Cybersecurity comment: Create layers of security

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 Andrew Sjoberg, chief technical officer of DRS.

Andrew Sjoberg

Any organisation, whether large or small, public or private, should follow an established framework in order to protect itself against cyber threats. The best of these is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework core. The NIST framework enables companies to create layers of security through five concurrent and continuous functions – identify, protect, detect, respond and recover from cybersecurity threats and attacks.

The key to enabling a NIST Cybersecurity Framework-aligned strategy is to first understand how your organisation operates and uses technology to achieve its business objectives. You then need to implement and manage layers of security technology in the correct areas to ensure you minimise the risk from cyber threats.

Edge protection

Every business, from a small office/home office (SOHO) to global corporations, must have a firewall to protect against incoming threats and attacks. Firewalls range from small devices and Unified Threat Management (UTM) hardware that protect SOHO users, to complex virtual installations that run in corporate data centres. They also run in the cloud, protecting multifaceted global networks from inbound/outbound as well as malicious traffic that tries to traverse the network laterally.

Edge protection for most modern businesses has extended to the mobile device due to the increased uptake in cloud services. This makes endpoint protection for laptops and mobile devices a bit of a grey area. Desktop firewalls should be mandatory. Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) and Unified Cloud Edge (UCE) solutions are seeing a massive uptake in the eCommerce, enterprise and government sectors as organisations struggle to secure the ever-expanding perimeter created by the device-to-cloud connection.

Server and data centre security

This area is at the core of the data protection hub and often where the company’s IP and crown jewels are kept. It stands to reason that these areas need to be secured by both physical and logical controls as well as strongly enforced processes and auditing tools.

Andrew Sjoberg.

Physical access controls include biometrics, card keys, and physical security personnel. Logical access controls include strong authentication tools, Privileged Access Management (PAM), encryption, log management tools, Security Incident and Event Management (SIEM) tools, intrusion prevention, internal firewalls, plus the use of demilitarised zones (DMZ). Moreover, local area network segmentation, database security management tools, vulnerability management tools, web application firewalls, data loss prevention and regular penetration testing are essential to ensure the integrity of the environment.

The list above is not exhaustive and factors that influence what a company would spend on protecting its servers and/or data centres would depend on what data it is required to protect and the value of that data to the company.

Current malware threats

There are a host of next-generation antivirus and endpoint detection and response solutions available today. These are designed to protect the endpoint desktop and servers. Intrusion prevention (IPS) technology adds another layer on the network with certain vendors providing custom-built devices to detect both known and zero-day threats. Some firewall vendors include IPS and anti-BOT blades to bolster their offerings.

Protecting communications

There are many players in this critical yet often ignored segment of the market. Current 2020 statistics show that over 94% of malware attacks start with an email. Irrespective of an organisation’s size, a reliable mail gateway solution is required to ensure that all incoming and outgoing emails are scanned for viruses and other malware. Phishing is one of the ways in which hackers get unwary victims to download or install their malware – by clicking on malicious links in the email. Other victims still open attachments that bypass malware/antivirus scanners before they get into the users’ inboxes.

Depending on the nature and size of the business, it is imperative to use a reliable tool or service that will meet your needs. Most effective tools and services today can combine a mail gateway and a web gateway (MWG) to provide a unified service that seamlessly manages the user experience, preventing them from clicking on malicious links.

End-to-end email encryption can be an extremely useful add-on for certain types of businesses and government entities that require secure communications, especially when financial transactions and personal or confidential data are transmitted over email.

Phishing protection and education

Security awareness training is available from a number of vendors and their partners. The training is generally provided in an easy to consume digital format, teaching important key concepts about cybercrime, how not to become a victim and how to ensure you as an individual and an employee, contributing to keeping yourself, your company and your family safe online. Phishing education is a key theme in most security awareness training programmes. Since over 94% of all malware attacks start with an email, phishing education should be a priority for every company.

The insider threat

From a cybersecurity perspective, the insider threat is typically perpetrated by three categories of people:

1. A careless or negligent employee or contractor.

2. A criminal or malicious insider.

3. A credential thief.

There are various types of technologies available to deal with this type of problem. Well-implemented and managed governance tools and processes backed by a strong security awareness training programme and regular audits will go a long way to protect against the first category.

There has also been an emergence of insider threat management tools in recent years to assist businesses to deal with this problem. These are mostly targeted at medium to large enterprise and government entities. They are designed to provide digital surveillance that goes beyond the logfile and forensics, in most cases providing screen capture recordings that often make it easier to prosecute offenders.

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