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The world is aghast watching Russia invade Ukraine, and it’s critical that the physical separation of these events doesn’t create a false sense of security for the US.   As the countries around the globe step up sanctions and impose restrictions on critical Russian resources, war will expand on a different front.  Cyberwarfare is nothing new, and nation-states have been engaged in these activities for many years.

There is an old saying that desperate times call for desperate measures, and increased economic pressure will amplify Russian efforts to disrupt infrastructure and business operations in our country.  Business leaders should double down on efforts to avoid being impacted by cyber-attacks regardless of company size.  It’s a common misconception that smaller firms are not targeted because there is little to gain by attacking their limited resources.  Like any other crime, cyber-attacks follow an opportunistic path of least resistance.  As such, smaller firms that employ minimal protections provide an optimal path for infiltrating larger companies that have established connectivity for conducting business.

There is no “silver bullet” when protecting an organization from being the next victim of a cyber-attack.  Effective cyber security requires a multi-layered blend of processes and technology that operate collaboratively to protect an organization.  During these challenging times, it’s important to revisit these six basic principles that dramatically reduce the likelihood of being impacted by cyber warfare.

  1. Conduct External Scanning – Most companies do a great job securing their external network, but one change can introduce risk. Conducting monthly scans of all external-facing network addresses provides visibility to address security gaps before they create problems.
  2. Reinforce Awareness Training – Employees are the front line when it comes to cyber security. Phishing attacks happen daily, and employee’s ability to recognize and avoid falling victim to these scams is heavily reliant on the training they receive.  Investing in training does not have to be expensive, and it represents one of the most significant security ROIs available.
  3. Verify Email Filtering – One of the most effective means of avoiding phishing scams is to ensure they never reach employees. Email filtering provides an effective means of blocking email messages with malicious messaging, links, and attachments.  Review settings and blocked messages regularly to verify the filtering is working as intended.
  4. Secure Endpoint Devices – if an attacker can circumvent external network and email protections, they will attempt to install malicious software on an employee’s computer (endpoint). Antivirus provides the last line of defense, and purchasing from one of the many “next generation” vendors that employ machine learning to identify attacks is a wise investment.  Yes, this type of antivirus costs more, but the additional protection it provides pays back exponentially.
  5. Employ Multi-Factor Authentication – Strong passwords don’t cut it for protecting remote access to company networks and software as service providers. Advances in computer processing make it possible to overcome strong passwords and necessitate multifactor authentication. Inventory these connections regularly to ensure they are always secured with this technology.
  6. Plan for External Service Disruptions – The recent Kronos breach highlighted the importance of contingency planning for external service providers. Develop and test an internal workaround for any service provider that uses cloud resources to deliver its offerings.

We don’t know when the Ukraine conflict will end, but cyber warfare is here to stay.  Take time to revisit company defenses to avoid a data breach’s financial and reputational impact.

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