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.

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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.

How do we manage the risk of digital in todays business world?

10 years ago, cyber was not thought of as a risk to the business.   It was just a way to do business that was faster and less expensive.

5 years ago we started to think, in very rudimentary terms, that cyber was a small risk but we knew nothing about it so we will pass it to the ICT department for them to manage.

We did this because the perception of digital risk was purely associated with the ICT of the organisation.

Since 2014 and the Target hack, C level execs, boardroom members, owners, and managers, realized that digital risk was bigger than they expected and the departments that they had relied on to secure their organisations were not, in fact, doing the job to the expected level.

Definitely not their fault, there were a couple of reasons for this, the first being that they relied on people who were more focused on keeping the lights on, making the technology work, than securing the environments.

The other was whenever they, the ICT department / managed service provider tried to secure the business environment, and they would have done regularly, they were fighting culture, fiscal and attitude issues that just made it too hard to make the business environment safe.

In this environment most ICT departments / managed service providers resorted to a number of basic strategies.   Let’s get a decent firewall, let’s get a decent AV and let’s make sure that updates are applied.   This is close to 10% of the requirements to secure an organisation.

Digital and cyber risks are now the number one or two risk factors on management minds in today’s business world.

They still do not know how to manage it.

The hardest part is visualization.   How do those risks manifest themselves within the organisation?

No matter the size, the number of people you employ or the amount of money/revenue you make, digital risk can bring your organisation down in some cases literally overnight.   In fact, at the speed of Cyber!

Business management still thinks that ICT departments and managed service companies are the answer.

They are not!

Business security is a whole of business issue with a mantra that cybersecurity is everyone’s problem.   You need a team that crosses all of the lines of communication, from management to coal face.

You need people who understand the bad guys and can attack your system with the same capabilities and vigorous intention, but without the damage.

They need to approach the problem with the same intensity as the bad guys so that vulnerabilities can be exposed and removed, exploit can be counteracted and restricting a breach by monitoring the attack surface.

This will, in the end, make your environment more secure and stable.

You need someone with the right methodology, an understanding that technology is only part of the solution, and the ability to approach the huge problem in a manageable way.

It is only manageable when you address the areas apart from technology.

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?