Posts Tagged ‘cybersecurity’
As the year draws to a close, it’s a good time to take a look back. In this 2021 Year in Review, we analyze the most important developments in cybersecurity, as well as the major information security threats.
2021 Year In Review: The Impact Of Coronavirus
As we entered year two of the coronavirus pandemic, we are still dealing with the fallout. The work-from-home model spurred on by COVID-19 presented a significant shift for the workplace and the way we use technology. The emergence of the Delta and Omicron variants wreaked havoc with plans to return to the office. As a result, many roles permanently shifted to full-time remote work. Still, other companies returned to the office and are managing a hybrid model. There are far more work-from-home opportunities than were available in the pre-pandemic world.
This has significantly altered the threat landscape. Organizations need to acknowledge that remote work is here to stay. As a result, they should update their security plans and invest in the equipment needed to enable secure remote work.
In addition, there have been a host of COVID-19-related threats that we have had to remain vigilant against. These have ranged from fake COVID-19 medication websites that suck up sensitive data, to malware loaders that use pandemic-related topics as a smokescreen. The most effective threats often utilize social engineering and the anxiety caused by COVID-19 is a benefit to cybercriminals.
The good news is that these threats seem to be going down, with Trend Micro finding about half the number of COVID-19-related threats in the first half of 2021 as they did in the beginning of 2020. However, this does not mean that overall cyberthreat levels are decreasing. Instead, it’s likely that attackers are simply moving on to other deception techniques.
2021 Year In Review: Ransomware
Trend Micro reported that ransomware detections have halved from 14 million in the first 6 months of 2020, to 7 million between January and June in 2021. However, it doesn’t mean that the threat is going away. The company’s report finds that attackers are adopting a targeted approach that aims for high rewards, as opposed to pursuing as many victims as possible. Indeed, we saw attacks on critical infrastructure this year that garnered national attention. The Colonial Pipeline, JBS Foods, and the Kayesa ransomware attacks were just a few that made headlines in 2021.
Figures from Palo Alto Networks show that ransomware payouts are rising. The average ransomware payment rose from $312,000 in the first six months of 2020 to $570,000 in the first half of 2021. The FBI was able to recover some ransomware payments from cryptocurrency wallets this year, but only in a small fraction of cases.
Trend Micro also noticed an increase in modern ransomware attacks that involve more sophisticated methods of infection. As ransomware threats get more sophisticated, make sure your cybersecurity program is keeping up. Annual reviews, training, and investment in cybersecurity are crucial to keep your business protected.
2021 Year In Review: Zero Trust Architecture
One of the more positive developments in cybersecurity has been the move to Zero Trust Architecture. This approach was spurred on by a government initiative that aimed to boost America’s cyberthreat resilience. The initiative also included plans to modernize the federal cybersecurity environment.
Under the plan, each agency head was required to develop plans for implementing Zero Trust Architecture according to guidelines set out by the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST). The government is continuing to invest more in cybersecurity as a part of America’s national defense. It’s likely we will see increased funding for such initiatives in 2022.
Zero Trust Architecture quickly caught on across all industries. It is an approach that assumes an organization’s own network is not safe from cyberthreats. This security model accepts that attackers may already be inside the network and involves creating trust zones of access which are as small as possible. The approach reduces the potential impacts of an attack. Limited trust zones prevent bad actors from accessing all of a network’s systems and data.
Stay Safe in the Future With LuxSci
The last 12 months have brought a lot of changes to the cyber landscape. One thing that always stays consistent is the tenacity of attackers in coming up with new ways to circumvent cyberdefenses.
Amid our ever-changing tech environment and the constant wave of novel attacks, the only way for companies to effectively defend themselves is with a cybersecurity partner like LuxSci. Contact us now to find out how our services can help to protect your organization from threats in 2022 and beyond.
There are multiple ways that humans impact cybersecurity and can put data at risk. From being tricked by phishing emails to choosing easily guessed passwords, insider fraud and mistakenly classifying the security level of emails and other content, the actions of your employees can make your data vulnerable.
While the impact of human errors can’t be eliminated entirely, there are steps that can be taken to minimize the effects humans can have on your cybersecurity. Five of these steps are detailed below.
1. Adopt an “Opt-out” approach to encryption
At LuxSci, our philosophy is to limit risk by taking basic security choices out of employee hands. Instead of relying on employees to encrypt emails with sensitive contents, we automatically encrypt every message by default. This makes it more difficult for an employee to carelessly send out sensitive emails without the proper safeguards.
Conversely, when taking an opt-in approach to cybersecurity, employees are responsible for remembering to encrypt each email before sending. Anytime an employee forgets to take this step, it represents a potential security breach with all the liability that entails. Adopting an opt-out approach to encryption reduces this risk significantly. While many companies use opt-in processes because of their convenience, they introduce a high degree of risk. LuxSci’s SecureLine encryption technology enables a new generation of email encryption that features both flexibility and security.
2. Implement strict email filtering and network firewalls
Are you familiar with the aphorism “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”? By taking steps to prevent malicious threats from reaching your systems and networks, your employees will not have to spend their time trying to figure out what is a threat.
Phishing is one of the greatest threats to cybersecurity. Rather than relying strictly on human judgement with regard to which emails to open, using a sender policy system that filters or flags suspicious incoming emails can appreciably improve cybersecurity. Don’t count on your busy employees to know when an email is suspicious. Instead, use email filtering to keep those emails from even entering their inboxes.
Firewalls help prevent attackers from gaining easy access to your network. They prevent suspicious connections or messages from connecting to the network or reaching their intended destination. By serving as a first line of defense, a firewall plays a major part in shielding your network from cyberattacks. By preventing external threats from accessing your applications, you don’t need to count on your employees to recognize when something isn’t right.
3. Prevent human impacts on cybersecurity by training staff
Almost every modern workplace relies on internet-connected devices to get work done. However, just training staff to use your technology effectively is not enough. With cyberattacks growing in frequency, keeping your staff aware of the latest cybersecurity threats is essential to protect your business. With data breaches, denial-of-service (DoS), and ransomware attacks accounting for tremendous financial losses, failing to prepare your staff for the danger these attacks pose to your IT operations can be costly.
Your employees can prevent security breaches if they are properly trained in the latest cybersecurity best practices. Some complex security breaches can evade even the best automated security measures. If your staff knows what to look for, they can play a crucial role in augmenting your existing security measures.
In addition, hackers often target employees as their first access point for gaining entry to a network. As a result, restricting cybersecurity training to just the IT department can leave your employees vulnerable to social engineering, phishing emails, and other exploits used by hackers to dupe them.
A cybersecurity training program can help reduce risks by familiarizing employees with the tricks used by hackers to gain access to their accounts. As part of the training program, it’s important to test employees on core concepts to ensure the message is retained.
4. Enforce strong password and access control policies
To reduce the risk of security breaches, a robust password protection program is necessary. One of the key elements is enforcing password complexity. Simple passwords are vulnerable to brute force hacking, enabling hackers to easily access employee accounts.
Requiring staff to use unique, complex passwords makes it much harder for hackers to gain access to an account. A complex password can include multiple types of characters (numbers, letters, capitalization, special characters) and minimum character lengths. Learn more about creating secure passwords in our blog archives.
Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is another key element of a robust security policy. By requiring more than a single action to access an account, you can drastically cut down on security breaches due to lost or stolen passwords. Given that compromised passwords are a significant cause of security breaches, using MFA is a powerful tool for bolstering network security.
In addition, setting up time-based access controls for your sensitive systems can prevent bad actors from gaining unauthorized access. For example, if you have an employee who works a 9am-5pm shift, you can prevent her from accessing the system from 6pm-8am. That way if a bad actor did get her credentials, they would be unable to login when she was offline. This could prevent someone from taking over your systems overnight.
5. Adopt the Zero Trust security stance
What is Zero Trust Architecture? Essentially, it is a policy for guarding against cyberattacks by assuming that every aspect of a network is subject to attack. This includes potential insider threats from employees or attackers who have infiltrated your network. This contrasts with other security approaches that assume that traffic within a network’s security perimeter can automatically be trusted. Instead, Zero Trust Architecture minimizes the security perimeter as much as possible to reduce the chance of a security breach and evaluates the credentials and actions of users at all levels of access to identify any actors inside the network who may pose a threat.
By providing a more granular level of threat detection and limiting access within the network, a Zero Trust security approach is more rigorous than existing security models focused primarily on perimeter security.
ZTA improves security without imposing unduly burdensome requirements. It gives users access to just the minimum level of data and services needed to fulfill their role. This can help stop insider threats from employees. If a lower-level employee with little access to sensitive data has their credentials compromised, it is less threatening to the organization’s data security. The attacker will not be able to penetrate other parts of the network without additional identity verification.
Limiting human impacts on your cybersecurity to decrease risk
Humans can amplify cybersecurity risks in many ways. Between careless mistakes and intentional sabotage, there are a number of things that employees can do to expose your company to cybersecurity risks. The steps listed above comprise a comprehensive set of measures you can take to minimize negative human impacts on cybersecurity. In conjunction with a robust security solution, these measures can significantly enhance your cybersecurity defenses.
Secure your organization by contacting us to find out how to get onboard with LuxSci.
In light of the increasingly sophisticated attacks against the US public and private sectors, the Biden Administration announced a push toward Zero Trust Architecture, amid other cybersecurity reforms.
The White House order was issued on May 12, and it included a host of measures aimed at improving the country’s resilience against cyberthreats. The announcement contained plans to remove barriers that block the sharing of threat information, as well as actions to modernize the Federal Government cybersecurity environment.
A key part of the order was a requirement for each agency head to develop a plan for Zero Trust Architecture implementation within 60 days of the announcement. This plan must incorporate the migration steps set out in the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) guidelines. The White House order also stipulates that migrations to cloud technology “shall also adopt Zero Trust Architecture, as practicable.”
This announcement is likely to have major implications in the cybersecurity world. With the federal government moving to adopt Zero Trust Architecture, it’s likely that other industries will soon follow suit. It’s worth asking what this framework is and what it means in the context of your own security stance.
What Is Zero Trust Architecture?
Simply put, Zero Trust Architecture is a security model that assumes no place is safe from cyberthreats, even an organization’s own network. Let’s explain it by contrasting Zero Trust Architecture with other security models.
Under other designs, an organization’s network has a perimeter, and the entities inside it are considered secure. It’s much like the terminal at an airport. Once you have gone through the security checkpoint, you are presumed free from any weaponry that could endanger others or the facility. After going through the security, you can enter the food court, the gift shops, or the bathroom without having to verify your identity or go through a metal detector.
Under this type of security model, systems can communicate with each other within the network relatively freely. Users are deemed safe and given special privileges, because they are on the “secure” side of the firewall.
In contrast, Zero Trust Architecture accepts that bad actors may be inside the perimeter of the “secure” network. Recognizing this possibility, the Zero Trust security model involves making the secure perimeter as small as possible to minimize the potential for compromise. It also takes steps to continually evaluate actors that are inside the network for possible threats.
Overall, the goal of Zero Trust Architecture is to protect devices and data from malicious actors. It improves on other security models by enforcing more granular access controls, which helps limit the potential for unauthorized access.
In Zero Trust Architecture, a trust zone is an area where those granted access are also granted access to other parts of the network. Returning to our airport analogy, everywhere beyond the security gates is a shared trust zone where you can move relatively freely.
When you go to board your plane, you must go through another security checkpoint into a smaller trust zone. The smaller a trust zone is, the less data and access to assets that it has. This helps to limit the potential damage that a bad actor can cause.
If a bad actor gained access to the terminal, they could harm everyone within the secure perimeter of the terminal. If the bad actor only had access to the plane, the potential harm would be much more limited (the analogy breaks down a little here, because someone with access to a plane would also have had access to the terminal, but you get the picture).
The Core Tenets of Zero Trust Architecture
In order to build a more secure environment while still offering usable services, Zero Trust Architecture focuses on:
- Authorization: Only granting users access to the minimum level of data and services that are required to fulfill their role.
- Authentication: Verifying the identity of authorized users through logins, keys, certificates, multi-factor authentication and other measures. This helps to protect from unauthorized access.
- Limited trust zones: Making trust zones as small as possible to reduce potential impacts if compromised.
- Availability: The above security measures are critical, but they need to be designed in a way that maintains availability. A service is useless if it is incredibly secure, but unavailable much of the time.
- Minimized delays: The vetting processes are important, but authentication should be implemented in a way that doesn’t slow down access.
LuxSci and Zero Trust Alignment
LuxSci has long aligned its services with Zero Trust principles. Our Zero Trust-aligned features include:
- Dedicated servers with virtualized sandboxing and dynamic per-customer micro-segmentation. We put each dedicated customer in its own trust zone.
- Dynamic network and user access monitoring that can block suspected threats.
- Granular access controls for users and systems that access customer data.
- Encrypted email.
The Biden Administration’s push toward Zero Trust Architecture shows just how critical it is for protection in the current environment. Secure your organization by contacting us now to find out how it can get onboard with LuxSci’s Zero Trust-aligned services.