OPINION: Are employees inviting cyber threats into your organisation and draining resources?
JOHANNESBURG - In today’s always-connected world, companies face a new wave of threats as cybercrime continues to escalate.
Cyber security is becoming more challenging as businesses are having a tough time trying to address growing threats while maintaining focus on their core business. These evolving threats are more and more frequently external cyber criminals using connections inadvertently created from within the organisation by unsuspecting users. These criminals then piggy back off the connection to gain remote access into the organisation, circumventing the organisation's Firewall Policy, thereby placing the confidentiality, integrity and availability of the organisation’s data at extreme risk.
Most cyber breaches occur as a result of employee behaviour and all it takes to compromise an organisation’s network security is one employee. One accidental malware download from playing an online game or clicking a phishing link and all of the organisation’s databases containing sensitive customer data could be at risk of encryption by external ransomware attackers. These criminals more often than not, are in locations where there are no consequences to their activity aside from their own profit and causing embarrassment to the organisation.
Visibility as a key threat intelligence tool
Without the ability to have a meaningful view of your organisations network traffic it is impossible to identify suspect connections into and out of an organisation's network. Employees frequently and unintentionally open the organisation to external risks by misusing and often abusing the Internet resources, going as far as to use these resources to download their favourite series and movies from torrenting sites.
The lack of meaningful visibility leads to huge potential security risks, impacts the performance of this key resource and results in a loss of productivity to the organisation. The Internet is a shared resource and its misuse and abuse negatively impacts the performance of business-critical applications increasing risk to the overall functioning of the organisation. Yet, how can this be identified and managed without massive expense and skilled technical resources?
It’s time for businesses to take charge of their shared resources by gaining visibility and insight into its usage in order to manage resource performance, enhance employee productivity and maintain security integrity by reducing external threats brought into the organisation using internal sources, thus rendering firewall policies ineffective. To combat both external and internal risks requires a holistic approach to security, as well as the right technological tools to help businesses to manage both intentional and unintentional threats within the organisation itself.
The risky business of connectivity
Most cyber-attacks happen in order to steal confidential information through the use of malware like worms, Trojan horse viruses and phishing. Businesses are targets for cyber intruders for the simple reason that they hold valuable customer information. This personal information has a price tag, and stealing data (or even holding it ransom) is the perfect crime without consequence. In addition, we are seeing more and more cases reported in the media which means the number of companies being hit by this type of threat is likely significant and growing daily. These type of threats including Malware and Phishing are most frequently brought into the network inadvertently by users or employees accessing software through the web, allowing malicious attackers access to the internal network without their knowledge.
Because the employee acted in such a way that sensitive data was compromised and whether or not this was accidental, the effect is the same - your organisation’s security is now compromised. The organisation is now at risk of contravening laws such as piracy, business critical applications become unavailable due to slow response times and performance issues are brought about by users abusing the Internet. Worse still, your organisation’s sensitive data is now threatened by malicious cybercriminals who can hold it to ransom, costing you money and compromising your reputation.
It’s time for meaningful visibility
With so many threats businesses are faced with today, it’s tempting to panic and feel the need to block employees from using the Internet to access anything that isn’t work-related. However, that is not the solution. Business is highly dependent on the Internet, email and Wide Area Networks (WAN). Instead, companies should leverage the advantage of companies specialising in Big Data analysis and Artificial Intelligence (AI) solutions where emphasis is placed on visibility. This is particularly relevant when it comes to identifying connection types, rather than those solutions that focus only on blocking types of content or certain activities based on known signatures and standard lists. Companies should look towards solutions that provide threat intelligence through visibility at a network router level on unsecure or unwanted connections, in order to monitor and provide reporting on network resources and their usage.
Simple solutions to complex problems
Fortunately, businesses don’t have to go it alone as there are already technology providers out there that can proactively identify threats and block them - before they have a chance to do damage. Such services are subscription-based and deliver easy-to-understand reporting functionality. Inexpensive and uncomplicated, all that is required to make use of such services is basic easy to access and easy to use hardware that is compatible with certain analytics software. This analytics software makes use of an analysis engine to crunch big data numbers and sift through network activity and connectivity logs for anomalies, identifying all the cyber threats that businesses would want to avoid: from malware, ransomware, phishing attempts and Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks to engagement with explicit, illegal and pirated content. Once these threats have been identified, they can be neutralised and removed.
Such technology is a total game changer, as it empowers the Chief Information Officer (CIO) with all the tools needed to monitor network traffic and establish whether employees are abusing network resources and ascertain the impact of such abuse on productivity. It also allows CIOs to maintain an open Internet policy, as well as accommodate employee demands to bring their own devices, without having to compromise on security, network resource and application performance or employee productivity. It’s clear that it’s time for businesses to stop over-complicating the issue of cyber security and gain proper visibility of their risks. When businesses have a meaningful view of their Internet gateways and the right technology in place, they’re able to see the threats before they materialise and that can make all the difference.
Andrew Wilson is the CEO at LucidView.
- BUSINESS REPORT ONLINE