Corporate insistence on deploying traditional approaches to data security, such as building defences higher and higher, is putting businesses at risk in their approach to the modern day cyber security threat.
The increasing sophistication of hackers and the skillsets they possess to break into organisations is undeniable. To ensure sensitive data remains safe and out of the grip of criminal hackers, organisations need to rethink how and where they are investing their security budgets.
It is now imperative for businesses to focus on being proactive to minimise the potentially devastating effect of a data breach or a compromise.
The key focus of future security expenditure must be on monitoring traffic to identify suspicious activities and potential attacks. It is imperative to assess data and consider which data is critical, what the value of that data is and who might want access to it.
Education, education, education
User education is a vital component that is far too often overlooked or not fully invested in. Breaches can be dramatically decreased through the relatively straightforward and cost-effective process of educating employees and users. However, research shows that less than one per cent of security budget is spent on this.
Limiting and monitoring social media activites, blocking high-risk websites and actively testing security are all important activities, but in reality the rise of BYOD makes this challenge far reaching. So the key is to consider how you will react to and prevent the inevitable compromise.
Hackers will do whatever they can to go undetected for as long as possible, which typically means entering systems without being spotted and stealing the identity of someone within an organisation.
It is therefore vital to try and slow the lateral movement that an intruder can make within your systems: review the logs of what is happening on the networks, change admin passwords on a regular basis, restrict access to specific users.
It's also vital to have strong connections with core enforcement agencies and other companies that may be in a position to advise based on their experiences with other organisations.
Having the tools and software in place to monitor is all well and good, but having the intelligence and expertise to interpret and react are imperative to effectively dealing with incidents when they occur.
Brains as well as brawn
There's a real skill shortage on this front within UK businesses, so companies need to look to ethical hackers from respected security organisations that are focused 24x7 on protecting businesses.
This expertise will better protect companies from attacks and help them understand the risks they face, as well as helping them deal with any threats swiftly and effectively.
To survive the ever-growing threat of hacking and increasingly sophisticated online attacks, organisations must assume the mind-set of being in a state of compromise.
That assumption of compromise doesn't necessarily have to mean a guarantee of data loss; rather businesses need to rethink how they are using their security budgets. A focus on monitoring, threat detection and response will be far more beneficial than throwing money at building defences higher.
- Simon Godfrey is Sales Director, Security Practice at MTI. He has over 15 years experience in the EMEA security market, helping organisations implement effective information security, risk and compliance programmes.