Guest Column | September 1, 2016

Security Breaches Aren't Just About IT

Security Breach

By Scott Youngs, CIO of Key Information Systems

When you hear about a security breach, you probably think something like, “The IT department must have missed something.” But increasingly, breaches are caused by factors outside of IT’s control. Today, a breach is just as likely to be the result of a devious email or an unwitting employee’s error as a breakdown in IT.

There are three types of vulnerabilities largely out of IT’s control, and they’re increasingly popular with hackers. There are also three actions you can take now to keep your company ahead of these threats.

Hacks That Catch Businesses Off Guard

  • Ransomware often comes in the form of Trojan horse programs disguised as legitimate files, which can take control of a laptop — or an entire network — when downloaded.
  • An employee turns on his laptop while hooked into the office network and downloads a seemingly legitimate file. All of a sudden systems are down and nobody can access key data. A message is displayed with instructions to send a ransom to return the system to normal.
  • Social hacking uses human interaction to obtain confidential information by pretending to be a client or other associate.
  • Someone in accounts payable gets an email that looks like it’s from the CEO of a client, requesting private account information. Since everything seems in order at first glance, and it’s from a person of authority, the employee sends the information along. However, on closer inspection, one letter is off in the email address, and the data has instead been sent to a hacker.
  • Human error can shut down a target by inconspicuous means. These aren’t social in nature, but they can be just as dangerous and also create a snowball effect.
  • An employee leaves his or her laptop in an unlocked car. The computer may just be “sleeping” and does not require a password to resume work. A thief makes off with it and the rest is history. An employee cleaning up emails is another example. With a few clicks, they can delete messages forever, eliminating important files or deals in progress.

An Action Plan For Prevention

Now that we’ve seen the challenges, here are three things you can do to prevent them.

  1. Apply Technology

There are technology solutions that can help determine whether a file is likely ransomware including anti-virus software, firewalls, and anti-malware detection. These technologies should absolutely be part of any security solution.

There are also non-technology solutions that help prevent disasters brought on by human error. First and foremost, education can prevent many of the cyberattacks brought on by hackers. Companies should require some sort of cybersecurity training as an onboarding process for all employees, which can include several “common sense” precautions.

  1. Train Employees

Social hacking gets information from people — something technology solutions can’t prevent. So, thorough employee training must be a part of any security plan.

For example, it’s important employees know few, if any, legitimate companies will ask for confidential information over email. And, those that do certainly won’t mind if an employee takes an extra step or two to confirm everything is on the level.

Many scenarios like this should be presented to employees and updated as new threats emerge. Perhaps most importantly, this training has to be emphasized and taken seriously by everyone in the company. That means testing employees to make sure they understand and refreshing the training often.

  1. Plan For Disaster Recovery

Even companies with the best security technology and employee training will sometimes fall victim to an attack. Therefore, a solid disaster recovery (DR) solution and plan — including frequent, automated backups — is an absolute must so your company can get back up and running quickly after an attack.

The number and variety of security threats is mind-boggling. As these examples show, it’s no longer solely IT’s responsibility to keep a company safe from attacks. In addition to the technology solutions IT can implement, true security requires every single person to be vigilant and well trained.

Scott Youngs is the chief information officer of Key Information Systems, a regional systems integrator with compute, storage, and networking solutions and professional services for software-defined data centers. These competencies are tightly complemented by a full suite of data center capabilities, including private and hybrid cloud offerings, connectivity services, colocation facilities, and managed services.