It’s an all-too familiar scenario: An email directive to apply a patch to a web server goes ignored, and no one follows up to be sure the patch has been applied. As a result of this simple lack of cyber hygiene, the organization falls prey to a widespread strain of malware.

The team that should have handled the update was probably busy and might not have been fully staffed. There may not have been enough budget to hire enough of the right kind of talent, or perhaps there were just too many factors to be checked and covered. None of that matters, though; the network was breached, and it was entirely preventable. Failure to cover the basics was the downfall, and it could lead to negative publicity and loss of business.

Learn more about enhancing security hygiene

Your Security Improvements Could Be Missing the Point

The average enterprise security team has more solutions in its arsenal than ever before. As reported by ZDNet, some companies have more than 70 unique security applications and tools in place. While chief information security officers (CISOs) and their teams  may be drowning in technology, the enterprise isn’t becoming more secure. In fact, the chances of facing a data breach have increased exponentially over the last several years, according to research from the Identity Theft Resource Center.

The truth is that the vast majority of data breaches can be prevented with basic actions, such as vulnerability assessments, patching and proper configurations. An Online Trust Alliance study estimated that 93 percent of reported incidents could have been avoided with basic cyber hygiene best practices, a figure that remains largely unchanged in the past decade. While advanced threats are growing in volume and sophistication, organizations are still getting breached due to poor key management, unpatched applications and misconfigured cloud databases.

CISOs aren’t blind to these trends. According to the “2018 Black Hat USA Attendee Survey,” 36 percent of leaders spend the majority of their time on any given day trying to accurately measure their organization’s security posture. Sixteen percent believe their organization’s greatest failure is “a lack of integration in security architecture” and “too many single-purpose solutions.” Security teams are drowning in alerts and grasping for solutions that streamline cyber hygiene activities.

What Does Cybersecurity Hygiene Entail?

Cyber hygiene refers to maintaining the security and health of an enterprise’s network, endpoints and applications through routine efforts to avoid vulnerabilities and other fundamental activities. It means perfecting the basics, including:

  • Deleting redundant user accounts;
  • Enforcing access and passwords with policy;
  • Backing up mission-critical data;
  • Securing physical and cloud databases;
  • Application whitelisting; and
  • Managing configurations.

When put into practice on an enterprise network, security hygiene is a continuous cycle of identifying vulnerabilities, mitigating risks and improving response capabilities. This begins with a vulnerability assessments of your network and data assets. After all, knowledge is the first step toward effective security hygiene.

Why Preventable Data Breaches Continue to Happen

Organizations that fail to perform basic security improvements face near-certain risks. Last year, IBM X-Force reported a twofold increase in injection attacks aimed at vulnerable applications and devices over the previous year. In total, injection attacks comprised 79 percent of all malicious network activity. An unpatched server or misconfigured cloud database can also lead to costly consequences. The loss of consumer trust could be more severe in the event that an organization is forced to admit it didn’t perform the basics.

The reason why organizations are struggling with cyber hygiene goes beyond human negligence. Networks are more complex than ever, and cyber hygiene requires the effective alignment of people, policies, processes and technology. Organizations fall prey to fully preventable attacks due to increased endpoints, cloud adoption, stolen credentials and the immense resources needed to address regulatory shifts.

“Security in a hyperconnected era presents a new set of challenges, but these can be greatly eased by implementing innovative practices and adopting a more integrated, holistic approach,” said Marc van Zadelhoff, former IBM Security General Manager, in a statement. “CISOs that prioritize these factors can help their organizations significantly improve business processes and achieve measurable success.”

Enterprise networks are complex, and fragmented security solutions for vulnerability assessment don’t reveal the full picture. Security operations centers (SOCs) are overwhelmed with alerts and relying on manual threat research. Performing basic security improvements is impossible without the right ecosystem to identify data risks.

Read the e-book: Enhance security hygiene

5 Steps to Create an Effective Cyber Hygiene Practice

Hygiene is at the core of a security risk mitigation strategy. Security hygiene is a cultural mindset that spans security, IT, leadership and the individual. To adequately address basic risks, CISOs need full buy-in to continually review data management practices, improve response capabilities and enhance employee awareness. Let’s take a closer look at five steps organizations can take to create an effective cyber hygiene practice.

 

 

More from CISO

How Do You Plan to Celebrate National Computer Security Day?

In October 2022, the world marked the 19th Cybersecurity Awareness Month. October might be over, but employers can still talk about awareness of digital threats. We all have another chance before then: National Computer Security Day. The History of National Computer Security Day The origins of National Computer Security Day trace back to 1988 and the Washington, D.C. chapter of the Association for Computing Machinery’s Special Interest Group on Security, Audit and Control. As noted by National Today, those in…

Emotional Blowback: Dealing With Post-Incident Stress

Cyberattacks are on the rise as adversaries find new ways of creating chaos and increasing profits. Attacks evolve constantly and often involve real-world consequences. The growing criminal Software-as-a-Service enterprise puts ready-made tools in the hands of threat actors who can use them against the software supply chain and other critical systems. And then there's the threat of nation-state attacks, with major incidents reported every month and no sign of them slowing. Amidst these growing concerns, cybersecurity professionals continue to report…

Moving at the Speed of Business — Challenging Our Assumptions About Cybersecurity

The traditional narrative for cybersecurity has been about limited visibility and operational constraints — not business opportunities. These conversations are grounded in various assumptions, such as limited budgets, scarce resources, skills being at a premium, the attack surface growing, and increased complexity. For years, conventional thinking has been that cybersecurity costs a lot, takes a long time, and is more of a cost center than an enabler of growth. In our upcoming paper, Prosper in the Cyber Economy, published by…

Reporting Healthcare Cyber Incidents Under New CIRCIA Rules

Numerous high-profile cybersecurity events in recent years, such as the Colonial Pipeline and SolarWinds attacks, spurred the US government to implement new legislation. In response to the growing threat, President Biden signed the Cyber Incident Reporting for Critical Infrastructure Act of 2022 (CIRCIA) in March 2022.While the law has passed, many healthcare organizations remain uncertain about how it will directly affect them. If your organization has questions about what steps to take and what the law means for your processes,…