‘Broken window, broken business’ and cybersecurity

Issue 1 2021 Information Security

Here at Networks Unlimited Africa, as we anticipate the trends and threats that we foresee for the coming year, we are applying the ‘broken window, broken business’ principle when looking at our internal cybersecurity posture.

The term broken window comes from George Kelling, a criminologist who wrote in 1982 that, “Social psychologists and police officers tend to agree that if a window in a building is broken and is left unrepaired, all the rest of the windows will soon be broken… vandalism can occur anywhere once communal barriers… are lowered by actions that seem to signal that ‘no one cares’.”[1]

Applying the broken window, broken business principle when looking at your internal cybersecurity posture means, in essence, making sure that you have no broken windows, or gaps in your security through which uninvited elements could enter. In order to do this, you first need to create a firm baseline to develop your posture.

Your foundations are strong networks and segmentation, which can be achieved either in-house or outsourced to a third-party expert. We see a lot of companies overlooking the basics and then, at a later stage, getting caught in the trap of needing to acquire solutions to plug security gaps. This can become very expensive.

We advise that, when looking to build any network and adding security on top of this, it is important to ensure that you are using human resources who are certified within their respective fields. Smaller organisations often make the mistake of using a ‘just enough’ mentality to get the network operating.


Stefan van de Giessen.

Fix the cracks

As a first step to cover all of your bases, ensure that you don’t have any cracks in your posture – in essence, a broken window. A lack of proper network segmentation, as well as inadequate password management and a vulnerable email security, are all factors that can act as broken policy.

Additionally, the endpoint is one of the most crucial vectors for attack, especially considering the current, significantly increased number of employees working from home. This is a true broken window potential.

Organisations must ensure that endpoints are protected by a next-generation antivirus and thereby closely monitored for any malicious activity. Traditional antivirus has become irrelevant due to the evolution of attacks, including file-less attacks. Additionally, the endpoints need to be secure as they initiate access to your virtual private network.

In conclusion, companies need to adopt a broken window attitude when reviewing their cybersecurity posture. Establishing and maintaining the fundamentals is crucial in ensuring your environment does not fall into disrepair, making it an appealing target to cybercriminals. If a strong foundational plan addressing the points we have discussed is maintained, your posture will remain strong, ensuring your organisation is as well protected as it can be.

For more information contact Networks Unlimited Africa, +27 11 202 8400, david.wilson@nu.co.za, www.networksunlimited.africa

[1] https://www.theatlantic.com/magazine/archive/1982/03/broken-windows/304465/




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