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How do you detect cyber risks before they cause downtime?

NetworkTIgers on detecting cyber risks before they cause downtime.

Cyber risks and the consequences of ransomware attacks and phishing campaigns are draining organizations’ finances, creating downtime and eroding the public trust in their ability to protect sensitive personal, health, or financial data. 

From 2021 to 2022, the average cost of a cyberattack has risen from $10,000 to $18,000. This skyrocketing expense makes hack prevention a priority, as it was already determined in 2019 that 60% of small businesses are forced to close after a cyberattack.

Most business owners don’t fully appreciate the costs of hack recovery, resulting in many companies lagging in their online defenses.

Monitor your network for cyber risks

Your network should be under constant surveillance. Continuous cybersecurity monitoring that uses automation to regularly scan your system and alert your company’s response team to any abnormalities can help mitigate cyber risks before they become full-scale attacks.

A properly configured monitoring system should prioritize alerts to ensure that IT administrators can focus on critical threats as they arise and not get bogged down with anomalies that may not be as important. 

Security researchers estimate that about 60% of all breaches occur via a third-party vendor. You can’t take charge of a vendor’s protocols. Still, automated monitoring of a third party’s IT deployments can give you insight into how they manage their risk and allow you to make decisions that can accommodate their security posture and keep you safe.

Monitoring is also becoming increasingly required for security compliance and can accommodate scaling as your business grows and its data footprint expands.

Keep up with cyber threat intelligence

More than ever in our digital age, knowledge is power, and keeping up with cyber risks, news and updates is essential.

Cybersecurity scanning logs should be analyzed and studied to maintain a clear understanding of the types of threats that your system encounters. This data can be used to conceptualize and predict trends to better prepare for future attacks.

An appreciation of current security threats, combined with information gleaned from monitoring, can help IT administrators better prioritize alerts they receive and accurately identify false alarms.

A holistic, detailed picture of cyber threat intelligence also allows IT professionals to explain an organization’s cybersecurity issues more clearly to the decision-makers responsible for allocating finances. Breaking down how your security is performing and presenting what threats may be looming to board members unfamiliar with the field sets the stage for a companywide understanding of cybersecurity that will likely prove helpful when assessing your security budget.

Use a firewall

Despite their long existence, firewalls have maintained their status as integral network security components.

A firewall analyzes your network’s incoming and outgoing traffic, allowing administrators to filter out hackers before they are allowed access and examine traffic for any evidence of potential threats.

This means a firewall can act as a defensive measure against cyber risks and an analytical tool to gather data to reinforce your overall cyber threat intelligence further.

Network security tests that can identify cyber risks

Several tests and scans can be performed that look into your security environment and alert you of any vulnerabilities waiting to be exploited.

Cybersecurity audit

Performed by a third party, a cybersecurity audit takes a deep dive into an organization’s security policies to determine where lapses may occur within their hardware and software. An audit also ensures that processes adhere to regulations and comply with best practices.

It is recommended that a cybersecurity audit be performed on an annual basis for most companies. However, especially vulnerable or important organizations, those dealing with healthcare, for example, perform them more frequently.

Vulnerability scan

A vulnerability scan is an automated task highlighting weaknesses that may allow a breach to occur. 

While this scan covers several potential dangers, the most pressing threats it’s designed to identify are:

  • Remote code execution vulnerabilities may allow hackers to run code within your system.
  • Path traversal vulnerabilities that let hackers access unauthorized files.
  • Arbitrary file reading lets an unauthorized user read or write content within your system.
  • Arbitrary code execution is the ability of a hacker to run commands on a vulnerable device.

Security scan

Misconfigurations within systems can leave databases exposed to public view and create less-than-optimal system designs that are full of opportunities for exploitation. A security scan looks for misconfigurations regarding default account settings, unencrypted files, systems that need patching, outdated apps and insufficient firewall protections.

Misconfigurations are typically the result of human error. Regular security scans can help tidy up messy environments and tighten processes so that there are fewer opportunities for a criminal to take advantage of a developer’s mistake.

Penetration testing

Penetration testing combines both manual and automated tests to accurately simulate an attack and provide an in-depth look at vulnerabilities present within a network or application. 

Ethical hackers undertake penetration testing with the knowledge and experience required to think as a criminal might. Penetration testing also employs teams that attack from various angles to think outside the box and find unexpected weaknesses.

Application security testing helps to mitigate cyber risks

As the use of the cloud continues to grow, so does our dependence on the security of software designed to keep us connected. The programs have become increasingly complex and further embedded into critical business operations and data sharing. Thankfully, several application security tests can be performed to help determine how secure web-based tools actually are.

These tests allow software development teams to inspect apps for weak points fully.

Dynamic Application Security Test (DAST)

Dynamic Application Security Testing analyzes a web application by simulating attacks. In the same way a hacker would, a DAST scanner approaches an app from the outside with no insight into its inner workings or architecture and attempts to pry its way into it. When the scan is complete, a data set is compiled that identifies vulnerabilities and cyber risks.

A DAST scan has the benefit of working entirely independently of the application being tested but cannot determine the exact location of the program’s vulnerability due to not having access to the program’s source code.

DAST scanning has become imperative. The use of open-source libraries in cloud app development speeds up the build process but also opens the possibility of widespread attacks due to vulnerabilities that may be present within them.

Static Application Security Test (SAST)

Static Application Security Testing, an essential tool for organizations that build and distribute software products, approaches an application from the inside by scanning its source code and identifying root cyber risks. It is especially useful in cases where a developer may not realize that their coding habits are creating potential exploits, as it can identify any code that goes against best security practices.

SAST scanning is meant to be run early in the development timeline. It compliments DAST scanning, as it can identify issues that DAST cannot and vice versa. Unlike a DAST scan, it can also pinpoint the exact location of a vulnerability. This makes it easy to close security gaps as work is being done.

Runtime Application Self Protection (RASP)

Runtime application self-protection protects an application by taking advantage of insight into its internal data. This allows it to pick up on threats at runtime that other security scans or features may not be able to detect.

When a threat is detected, RASP can block an attack and perform other actions that may include booting a user from the application, issuing them a warning, alerting security administrators or even shutting the program down entirely.

RASP is designed to pick up the slack left by application security testing and firewalls by analyzing real-time data to block threats that other means aren’t designed to identify accurately. Because RASP focuses on a single application’s behavior, it can understand better what may or may not pose a threat and act accordingly.

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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How do you detect cyber risks before they cause downtime?