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8 Things Every Business Should Know About Cybersecurity

Incident Response / March 18 , 2024

Top Tools and Tips for Cyber Risk Management

To manage cyber risks effectively, businesses must adopt a proactive approach to cybersecurity, which starts with a thorough understanding of their cyber risk landscape. Cyber risk assessment plays a pivotal role in this process, empowering organizations to identify, evaluate, and prioritize potential threats and vulnerabilities. In this Q&A we review the fundamentals of cyber risk and the available tools for assessing and minimizing these threats.

1. What are the biggest risks for businesses regarding cybersecurity right now? What are most businesses overlooking or missing?

We should all be concerned about human error or insider threats. External threats such as malware and hacking attacks continue to be significant concerns, but many security breaches come from within organizations, either through accidents or malcontented insiders.

An important defense that businesses may be overlooking or missing is a comprehensive employee training and awareness program. Employees may inadvertently click on phishing emails, use weak passwords, or mishandle sensitive data, leading to breaches. Businesses should not overlook the human element and the importance of fostering a culture of security awareness and accountability among employees.

2. What are the other top cybersecurity risks businesses face?

  • External Threats: These include cyberattacks via malware (e.g., viruses, ransomware, trojans), phishing attacks, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, and supply chain attacks
  • Data Breaches: Data breaches occur when sensitive information is accessed, stolen, or exposed without authorization. These can lead to financial losses, reputational damage, legal consequences, and regulatory fines.
  • Third-Party Risk: Vendors, suppliers, or service providers can introduce security risks such as supply chain attacks if they have vulnerabilities or weak cybersecurity practices.
  • Emerging Technologies: Cloud computing, Internet of Things (IoT) devices, artificial intelligence (AI), and edge computing often expand the attack surface and may have inherent security vulnerabilities if not properly configured and secured.
  • Regulatory Compliance: Industry-specific regulations and data protection laws (e.g., GDPR, CCPA, HIPAA) are a critical concern for businesses, especially those handling sensitive data. Non-compliance can result in significant financial penalties and reputational damage.
  • Social Engineering Attacks: Attacks such as phishing and spearing exploit human psychology to manipulate individuals into divulging confidential information, clicking on malicious links, or doing other things that compromise security.
  • Cybersecurity Skills Gap: The shortage of skilled cybersecurity professionals poses a challenge for businesses in effectively managing and mitigating cyber risks.

3. What types of businesses face the most cybersecurity risk, and why?

  • Financial Services: Banks, insurance companies, and other financial institutions are prime targets due to the vast amounts of sensitive financial data they possess.
  • Healthcare: Healthcare organizations store large volumes of sensitive patient data including medical records, payment information, and personal identifiers. This data is valuable to cybercriminals seeking to commit identity theft, medical fraud, or ransomware attacks.
  • Government Agencies: These entities at all levels hold sensitive information about citizens, national security, and critical infrastructure. Cyberattacks can disrupt operations, compromise classified information, and undermine public trust.
  • Retail and E-commerce: Retailers and e-commerce businesses handle customer data, including payment card details and personal information. Cybercriminals look to steal financial information and conduct fraudulent transactions on e-commerce websites.
  • Technology Companies: Technology companies, including software developers, IT service providers, and cloud service providers, are targeted due to their access to valuable intellectual property, trade secrets, and sensitive corporate data putting them at risk for data breaches, service disruptions, or intellectual property theft.
  • Critical Infrastructure: Industries such as energy, transportation, and telecommunications operate critical systems essential for society’s functioning. Cyberattacks here can lead to widespread disruptions, economic damage, and threats to public safety.
  • Small and Medium-sized Enterprises (SMEs): SMEs are increasingly targeted by cybercriminals due to their perceived lack of robust security measures and limited resources, making them attractive targets for attacks such as ransomware, phishing, and supply chain compromises.

4. What are the best cyber risk identification techniques and assessment tools?

  • Risk Assessments evaluate the organization’s assets, including hardware, software, data, and personnel, and assess the potential threats and vulnerabilities they face. Methodologies such as the NIST Cybersecurity Framework, ISO 27001, and the FAIR (Factor Analysis of Information Risk) model can provide structured approaches to risk assessment.
  • Vulnerability Scanning tools scan networks, servers, and endpoints for known vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, and outdated software versions that attackers could exploit.
  • Penetration Testing (Pen Testing) involves simulating real-world cyberattacks to identify weaknesses in an organization’s defenses and can uncover critical security flaws that may not be detected by automated tools alone.
  • Threat Intelligence helps organizations stay informed about the latest threats and tactics used by cybercriminals so they can proactively identify and mitigate potential risks.
  • Security Audits and Compliance Assessments help businesses evaluate their adherence to industry regulations, standards, and internal security policies while identifying gaps in security controls, policy violations, and areas for improvement.
  • User Behavior Analytics (UBA) analyzes patterns of user activity within an organization’s IT environment to detect anomalous or suspicious behavior associated with insider threats and account compromise.
  • Cyber Risk Assessment Tools offer automated risk scoring, vulnerability management, and risk mitigation recommendations.

5. What components should a cyber risk assessment include?

Asset Inventory and Classification:

  • Identify critical assets, including hardware, software, data, and intellectual property
  • Classify assets based on their importance, sensitivity, and value to the organization
  • Find dependencies between different assets that could impact the organization’s operations

Threat Identification:

  • Determine potential threats and threat actors that could target the organization’s assets and specific threat scenarios that pose a significant risk to the organization

Vulnerability Assessment:

  • Identify vulnerabilities within the organization’s IT infrastructure, systems, and applications
  • Prioritize vulnerabilities based on their severity, exploitability, and potential impact

Risk Analysis:

  • Assess the likelihood and potential impact of identified threats exploiting vulnerabilities within the organization
  • Analyze risk scenarios based on factors such as asset criticality, threat severity, and existing controls

Control Evaluation:

  • Evaluate security controls and safeguards currently in place for effectiveness, adequacy, and compliance with industry standards and best practices

Incident Response Preparedness:

  • Examine procedures and protocols in place to detect, respond to, and recover from cybersecurity incidents
  • Test incident response plans to evaluate their effectiveness
  • Ensure personnel are trained and equipped to respond promptly and effectively to cybersecurity incidents

Compliance and Regulatory Requirements:

  • Identify regulatory compliance obligations, industry standards, and legal requirements that apply to the organization’s cybersecurity practices
  • Ensure compliance with relevant data protection laws, privacy regulations, and industry-specific security standards
  • Identify and address compliance gaps or areas of non-compliance

Risk Mitigation and Remediation:

  • Identify actions and measures that can be taken to mitigate cyber risks and vulnerabilities
  • Prioritize risk mitigation strategies based on risk severity, cost-effectiveness, and feasibility

6. When should a risk assessment be carried out for best results?

The frequency of conducting risk assessments depends on various factors, including the organization’s industry, risk profile, regulatory requirements, and changes in the threat landscape. However, as a general guideline, risk assessments should be conducted regularly and whenever significant changes occur within the organization or its operating environment.

  • Regular Schedule: Depending on risk exposure and industry best practices, risk assessments may be conducted annually, semi-annually, or quarterly.
  • Trigger Events: Changes in technology infrastructure, systems or software updates, mergers and acquisitions, regulatory changes, or major security incidents should all result in conducting an assessment.
  • New Projects or Initiatives: Before embarking on new projects or deployments that could introduce new cybersecurity risks, organizations should conduct risk assessments to identify potential vulnerabilities and ensure appropriate controls are in place.
  • Incident Response Reviews: Organizations should conduct post-incident reviews and risk assessments to identify lessons learned, assess the effectiveness of incident response procedures, and implement measures to prevent future occurrences.
  • Compliance Requirements: Conduct risk assessments as dictated by regulations and laws.
  • Continuous Monitoring: Implement mechanisms and automated security controls to continuously assess cybersecurity posture and identify emerging risks in real time.
  • Business Growth and Changes: As organizations grow, expand their operations, or introduce new technologies and services, their risk profile may evolve.

7. We hear a lot about incident response plans (IRP). Why are they important, and what are the benefits of an IRP?

IRPs are critical components of an organization’s cybersecurity strategy. They provide a structured framework and set of procedures for effectively detecting, responding to, containing, and recovering from cybersecurity incidents. Here are several reasons why incident response plans are important and the benefits they offer:

  • Early Detection and Response
  • Minimized Impact
  • Containment of Threats
  • Coordination and Communication
  • Preservation of Evidence
  • Continuous Improvement
  • Compliance and Assurance
  • Enhanced Stakeholder Confidence

Breach Plan Connect (BPC), powered by NetDiligence®, is a turnkey solution for developing an incident response plan. BPC is designed to help your organization oversee and coordinate your response to a cyber incident.

8. What is an incident response communication plan?

An incident response communication plan is a crucial component of an organization’s overall IRP. It outlines the communication strategies, protocols, and procedures for effectively managing communication both internally within the organization and externally with stakeholders, partners, customers, regulators, and the public during a cybersecurity incident. Here’s how an incident response communication plan fits into the overall incident response plan:

  • Clear Roles and Responsibilities: Specifying who will be responsible for initiating communications, coordinating messaging, providing updates, and responding to inquiries from various stakeholders.
  • Internal Communication: Procedures for communicating within the organization, such as notifying incident response team members, IT staff, management, legal counsel, and relevant departments, about the incident.
  • External Communication: Procedures and defined protocols for communication with stakeholders outside the organization, such as customers, partners, vendors, regulators, law enforcement agencies, and the media. These can include incident notification, public relations, and responding to inquiries from the media and other external stakeholders.
  • Messaging and Templates: Predefined messaging templates for communication channels (e.g., email, press releases, social media posts) to ensure consistency and accuracy in communication. These may include general incident notifications, updates on response efforts, instructions for stakeholders, and frequently asked questions.
  • Escalation Procedures: Procedures for escalating communication to higher levels of management or external stakeholders as needed.
  • Privacy and Confidentiality: Considerations related to sensitive information and data breaches, and protocols for handling and disclosing sensitive information in compliance with legal and regulatory requirements.
  • Testing and Training: Provisions for testing and training personnel on communication through tabletop exercises, simulations, and drills.

For more valuable insights, visit our Cyber Resources page.

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