Cybersecurity Awareness: The Basics Are the Foundation

October 4, 2021
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3 min read

It’s Cybersecurity Awareness Month and the Cybersecurity & Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) put out their 2021 #BeCyberSmart message kit:

  • Be Cyber Smart
  • Fight the Phish!
  • Explore. Experience. Share.
  • Cybersecurity First.

What do these mean for your business? Let’s start off with the basics.

Cybersecurity Awareness Tips: Stop Throwing Good Money After Bad

More than ever, basic cyber hygiene is vital to protecting data. Here’s why: the risk footprint has never been larger. Some reasons were not surprising: big data becoming harder to manage, more alerts bogging down and burning out incident responders, a blast of Internet of Things devices coming online and 5G deployments being a management issue of their own.

Others were harder to predict: COVID-19 and the shift to remote work, ransomware used to prey on emotions, incredibly targeted and sophisticated social engineering and supply chain attacks becoming a favorite for widespread havoc.

The risk footprint will expand. Is new gadgetry the solution to cybersecurity awareness problems?? Only if you like building on a house of cards. If you want to be resilient, the foundation comes from the basics. That’s how you build your cyber safe culture.

Let’s look at a couple of basic technical and behavioral techniques to minimize cyber risk and save you time, money and lighten the load on your staff.

The Password Isn’t Going Anywhere

Just accept it and get cracking on your password safety (indeed, that is an intended pun) as part of your cybersecurity awareness and cybersecurity training. The password issue keeps coming up because it often receives a Cyber Basics 101 failing grade (and NIST SP 800-63B Digital Identity Guidelines: Authentication and Lifecycle Management is probably not at the top of everybody’s reading list). So, some quick tips:

  • Use multi-factor authentication. Yes, it can be annoying, but until we are all memorizing multiple 30+ character passwords, switch this feature on.
  • For the love of all things fuzzy and cute, limit failed login attempts and lockout accounts that appear to be getting knocked on. It’s an easy win to stop a brute force attack.
  • Log out. Yes. Log out. Is it cumbersome to keep logging for each use? Yes, it is. It also keeps you safer. If you’re logged on and not using it, you’re leaving a door open.

Remote Work Isn’t Going Anywhere Either

Another issue to accept with regards to cybersecurity awareness: remote work will no longer be a perk or an arrangement that moves business processes during a disruption. It will be a norm. What happens when 10% of your staff demands to work remotely? 20%? 30% or more? You no longer have a cybersecurity problem, you have a much bigger business problem: operational viability. So, time to secure your remote work practices for good:

  • Limit or remove personal device use. Costlier? Yes. It’s a business decision risk. Your move.
  • Mandatory virtual private networks. Costlier? Yes. Secures everything? Nope. What’s the point then? It slows down the bad guys. Make it hard for them.
  • Limit access. Organizations have inherited all the vulnerabilities of remote use, whereas the user probably has experienced a slower internet connection. Limit what the user can do and see.

Also, keep this in mind: you have lost valuable response time. A device infected in the office can quickly go offline and into forensic analysis. Now, you have to wait for the device to ship. Find a way to account for that time you are blind based on how your organization operates.

Bonus Cybersecurity Awareness Basic

Pro tip: take care of your people. With a still blazing-hot cybersecurity job market, holding on to good people is not just important, it’s a real business risk. Do not mismanage this! Cybersecurity staff won’t be afraid to jump to a new ship knowing they are in demand. This is basic good management.

In the next article in this series, we’ll be off to the data lake for some phishing.

George Platsis
Senior Lead Technologist, Educator and Author

George Platsis works with the private, public and nonprofit sectors to address their strategic, operational and training needs, focusing on projects related ...
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