Cyber security tips for 2016

2015 was the year that cyber security really came into the spotlight and it's looking like this will continue into 2016.

As the year draws to a close Paul Stokes, COO of Wynyard Group, offers some tips about how companies should approach today’s cyber reality.

  1. Accept the inevitable. Your security will be compromised. Now plan for it

Organisations that take a strategic approach to cyber security spending can build a more effective cyber security practice, one that advances the ability to detect and quickly respond to incidents that are all but inevitable.

  1. Assess the risk

Cyber attacks can cause severe disruption to a company’s business functions or operational supply chain, impact reputation, compromise customer information or result in loss of intellectual property.

Each organisation has a distinctive cyber threat profile depending on the nature of the business, what information the industry deals with and how valuable that asset is to criminals. It is important that the executive understands that assets need to be identified and valued, then risk assessed against cyber threats. Information is a company’s most valuable asset and it is important that executives recognise this.

Information-driven cyber intelligence allows companies to assess, manage and minimise the risks. By identifying and characterising cyber threats and assessing the vulnerability of critical assets and operations, companies can better identify ways to reduce those risks and strategically prioritise risk reduction measures.

  1. Build a layered approach to security

By adopting a layered approach to security, this provides the best possible coverage in the ongoing battle to prevent cyber crime. For instance, this means using both strong firewalls and software that deals exclusively with monitoring inside the network, using the data that is already available. Threat indicators can be buried very deep as tiny signals in vast data volumes, but they are worth investigating as they can provide the crucial information for cyber threats that already reside within the network.

  1. Let the data speak for itself

Favour security vendors who provide advanced analytics software, which acts as a ‘cyber security guard’. It provides the ability to identify anomalies and unusual patterns within the network providing a deeper understanding through the discovery of never before seen threats.

It allows the company to visually survey the threat landscape across the entire network, identify loopholes and weakness which could be exploited in the future and discover the root cause of any issue for quick evaluation and management.

  1. Educate, test, re-educate

All the security measures in the world won’t work unless an organisation encourages an internal culture of cyber awareness.

It is crucial to educate and test employees so that cyber security is front of mind in all instances, illuminating the potential consequences of serious breaches. Protocols for cyber breaches need to be clearly communicated to all employees and just as mock fire alarms are meant to test a company’s ability to react to a fire, organisations should carry out simulated cyber attack scenarios.

  1. Include cyber risk on the board agenda

Cyber threat is one of the many areas of risk that should be overseen by the board of directors, but many directors are not expected to be experts in cyber security and rely upon management and external parties for information and advice.

This is no excuse for complacency. At a minimum, board members should have a high level understanding of the company’s cyber risks, the management of these risks and the company’s cyber incident response plan.

Summary

Now is the time to act. Accepting that a company will at some point be hacked is the starting point to implementing a robust defence against future attacks.

Organisations need to apply a layered approach to security. While there is no one miracle piece of technology that can protect against all never before seen threats, the use of analytics can help uncover any anomalies hidden within the network and allows organisations to act early in the threat timeline, before extensive financial and reputational damage can be done.

This, combined with a culture of cyber awareness from the board level down to all parts of the organisation, can provide a strong defence against the threat of high impact cyber attacks.

Image Credit: Sergey Nivens / Shutterstock