Pratum Blog

Cybersecurity Education

Do your employees know what a phishing email is? Would they know what to do if malware took over their computers? While certain cybersecurity measures seem common sense to many IT professionals, not everyone is educated on the best practices to keep themselves, and your company, safe from cyber risks. The only way to truly fix that is through awareness training.

Before you start emailing out a long list of online threats for your employees to avoid, first decide what are the biggest threats in your business? Then, come up with an action plan to educate and inspire your staff to be more diligent. Here are a few key messages every business should communicate!

1. This matters to everyone.

This may sound simple, but mindset is key when implementing a security plan. Not only should you explain to your employees how a security breach could impact the entire organization, you should also emphasize what that might mean for them individually. Not only could they lose personal data, but a significant cyber-attack can take down an entire company.

It may help to explain it to them like this; if someone at a healthcare organization or financial institution had access to their private information, wouldn’t they want that person to protect their data from hackers? The same professionalism and awareness expected from others is the level everyone should be giving to their clients. It’s also good job security to be cybersecurity aware. Many businesses cannot recover after an incident, and eventually must lay off employees after a breach.

2. Management is excited!

Similar to number 1, getting people on-board with a plan of action means they have to be motivated to make changes. Change is not always easy for people. That’s why having enthusiastic support from executives in the company will help encourage the rest of the staff to get pumped up about the new initiatives! Cybersecurity is a serious topic, but you can make the learning process enjoyable with a positive outlook. That motivation should start from the top!

3. Always be on guard.

While this may come across as paranoia, it’s a good frame of mind when dealing with any emails, or even people, that come from outside the company. Teach your employees the common cyber threats and how to avoid them. Here are a few:

  • Phishing Emails – This is an email that looks legitimate, asking for the recipient’s private information. That could be usernames and passwords, or even credit card or social security numbers. A common threat within businesses is an email that appears to be from a manager, asking an employee to buy gift cards or send financial information. Always reach out to who the email is claiming to be from through another form of communication before giving out any information.
  • Malware – Malware is any software designed to cause damage. This can come from a variety of sources, including emails or website links. Criminals will offer something alluring to the person viewing their content to click on. That link will then download the harmful software to computers, servers, or computer networks. The best way to combat this is to avoid clicking on anything until you verify the sender is trustworthy. Also, try hovering your mouse over the link to see where it will actually be taking you.
  • Social Engineering – This is one of the most effective ways cybercriminals obtain private information from businesses. It’s often done in person, which makes confronting or stopping the attack intimidating to employees. Social Engineering is the use of deception to manipulate people into giving out confidential information. This can cover a wide range of attacks, but one you should emphasize with employees is facility access. If a cybercriminal has unauthorized access to your building, they can access private information. Humans are naturally helpful, which makes entering a building or private area of a business easy for some criminals. If your employees see someone who doesn’t belong in an area of the company, encourage them to ask that person questions. Even a friendly inquiry can scare off some intruders. If they don’t feel comfortable approaching the situation, give your staff a report chain to inform security or management of their suspicions quickly.
  • These are just a few of the ways you can educate and protect your employees. Starting with these can make a big impact on the cybersecurity of your staff.

4. Report everything you see.

This might be one of the most important messages you convey during awareness training. Every bit of information can help in the event of a cyber-attack. If security measures fail, having all possible knowledge of what led up for the incident can help digital forensics experts discover what happened and how to prevent it in the future. It’s also important to emphasize with staff that reporting something suspicious will not get them in trouble. Information is power.

Taking the time and using resources to provide your staff with cybersecurity knowledge could save your business. According to the FBI Internet Crime Report, more than $1.7 Billion was lost in 2019 from business email compromise. There were more than 114,000 phishing email complaints. Being proactive with awareness training and support for employees will not only protect them from detrimental attacks, your staff is also your first line of defense in protecting your company.

(References: https://pdf.ic3.gov/2019_IC3Report.pdf
magnifying glass

Imagine you receive a call from your neighbor, a door to your house appears kicked in. You arrive home to find that certain items are out of place, things aren’t in disarray, however, someone unauthorized has broken in and you are unsure what damage has been performed. What or who were they after, what did they do, and when did this occur?

Perhaps your home has a security camera that records data, knowing what security controls exist, what information they contain on them, as well as the retention of that data can be crucial. What if you were on vacation, and the cameras overwrite data after 24 hours it, would be necessary to save or preserve this information before it is lost.

This is the same issue many businesses face after a cybersecurity incident.

Much like a business that identifies indicators of compromise, there are many lingering questions and a flurry of time sensitive activity that needs to follow in order to ensure the appropriate incident response actions are taken. Ultimately, answers to all these questions are typically entirely dependent upon how much historical information exists. An incident responder needs to quickly identify systems that may contain relevant information and preserve it before it is lost forever.

Without an understanding of your business, you may not have the crucial information to respond to an incident properly. It’s crucial to know what security controls exist, what type of evidence is generated within these, and how long this information is available for. The ability to identify incidents and review activity is reliant upon having the applicable data. You typically will need to have the information around what happened in order to protect your business from being attacked again as well as to understand what occurred. A lack of knowledge also makes it hard to recover what was lost.

Visibility

In order to have the best success in protecting your data, and responding during an incident, you need to proactively make sure the necessary data is being captured and ideally monitored. Typical systems that contain crucial information include network devices such as firewalls, core switches, Authentication Servers/Domain Controllers, security tools, as well as key systems that contain business sensitive data.

Examples of sensitive systems/data: ACH transactions in a bank, code base for a tech company, or intellectual property for a manufacturing plant.

Knowing how to access this information is key when addressing security threats. Without a full understanding of the key systems and infrastructure of your company, you’ll have a hard time efficiently responding to incidents or may even make things worse when an incident occurs.

Here are a few things to ask yourself to make sure you understand your visibility if an incident were to occur:

  • Who has access to our critical systems and data?
  • Where are the audit logs for the above systems stored and for how long?
  • What security layers protect these systems and is it being monitored appropriately?

Your staff should be able to answer these questions regarding your critical systems and data. The answers will help determine your risk level, and therefore determine many of your security protocol needs. If they can’t answer these questions, it’s time to reevaluate your incident response plan.

Preparedness

The best thing a business can do to prepare for a disaster is identify key systems and infrastructure within their enterprise. So, what does that look like? There are 3 major components every business should take into consideration:

1. Auditing Information -
Ensure you have the correct types of information being logged. This needs to be done in two ways.

- Log data from the correct devices. A lack of logging from crucial systems will leave gaps in visibility that can be detrimental during incident response efforts as well as active security monitoring.

- Ensure you have logging enabled for the necessary data. As an example, ensure your logging critical information such as successful and failed events as well as activity such as changes. Logs from a firewall aren’t helpful if you are only auditing denied traffic.

2. Monitor Data -
Look out for intrusions or security events, it’s necessary to take a pro-active approach and actively perform threat hunting exercises and security monitoring. Be aware of alerts that may be going off when a security breach occurs. You may also choose to hire an outside firm, like Pratum, to monitor your systems in real-time with SIEM services.

3. Retention Settings –
Make sure your data is being stored for an adequate amount of time. If an incident happens, but the retention settings don’t go back far enough, you won’t have access to the data you need. This length of retention depends on the level of your company’s security risk. The higher the risk, the longer you should be storing data.

Monitoring

How is your monitoring posture? If you need to go back and review data, or the events surrounding an incident, will you have that information readily available? If your system is designed to only hold data for a short amount of time, you may not be able to get the information you need if a security threat is found.

Going back to the burglary analogy; if you have security cameras that stores footage for 24 hours you will need to immediately seek to preserve that evidence before it is overwritten. The risk if this data not being available significantly increases if you go on vacation frequently. Businesses that take the time to evaluate the effectiveness of their security controls, appropriately measure their risk, and perform incident response preparedness exercises will be better equipped to respond quickly and efficiently during an incident.

How often you monitor your data should match the risk level. When a company has valuable information, like belongings in the home, it needs to be protected and monitored. The level of security should equal the value of the assets. If your data is highly important or sensitive, the level of risk is higher. That information needs more layers of protection.

Review

Evaluating what went wrong during a security incident can be much more difficult if you don’t have all the necessary information. Without any evidence, timeline, or a suspect, it’s hard to solve a theft case. It’s equally hard to solve a cyber-attack.

That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time by understanding your business. Knowing what security measures are in place, how often they’re monitored, and who’s in charge if something goes wrong, can all make a world of difference when it comes to recuperating and responding to an attack.

If you need help evaluating your security posture and coming up with an incident response plan, Pratum offers services to fit your needs and budget.

Cybersecurity for Remote Employees

As the United States works to flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19, much of the American workforce is being sent home from the office. That presents some technical and security challenges for business owners, looking to protect staff’s health and the well-being of the business. If you are preparing to send your employees home in response to Coronavirus, there are a few things you need to prepare before making your business remote.

Set a Security Policy

Before sending your staff home, make sure you have a security policy in place up for remote work. Employees may not be aware of the security measures they should follow, or how to safely conduct business from home. For many, this is the first time their jobs have been done remotely. Creating written out guidelines helps educate your staff, while keeping your company safe. This way everyone will be on the same page and will hopefully lessen any confusion.

NIST has guidance on what to include in a policy/standard. You can find their recommendations under the NIST publications, titled “Guide to Enterprise Telework, Remote Access, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Security”.

Establish a Secure Connection

While your employees are working remotely, you should provide secure connectivity to corporate resources. Organizations that have never allowed for remote work will need to make resources available that were only accessible internally before now. There are a few ways you can help ensure the security of your network, while staying connected.

1. Utilize a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN will help establish a secure connection between the office and employees who are working from home.

2. Think through what limitations on VPN usage may exist. This will help ensure it can support the number of employees needing to connect.

3. Use MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) on the VPN and any remote connections. This adds an extra layer of security, by requiring additional information to access the VPN. Implement this sort of security layer anywhere you can.

4. Keep all VPNs and network infrastructure devices up to date on patches. The Department of Homeland Security CISA website has some guidance on VPN security.

Address WIFI Risks

At-home networks are typically not as secure as corporate networks. While working at home your employees probably have several devices connected to the same WIFI, as well. This can cause security risks when opened to personal devices, home appliances, and more. Company provided hotspot connections may be an option for some organizations.

You should also consider the speed of your employees’ home internet connections. They may not have the bandwidth to support their entire family now working from home, or children using devices to stream video on the same WIFI. This isn’t necessarily a security concern, but it may have an impact on employee productivity.

Prepare for Updates

While your employees are away from the office, they may need to connect back to the company network in order to get certain updates. That can include OS, anti-virus, and vulnerability scanning. Depending on your process for updates, you may need to let your staff know a certain time of day this can be done so they can be sure their devices are on and ready for the necessary maintenance.

Educate your Employees

Cybercriminals know how to take advantage of hot topics. There have already been scams targeting people looking for more information on COVID-19. During times of fear, people are more susceptible to these sorts of scams. Employees can also feel more relaxed in their home, which could mean they’re more comfortable opening suspicious emails.

Remind your staff to stay vigilant. Educate them on the importance of checking sources before clicking on links, and never sending money to anyone without verifying the recipient. That may mean an extra phone call, instead of walking down the hall.

You should also warn your staff about not using personal devices for work purposes, and not to use public WIFI while accessing business content. While working from home you may not consider your child or pet a cyber threat. However, an inadvertent click of the mouse could cause big problems. Be sure to lock your computer whenever you leave your device, just as you should at the office. These could open your business to a variety of security risks. We recently outlined some of the issues these practices can cause in a recent blog article 5 Ways to Stay Secure While Working Remote.

Ensure Your Incident Response Plan is Ready

Your Incident Response Plan is always a crucial part of your business. Now is the perfect time to make sure it is up to date and you know how to enact it remotely. If a cyber incident occurs, do you have the ability to investigate and mitigate the threat from outside the office? Start working on the answers to these questions as soon as possible, if you haven’t already.

Having a security plan in place, educating your staff, and being prepared for possible threats will make this time of uncertainty more secure and manageable for your business. If you have questions about any of these recommendations, feel free to reach out to a Pratum consultant today!

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