Why is it necessary to protect against cyber threats?

Cybersecurity risks pervade every organization and aren’t always under direct control of your IT security team. Increasing global connectivity, usage of cloud services, and outsourcing means a much larger attack vector than in the past. Third-party risk and fourth-party risk is on the rise, making third-party risk management, vendor risk management and cyber security risk management all the more important for reducing the risk of third-party data breaches.

Pair this with business leaders making technology-related risk decisions everyday, in every department, without even knowing it. Imagine your CMO trials a new email marketing tool that has poor security practices, this could be a huge security risk that could expose your customers’ personally identifiable information (PII) causing identity theft. Whether you work in the public or private sector, information security cannot be left to your Chief Information Security Officer (CISO), it must be an organizational wide initiative.

How to protect against and identify cyber threats

A good place to start to understand how to protect your organization from cyber threats is with the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework (NIST Cybersecurity Framework) and a cyber threat intelligence exercise.

Cyber threat intelligence is what cyber threat information becomes once it is collected, evaluated and analyzed. Cyber threat intelligence provides a better understanding of cyber threats and allows you to identify similarities and differences between different types of cyber threats in an accurate and timely manner.

Cyber threat intelligence is developed in an cyclical process referred to as the intelligence cycle. In the intelligence cycle, data collection is planned, implemented and evaluated to produce a report that is then disseminated and revaluated in the context of any new information.

The process is a cycle because during the gathering or evaluation process you may identify gaps, unanswered questions or be prompted to collect new requirements and restart the intelligence cycle. 

Analysis hinges on the triad of actors, intent and capability with consideration of their tactics, techniques and procedures (TTPs), motivations and access to intended targets. 

By studying the triad of actors, it becomes possible to make informed strategic, operation and tactical assessments: 

  • Strategic assessments: Informs decision makers on broad and long-term issues, as well as providing timely warnings of threats. Strategic cyber threat intelligence forms a view of the intent and capabilities of malicious cyber attackers and what cyber threats they could pose.
  • Operational assessments: Target potential incidents related to events, investigations or activities and provide guidance about how to respond to them e.g. what to do when a computer is infected with malware.
  • Tactical assessments: Real-time assessment of events, investigations and activities that provide day-to-day support.

Properly applied cyber threat intelligence provides insights into cyber threats and promotes a faster more targeted response. It can assist decision makers in determining acceptable cybersecurity risks, controls and budget constraints in equipment and staffing, and support incident response and post-incident response activities.

Attacks Could Destroy Your Business

As large companies continue to get serious about data security, small businesses are becoming increasingly attractive targets—and the results are often devastating for small business owners.

According to the Kaspersky Lab, the average annual cost of cyber attacks to small and medium-sized businesses was over $200,000 in 2014. Most small businesses don’t have that kind of money lying around and, as a result, nearly 60 percent of the small businesses victimized by a cyber attack close permanently within six months of the attack. Many of these businesses put off making necessary improvements to their cyber security protocols until it was too late because they feared the costs would be prohibitive.

10 Ways to Prevent Cyber Attacks

Even if you don’t currently have the resources to bring in an outside expert to test your computer systems and make security recommendations, there are simple, economical steps you can take to reduce your risk of falling victim to a costly cyber attack:

  1. Train employees in cyber security principles.
  2. Install, use and regularly update antivirus and antispyware software on every computer used in your business.
  3. Use a firewall for your Internet connection.
  4. Download and install software updates for your operating systems and applications as they become available.
  5. Make backup copies of important business data and information.
  6. Control physical access to your computers and network components.
  7. Secure your Wi-Fi networks. If you have a Wi-Fi network for your workplace make sure it is secure and hidden.
  8. Require individual user accounts for each employee.
  9. Limit employee access to data and information and limit authority to install software.
  10. Regularly change passwords.
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