“Studies by security analysts have time and again pointed out that nearly two-third of cyberattacks perpetrated globally are on the small and medium businesses.”
We all can recall the memory of the first email we received from a “foreign dignitary” offering us an unthinkable amount of money in exchange for paying a small sum of taxes, claiming that we have won a lottery. Unneeded to say that the online risk landscape has unfolded into a much more sophisticated and complex global issue dominating people and businesses of all structures and statures. In an interview with Bala Venkatramani, the co-founder and CEO of Securden, Inc. a leading provider of privileged access governance solutions, unfolded the sheets of threats of cybersecurity and ways to avoid them.
Venkatramani has been associated with cybersecurity for the past 20 years and has been involved in developing cybersecurity products and marketing them to a global audience. He has had the opportunity to interact with IT professionals on cybersecurity practices across the globe in person and through various media, forums, and online communities all these years. He shared his experience on closely observing the evolution of the cybersecurity space, especially the larger Identity and Access Management (IAM) and its subsets.
On asking about the increased cybercrime rate during the COVID-19 Pandemic he answered that, as the majority of activities and a large number of people or functions embrace the digital mode and move online, naturally the scope for cybercrime too increases exponentially. When the pandemic all of sudden forced organizations, businesses, and institutions to adopt remote mode, the top priority was naturally on ensuring business continuity and security occupied only the secondary priority. Cybercriminals are cashing in on known vulnerabilities and loopholes. Phishing attacks to steal identities and data, and malware or ransomware propagation have witnessed a sharp increase during the pandemic. The remote work concept post-COVID has created more vulnerabilities giving rise to a wave of cyberattacks. Security has become all the more important.
In today’s scenic outline, no business can be counted safe from security breaches. From renowned companies to small businesses, all of them face security issues. When we asked him if small businesses face the same cyber risks today as larger companies faced in recent history, to which he said, organizations of all types and sizes are affected by cyberattacks. The intensity and severity of the attacks may vary, but the size of the business doesn’t matter. Various studies by security analysts have time and again pointed out that nearly two-thirds of cyberattacks perpetrated globally are on small and medium businesses. There have been many instances where attacks originating on small businesses have gone on to affect large enterprises upstream in the supply chain. While the attacks on large organizations gain media attention, the vast majority of attacks on small businesses go unnoticed.
According to Venkatramani, Artificial Intelligence helps fight cyberattacks. Due to recent IT trends like accelerated digital transformation, rapid cloud adoption, agile and DevOps practices, attack vectors have increased manifold. Hackers are constantly evolving their tactics and hence a reactive approach to cybersecurity is not effective. Preventive approaches are the need of the hour. This is where Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning techniques come into the picture and have the potential to prevent cyberattacks. A lot of innovative solutions are being developed by AI-based startups. They are seizing the opportunity, tapping the untapped potential, and solving the issues faced by organizations globally.
Here are some best practices and precautions that businesses should take to avoid cyber threats suggested by Cyber Security Expert, Bala Venkatramani
- Overcome “this won’t happen to us mindset”: Businesses, in general, have the belief that they won’t fall under the radar of hackers. This leads to a sort of complacency concerning adopting the security basics. Almost all of the victim organizations too believed ‘this won’t happen to us’ and eventually faced the attack.
- Concentrate on security basics: In recent years, lack of basic security measures and failure to adopt the best practices in password management, IT access controls, multi-factor authentication enforcement, and patch management has led to some of the worst data breaches. While concentrating on deploying sophisticated and advanced security technologies, businesses should not lose sight of the basics.
- Awareness on phishing attacks: End-users should be educated to check the URLs coming through emails before clicking them; be extremely careful with opening attachments; look for redirections; double-check before filling data on online forms etc.
- Remote work mandates renewed focus on endpoint security: Endpoints are the most vulnerable part of the network as they are increasingly becoming an entry point for malware. When end-users are granted administrator rights on their machines, they tend to download and use any software without the organization’s approval. This is where many security issues begin. Developers download various software utilities or install unapproved software (freeware or pirated versions) for personal use or to carry out their work. This practice brings not only security issues but also legal and compliance issues too. On the security front, the downloaded software itself could be malware or a malware carrier.
For example, spyware might be bundled with the pirated software to spy on the users silently. Attackers then thrive on this and start misusing the admin privileges.
When an organization allows local administrator rights on endpoints, the pirated software (containing malware) installed by just one user could potentially harm the entire organization by easily and quickly spreading across the network. Just as we equate traveling light to traveling smart, removing local admin rights and staying light on privileges is the best way to stay secure. This cuts down vulnerabilities and reduces the opportunities for the attacker. This has to be done without affecting end-user productivity. There are tools to achieve this.
In short, in addition to using endpoint security tools like anti-virus, endpoint privileges should also be properly managed.
Nowadays, cybersecurity is one of the main challenges that companies and the industrial paradigm have to deal with, in order to preserve their competitiveness. Over the years, international standard bodies have defined standards and guidance documents to create a common vision of the needs of cybersecurity controls in the industry, as well as methods to assess the effectiveness of these controls. The management of cybersecurity in businesses is also an emerging and relevant topic in recent times.