Security and Email Security

Six essential steps for bolstering your security defenses

Fixing security issues when things are going well is far easier than scrambling to make changes after disaster strikes. Keep your guard up for potential threats – even if you don’t feel like your organization is currently under attack from cybercriminals.

This article outlines six practical steps that your organization can take today to ensure you’re bolstering your security defenses.

1: Vulnerability and patch management

Vulnerability exploitation is a leading cause of security incidents. As demonstrated in the Known Exploited Vulnerabilities Catalog, vulnerabilities are present in all kinds of software. Once they have been found, it doesn’t take long for cyber criminals to exploit them.

Despite this, many people still put off updating or patching their systems because it is inconvenient. By encouraging everyone to regularly update their software and making them aware of the risks of not doing so, you can help to ensure your organization is not caught out by something that a simple update could have prevented. 

2: Assess your protection and response plan regarding DDoS (distributed denial of service) attacks

DDoS attacks are becoming more costly and more sophisticated. In January, Microsoft reported that in November 2021, it witnessed the largest DDoS attack it had ever recorded. The attack, which targeted an Azure customer in Asia, had a throughput of 3.47 Tbps and a packet rate of 340 million packets per second (PPS).

Despite the prevalence of DDoS attacks, many organizations still don’t have a robust response plan in place. While you can’t prevent DDoS attacks entirely, you can significantly reduce their impact on your organization through careful planning and protective measures. 

The goal is to design your service and your attack response plan so your service can continue to operate—albeit at a reduced rate—even when experiencing an attack.  

3: Make sure your business uses a zero-trust model, especially when it comes to privileged accounts

For attackers, your organization’s admin accounts are the keys to the kingdom. To prevent them from falling into the wrong hands, you can enable Privileged Access Management (PAM) to keep them under tighter control. This includes following the principle of least privilege (PoLP) by ensuring that every member of the organization only has the exact amount of access that they need to do their job. This way, attackers can do less damage if they do manage to compromise an account. 

With cyber attacks and data breaches becoming more prevalent since the shift to remote working, traditional detect-and-remediate approaches to cybersecurity are falling short and security leaders are increasingly adopting Zero Trust as a way to overcome the challenges presented by the anywhere, anytime workforce. 

By taking a Zero Trust approach, security departments assume that all content–regardless of whether it originates from a trusted source–is untrustworthy. Treating all content and users attempting to gain access as potentially malicious eliminates the need to make an allow-or-block decision at the point of click. 

4: Don’t ignore insider risk by focusing solely on external threats

Whether they’re acting out of malice or negligence, insider threats pose a significant security risk to organizations. 

One of the key ways to reduce your risk of insider threats is by using Intelligent Data Loss Prevention (DLP) solutions. These can monitor outbound communications for signs of malicious exfiltration, unusual email behavior, and social engineering theft of credentials so that leaders can be alerted before anything goes wrong.

5: Incident response can be the difference between a bad day and a disaster

No matter the precautions you take, something might still go wrong. You can reduce the risk of a disaster occurring by ensuring your plans are up to date and everyone knows their role in the event of a cyber attack – especially key parties.

You could also hold incident response tabletop exercises to ensure everyone is clear about their role in such incidents. That helps your organization identify different risk scenarios and evaluate whether your incident response plan is effective. 

6: Have a communication strategy

A cyber attack can be a very stressful event that provokes a crisis. As well as impacting an organization’s computer systems, it can threaten your public reputation and create an overwhelming sense of uncertainty that may even throw the continuity of the entire organization into question. 

That’s why you must have a clear, coherent stance about how you propose to handle heightened risk. That should be available internally to the rest of your team and externally to potential customers. You could also consider posting a public FAQ page to address this. 

Online security threats are constantly evolving. While it’s never possible to prevent a cyber attack entirely, following these steps will ensure that security is prioritized instead of being left as an afterthought.