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Happy New Year – Now Time For That New Year’s Resolution…

Make security part of your fresh start in 2015

As most of the working world slowly comes back online after the festive break and we all start thinking about fitness regimes and other changes to our lifestyles, we might want to consider a more work-related New Year’s Resolution and change our computer passwords.

Survey after survey reports how insecure passwords continue to be – all too often using the default password on routers, PCs and other devices; or even using ‘password’ itself! I am also prepared to bet that a quick search of most offices will reveal passwords written on sticky notes on screens and written on notepads in desk drawers.

An interesting article on CNBC this week included insecure and easy to crack passwords in its Top 5 Cybersecurity Risks for 2015. This is quite shocking to me as a cybersecurity expert given how many years most of us have been working on computers, and during all that time continually have been told to regularly change our passwords (use letters and numbers and special characters, and not to repeat the same password for multiple sites).

But we know that the weakest link to many organizations is people or, rather, their employees – and unfortunately so do the bad guys….

While every year organizations around the world spend millions of dollars on Internet security designed to stop cybercriminals getting into their networks. And while that is undoubtedly a major threat, research suggests actually one of the biggest threats is from company insiders inadvertent misuse of data by employees.

Of course this should not be a surprise to anyone. After all, insiders have the most unfettered access to critical systems and data so it stands to reason they would be a top route for attacks and data disclosure problems. But this illustrates the need for enterprises to monitor their systems and data for suspicious changes and activities, regardless of the source. Merely watching network traffic into and out of the network is not sufficient.

Social media, and other publicly available data enables cyber criminals to build up a profile of what interests us and it doesn’t take many clicks to find out a lot of information about each of us and then have a pretty good guess at what our passwords are likely to be. Child’s name? Favorite sports team? Maiden name?

A strong password contains lowercase and uppercase characters, numbers and symbols and should be at least eight characters long. Also never re-use a password in another application or web site. For example if you use the same password everywhere and register on a web site using your work email address and that web site’s database is stolen, then hackers can access almost anything. Most hackers know that 85% or more people reuse the same password so now they have the passwords and a reference to your place of work is known via the email address so the hacker will next try and locate any business systems online and use that stolen data to access your business systems.

While this will undoubtedly make life a lot easier for the hard-pressed cyber security professional at your work, it isn’t the whole answer.

A cybersecurity professional needs to know that the inevitable will happen and cybercriminals will compromise the network. This is why visibility across the whole corporate network is critical to managing security. It is not enough to just defend the threat coming into and out of the network; you have to be able to manage the threat across the whole attack continuum, before, during and after the attack.

By having detailed visibility into malicious activities, it enables businesses to detect, remediate and control malware outbreaks. Network File Trajectory and Device Trajectory allows security teams to quickly determine the scope of an outbreak and track malware or suspicious files across the network and at the system level. That way it is possible to spot how the attack got into the network; where it went from entry and what activities were carried out. This allows speedy resolution and remediation to limit the impact.

People are no doubt the soft underbelly of any organization, and through education and awareness we can try to limit their ability to compromise network security. But equally businesses have to expect the compromise to still happen, and to have the ability to spot malicious activities happening quickly and deal with it equally quickly to mitigate the risk of serious data loss and compromise.

In the meantime start the new year in a good habit and change all your passwords today – and don’t use the same one for each site/application.

Happy New Year, everyone!

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