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Adam Stahl

By: Adam Stahl on November 9th, 2016

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5 Reasons Why Knowing and Reviewing Your Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities is Crucial


“Faster, sneakier and more creative” is how CNN Money described the new breed of hackers in early 2014, while discussing how too many companies are leaving themselves open to electronic intrusion by not taking security seriously.

With reports from Verizon and Symantec showing a jump in malware – 317 million new types in that time period -- the article warned that hackers are working faster than companies can defend against them, and suggested that smart businesses should put extra resources into everything from patches to better employee security practices.

Based on large-scale exploits since then, it’s obvious that not enough people read the article or acted upon the suggestions to mitigate their cybersecurity vulnerabilities. The Target hack had already happened, but still to come were major breaches to The Home Depot, Ashley Madison, the IRS, even the U.S. Office of Personnel Management.

Today, security experts affirm that it’s still scary out there, perhaps even more so, and recommend that businesses of any size be ready for cyber attacks.

Larger companies have big weak points, but small companies are wrong to think they’re too tiny to be noticed: size or scale no longer matters, especially if hackers are more organized and aggressive. Essentially, no location, organization or industry is safe, and the wisest approach is a strong, constant and regular approach to security.

Here are five reasons why knowing your cybersecurity vulnerabilities and regularly reviewing them is crucial for your business:

1. You show you’re a leader.

Your customers and business partners will appreciate knowing that you take security seriously, and not just your data, but their data. Businesses looking for ways to improve their own security should consider any areas where others could access their network, or vice versa.

Failure to prevent breaches can have devastating effects in the short-term as you try to plug the holes, detect the scope of the loss and figure how your network was accessed. You may have to take yourself off-line, which could result in lost productivity and unhappy customers.

Long-term damage could include a lack of confidence in you and your business, strained relationships, possible lawsuits, refunding lost money, damaged reputation, providing monitoring service, and even a new security system.

Research into the Target breach shows that its network may have withstood a direct attack, but hackers obtained access via its HVAC contractor. Once they fraudulently acquired credentials, they easily entered Target’s system, including areas containing customer financial information.

2. You maintain a current understanding of cybersecurity and risk profiles.

What you know about the risks of malware, viruses, competitors, and even former or current employees can be frightening. But this can be balanced by being aware of current defenses and best practices – not just things you or the industry were doing 5-10 years ago, but even last year.

This requires big picture research into industry trends and global security risks. But it also demands drilling deep to examine your company’s internal networks and partner networks, including hardware and software. Security policies and procedures can also be evaluated and improved.

Are employees regularly educated on password protection for their desktops and mobile devices? How often are logins required, and changed?

Regularly refreshing your knowledge can also be an asset in minimizing risk of future threats.

Learn More about Finding Cybersecurity Vulnerabilities: Watch our On-Demand  Webinar >>


3. You monitor for deviations in security policies.

This requires a familiarity and active vigilance with your networks, including setting alerts at vulnerable spots, requiring access privileges for different users, and even creating safeguards against potential risks from higher-level users.

Related to this is creating emergency plans if a breach or breach attempt is detected. Is it a virus? Is it an internal threat or external attack? All at once?

Your knowledge of your networks can help you trace unauthorized access or disable access to certain core areas. You also know the effect of emergency shutdowns or how to restore the system if it goes off-line.

4. You regularly test defenses against threats.

Though an actual dangerous situation can be considered a super test, you and your employer don’t want that time to be when you discover your defenses aren’t working or your process doesn’t work as it was supposed to.

Instead, figure out ways to simulate different attacks. Consider this a scrimmage to see what works and what needs to be improved, and perform this exercise regularly.

There are simulations you can run; you can hire outside security experts to test your systems, or invite your own people to try to access your network as intruders. Or, like the Pentagon does when it wants to test system integrity, it invites qualified members of the hacking community to take part, and offers “cyber bug bounties” for successes.

Any bugs that are found are zapped, which improves the defenses. Pentagon officials will also know what works well by what isn’t breached.

5. You create benchmarks for making improvements over time.

The speed and creativity of today’s hacker requires that security personnel to be just as vigilant in defense. But to make this intention a reality, you will need ongoing support and resources from your organization, more than a one-time software or hardware upgrade.

In order to get budget-conscious decision makers to budge, you’ll not only need to be familiar with the ins and outs of your network security – including that of your partners – but aware of the bigger security picture.

What really could make your case is being able to know how your defenses have worked so far, and how your costs for security compared to your professional colleagues. Knowledge of these benchmarks will be able to assist in the decision to continue or hopefully increase your efforts.

At the same time, a less thorough description of what past funds have been spent on defense and any problems blocked could work against your effort.

Tracking objective information about your network, including how it performs during actual and simulated breaches, or any changes or identified risks can let you compare progress at different times. Benchmarking can also be useful to see how others are tackling certain security concerns.

With so many online threats, every company should be in the “we always try to make sure we're ready” category, rather than the “we’re crossing our fingers that we’re prepared,” or even the “this stuff happens to other people, not us” categories.

But this requires a knowledgeable IT team that’s always learning and experimenting, plus supportive management.

To learn more about the role you can play, you can watch the recording of our cybersecurity webinar. Also, be sure to check out our eBook on things you can do to improve your company's cybersecurity posture.

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About Adam Stahl

Adam is Kelser's Digital Strategist who invites boundless creativity to achieve outcomes that inspire confidence.

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