In a digital-first world, cybersecurity is paramount. Keeping your company, data, end users, and even customers safe relies on both cybersecurity tools and a comprehensive company-wide strategy.
Security and IT professionals understand the importance of cybersecurity, but they can’t be everywhere at once. Without a strategy that involves the entirety of the organization, true protection cannot exist.
The Modern Cybersecurity Landscape
Cybersecurity often feels like a moving target, and with good reason. As digital dependency grows, so too does the threat landscape. Well-prepared organizations rely on agility and diligence to stay ahead of cybercriminals.
The 2022 State of Cybersecurity Report polled c-level security pros and academics to understand the threat landscape. According to respondents, three key threats are front-of-mind:
Ransomware attacks totaled more than 623 million incidents in 2021 and nearly a quarter of a million attempts in the first half of 2022. The evolution of ransomware attacks means that more sophisticated attempts keep organizations on their toes. Ransomware can be initiated through phishing, spoofing, and deep fakes, all carefully orchestrated to gain trust and access to information.
Nation-State Attacks are a direct reflection of growing political unrest and concern about manipulating information for nefarious means. Organizations—such as financial, healthcare, governmental, and utility providers—are crucial to individuals across all layers and sectors of modern society. Nation-state attacks threaten to compromise critical data and operations.
Supply Chain Attacks are an increasing concern, particularly as the supply chain becomes more digitized and complex, thereby more vulnerable to cyber threats. The Colonial Pipeline attack in 2021 turned the spotlight on supply chain weaknesses and the impact of security breaches.
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No Department is a Silo
Ransomware, nation-state, and supply chain attackers are not picky about their targets. By gaining access to end users or systems within an enterprise, cybercriminals can demand money or perform actions for personal gain.
No matter the organization’s size, no department works as a silo. Cross-departmental collaboration is commonplace, and even in instances where departments do not have day-to-day interaction, the overlap between systems and data is significant.
Would-be silos emerge due to a breakdown in teamwork, the competition for resources, and a general lack of communication. Effective cybersecurity strategies begin with organizations prioritizing a cohesive structure and alignment toward company goals across the board.
True Cybersecurity Requires Collaboration
With cyber threats constantly evolving, organizations cannot afford to put security onus on a select few. Collaboration is key to building a robust strategy that takes all departments and end users into account.
It’s unrealistic to expect all employees to be fluent in the language of security threats. Still, cybersecurity should be a topic organization-wide before a risk becomes a reality. This requires multiple departments to take accountability for elements of cybersecurity strategy.
Threat intelligence must be operationalized through top-down collaboration between Leadership, Management, IT, SecOps, and Operations. Pillars across the organization representing and communicating with their respective departments enable a proactive strategy and can share information to stay ahead of threats.
Security should be a common language, especially when it comes to the day-to-day actions that your end users take. The foundation of your security strategy should begin with a simple checklist:
- Enforce strong passwords and require regular updates – including minimum length and special characters, and not allowing the same password for multiple systems.
- Use authentication systems or 2FA – such as LastPass, Dashlane, or physical authentication tokens.
- Keep software and security patches up-to-date – ensure your IT and security teams have a scope of software being used organization-wide, including SaaS and cloud systems.
- Encrypt all data, including on-prem, cloud, and email transmission – adding another layer of protection to data transmission will prevent some of the most common security breaches.
- Create and maintain strict access policies – include granting and revoking access in your policies. Consider aspects such as cached copies of information stored locally and file-level permissions for viewing, moving, and downloading.
- Ensure your security strategy accounts for remote and hybrid end users – the workplace landscape has changed dramatically in recent years, and security policies must follow suit to keep data and end users safe in on-site, remote, and hybrid environments.
- Understand your protocols and key players to involve should a security breach arise – effectively addressing a successful cyberattack means understanding the steps to take before a crisis occurs.
Make Security a Day-to-Day Conversation
Your security strategy will evolve as the landscape does, so education is of primary importance. Threat intelligence relies not only on understanding the current state of play but staying ahead of threats by keeping an eye on the news. Stay abreast of successful or thwarted security attacks to ensure your organization is prepared should a cybercriminal line up the crosshairs on your network.
Security education is more than news articles, however. Threat intelligence should be a part of the conversation from the moment of onboarding and should continue throughout an employee’s tenure.
Thankfully, the task is easier than finding a security expert on the HR team to send threat updates. Organizations are increasingly leveraging cybersecurity awareness training to support onboarding and ongoing conversation across all departments. Rather than be outpaced by the changing threat landscape, professionals with all matters of cybersecurity in their lexicon can supplement organizational policies to increase participation, collaboration, and protection.
About the Writer
Having spent her career in various capacities and industries under the “high tech” umbrella, Stefanie Shank is passionate about the trends, challenges, solutions, and stories of existing and emerging technologies. A storyteller at heart, she considers herself one of the lucky ones: someone who gets to make a living doing what she loves. Stefanie is also a writer for Bora.
Disclaimer: The author is completely responsible for the content of this article. The opinions expressed are their own and do not represent IEEE’s position nor that of the Computer Society nor its Leadership.