Wednesday, November 29, 2023
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Avoiding biases and cybersecurity blind spots

NetworkTigers tips on how to avoid biases and cybersecurity blind spots.

While the ones and zeros of data protection applied through protocols, proper hardware implementation, zero-trust, and network monitoring are critical to keeping an organization safe, even the most technically airtight strategy can be subject to biases and cybersecurity blind spots.
Human nature is far from perfect, and, as a result, network security systems can sometimes be designed to reflect the architect’s subjective priorities and opinions.

Administrators should keep the following tips in mind when developing a cybersecurity strategy for an organization’s network to prevent cracks in their defenses. 

Don’t rely entirely on the technology

With modern networking software and equipment allowing for deep automation, anomaly reporting, and automatic updates, it can be tempting to leave a system on autopilot or rely too heavily on apps and gear to do the job.

This can result in other crucial security measures, such as continual staff training and response and recovery planning, being forgotten or neglected. Intelligently devised security makes the technology only part of a holistic plan that sees all employees practicing vigilance in their roles and IT teams keeping up with emerging threats and evolving their protocols accordingly. 

Don’t neglect the human factor

As we have seen repeatedly, all the technology and security in the world can’t protect even the largest international corporations from succumbing to a successful social engineering scheme.
Phishing emails, fraudulent job listings, and even AI-enhanced phone calls can lead an unwitting employee into providing a threat actor with the resources they need to bring an organization to its knees without having to write a single line of code.

Because of this, employees must receive regular training to keep them aware of tactics that criminals adopt to steal from or extort their targets. Focusing this training on lower-level employees may seem sufficient, but high-level officials and executives often find themselves in the crosshairs. No user should be left out to become a cybersecurity blind spot.

Update, patch, and replace

Keeping your system updated with the latest patches, updates, and security fixes can’t be overstated.

Ensure automatic updates are applied across the board and don’t leave outdated or no longer supported apps and equipment in the loop. Cybercriminals are always on the hunt for unpatched vulnerabilities, and IT professionals should never assume that just because they have forgotten about a cobwebbed piece of equipment still chugging away in their system, it won’t be on the radar for threat actors in search of an entry point.

Outdated equipment can be refreshed and replaced with refurbished gear at deep discounts, making it easier on the IT budget to swap out potentially vulnerable hardware for newer alternatives.

Keep up with regular assessments and auditing

Even minor modifications to a system can result in an exploitable vulnerability, meaning that lapses and cybersecurity blind spots can appear where and when they are least expected. Diligent IT professionals are acutely aware that they are not omniscient despite having what may be a remarkable understanding of the ins and outs of their system.

Regular security assessments and penetration tests are essential to security maintenance and an excellent way to shed light on holes that may have developed as work was being focused elsewhere. An objective perspective can distinguish between running a tight ship and taking on water.

Protect your network from insider threats

Often, a security breach is the result of an internal incident as opposed to an external threat actor.
From misconfigured databases and poor password hygiene to intentionally malicious actions taken by disgruntled employees, a network must be safe from harm no matter where it originates. 

Imposing strict permissions and user monitoring may come across as unfriendly from a philosophical standpoint, leaving some admins to allow their good nature to create cybersecurity blind spots. Only allowing employees to use job-critical network segments and being sure to change credentials in the event of someone’s role changing is necessary to ensure tight protection from all angles.

Don’t inherit a third party’s cybersecurity blind spots

Third-party vendors and contractors are a part of doing business. However, time and again, when an organization opens the door to a third party, it inherits any security lapses that the outsider may be guilty of.

Administrators must carefully assess the security protocols contractors implement to ensure that they don’t subject their system to someone else’s poor decisions. They also need to be strict in what they allow access to, the information they share, and with whom.

Security requirements should be built into any contracts that require data sharing or resources.

Don’t give employees an incentive to circumvent your security

Striking a balance between tight security and a frictionless user experience can be a challenge many administrators ignore. Still, the more complex a system is to use, the more likely workers are to find workarounds that may put data at risk.

Design protocols to be intuitive, seamless, and not seen as impediments to employee workflows. Frustrated workers may use unapproved apps or websites to share sensitive data or communicate company secrets via public messaging platforms.

Watch out for personal device usage

Remote work has opened the door to a wide range of vulnerabilities that either didn’t previously exist or were only present in certain pre-pandemic situations.

Workers using company resources and working on the network using personal devices open up a system to many risks that shouldn’t be overlooked. 

To mitigate the danger, IT teams should implement hard rules around using personal devices for work-related activities. This can be in the form of strong password requirements, allowing remote access to employee devices, or simply banning any devices that aren’t company-issued from the network.

Change those default settings

Even though many applications and hardware components come with built-in security settings, these should not be relied on to provide a high degree of protection. 

Criminals are familiar with default settings, sometimes sharing huge lists of router passwords

Modifying default security settings not only allows you to tailor your system to your specific needs but also puts one more obstacle between savvy hackers and your organization’s data.

Plan for the worst

Much of cybersecurity is focused on preventative measures. This can leave teams struggling in a breach if they haven’t taken the time to formulate a reliable plan that offers a path to recovery.

Poor response planning can result from a team spread too thin, an over-prioritization of defensive resources, or overconfidence in one’s ability to prevent an attack in the first place.

Administrators should have redundancies such as load balancers to pick up the slack in case of a crash or cyberattack. IT teams must develop and adhere to backup protocols that allow them to weather the storm of an attack or get their system back online as soon as possible if they are shut down.

Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn
Derek Walborn is a freelance research-based technical writer. He has worked as a content QA analyst for AT&T and Pernod Ricard.

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Avoiding biases and cybersecurity blind spots