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Early last year, music streaming company Deezer admitted to falling victim to a data breach that compromised the data of 220 million users. The leaked information included users’ dates of birth, email addresses, genders, geographic locations, IP addresses, names, spoken languages, and usernames. While Deezer stated that the breach occurred on behalf of one of their partners, they neglected the latest cybersecurity measures, which has and can continue to lead to devastating consequences and make them more vulnerable to attacks.
Deezer isn’t the only company to experience such a widespread cyberattack. With 2,220 cyberattacks occurring daily, it’s easy for your company’s IT infrastructure to fall victim to cybercrime. One exploitative hack on a database with customer details or one vulnerability that downs your product or service damages your company’s reputation and existence. This is why ensuring that every single endpoint in your company’s IT infrastructure is secured to the highest degree and diligently checking for updates is crucial to business operations. After all, not every organization has $4 million lying around in case an endpoint isn’t properly secured.
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Common challenges in IT cybersecurity strategies
Cyber attacks are becoming as sophisticated as the IT heroes trying to prevent them. These attacks include phishing, malware, ransomware, Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) attacks, and social engineering. And they come bearing serious consequences, like the exposure of sensitive information, financial losses, reputational damage, and disruption to operations.
Despite the increasing awareness of cybersecurity threats, many businesses still need help developing effective cybersecurity strategies. A recent survey found that 66% of businesses experienced at least one cyberattack in 2020. The average data breach cost was $3.86 million — although now it costs much more, averaging at almost $4.35 million. The cost of a breach can be even greater when you consider the indirect costs of reputational damage, lost customers, and legal fees.
In order to create such chaos, a hacker needs a weak endpoint, like a laptop, phone, tablet, server, or even an IoT object like a smart thermostat or security camera. Then they can have their way with your company and customers. Endpoints are often the weakest link in a company’s cybersecurity defenses, and cyber criminals frequently target them to gain access to an organization’s network. According to a recent Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 70% of security breaches originate at the endpoint.
Creating, implementing, and maintaining a strong endpoint security strategy is the key to protecting your company. Think of endpoint security as the immune system of the human body. Like your immune system is designed to protect you from harmful invaders, endpoint security protects your IT systems from cyber threats. By detecting and neutralizing potential threats, endpoint security is a shield that strengthens your overall IT defenses. And, just like your immune system needs to be strengthened through healthy habits and practices, endpoint security requires regular updates, patches, and maintenance to stay effective and keep up with the ever-evolving threat landscape.
Best practices for bulletproof IT cybersecurity strategies
While every company has a unique set of processes, data, and standards, there is a foundation of sound cybersecurity strategies that applies to all companies, regardless of industry or size.
Comprehensive password policies
Most of these strategies begin with the end user accessing the company data or server through a company or self-provided laptop, tablet, phone, or other devices. Since the shift to remote work caused by Covid-19, the number of endpoints has increased exponentially — with more devices being used on top of home and cafe Wi-Fi networks — that we will touch on later. With all these new access points, password policies are a great example of an endpoint strategy that is easily implementable.
A password policy can have various requirements for the user, such as a certain number of characters or a mix of uppercase, lowercase, and special characters. A policy can also enforce that passwords must be changed on a regular basis — once a quarter or even more frequently — and that each unique platform or device has its own credentials that aren’t repeated across systems. Implementing 2-factor authentication for all servers and software is one of the strongest password policies. The double layer of protection deters cybercriminals from accessing company data through endpoints requiring multiple log-ins.
Raising end users’ awareness
In order for your password policies to be meaningful and respected, you need to educate your employees on the dangers of cyberattacks. After all, your employees are the first line of defense against cyber threats. Provide regular training on cybersecurity best practices, including identifying phishing scams and suspicious emails, and encourage employees to report any suspicious activity. Phishing attacks are one of the most common ways for cybercriminals to access company data, and with more communication being done via text-based tools (email, text, Slack, etc.) due to the shift to remote work, there is more room for error in responding to a phishing attempt. 20% of organizations have experienced a security breach due to a remote worker.
“When it comes down to it, the majority of breaches are basic mistakes made by humans on a day-to-day basis. Whether it’s clicking on a malicious link, misconfiguring your cloud asset, making something vulnerable that you weren’t aware of, that is where most attacks come from,” said Zoom’s Deputy Chief Information Security Officer Heather Ceylan in the most recent Ateraverse conference.
Installing and regularly updating anti-virus software
Using anti-malware and anti-virus software is a must-have for securing endpoints. When you install these programs on all endpoint devices, configure them to perform regular scans and updates. Regularly updating and patching your endpoint devices is critical to prevent vulnerabilities that can be exploited by cybercriminals. Platforms that perform automated patch management, such as Atera, simplify this process and help ensure that all devices are always updated on the latest security benefits without manual efforts. If your patching isn’t done automatically, odds are you’re currently missing out on some important updates…and should check on that ASAP.
“They [hackers] are using the latest vulnerabilities in the products and IT environment,” reported Microsoft National Security Officer and Cybersecurity expert Itzik Tzalaf. “Keeping the platforms updated is one of the most important things.”
While Atera is an IT management tool, it provides comprehensive endpoint security solutions that are the backbone of your company’s cybersecurity strategy. For example, Atera integrates with Axcient to provide smart backups, utilizing intelligent AirGap measures that safeguard against internal and external risks. Atera also offers integrations with backups company Acronis, and cybersecurity companies, including Emsisoft, Ironscales, Webroot, and more. Regularly creating and storing backups separately is crucial, particularly in a ransomware attack that could hold you or your customers’ data hostage by encryption.
Alerts for the unexpected
You can rest assured that your company’s endpoints are secure with these strategies. And for extra protection (you can never be too cautious with your data), set up automated alerts to notify you of unexpected high-risk actions, changes, or failures on your devices, so you can immediately investigate and remediate any issues.
The Colonial Pipeline ransomware attack is just one devastating example of the negative effects of a cyber attack. This rude awakening demonstrates the importance of robust IT cybersecurity strategies to safeguard business data and systems effectively; specifically endpoint safeguarding. All it takes is one weak endpoint out of thousands to become a victim and deal with the consequences.
But taking advantage of endpoint security strategies, like implementing a password policy, providing regular training on cybersecurity best practices, using anti-malware and anti-virus software, and regularly updating and patching endpoint devices, can deter cybercriminals and lower the risk. By strengthening endpoint security, companies can detect and neutralize potential threats, act as a shield that strengthens overall IT defenses, and prevent financial losses, reputational damage, and disruption to operations. “It’s going back to the basics. You have to have very strong endpoint security in building that security footprint from the inside out. And you have to prepare for these attacks,” Heather reinforced.