Cybersecurity comment: Securing the real endpoint

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 Sebastiaan Rothman, cloud solutions architect at Altron Karabina.

Sebastiaan Rothman

No matter the size of organisations, the ever-growing cybersecurity threat landscape is a risk to everyone. With solution providers pushing the adoption of cloud technologies and global events such as the COVID-19 pandemic, more organisations not only support but promote remote work, and the case for adequate endpoint protection and security awareness has never been stronger.

Sebastiaan Rothman.

As the use of cloud technologies become more mainstream, and people access resources from a broad range of devices, one thing is clear. The corporate perimeter is fast becoming irrelevant, as the so-called security boundary extends to wherever an Internet connection exists.

“Off to the cloud!” often comes long before “Let’s secure the cloud!” and as employees, partners and customers start consuming these services at their leisure, the introduction, management and enforcement of security policies and controls end up being an afterthought, funded with whatever budget is left.

The inside-out approach is pretty much the status quo for organisations implementing security control. Let’s protect the core systems, working in logical rings outward, covering on-premises and corporate-managed devices, down to the personal laptops and devices. This is a very noble activity, and for the most part will tick the box come audit time, but we haven’t quite made it to the endpoints yet, have we?

Protecting the tech is the easy bit – putting measures in place to detect and respond to activities matching certain behaviour or patterns. We’ve been doing it, with varying degrees of success, for a very long time. One thing we have not quite gotten right is getting proper anti-malware and phishing protection installed on the real endpoints in our organisations: the people.

Cybersecurity and risk awareness training should be a priority for organisations looking to secure their environment. Stolen credentials, or even worse, shared credentials, lead to all sorts of problems such as data breaches or insider threats, either negligent or deliberate. Both issues have been listed in the Cloud Security Alliance publication of ‘Top Threats to Cloud Computing’ (CSA, 2019).

The ‘Cloud Security Risks and Concerns Report’ (Netwrix, 2018) indicated that 58 percent of companies attributed security breaches to insiders. Of these, 64 percent cited negligence as the cause, with 13 percent due to credential theft. 23 percent of incidents related to criminal or malicious insiders. That’s 77 percent of incidents that could have potentially been reduced with stronger controls.

A study conducted by Digital Guardian (Digital Guardian, 2019) on the cost of a data breach, suggests that the average cost of a breach can range anything from $1,25 million to $8,19 million, depending on the country and industry. The average cost per record stolen was recorded at $150 per record. Now, that might not seem like a lot, but once you add up a few thousand records, suddenly it’s not small change anymore. South Africa weighs in at $3,06 million.

Helping employees understand the impact poor account handling could have on an organisation is as important as ensuring that antivirus is installed on end devices, or that data centre systems and servers are adequately patched. Landing the notion that a blasé attitude to their own identity and credential security could have a financial impact could go a long way in helping reduce the incidents.

Security awareness workshops, well-defined and readily available policy, and continuous enforcement of strong identity management practices will promote an attitude of security with the people accessing all your valuable information.

While it is important to recognise the human element in the risk associated with breaches, organisations need to also make sure they bring their part. It’s impossible to have a security-conscious workforce if they are not enabled. Processes should be of such a nature that they do not impede operational efficiency, allowing for collaboration and the fluid sharing of the information that helps the organisation tick over.

Data centre security, device protection, and end-user security awareness should enjoy an equal piece of the security budget pie, lest we all starve!

• CSA Top Threats to Cloud Computing 2019: here

• Cloud Security Risks and Concerns in 2018: here

• What's the Cost of a Data Breach in 2019?: here

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