The COVID-19 pandemic brought with it a level of disruption we have not seen in decades. The lockdowns imposed in many countries all over the world forced businesses to rethink their strategies in order to continue operating and surviving.
In the United States alone, almost 70 percent of employees had to start working from home during the height of the pandemic. Now that things are easing off, almost 58.6 percent of employees are still working remotely as a way of minimizing their exposure. This is a trend that is likely to continue.
But while work-at-home arrangements present many benefits to employees and business—least of all their personal safety and ensuring business continuity—it does also present many potential threats. One of the dangers of the new work paradigm is that it exposes organizations to more opportunities for cyber attacks.
The reason for this is that employees who work remotely have to access the office network to get data and information from wherever they are. Each person who accesses the organization’s IT infrastructure remotely is a potential gateway for a malicious attack. And these attacks are an expensive danger. According to recent reports, the annual damages of cybercrimes will likely hit 10.5 trillion USD by 2025. That is a costly danger.
Since businesses are now embracing the new realities post-COVID, among them hybrid work arrangements and more work-at-home policies—it should also mean they should also embrace the importance of beefed-up cybersecurity for their organization. As responsible decision-makers, all avenues should be exhausted to ensure that the organization is protected from an attack. Here are some things you can do to protect your business from cyber-attacks.
Prioritize cybersecurity in the organization
As business leaders and decision-makers, it is important to assess the security posture of the organization’s network and ensure that security vulnerabilities are identified and then fixed. Cybersecurity teams should be given the green light to regularly assess the network and plug in security holes as it is identified. One of the best ways to do it is by using a security method like breach and attack simulation.
Breach and attack simulation or BAS, is a testing method that mimics different scenarios using attack protocols and techniques used by actual cybercriminals. The scenarios used are based on the MITRE ATT&CK knowledgebase – a growing repository of all known adversarial tactics used by malicious actors.
BAS will continually attempt to breach the organization’s network to identify vulnerabilities and then generate a report and recommendations for action. As a security method, this is an especially powerful way of plugging in holes in the network’s architecture and ensuring that its security posture is extremely secure. The thing with BAS is that it not only identifies the most severe vulnerabilities but also the more basic elements of security like updating software or setting up the firewall correctly. The other great thing here is that it doesn’t even need additional manpower to implement since it can be automated.
Protecting your network and ensuring that it can withstand attacks from malicious actors should be the first order of business for any organization. This means making sure that the topic of cybersecurity and implementing policies to support it should be at the top of the list. A survey conducted by the US Small Business Administration showed that 88 percent of business owners think they are susceptible to an attack from cybercriminals.
This is not a surprising statistic because organizations are now more exposed than ever because of the previously mentioned remote work policies. In fact, 20 percent of cybersecurity heads of US companies say that security breaches are more likely to happen because of an exposed remote worker.
Teach cybersecurity to employees
Employees know about cybersecurity and the need to secure the network—but unfortunately, this awareness does not necessarily turn into actionable steps on their part. This is mainly because they sometimes do not know that they play a big role in cybersecurity.
To ensure a strengthened network, one of the weakest parts in the security chain needs to be educated – and that’s the employees. It should be incumbent upon the organization to create a strong policy of education for all of the employees. Security hygiene is extremely important to ensure the strong security of the network. For example, one of the most common points of entry for malicious actors are remote devices of employees that have weak security. Having a weak password or passphrase can be exploited quickly by cybercriminals. Another factor would be employees who would open links from phishing emails. Yet another one would be installing an app that has a vulnerability.
Employees should be educated on cybersecurity threats that they could possibly encounter and be able to identify and avoid various threats.
One of the most valuable assets of all organizations is data. It is the treasure that cybercriminals want to steal. The organization should pull out all the stops in ensuring that their sensitive data is protected and kept safe. The Cybersecurity team should ensure that network encryption is implemented and that all sensitive data is protected from potential intrusions. This could be done by installing a proxy to handle data encryption.
Devise a strong incident response plan
Ensuring that the organization is safe from any kind of attack is of paramount importance. But preparedness also means having a plan in place in the event that an attack becomes successful. A strong incident response plan is very important. A well-thought-out incident response plan will have extensive information on the courses of action that the organization and all of its employees will take in case a cyberattack happens. For cybersecurity experts, a great plan will detail the six important phases of an incident response—which are, Prepare, Identify, Contain, Eradicate, Recover, and Lessons learned.
Cyber-attacks have been continually rising every year but have seen a dramatic uptick because of the COVID-19 pandemic and the proliferation of remote work arrangements. An organization should do what it can to prevent a cyber attack from happening, which can have a huge negative impact on the business. By continuously assessing the security of the network, educating employees, and having a strong incident response plan, a business can be prepared for any attack.