, cyber risk assessments are integral to information risk management and any organization’s wider risk management strategy.
Risk Assessment Results and Action Steps
The final step, according to UpGaurd, is to develop a risk assessment report to support management in making decisions about budgets, policies, and procedures. For each threat, the report should describe the risk, vulnerabilities, and value. Along with the impact and likelihood of occurrence and control recommendations.
As you work through this process, you’ll understand what infrastructure your company operates, what your most valuable data is, and how you can better operate and secure your business. You can then create a risk assessment policy that defines what your organization must do periodically to monitor its security posture, how risks are addressed and mitigated, and how you will carry out the next risk assessment process.
Whether you are a small business or a multinational enterprise, information risk management is at the heart of cybersecurity. These processes help establish rules and guidelines that provide answers to what threats and vulnerabilities can cause financial and reputational damage to your business and how they are mitigated.”
At Adaptive Office Solutions, cybersecurity is our specialty. We keep cybercrimes at bay by using analysis, forensics, and reverse engineering to prevent malware attempts and patch vulnerability issues. By making an investment in multilayered cybersecurity, you can leverage our expertise to boost your defenses, mitigate risks, and protect your data with next-gen IT security solutions.
Every single device that connects to the internet poses a cyber security threat, including that innocent-looking smartwatch you’re wearing. Adaptive’s wide range of experience and certifications fills the gaps in your business’s IT infrastructure and dramatically increases the effectiveness of your cybersecurity posture.
Using our proactive cybersecurity management, cutting-edge network security tools, and comprehensive business IT solutions, you can lower your costs through systems that are running at their prime, creating greater efficiency and preventing data loss and costly downtime. With Adaptive Office Solutions by your side, we’ll help you navigate the complexities of cybersecurity so you can achieve business success without worrying about online threats.
To schedule a Cyber Security Risk Review, call the Adaptive Office Solutions’ hotline at 506-624-9480 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org