Cybersecurity comment: Cyber threats remain relentless

1 June 2020 Cyber Security

Hi-Tech Security Solutions asked a few cybersecurity experts to tell us about the current threat landscape, including what individuals and companies can do to protect themselves. We will be publishing each expert’s answer in Hi-Tech Security Solutions’ news briefs over the next few weeks (the answers will naturally also be online).

This article features insights from Gregory Dellas, security pre-sales for CA Southern Africa.

Gregory Dellas

Threats in the cyber-landscape remain relentless. It would appear there is no respite, not even in times of coronavirus crisis. A report released by the email filtering firm, Proofpoint, found that over 80% of email-based threats in Q1 2020 leverage COVID-19 in some form to feign legitimacy to the end user [1]. This is just one example of the security risks facing organisations today which can only be tackled with strategic action and focus on detection, followed by determining the resolution measures that must be applied to the situation. The latter is usually referred to as a security control or mitigation measure.

Triangles of security

Apart from the titular threats, detection and resolution (Confidentiality, Integrity, and Availability (CIA) and Authentication, Authorisation and Accounting (AAA) also spring to mind), I’ve observed that cybersecurity has three foundational elements: policy/process, technology, and the human factors. IT professionals often fail to appreciate the importance of combining each element and become too focused on technology. Let’s discuss these security approaches and highlight a few examples of where they are combined.


Gregory Dellas.

Policy/process

Here is a recent example of something that is part technical/part process that any organisation can implement. Security.txt is a proposed IETF standard that defines how organisations can implement a procedure for security researchers to disclose vulnerabilities. Modelled after the robots.txt convention, it assists with the need for reporting security issues in a responsible manner and is well worth implementing, with many Internet giants having done so already. Other established processes, such as the principle of least privilege, begin on paper, and eventually blend with technologies like Data Loss Prevention (DLP) and Privileged Access Management (PAM) – in order to put the principle into practice.

Technology

Every organisation would do well to start with implementing technical controls in line with well-known published standards. These include the NIST Cybersecurity framework, CIS v7 and ISO 27001. At this stage the list of recommended controls are supported by many vendors at price points appropriate for varying sizes of business. Malware defence, secure web gateways, edge or boundary defence, and continuous vulnerability assessment, amongst others, are mature solutions that stand well on their own.

I’ve observed that blending these tools with predictive threat analysis is an evolving trend, sometimes backed by artificial intelligence (AI) solutions to improve efficiency. [2] Consider that you don’t need to deploy every advanced technology on every node of your organisation. Taking the time to implement predictive methodologies and solutions, helps answer the question of what to secure. Cyber risk insurance is also affected by this exercise if one is to optimise coverage.

Human factors

Human factor safeguards are about influencing people’s behaviours towards desirable pathways. One example of this is the signage that almost every security company displays outside premises to inform bad actors that they are being monitored. The purpose of this human factor control is to deter bad behaviour before it happens. While its mitigation impact may be small, it does make a difference and the cost is low.

It is very difficult to apply technical controls to human behaviour. Social engineering works well because people’s natural human inclination is to help other people, and that won’t change. For organisations to address this human factor risk, they must go beyond the standard annual security awareness training and embark on building a culture of security.

One way to do this is to handpick a department or influential individuals who behave in a consistently desirable manner. Then promote their conduct to hopefully influence the behaviour of others around them. Imagine if the current Springbok captain Siya Kholisi endorsed the importance of password managers. No doubt, the public would take secure password management much more seriously. There are many other examples of new social cognitive theories being applied at work.

In conclusion, the threat remains constant, however, the options available to detect and control risk have never been greater.

[1] https://www.technologydecisions.com.au/content/security/news/more-than-80-of-cyber-threats-involve-covid-19-826636619

[2] https://symantec-blogs.broadcom.com/blogs/feature-stories/securing-against-malware-using-artificial-intelligence


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