cyber security

We have often observed  that cybersecurity professionals are a lot like first responders. That is, they train, practice and endlessly condition themselves for the big red alarm to ring so they can save the world from cybermiscreants. Some people are comfortable in that role and others aren't, which is often the determining factor in whether someone is a successful cybersecurity leader.

The pandemic has brought cybersecurity front and center for state and local governments and corporate sectors, but under different names and categories. Whether the hot topic is working from home, or unemployment benefits enrollments, or streamlining business processes using digital signatures, cyberleaders must seize this opportunity.
Working from home certainly belongs in that list of hot topics, since COVID-19 has resulted in government organizations and corporate organisation transitioning a majority of their office-based employees to some form of remote work. This initially looked like a temporary measure, but it's becoming increasingly clear that many of those remote workers may never be returning to their government cubicles. Security leaders need to shift their response from viewing remote work vulnerabilities as a temporary problem and begin identifying more permanent solutions.
Employees working from home are playing games and trolling Facebook and Instagram on the same computers they are using to access sensitive data. How is your agency's security awareness training?
That's the kind of question organization’s chief information security officers can expect to hear more often than not , from the  policymakers who are their bosses. CISOs have struggled for years to be taken seriously as business leaders and deserving of membership on the executive leadership team. The COVID-19 pandemic is their moment to prove they belong, but responsibility is the price they must pay for a seat at the table. "Security is not a problem you solve, it's a long-term business risk you manage," says security expert and entrepreneur Matt Devost. "It is important that your security program doesn't focus just on short-term goals, but that you also play the long game. As the CISO, you need to have a compass, not a map."

With business continuity and operational resilience at stake, awareness of key cybersecurity considerations is crucial, as many organizations look at a long-term shift towards work from home. There are few points which we have to keep in mind while framing business continuity principals.
Digital Empathy – Security has proven to be the foundation for digital empowerment in a remote workforce. Cloud-based endpoint protection technology enables employees to work when, where, and how they need to work and can allow them to use the devices and apps they find most useful to get their work done.  After all, security technology is fundamentally about improving productivity and collaboration through inclusive end-user experiences.
 Zero Trust – Over the past two years, Zero Trust has emerged as a key security philosophy for businesses. COVID-19 has allowed for a real-life demonstration of why it’s important. Companies relying on traditional ideas of securing workers through “walls and moats” at the perimeter (aka firewalls) were both more susceptible to COVID-19 themed threats and were less able to meet the demands of a newly remote workforce.
Zero Trust shifted from an option to a business imperative in the first 10 days of the pandemic. The Zero Trust architecture will eventually become the industry standard, which means everyone is on a Zero Trust journey whether they know it or not.
 Diverse data for better threat intelligence – A blend of automated tools and human based insights are needed to identify new COVID-19 themed threats. With adversaries adding new pandemic themed lures to their phishing attacks, organizations need to bolster their security foundation with strong threat intelligence, which is derived from analyzing a diverse set of products, services and feeds from around the globe.
  Building Cyber Resilience – It is human nature to plan for the last crisis. Global events like COVID-19 highlight the need to have a response plan that expects the unexpected.  A strategic combination of planning, response, and recovery helps establish a comprehensive Cyber Resilience strategy to enable secure remote work options, whether in the short or longer term.
  Integrated security – People often thought about security as a solution to deploy on top of an existing infrastructure, but events like COVID-19 showcase the need for truly integrated security for companies of all sizes. As a result, integrated security solutions are now seen as imperative.
As organizations adapt to the new reality and its cybersecurity implications, there is an equally critical, if not higher, need to educate employees so they don’t become the weakest link in the security chain. This can be accomplished through:
  Educating employees on the importance of Multi-Factor Authorization (MFA) solutions and setting up MFA for digital tools is an important way that organizations can reduce the risk of identity compromise.
  Communicating employee guidelines clearly, including sharing information on how to identify phishing attempts, distinguishing between official communications and suspicious messages that violate company policy, and the procedure of reporting suspicious email.
  Selecting a trusted application which ensures end-to-end encryption for enabling remote working audio/video calling. With the barrage of news and ongoing discussions, many users are in crisis mode, making them more vulnerable than ever to deception.

Cyber-Security lessons learned from the pandemic

1. Don’t take the bait
Phishing remains a popular—and effective—technique for attackers. It is an attempt to steal credentials and obtain sensitive information, often by an e-mail message containing a link to a seemingly legitimate Website. Phishing is the top threat action used in cyber-security breaches, according to Verizon’s 2020 Data Breach Investigations Report. To combat phishing, employees should know how official communications will be sent, treat unknown e-mails and links as suspicious, and have an easy way to alert their IT security team.

2. Improve cyber-security training
Most cyber-security training revolves around workplace use, with passing mention of security best practices while on business travel. Remote work opens the door to risks posed by unknown Wi-Fi networks, shared workspaces, wireless printers, and similar technologies not vetted by IT security. Cyber-security training should include best practices for remote work, covering: working environment, router security, use of a virtual private network (VPN), oversharing screens during online meetings, personal use of company computers, and IT support.
3. Secure collaboration tools
Collaboration tools, such as online meeting services, are now the norm for remote teams to communicate. Recent headlines have shown they can have security gaps if not configured properly. Meeting organizers should use built-in security features, such as waiting rooms, password protection, and other settings to control participants’ capabilities (e.g., printing, participant lists, document sharing, recording). Participants should not share meeting links publicly or with people who don’t have a need to know. Virtual meeting software should be regularly updated to the current version, or have auto-update enabled. Finally, employees should only accept meeting invites from expected and trusted sources.
4. Embrace distance learning and telemedicine
Education and healthcare changed dramatically when millions of students across the country found themselves suddenly unable to go to school and millions of patients could not see their doctors or receive the healthcare they needed. Both schools and hospitals have been prime targets for ransomware—where cyber-attackers encrypt or lock down a victim’s files/networks and demand a ransom to restore access—a threat only enhanced by COVID-19. To combat this, schools and hospitals should update their cyber-security risk assessment to encompass distance learning and telemedicine tools, as well as provide enhanced cyber-security training for educators and healthcare professionals.
5. Adopt the NIST cyber-security framework
Improve cyber maturity by adopting the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework as a guide for building a strong cyber-security foundation. It provides exhaustive guidance around five steps, or functions—Identify, Protect, Detect, Respond & Recover—that could help transform an organization’s cyber-security risk management posture from reactive to proactive.
Beyond a response to COVID-19, adopting the NIST Cybersecurity Framework will demonstrate to customers and regulators that an organization takes cyber-security seriously.
COVID-19 is a wake-up call to the world that economies must adapt quickly to survive and prosper. It brought into sharp relief our dependence on technology and its vulnerabilities. Continued vigilance is the ultimate lesson.
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