Continuing Club IT’s Q&A hot streak, “The Tech Factor” hosts Ben and Sam spent their latest podcast answering questions submitted by customers, as well as popular Google searches. This week, the topic was cyber security threat management.
What Is Cyber Security Threat Management?
Broadly, this term represents the total framework and protocols you’ve established to proactively identify and respond to cyber threats. Basically, it means you’ve got a system in place—and of course, somebody managing that system. Ideally, this person will be an IT security professional.
Because cyber crime strategies are many and complex, your threat management strategy should be multifaceted. It should consist of training, policies, and software, which is why we refer to it as a system and not just a single tool or program. For small-to-medium enterprises (SME), you’re essentially trying to prevent what you can, mitigate what you can’t, and continually adapt your approach based on new information. For example:
- You can educate employees on how to recognise phishing attempts in order to prevent them from opening malicious emails.
- If somebody does follow a malicious link, you can mitigate your risk level by changing passwords immediately.
- Afterward, you may call a meeting to educate staff on the dangers of phishing attacks, so that employees can adapt their online behaviours accordingly.
What Are The 3 P’s Of Cyber Security?
When designing a cyber security system, Club IT follows the People, Process, and Policy standard. Some organisations list variants such as Product and Prosecution, but such lists are usually tailored to specific large businesses or industries.
We use People, Process, and Policy because we’ve found it to be the most beneficial mnemonic device one can follow when developing a threat management system. Here it is in a nutshell:
- People: Your staff are trained to identify threats as they appear—and to follow procedure in response to those threats.
- Process: You have processes in place for dealing with any threats encountered, so your staff know exactly what they’re expected to do when threats show up.
- Policy: You’ve implemented policies that encourage your employees to handle threats properly. (In other words, there is some concrete incentive for not being lazy about cyber security.)
I Don’t Know Where To Start. Can You Point Me In The Right Direction?
Your first step should be to consult with a professional. They will be able to assess the current state of your company’s cyber security and recommend specific steps toward threat management. It’s important to note that this is true for any size business, and it also applies to businesses with antivirus software or firewalls already in place. The human element is perhaps the biggest factor to consider in cyber security, no matter your budget or toolkit—because, regardless how cutting-edge your technology is, one bad decision by an employee could end up compromising sensitive data.
Your particular needs are different from those of other organisations, so having a professional evaluate your situation is the best first step any business can take. After all, a cafe needs a threat management system just like a submarine engineer does. But while a cafe’s needs involve protecting consumer-spending data from competitors, the submarine engineer might have blueprints to protect from foreign governments. Different data; different threats.
Why Is Threat Management So Important?
A lot of large companies get hit by cyber security attacks, and we hear about them because of their size and notoriety, but they also have the reserves to bounce back. Small-to-medium enterprises are actually most at-risk, partially because they don’t expect to catch the attention of cyber criminals. Basically, their threat management is lacking.
But small and mid-sized businesses do get attacked—all the time. And the cost is often worse for them, because they don’t have threat management systems in place to mitigate the damage, nor do they possess sufficient resources to handle the aftermath of an attack.
Every business harvests some level of data on its customers. You’re responsible for protecting that data from bad actors. If you don’t, then not only do you stand to lose your clientele, but you could find yourself in a bog of legal trouble. Whether you’re a small business owner or a psychiatrist or an entire law firm, carelessness in cyber security could easily spell the end of your practice.
What Types Of Cyber Threats Are Out There?
The three major cyber threats to be aware of are malware, phishing, and ransomware. Often, cyber criminals will use some combination of the these tactics, especially in targeted attacks. (Targeted attacks are considered by some to be the “fourth kind” of cyber threat.)
- Malware, shorthand for “malicious software”, refers to computer programs created to infect and damage other PCs against the will of the user. Familiar words like “Viruses” and “spyware” are specific terms for common types of malware.
- Phishing refers to the act of posing as a trustworthy person or party in an attempt to obtain personal information, like login info or credit card numbers, from another user. “Spear phishing” is one common type of phishing, but there are many more kinds to protect against.
- Ransomware is essentially a type of malware, but it’s specific and widespread enough to warrant emphasised awareness. It’s when an unidentified party who has already obtained the victim’s data threatens to use it against their will—either by withholding it from the user or by publishing it on the dark web. “Exfiltration” is an example you may be aware of, but again, there are many other types.
- Finally, targeted threats are malware designed to compromise a specific organisation or industry. Any of the above categories may be weaponised in a targeted attack, depending on where you’re vulnerable and how the cyber criminal is able to gain access to your sensitive data.
Is There Anything I Can Do Myself To Be Safer From Cyber Threats?
Yes! Club IT strongly advises the use of complex passwords, multi-factor authentication, and awareness training (which you can even Google for free resources). For more information on what these entail, check out our article on cyber security threats.
Because cyber security is constantly evolving, we could quite literally talk forever about it and never run out of issues to address. And with so many people working from home now, there’s an even larger attack surface—that is, more opportunities for cyber criminals to attack. Please try to consult with a professional as soon as possible—and if your consultant tells you your system is perfectly secure, find another one. No one is impenetrable; no one’s security is perfect. But there is a lot that you can do to protect yourself, and the best time to learn threat management is now.
Get In Touch With The Experts
The experts at ClubIT welcome your enquiries and are more than happy to assist in keeping yourself and your business safe from cyber threats. Please don’t hesitate to get in touch with us as soon as possible!