Moving an entire business online isn’t an easy task, so it’s no surprise that mistakes were made in March 2020. Many organisations are only now discovering their rapid deployment of remote working infrastructure, tools and software may have succeeded in supporting staff working from home during the pandemic, but failed to create a ‘cyber safe’ environment. The acceleration of digital transformation often resulted in gaps, weak spots and lowered cyber defences.
While companies were distracted with the logistics of keeping business ticking over, for cyber criminals, business was booming.
Malicious actors are continually adjusting tactics to take advantage of the most vulnerable targets, and during the pandemic gateways to new forms of data theft were opening up in every direction. Each new VPN became an internet-exposed attack surface and every piece of video-conferencing software posed new security risks. Between February and May 2020, the personal data of more than 500,000 video conferencing users was stolen and sold on the dark web.
Attackers have been able to ‘Zoombomb’ online meetings, access sensitive information on unpatched devices, and breach security software that wasn’t properly configured. Cyber attacks on organisations increased by 31% between 2020 and 2021, and in the first 6 months of 2021, global ransomware attacks increased by 151%. All at a time when many companies were storing personal information and sensitive documents in the cloud for the first time.
Of course, as an industry we are fighting back to offer improved cyber security and cyber resilience.
We layer protection across all devices, applications, networks and systems to keep data safe and ensure there’s the capacity and capability to detect, respond and recover from emerging threats and vulnerabilities.
Security experts are developing cutting edge detection and interception technologies using automation and machine learning that will transform cyber security in the near future. The downside? Criminals have access to the same technology, but with very different plans.
Robust technology defences are a must to protect your business, but many of the recent attacks are targeted at your people, not your systems. 61% of all breaches involve user credentials.
Social engineering techniques depend on human error to provide access to valuable data and systems. Unsuspecting users are targeted both on and offline with ever more convincing phishing and vishing scams. And they are often successful, because humans are the weakest link in the security chain.
Add to that the increased interruptions and distractions many experience when working from home, and the isolation from team members which increases stress levels for others. Your employee’s focus only needs to slip for a moment to open the door to a malicious actor.
And your staff know this, and they feel vulnerable. 32% have noticed an increase in speculative criminal activity, and 19% of people working from home don’t feel they have the skills and training to stay safe.
What can you do to support your staff? Improve your cyber hygiene habits.
At the beginning of the pandemic, we all had to re-learn how to wash our hands to stop the spread of the virus. We already knew we should be lathering for 20 seconds, but that’s a long time when you can hear your train pulling in, or your children causing chaos. Covid reminded us why every second mattered.
As businesses, we know the cyber hygiene processes that should be followed to maintain the health and safety of our networks and data, and the lapses exploited during the pandemic have been a reminder that these simple but critical precautions can’t be rushed, delayed or overlooked.
For example, patches and updates should be applied rapidly, backups should take place regularly, firewalls and security software should be properly configured. Access privileges should be reviewed, incident response plans should be updated, and security awareness training should be comprehensive and ongoing.
I won’t pretend this is exciting stuff. Maintaining this routine of small cyber hygiene habits is mundane and monotonous, but it’s critical to your company’s health.
The complex environment created by mass remote working has turned every server, device, application and employee into a potential attack vector. But those aren’t the only risks to your revenue stream.
In an increasingly connected business landscape, the security effectiveness of every partner and supplier is taken into account. In one survey, 88% of respondents are concerned about the cyber resilience of SMEs in their supply chain. It’s no longer just about closing the security gaps to protect yourself from financial, legal and reputational damage - if you can’t prove high levels of detection and protection, you could be considered an un-mitigated risk, and lose out to someone who can.
We know that cyber security implementation can be costly and time-consuming. Mode can help to alleviate that burden. You get access to our cyber security experts and all your managed cyber security needs are covered. We’ll even support you in training your teams on security and awareness of their cyber environment, giving you the best chance of avoiding a cyber disaster.
Written by Alex Tupman, Mode Solutions & eacs CEO