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Six IT security priorities to put in place for 2018

By Patrick Martlew
Tue 14 Nov 2017
FYI, this story is more than a year old

Article by Jim Cook, Malwarebytes A/NZ regional director

Throughout the past 12 months, there have been constant reports of cyberattacks and the business disruption they cause. Unfortunately, in 2018, it's likely to be more of the same with spam continuing to be a driving force in the delivery of new malware variants.  

Exploit kits, which use SSL in their infection chain, are becoming more common and create new challenges, such as bypassing traditional network security layers.

Around the world, the volume of cyberattacks will continue to rise as they have done so during 2017. Targeting everyone from large corporations to consumers, criminals are making use of an evolving range of tools and techniques designed to circumvent security protections.

Indeed, this year we’ve seen incidents ranging from high-profile data breaches, such as that suffered by US-based credit reporting agency, Equifax, to the NotPetya ransomware outbreak that infected systems around the globe.

Indeed, multi-language tech support scams will also be on the rise globally, driven by geo-targeted malvertising campaigns. We may also see a return of fake virus scanners used by system optimiser PUPs pushing their products.

Faced with such increasing threats to their core systems and data, organisations will have to ensure they are constantly taking all possible steps to make IT infrastructures as secure as possible.

Here are six top security priorities for any security conscious business to take action on in 2018.

1. Understand your environment

IT infrastructures are complex beasts that are constantly changing. For IT security to be effective, it's vital to understand exactly what is in place and being used across your organisation. Begin the New Year with a comprehensive audit that identifies all components and their security status.

Achieving a clear perspective can be particularly challenging if your environment has been virtualised. Developers can spin up thousands of VMs for a project and then close them down after short periods of time. This can pose a significant security risk as an unprotected VM could become compromised and infect other parts of the infrastructure. Having visibility across all areas of IT is therefore vital.

2. Remember the cloud

As businesses increasingly turn to the cloud, many are tempted to think the platforms are secure by default, however, this is not the case. As much care should be taken to secure applications and data on a cloud platform as is taken for on-premise resources.

Attention must also be given to the endpoints that will access cloud-based systems as well as the fabric that connects them. The cloud offers significant business benefits but its use does not in any way reduce the need for constant security monitoring and management.

3. Maintain frequent data backups

It's an obvious one but something all too easy to overlook. Regular, comprehensive data backups are an important part of any security strategy. One option is to deploy a cloud-based backup service that uploads all data files and then conducts regular incremental backups to capture any additions or changes to the data.

Having an effective backup strategy in place is great protection against ransomware attacks. If one occurs, machines can be rebuilt and data extracted from the clean backup copies allowing users to get back to work very quickly.

Indeed, earlier this year, the Malwarebytes Second Annual State of Ransomware Report research conducted by Osterman Research found that among Australian organisations that did not pay the ransom that was demanded of them, 40 percent lost files, significantly higher than the global average.

4. Have a response plan

It's important to have a clearly documented plan in place outlining the steps that should be taken should an attack occur. This needs to be in place ahead of time as it is very difficult to effectively respond once an incident has happened.

Just as airline pilots have comprehensive checklists they follow before every flight, your organisation should have security checklists that will guide staff through the steps that need to be taken. The steps to include will be isolating infected devices, alerting users and external parties and, where needed, calling on the services of expert third parties to assist with remediation.

5. Keep the Board informed

It's tempting for CIOs and CISOs to only go to their board when they need approval for additional expenditure. However, make a point during 2018 to provide regular security updates that provide a clear picture of exactly what is going when it comes to security.

Consider establishing a governance committee, ideally one that includes the CEO and CFO, which then can brief the board every month on the challenges and security gaps that have been identified and the steps that are needed to overcome them.

6. Create a security culture

The bottom line is that the most important part of any organisation's security strategy is its people. Poor user behaviour can circumvent any security tools and lead to anything from virus infections to a devastating ransomware attack.

By creating a culture of security awareness, through regular training and awareness programs, users can come to understand the vital role they play in keeping their systems and data safe.

By following these priorities in the year ahead, your organisation will be able to withstand the efforts of cyber criminals and keep vital systems and data safe.

The security landscape will continue to evolve and new challenges emerge, but being aware and prepared will ensure you have the best possible chance of not becoming a victim in 2018.

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