Despite the rapid emergence of new cybersecurity solutions, cybercrime is still rising, leaving businesses vulnerable to sophisticated attacks. One of the main challenges is that the technology industry has traditionally prioritized building impenetrable fortresses around structured data and communications without considering how employees use this information.
Nowadays, employees have access to vast amounts of data from databases and SaaS applications, which they use to create presentations, spreadsheets, and reports that often include strategic and tactical analysis. Unfortunately, unlike structured data systems, these files are frequently overlooked regarding security measures, even though they can contain valuable information highly sought by cybercriminals.
In this article, we will challenge business leaders to shift their focus towards safeguarding their raw data to protect their businesses using the following strategies:
1. Prioritize Adapting to Evolving Infrastructures
The priorities surrounding cybersecurity have shifted over time. In the late 1990s, network infrastructures and scalable computing became mainstream, and security was primarily viewed from a physical perspective. As cybercrime expanded and became more sophisticated around 2008, our focus shifted towards preventing unauthorized intrusion. By 2015, businesses had migrated to edge computing, and privacy became a critical issue.
As many decentralized digital services and assets are now contained within trusted third-party cloud and SaaS applications outside of an organization’s physical control, the Covid-19 pandemic has forced businesses to adopt a remote work model, accelerating digital transformation to accommodate a dispersed workforce.
The industry has since absorbed these trends, and leaders must ensure that their virtual digital infrastructure can identify all activity within the environment. To manage and keep pace with digital evolution, consider the following actions:
- Ensure virtual digital infrastructure can identify all activity within the environment.
- Perform periodic risk assessments of computing assets.
- Contextualize computing assets based on the probability of loss and impact on the business.
- Include third-party infrastructure agreements in risk assessments.
- Include vendor relationships in risk assessments.
- Consider cybercrime trends in the specific market during risk assessments.
2. Navigate New Security Burdens
Digital transformation has moved infrastructures into public cloud environments where Software as a Service (SaaS) reigns supreme, providing cost-saving solutions for management and maintenance functions. However, with 254 SaaS applications being used on average by companies in 2021, the cybersecurity challenge has shifted from maintaining a solid perimeter for auditing third-party vendors’ security.
While only a fraction of destructive breaches can be attributed to SaaS applications, unstructured data in individual files remains a significant target for criminals. To combat these challenges, here are some tactics to deploy:
- Implement Secure Access Service Edge (SASE) to create a virtual perimeter around your digitally transformed decentralized environment.
- Merge SASE with network security into a single service.
- Integrate Privilege Access Management (PAM) to limit access to the bare minimum required for productivity and mitigate damage from cybercrime.
- Enforce the concept of “least privilege” through PAM to avoid unnecessary elevated access and permissions for users, accounts, processes, and systems across your IT environment.
3. Recognize the Fallacy of Perfection
Even with diligent efforts, cybercriminals continue to penetrate even the most seamlessly integrated virtual infrastructures. Embracing a zero-trust approach, the industry acknowledges that networks may already be compromised, necessitating constant monitoring and robust identity governance to safeguard sensitive data.
Protecting data in various places, such as shared storage spaces, email, and employee laptops, requires a multi-faceted approach. Despite database manufacturers’ exceptional job of securing customer information, 74% of data breaches are the result of human error.
A zero-trust architecture is necessary to mitigate the risk of a breach. To build a zero-trust architecture, follow these three principles:
- Always verify and never trust.
- Implement the least privilege.
- Assume that the infrastructure has been compromised.
Zero trust is achieved by enforcing strong identity governance and compliance, using Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), implementing risk-based authentication, and continuously monitoring the system.
4. Apply Levels of Protection For Vulnerable Data
While most zero-trust implementations prioritize data encryption during transfer, there is a critical oversight regarding safeguarding unstructured data in employee files. Unfortunately, many companies have tried and failed to introduce file encryption solutions due to challenges in implementation and adoption.
The root of the problem lies in the human factor. Security measures that impede employees from carrying out their tasks will often be circumvented, leading to vulnerabilities. Additionally, traditional encryption systems can be expensive to acquire and maintain, which makes them unattainable for many businesses. File-based encryption has always been desirable, but it still needs to be improved by adoption issues and high costs.
Here’s an action list to address the issues mentioned above:
- Evaluate Current Data Protection Methods
Assess how your organization currently protects sensitive data, and identify any gaps or vulnerabilities that must be addressed.
- Protect Unstructured Data
Develop a strategy for protecting unstructured data, such as files and documents, by implementing file encryption and access controls.
- Ensure Ease Of Use
Ensure that the security measures implemented are sufficient for the ability of employees to do their jobs effectively.
- Conduct Regular Audits
Regularly review and assess the effectiveness of security measures to ensure they remain effective and identify any new vulnerabilities.
- Invest in Encryption Solutions
Evaluate different encryption solutions and invest in one that is cost-effective to purchase and maintain.
- Educate Employees
Invest in ongoing employee training on data protection, recognizing potential threats, and the proper procedures for handling sensitive data.
Focus on Criminals’ Goals
By prioritizing the protection of your employee files, you can focus on thwarting cybercriminals’ goals. Despite the implementation of complicated technology, our computing environment remains vulnerable. Protect the tactical and strategic documents that contain critical information distilled from secured systems.
When you’re ready to build the tools and processes necessary to safeguard the most basic vulnerability within your businesses, contact UDT.