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Ditch the Drama: 5 Ways to Stay Ahead of The Hackers

By Russ Levanway, President

Ransomware attacks are getting to the point where they are becoming existential threats to organizations and can disrupt entire industries and supply chains.  If it wasn’t serious before, it is now.  Furthermore, hackers are increasingly sophisticated and daring, and are often backed by foreign governments bent on destabilizing, stealing intellectual property, or just plain old making money via extortion.  The risks of a confidential data leak are higher than they’ve ever been before.

One of the questions I get asked regularly is: “What can I do to protect myself from data infiltration?”

The first step is arming yourself with an understanding of how these threat actors operate. The second step is realizing that effective cybersecurity isn’t a question of simply having current antivirus installed. In today’s world, threats are varied in nature, and an effective cybersecurity toolset must be multi-dimensional. [READ: Understanding the Enemy + Why Your Antivirus isn’t Enough.]

Here are the 5 best things you can do to protect your business and stay ahead of the hackers:

#1 Keep learning

As cliché as it is, “knowledge is power”. The most powerful line of defense is prevention and education.

We continually have to remind people of that. Thankfully, at CIO Solutions we have long been offering anti-phishing educational tools to clients. These include a valuable training tool that enables your company to educate users in real-time. Through simulations, training videos, and more this tool can make users aware of phishing and empower them to identify and avoid it. We provide this to most of our customers, but its efficacy is only as good as the business’s willingness to put in the work.

To reap the benefits of a program like this, users have to engage with the orientations and training videos; they don’t work by osmosis. Businesses that embrace these trainings and stress their importance are better off than those that don’t. Often, it’s the companies whose employees skip the trainings that wind up incapacitated by a phishing attack, desperately in need of our help to clean up a mess.

#2 Remember your backups

We were recently engaged by a cybersecurity forensics firm to help a large organization that was mismanaging its backups. Sadly, they had been infected with ransomware and all their data was encrypted, including their backups. The data was not recoverable because of the encryption, and the ransom was beyond what they could afford.

Moral of the story? Backups and protection are key. Never skimp on backups and be sure they are set up properly with an onsite and offsite copy that is firewalled from the regular network.

#3 Invest in cyber liability insurance

We consistently recommend cyber liability insurance. Businesses insure against fire, flood, and theft of property. Based on prevalence, cyber-attacks should now be listed among those sorts of catastrophes.

Cyber liability insurance is extremely valuable and, in the grand scheme of things, pretty affordable. Consider the astronomical cost of getting attacked: loss of business, forced shutdown, frustration, and paying for IT help (not to mention the financial costs incurred by paying a ransom). It can be crippling if your data is encrypted. Several days may pass before you can get your network running again. You may even need forensic help to get back online, investigate whether your data was stolen, and prevent further attacks.

Bottom line: If (or when) that happens, cyber liability insurance is a small price to pay for protection.

#4 Look into Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)

Don’t confuse EDR with antivirus protection. Antivirus software can detect known threats and prevent the installation or deployment of known viruses. EDR can detect variants to patterns in both software and user behavior.

Let’s say Joe’s computer typically downloads 100MB a day from the internet. One day it reverses and uploads 100MB to the internet. EDR will see that as suspicious and flag it.

In our effort to stay at the forefront of cyber-attack prevention, CIO Solutions now offers CrowdStrike, a very advanced EDR tool. A cybersecurity forensics firm we work closely with thoroughly vetted it as a best of breed solution.  As recently as a year ago, the program was outside most organizations’ budget, but today it’s far more affordably priced. Are you a current client of CIO Solutions with questions about CrowdStrike? Don’t hesitate to ask.

#5 Enable Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

You’ve probably gotten used to the number of websites these days that won’t let you in with a plain old password. Your bank probably also texts or emails you a security code. You might even have an application on your phone called an Authenticator app with rolling codes that you have to enter to log in.

These are all examples of MFA.

Your business ought to implement MFA on key applications as well. This tool has quickly become a standard in the evolving security landscape. Even if someone DOES get your password, it is useless without the other authentication factor. The second piece to grant access is the security code that will only come up on your phone (which they don’t have). We highly recommend this.

Don’t put off to tomorrow what you can do today

The bad news: hackers will always be a threat.

The good news: there are effective ways to protect yourself, but you have to deploy them now.

Armed with that information, how will you begin protecting yourself from ransomware, phishing, and data infiltration?  How can we help?