Best practices to fight corporate security risks

From phishing emails to password sharing, there are a myriad of actions that pose significant risks to organizations.

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Best practices

Today, security education may be part of an organization’s onboarding process, but while many people know not to open an email from an unidentified source, or even those from a friend or coworker that have uncharacteristic links or text, individuals inevitably still do.

These phishing attacks run the risk of infecting organizations and can further expose a company's critical assets. From phishing emails to password sharing, to downloading applications using corporate email logins; there are a myriad of actions that pose significant risks to organizations.

Ajit Sancheti, CEO and co-founder of Preempt, examines best practices each organization and their users must deploy, both in and out of corporate networks, to minimize malicious threats in inconspicuous (and conspicuous) places.

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Ask the question: is this for work?

With the plethora of apps out there, many people download and register for consumer applications to help streamline their work processes. However, many do this using corporate email addresses and passwords. By re-using logins for third-party apps, employees increase the potential attack surface for corporate access. If an application looks interesting but hasn’t been explicitly approved by work, use personal login credentials.

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What harm can sharing my password do? Time to reconsider

It’s great to have access to a solid application or service and share the love by providing your password to friends and family or to vendors that you work with. However, opening accessibility to other users increases the threat potential dramatically. When sharing passwords with those who may lack security awareness, it no longer becomes a matter of who you trust, but whether they can spot risks and evade them before it is too late. When passwords are shared among friends and family, one individual's risk becomes everyone's problem. In short, it’s best to keep a password for one.

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Joe left the company five months ago. Why is his account still active?

While it may seem obvious that an individual’s access to applications and accounts should be turned off when they leave, things inevitably slip through the cracks. Make sure managers take accountability for communicating with IT in a timely manner to shut off email and access to other applications and systems to prevent former employees from accessing things they shouldn’t. IT should also be monitoring accounts to identify when they become stale and proactively remove them.

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Don’t reuse passwords - ever

Nobody likes changing and remembering new passwords but we all have to do things we don’t like to do. If you need to change your passwords every three to six months, using strong passwords can significantly limit risk and exposure. And passwords should never be reused. Passwords are often stolen without the user knowing and they aren’t used immediately. Just look at the breaches of LinkedIn, Yahoo, Twitter and others. In some cases, people didn’t know their password was exposed until four years after it happened.

RELATED: How to evaluate password managers

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Continuously monitor identity when providing access to sensitive data or systems

Organizations with highly confidential information should take steps to continuously ensure that users accessing it are who they say they are. In addition to username and password, identity verification monitoring should track user activity and initiate additional verification every time user activity looks suspicious. Using biometrics, two-factor authentication and user behavior, organizations can keep their network secure and even alert users if someone is trying to log in as them.

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Tips to keep business from coming to a halt during a potential breach

When an organization thinks it may have been breached it is important to take steps that secure the organization from the potential breach but doesn’t stop the business process. Communicate with employees to make sure they know what they’re supposed to do and how they can continue to work business as usual. Implementing additional security measures to ensure legitimate access to sensitive systems for a period of time may be necessary while the breach is investigated. Implementing technologies like two-factor or multifactor authentication can assist here.

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Get a handle on your privileged users

Once attackers compromise an account, they attempt lateral movement to gain access to privileged accounts that have elevated access to the network.

Privileged access means a higher risk of compromising the enterprise network. To keep privileged accounts secure, keep track of privileged accounts and regularly review them to downgrade those with unnecessary privileges and to remove stale accounts. Privileged users need to follow strict security guidelines for credential usage as those are valuable for hackers.