Why 2020 could be a bad cybersecurity year for SME’s

SME’s are a prime target for cybercrime.

They have reduced expertise, minimal money, and an attitude, we are too small to be a target, that leaves them wide open to a cyber event.

Our industry, the people who know and think we understand the bad guys have been pushing for an attitude change for the last 10 years. In a large number of ways, we have failed, especially in the SME space.

In some, we have failed significantly.

By the time we get called in, after a cyber event, it is way too late.

To late to recover, too late to respond and definitely too late, in a number of organisations, to get back to business as normal.

Most SMEs, after a cyber event and especially after a ransomware attack, have but 3 choices,

  • pay the ransom,
  • recover from backup and hope you have a decent backup (a decent, tested backup is vital, no matter the situation)
  • or go out of business.

Here are 3 cybersecurity strategies that every SME should implement to be more secure and avoid that devastating cyber event.

Training users

Increased awareness of business security in a workplace is vital in today’s business world.

Not many businesses know where to go to get that training.

Training needs to be done as an ongoing process.

Once or twice a year is inadequate. But training and education has to be easy, bite-size pieces, easily digested, easily implemented and easily followed.

In addition to ongoing training, you also need to incorporate business security into your onboarding process to instill the required cultural elements into new people on staff.

Want some free cybersecurity training, here is something that will definitely help
https://wizer-training.com/partner/caremit

Risk management and gap analysis

SME’s have a limited understanding of the new risks delivered to the business via our digital components.

The game has changed significantly in the last 10 years and we, as small and medium businesses, are constantly playing catch-up.

We are significantly hampered and handicapped by the impact and scale of our digital usage.

It is everywhere, used in every component and used all of the time.

To understand the risks without understanding the systems you need some help.

Here is some help for you.
Https://CareMIT.scoreapp.com

With the report, you can now implement a gap analysis and work out what you need to do to increase security around your organisation.

The report also ties in well with:

Implemented a framework

If you are looking for a better way to manage security within your Organisation, you need to look no further than a framework.

A framework is a documented system that allows an organisation to follow the bouncing ball and tighten up the security in a regimented way.

The more the components of the framework are implemented the more secure and mature the organisation.

Frameworks are easy to follow and implement and the one I recommend is the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) cybersecurity framework.
https://www.nist.gov/cyberframework

Answer the 98 questions, honestly, and you now have a road map to implement cybersecurity in a significant way.

The NIST cybersecurity framework also gives you a number.

Between 0 – 4, it can be used as a comparison between businesses, supply chain components, and government departments so you can do business with like-minded organisations.

What can SME’s do?

It is not too late to implement any of these strategies. The bad guys are getting more and more clever, so time is running out.

They are targeting everyone who is connected to the digital world, the internet, with more sophisticated systems, a number of them are now fully automated.

Some of those automated systems have minimal human involvement after the initial set up.

From initial social engineering attack, all the way through to payment of ransom everything is automated and driven by machine learning.

Every SME should be implementing a training and education process, doing a risk and gap analysis and implementing a cybersecurity and business security framework.

With that everything else will follow.

The business will be more stable, the culture of the organisation will change and getting back to business as normal after an attack can be significantly easier.

The impact of a cyber event for an organisation implementing these 3 components or not is significant.

If you haven’t implemented these 3 strategies in the last 12 months, 2 years or 5 years then 2020 is going to be a bad year.

But it’s not too late.

Thinking you are immune to a cyber event is a regular occurrence for SME’s

Even if you think you are immune to a cyber attack these ideas are critical to restricting the impact.

I want to talk about some of the problems we have encountered when being called into a cyber event situation for a new client.

Have you looked at all of our business risks?

Risk is the biggest invisible issue in today’s business world.

Most Organisation does not know how to evaluate the risks that their digital component brings to the Organisation because they cannot visualize the risk.

Only by looking at the digital risks will it become apparent that more is needed to be done.

Get some good legal advice!

We regularly come across businesses that do not know what their legal obligations are when it comes to protecting data that they are the custodian of.

If your Organisation collects information about a person or a business you are now the custodian of that data.   The legal implication of being the custodian need to be understood before you make the decisions concerning the information or type of information collected.

Always err on the side of less.  If you cannot justify it do not collect it.

Check your response plan!

When it comes to SME’s, they think they are Bulletproof.

It will never happen to us, we are too small, yadda yadda!

Well, NO.   A cyber event can happen anytime and to anything digital.   When it comes to a true cyber attack you need to have a breach plan.

A plan that tells everyone in your Organisation what you expect them to do, how they will do it, who they report to and the process needed to preserve evidence and get back to business as normal.   Without it, chickens missing heads, running, lots of running, come to mind!

Test your systems with a tabletop war game.

This is absolutely essential to any Organisation with more than 5 staff.

Run some hypothetical scenarios.    Think of a problem and make sure that everyone knows what to do if it ever occurred.   Especially test disaster recovery, business continuity and breach plans.

After testing the system do both a hot wash up (debrief) and a report.

Implement any discovered failures.   Things that could be done better.   Things that were done badly.

You do not want a real emergency to be the first test of these plans.

Test some “what if …” plans.

Another alternative is to come up with some unusual issues.

A fire in the building that does not impact your business but your business is in the same location and your staff can no longer get to the office, showroom, shop for a week.

What is the impact?   What is your solution?

Tested our backup, we have.

We have a rule.   When it comes to backups we have the 3-2-1 rule.

There are 3 copies of all data.   The original data plus 2 other copies.   Those 2 copies consist of an on-site incremental data copy and an off-site copy.  There is always 1 copy of the data stored off-site.

Once again a backup is useless unless it has been tested.    A regular restore copy of a couple of files should be documented every month.   A full-blown restore of the system should be done every year from both locations.

Who do we have to report to?

When it comes to a breach there also needs to be a reporting structure.   Part of your business continuity plan should be a list of people who are allowed to talk to the media, post on social media, talk to vendors or talk internally and to who.

Reputation always impacts needs to be controlled as much as possible in today’s live world.   The policies, plans, and tests will ensure that everyone knows what they need to do.

Does anyone know how to preserve evidence?

If you are knee-deep in a cyber event the last thing that anyone is going to think about is the preservation of evidence.

Once again if the breach plan has been tested then you will know what has to be done.   If would be cold comfort to know that someone who has ruined you life will not face the consequences because there is no evidence against them.

Preservation of digital evidence can also include the information and machine learning that comes from your System Information and Event Management system (SIEM).

Train everyone, security should be part of everyone’s role in the organisation.

Social engineering is the process of targeting people.

It is used to great effect against everyone in business.   Social engineering is a 2 fold process – the bait, the email SPAM, phishing and the bad technology – link, application or attachment.

Combined together they are an effective attack system for the bad guys.

To counteract the social engineering you need to educate everyone.   There are free online courses but additional resources can include competitions, posters.

Get a framework and implement it.

One of the best protective strategies any business can implement is a framework.   I recommend the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity framework.

By answering the 98 questions, you get an instant base level indication of where your Organisation is in regards to the security maturity.

A framework does a number of things.   It gives you a base level, it gives you a score between 0 and 4, it ensures that you do not forget anything and gives you a road map for business security within your Organisation.

As a flow-on effect, it gives you a score that you can compare apples with apples (security maturity with security maturity) against other Organisations.   When it comes to data sharing you can make informed decisions on how secure the other Organisation will be in regards to data protection.

You have done a vulnerability assessment

Every device that is connected to a network has the capability of compromising the whole network.   The first law of Cybersecurity is “if there is a vulnerability it will be discovered and it will be exploited – no exceptions”.

To ensure that those vulnerabilities are addressed you need to do regular vulnerability scans on the network.

This can be achieved with expensive or free systems.   Either type it is important that vulnerability scans are completed and mitigated and vulnerabilities are patched and managed correctly.

Cybersecurity is not easy!

There’s no such thing as set and forget when it comes to protecting your Organisation from a cyber event.

It is a diligent and continuous process that needs to be done correctly to protect the integrity of the data within your custodianship.

Keep it safe, protect it, monitor it and ensure that if something does happen you have a way back to business as normal.

How fast will your business be back to business as normal after a disaster?

Cybersecurity, (Business Security) the art of dealing with risk

When it comes to cybersecurity or Business Security, the buzz words thrown around by salespeople are polluting the board room and confusing the owners, managers and C Level Execs of SME’s and charities.

They are making it harder for you to discover and understand why you need to define your risk prior to making any decisions about purchasing anything.

When it comes to protecting your organisation from a cyber attack it is all about risk.

The snake oil salesman, carpet baggers and sleaze balls are attracted to our industries in droves.

Why?

Just like in the past, it is easy to confuse someone with catch phrases, innuendo and just plain bull sh*t to purchase product that will not work or has been sold to an organisation as a panacea of all their ills when it comes to cybersecurity.

Big words and even bigger promises are the problem.

There is no “silver bullet” solution out there.

Business security is all about hard work.

It is an investment in time.   It is an investment in understanding and most of all, it is an investment in protecting the many facets of your organisation.

A single solution will not do that.    It cannot be done with the installation of a simple device.

When it comes to business security you have to analyze your risk.

The risk to business.   The risk to the business.   The risk to the people in the business and most of all, the risk to your clients.   Not protecting their data will result in a lost of revenue, confidence and subsequently profit.

That is only the tip of the iceberg.    After an breach it gets worse from there on.

The problem with risk is that risk is hard to visualize.

Most of us have problems with abstract ideas, risk management and risk assessment, if not done correctly are exactly that – abstract.

To move it from abstract to real we have to visualise the risks.   Once we understand the risks we can mitigate them in a manageable way.

The mitigation of a known risk maybe the installation of an expensive piece of software/hardware.

You still have to understand the risk and mitigate it before you justify spending those thousands of dollars!    That investment may only cover one risk, what about the other 49 you have discovered when you did the risk assessment?

We are in the process of putting together a special board room meeting, just for board members, owners, managers and C level execs.   It is a hands on process, working on your environment, to understand the risks and the subsequent ways to protect your organisation in todays digital world.

There is no sales pitch, we are not selling anything but you will walk away from the boardroom with a better understanding of your risks, what they are, how to reduce them and what you need to do moving forward.

Risk Management Game and Resources

The Insider Threat

We have all heard about how the insider can wreak havoc on your business. Yet, business owners and other staff don’t understand how much actual damage they can do.

From a Business Security perspective we’ve definitely experienced people in the workplace who:

  • are self-important
  • always in a hurry
  • not focused on the business at hand.

These Insiders can also have a detrimental impact on business security.

Here are 7 types of Insider Threats who make the insider threat real to any organisation.

1. Convenience seekers – bypass protocol, too hard, too busy

We have all seen them in business.   They jump here and there and start a huge number of jobs but never finish them, or finish them haphazardly.

They are more interested in their own work, not in keeping the company safe. Passwords, Updates and scans are usually bypassed. When something goes wrong, it is never their fault. Clicking on an email link without using commonsense is a primary example.

They are the first to complain about the time it takes IT support to remove a virus. By bypassing the organisation’s Cybersecurity, they put the whole organisation in danger.

Solution – get them to slow down, their job is no more important than anyone else’s.

2. The accidental victim – makes mistakes, doesn’t think

These are the people who are too timid at work. They fear making mistakes, but, by fearing reprisals and keeping quiet, they are the victim. The company suffers as well.

The accidental victim is either an older employee, or a new starter. They are very noticeable in not for profit organisations.

Solution – Provide education and training in the use of computers. Explain what’s expected in their role within the organisation.

3. They know everything – oversharing

This person is very good at big-noting themselves. They use their knowledge of the organisation to place themselves in avoidable situations. They overshare critical and confidential information in email. They don’t think about the consequences of sharing on social media and also in meetings.

Solution – separation of information,  restrict access to the information within the organisation.

4. Untouchables – it will not happen to me

We get these type of people in all types of business.  They are the second cousin to number 1.  I am not a target of cybercrime, it will never happen to me because I have nothing worth stealing.

With technology changes over the years, a bored 14 year old can be the attacker. Access to the internet is their tool. Every internet user or business is a target. Anyone can be attacked and everyone needs to take the necessary precautions.

.Solution – providing education and training.

 5. Entitled ones – access to everything because they ‘want to know’

The Entitled employee is one of the most dangerous non-malicious insider. Their laptops or tablets have the organisations secrets and use free wifi in cafes. They have no business reason to keep all that critical information, but they have to have it.

This means that there is a greater risk of the company information either stolen or attacked.

Solution – need to know.  Stop allowing access to data by staff who don’t need it. Segregate it into public, commercial in confidence and critical.   If someone does not need the information then deny access to it.

6. Traitors – malicious insiders

Previous to this one, the insiders have been the result of stupid behaviors. The Malicious Insider is a malicious person. Their focus is on them. For whatever reason, they might intend to leave, have a grudge against the company or an employee. They won’t hesitate to go to your competition with all your corporate data.

Solution – at the first whiff of someone leaving walk them out the door. Don’t keep a bad apple in the basket. 

7. The secret insiders – the bad guys, in the first stages of an attack

These are the true bad guys, the ones you should be protecting your organisation against.  They may have infiltrated your organisation via one of the other insiders, and are now able to do damage. They could have become an insider through social media, email or web based attack. The secret insider isn’t an employee. They are not answering to your policies and procedures. They will damage your organisation, because you don’t have protections.

Solution – increase awareness, do a penetration test and review the report, then do it all again. Regularly.

These Insider Threats are the ones we have come across.   Some can be a combination of one, two or three traits.  The best way to protect yourself from the insider is to pay attention to your staff and your management.

The best way to find out what your organisation needs to do to be safe is to:

1. Use the CareMIT Digital Diagnostic Tool

2. Come to one of our regular quarterly “Security Board Meetings

Business Security – Don’t do it yourself!

When it comes to business security, most people think that it is a no brainer!

Delegate to the IT department and it is done.

If you want to be a target, maybe get your 2 minutes of fame on the nightly news and want a cyber event to impact your reputation, finances, operations, and legal capability then, by all means, ask the IT department.
Business security is all about the business.   Yes technology and the IT department are a component but they are not the most important component of the requirements to secure the organisation

Business security starts at the top.   Board Members, managers, and owners are required to look at the business and work out where an attack could come from, calculate the destructive effects, mitigate those effects and then implement protective strategies to cover those attacks.

This is very hard to do when your expertise is based on your core business.   Your core business could be anything – legal, finance, manufacturing or even charity based.   You are good at what you do, that means that you are not the best at understanding the problems associated with business security.

This is when you need the Board, management, and owners to look outside their organisations, to people and organisations that focus on business security.   Business security is their core business!

From a management perspective, business security is all about risk.   Risk assessment, risk management and then risk reduction.   Your organisation has to have an understanding of their risk appetite before they can implement change and reduce those risks.

Business today is wholly dependent on the digital.  We would not be able to do business without it.    Each of those digital components has a risk factor requirement.   Do you know what they are?

A business security risk assessment is the first step in Business security.

The best way to find out how vulnerable to a cyber event your organisation is.   Use the CareMIT Digital Diagnostic Tool or come to one of our regular quarterly “Security Board Meetings“.

Business Security is not just IT

The repercussions of a cyber event will create a serious problem for your oganisation long after the initial threat has been discovered and neutralised.

The bad guys are after everything that they can get their hands on that is not theirs.   They are also targeting anything and everything that has a link to the digital world.

What does not appear in the glossy brochures relating to the next shiny new product is the vulnerabilities that come pre-configured in these new systems.

I am not being nasty, but the pressures to get things to market are enormous and the first thing that is left in the background is security.

To get systems to market they will cut corners, use insecure code or even “borrow” code from other devices bringing their inherent vulnerabilities to their new product.

The wannacry and petya attacks were both perpetrated against a vulnerability that was patched recently but also has been available in most Microsoft operating systems since Windows XP.

The subsystem targeted allows one computer to communicate with another to share files.   There have been a number of vulnerabilities found that have this profile in every operating system.

But what happens if you have succumbed to a cyber event?   How do you improve your Business Security?

There are a number of areas you now have to worry about.

  • The most pressing is the immediate threat.
  • Have they encrypted your files and if so do you have a backup?
  • Has that backup been tested?
  • If you have a back up how will you restore your information and systems?
  • If you have cleaned the system are you sure you have everything?
  • What else has been stolen/accessed?
  • Never ever EVER pay the ransom!  You are dealing with criminals and they cannot be trusted.  If you pay there is no guarantee that you will get your data back
  • I recommend that you start from scratch, but that’s just me.

Short term tactics:

  • Has the event been disclosed,
  • Are you required to tell your clients, staff, customers
  • Has the disclosure had any effect on reputation, on your finances, on your customers, clients and staff. If so what will you now do?
  • I recommend that you do a number of things,
    • change passwords,
    • monitor credit card, and bank accounts.
  • Something that is very important – tell people.

Long term Strategies:

  • Not a person for stats but 60% of SME who have a cyber event will shut their doors within 3 months, a further 50% will shut after 12 months and/or they will be a shadow of what they originally were. (Victimless crime – my arse)
  • Check your Personal Reputation – use google alerts on your name, business name, trade marks.
  • Do a credit check – in some areas you can lock your credit rating, do it!
  • Get someone else to check chat rooms, information for sale and the dark web.

Using Business Security to avoid a cyber event in the first place?   Avoidance is hard, preparation is easy.

  • Have a decent and tested backup of all critical data.
  • encrypt critical data both at rest and in motion
  • use complex, long and unique passwords,
  • PATCH IT ALL,
  • penetration testing with minimal restrictions
  • Get paranoid, be aware and use common sense.
  • Implement a framework (we use NIST),

It is not all doom and gloom, but I can tell you from experience, in the midst of a cyber event, it feels like it.

The best way to counteract a cyber event is to expect to be compromised.

Hope for the best but plan for the worst! 

The best way to find out how vulnerable to a cyber event your organisation is.   Use the CareMIT Digital Diagnostic Tool or come to one of our regular quarterly “Security Board Meetings