Having a secure cyber security policy is essential to safeguarding your business against painful breaches in security and losses to property, but sadly, it is often overlooked more than it should be. Most companies believe that cybersecurity is something that only the IT department should handle, but this is also not the case. Every business has a way to close and lock its doors after hours but not every business has a truly safe way to protect against a cyber threat.
Almost every day there is a new story written about a breach in cyber security that led to intellectual property being stolen, identities being compromised, or even actual property being stolen. At this time, $445 billion consumer and company dollars are being stolen by these cyber criminals, and nearly 51% of CEOs report that their company has been hacked in some way. Cyber crimes are only getting more sophisticated and the criminals perpetrating them are getting harder to trace. Because there is so much at stake for a company to remain safe from these hackers, cybersecurity is only going to get more important in the coming years.
Cyber attacks do not only threaten the financial services department of a business, other departments such as customer relations, intellectual property, and even day to day operations. It’s impossible to know exactly how a cyber criminal will attempt to attack your business, but it’s necessary for executives and board members to protect these factions of the company before a criminal has a chance to steal or take advantage of.
Understanding an Attack
One of the first steps to preparing against the threat of an attack is to know the tactics and strategies of the enemy. Cyber criminals typically work in 5 phases in order to successfully hack a network and it’s good to know these phases as well as the basics of black hat techniques.
Phase 1 – Reconnaissance
For this beginning phase, the goal for the cyber criminals is to gain as much information about your company’s systems as possible. They go about it in incredibly deceptive ways, which makes this one of the harder phases to prepare for. Surprisingly, your own employees can be the ones that give the most important information away, as hackers have ways of tricking employees into giving away bits of information about the company’s system that over time give them an idea of the network. To safeguard the system as much as possible, employees must be aware of these tactics and given specific instructions on how to deal with these threats to security. Make sure sensitive company information such as names of employees, email address, and software information is not available online.
Phase 2 – Scanning
As soon as the cyber criminals believe they have enough information about your network, they will begin the second phase of their attack, which is scanning. The purpose of this phase is to scan your network and internal devices and look for vulnerable spots that can be exploited. Unfortunately, without a proper system in place, this phase can also be hard for a company to detect.
Phase 3 – Gaining Access
Now that they’ve done a scan of your company’s network, they can create a plan for how the attack is going to unfold. They map out the weakest links and figure out what areas to target for the attack. Normally, the attack is a criminal’s attempt to gain assets or information or use your network as a host to launch another cyber attack. Whatever the case, the criminals will need to gain direct access to a network device in order to launch the attack. This is where security personnel are absolutely essential, and having a secure building that houses your network devices is of utmost importance.
Phase 4 – Maintain Access
After the cybercriminals have gained access to your network, they will need to keep control of this access so they can carry out whatever plans they have. Whether it be capturing valuable information or stealing capital, they will need to maintain their access so they can go through with their calculated plans. According to Symantec, this is also the point in which the criminals will install some sort of malware to delay the company from getting control back of their network.
Phase 5 – Exploitation
The final phase of the attack involves the criminals sending information back to their team in order to hide the evidence and compile the information they have regarding the attack. The malware that would have been installed will keep employees from being able to use their network devices and this is normally when a company finds out they have a breach in security.
Simulate an Attack
It may seem counterintuitive to bring about a simulated cyber attack on your company, but there’s a lot of knowledge that can be gained from such a simulation. Having your team practice how to respond to a fake attack will allow them to better prepare themselves for how to react if their systems are actually being attacked. This practice will help your team decide what areas are the weakest, how the cyber security policy can be improved, and what each individual’s action should be if an attack takes place in the future.
Cyber security is complex and difficult to take on effectively, but the downside to not preparing is subjecting your systems to the unknown. Practicing simulations and actively seeking out information from leading experts in the field of cyber security allow your company’s assets to stay safer and executives to have a better understanding of this abstract concept of cyber security.