It’s no secret that cyber attacks today are more frequent and in many cases more damaging than ever before. Enterprise companies, banking institutions, and other organizations of all types are rightfully reevaluating their existing security measures in this new era of cyber threats. Adding to the urgency, the Biden administration is pressing US infrastructure owners as well as the private sector to boost their cybersecurity measures and take stronger action to protect themselves and their customers, partners and employees.
In recent years, and especially since the Covid-19 pandemic sent workers around the world home from their offices in early 2020, many companies have relied heavily on VPNs as a primary component of their security strategy. VPNs do solve the immediate need of allowing remote workers to connect to corporate systems; however, time has shown they are not a strong or stable solution for preventing cyberattacks. Beyond security concerns around VPNs, they are also difficult to scale, lagging in performance speeds and challenging for many users and employees to use.
Besides replacing their VPNs with a more secure and effective connectivity solution, there are a number of steps companies can take to ensure their workforce is protected against looming cyber threats. First is to recognize that strong cybersecurity involves all stakeholders at all levels of the company. From bolstering your actual systems to educating each employee about security policies, cybersecurity needs to be a company priority, not just an IT one.
How to prepare for increasing cyberattacks
In order to defend themselves against today’s cyber threats, organizations, quite frankly, need to prepare for the worst. As already noted, attacks are growing and businesses of all sizes are being targeted, so now more than ever, companies must take action to protect their valuable assets. By taking the following actions, organizations and their employees can mount a formidable cyber defense.
1. Have an incident response plan in place
An incident response plan is a living document that IT and cybersecurity professionals can consult in times of need. This plan should be frequently updated to include new types of cyber attacks as well as an up-to-date list of potentially vulnerable assets. The best way to prevent attacks is to have a plan in place – and to regularly practice that plan. If a breach ever does occur, its details and the lessons learned should be added to the incident response plan to prevent similar situations from happening again.
2. Educate employees on cyber-safety practices
Even if your company has best-of-class security solutions in place, employee negligence or simple carelessness can easily lead to breaches. Expectations of digital security practices should be a continual dialogue among the entire organization at all levels.
Explaining the significance of cybersecurity threats is a great way to help enforce digital safety among a workforce. Organizations should encourage each individual employee to monitor their devices and report any suspicious activity, regardless of the perceived threat level. Especially in hybrid/remote work environments, it is crucial to ensure employees understand that all security measures implemented in the workplace also apply to remotely-used devices.
Lastly, when hacks and cyber attacks are successfully thwarted, be sure to share these achievements to further highlight the importance and effectiveness of digital diligence.
3. Integrate Zero-trust with existing security models
For companies who are not yet ready to disconnect their VPN, it is possible to increase security by adding zero-trust access to existing systems.
Whereas VPNs conduct only a single authentication check and then provide access to the entire network, the zero trust model continuously authorizes user identities and connects them only to applications and resources rather than the network itself. With the combined zero trust/VPN approach, organizations can gain substantial security benefits without a large change to their infrastructure.
Whether they are augmenting or fully replacing their VPNs, organizations should be moving in the direction of zero trust access. By eliminating transitive trust and continuously identifying and authenticating every device, zero trust provides a higher level of security than the traditional perimeter approach and enables businesses to securely connect all users to their working environments, regardless of location. In a world whose workforce is only becoming more distributed, the time to begin adopting zero trust is now.
The list of successful cyberattacks sadly grows each week, and there are few signs this scourge will abate anytime soon. But if organizations take the time to develop, practice and execute security plans, educate employees across all levels, and update existing cybersecurity architecture with more modern technologies, corporate data and assets will be significantly harder to hack. The best way to succeed in the fight against cybercrime and data breaches is to prepare for them before they happen.