Six cybersecurity mistakes to avoid

Issue 5 2023 Information Security, Security Services & Risk Management

Safeguarding sensitive data and maintaining robust cybersecurity practices has become paramount for businesses of all sizes, with the global costs of cybercrime expected to reach US$13 trillion within the next five years. To assist companies in fortifying their digital defences, here are six cybersecurity mistakes to avoid:

1. Don’t forget your telephony system

Nic Laschinger, Euphoria.

With VoIP cloud telephony solutions, employees can access their company extension from their mobile phones, using VoIP handsets or browser softphones. This means that they’re connected no matter where they are, on a computer or mobile phone.

This mobility and accessibility also brings security risks, says Euphoria Telecom CTO Nic Laschinger. “This needs to be mitigated on your network, through ensuring you have enhanced data security – firewalls, anti-virus, anti-malware and so on – and checking that your provider does too.”

Your telephony provider can encrypt voice data and routing information, using strong encryption algorithms and keys to protect the information from eavesdroppers (who want to listen in to your calls) and data theft. IPSec is the industry standard used to protect internet communication.

2. Don’t work blind

Tony Walt, Port443.

Tony Walt, co-founder and director of cybersecurity software house Port443, says many organisations get so caught up in the details of their security systems, they don’t see the big picture. “A big mistake many organisations make is viewing critical metrics, alerts, and incidents across the entire ICT estate (cloud, network, security) in isolation. A small change in one area can have unforeseen consequences in another area. Having visibility across the entire estate is therefore paramount.”

Companies that use system providers that do not offer real-time monitoring and reporting of downtime, security events, and other incidents, lose out on this critical visibility, says Charlotte Koep, COO of insurtech platform Root.

“Platform downtime and vulnerabilities have material business impacts for businesses. The insurance industry, for instance, is a highly regulated space which deals with reams of personal data every day. Insurers need to be able to monitor and hold cloud providers to account. This often leads to cumbersome, manual KPI and SLA monitoring and reports, whereas next-gen cloud platform providers can provide real-time, public-facing monitoring and visibility.”

3. Don’t use manual systems

Walt says trying to manually distinguish between ‘alarms’ offered by your security monitoring software is time-consuming, and may leave companies open to cyber criminals. “Expecting IT personnel to quickly and accurately distinguish between true positives, false positives, false negatives and true negatives is neither efficient nor safe. With the sheer increase in the volume of incidents of compromise, automation is a necessity.”

4. Don’t forget your administrative portals

Judy Winn, Peach Payments.

Judy Winn, head of information security at Peach Payments, says companies often forget to secure their administrative portals and support systems with strong authentication practices. “This includes having strong passwords, good user access management policies and practices, and enabling two-factor authentication wherever this is offered by systems.”

5. Check with your partners and suppliers

Winn says companies should clarify with their suppliers and partners who is responsible for what. Online retailers, for instance, must confirm what falls within the responsibility of their different technology suppliers, such as the payment gateway, website hosting providers, and website developers.

“Also, check with your providers about the security controls and measures they inherently offer, and which additional security measures are available or recommended,” Winn suggests.

Koep suggests companies use trusted tech providers who can demonstrate established security controls are in place, and where possible, audited under a recognised standard like SOC2, ISO3000 and the like.

6. Train your employees – and your board

Charlotte Koep, Root.

“Companies have to make sure that all their employees are aware of potential phishing, social engineering, and other cyberattacks that may be targeting them,” Winn says.

Koep says companies can’t assume that outsourcing to the cloud shifts responsibility for security to the outsourced cloud provider. “You still need to ensure that you have your own internal controls in place. Make sure that your staff protect their credentials, are educated on security and privacy, and don't introduce vulnerabilities into your systems or those of your tech provider. Data shows that around 80% of breaches recorded today include a human element such as privilege misuse, social engineering, and stolen usernames and passwords.”

And if you think training is only necessary for lower-level staff, think again. Walt notes that boards and management are accountable (and can be held personally liable) for breaches affecting the business, its customers and suppliers.

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