Home>8 Common Security Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

8 Common Security Mistakes and How to Avoid Them

By |2019-09-12T10:54:10-07:00April 20th, 2018|

In today’s digital landscape, ignoring your company’s security or looking at it as an afterthought isn’t an option. It should be one of — if not the — primary focus of your operations. You see, business threats come in many shapes and sizes, including employee theft, vandalism, break-ins and the all-encompassing data breach.

To protect your business, employees, customers and all the data you handle, you need to establish security protocols and procedures across all facets of your business operations. While your physical and on-site activities may be secure, the digital aspect can be a little hazy, especially if you don’t have a background in IT.

Human error accounts for 52% of security breaches

And, believe it or not, some of the most common security mistakes are preventable with basic cybersecurity training. Did you know, for example, that human error accounts for 90 percent of cyberattacks? That means a data break-in could be the result of uneducated team members.

Knowing common IT security threats, and how you can be preventing cybersecurity mistakes is half the battle. That’s why we’re going to explore some of the missteps and problems you might encounter, plus how to remedy them.

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The 8 Most Common Cybersecurity Mistakes Businesses Make

1. Failure to Monitor Access Points and Log User Activity

On a public network, it’s considered shady to snoop and log the activities of your users. However, when you’re talking about an internal network, with access to sensitive information, that’s another matter.

Failure to track who has access to your network, as well as what they’re doing with your data can lead to complications down the line. For starters, when there is a breach you have no way of identifying the source of the problem. Even worse, it will take ages to discover what they were doing or what data they stole.

Phishing and social engineering are the most significant security threats

How to Monitor Access Points and Log User Activity

Whether your company relies on BYOD devices — personally owned equipment — or company-issued devices, you need a monitoring toolset. You should be logging the users connecting to your network, as well as recording their activity and operations while on- or off-site. If an employee logs in from home to do some remote work, for instance, it’s critical to record their actions — just as you would in the office.

There are plenty of tools and security systems that can facilitate this, many of them automated. If you outsource your IT and security, your provider likely already has the necessary gear and software to do this. Just make sure your internal or external team implements a system for monitoring access points and user activity.

By logging activity and user logins, you can identify unauthorized access or trace malicious actions back to their source, allowing you to take action right away. Imagine locking out an infected user and all their connected devices, for instance, the moment you detect an unauthorized intrusion or data access — not hours afterward.

2. Failure to Educate Your Workforce

Remember that statistic about human error? Yeah, it’s scary, but you still have to do something about it which means training and educating your employees.

Phishing is an incredibly common scam, both in the business and consumer world. In fact, 65 percent of professionals note that phishing and social engineering are the most significant security threat to their organization. And it’s a risk that’s only amplified when you consider how many people you employ.

What is phishing? It’s when a party creates a fake, mirrored site or portal that looks a lot like a legitimate one. Victims visit the site and enter or submit information, such as their credentials — none the wiser that they’re sending that sensitive data right to a hacker or shadow party.

Outside of phishing scams, you have malware, spyware, viruses and Trojan horses to worry about too. But security mistakes can happen outside of the digital world. Consider an employee writing down their password or account information on a piece of paper that gets misplaced. Or another staff member sharing account access with colleagues or external parties. Both scenarios could have dangerous outcomes.

How to Prevent an Uneducated Workforce

Make security a company-wide process that starts with the higher-ups and filters all the way down the employee chain. Establish security processes and protocols that favor system and account protections, and find ways to update systems where and whenever possible.

A technique many businesses will use is sending out a fake phishing scam. The company then tracks how many people clicked on the email, as well as how many entered their credentials. Those numbers are then shared and begin a conversation and seminar on detecting phishing scams.

3. Failure to Map Your Data Flow

For most businesses, data is the lifeblood of the company. It’s how you understand your customers and target audience, as well as how you interact with the world. If you lose control or access to your data flow or don’t know where it’s going, you’re going to run into some headache-worthy problems later.

So, where is your data? Is it stored remotely in the cloud? Do you have an on-site server farm that is open and accessible to all your employees? Do you have data backups and protective systems in place in the event of a hardware failure? Where is your data going, and what parties have access?

How to Prevent a Loss of Data Flow

Monitor and chart your data flow, especially if it’s going back and forth between your company and a third-party. Who has access to the data along the entire transfer route? Where does it come to rest? Can you prevent unauthorized parties from viewing or editing the data? Can you trust your cloud storage and remote providers?

These are all things you need to identify and iron out. After at understanding the flow of your data to and from your organization, you can take steps to protect it. That may mean switching providers, initiating access levels for data, implementing further security measures and more. Each case is different.

4. Failure to Test Your Security

Another common cybersecurity mistake? Not testing your company’s network to discover loopholes.

The number of devices at organizations is growing — and fast. Not only do you need to worry about computers and laptops these days, but you also have to consider tablets, smartphones, web applications and wearables. Then there are separate databases, networks and hardware and even internal applications.

And guess what? They all require regular testing — automated or not — to check for vulnerabilities and weak points. Every access point could be a potential threat and comes with its own set of risks and problems. It’s your team’s job to discover them before someone outside your organization does.

How to Prevent Zero Security Testing

Preventing this cybersecurity mistake starts with deep-dive penetration and real-world testing, along with vulnerability scanning. You might also want to consider a form of user feedback, which allows external parties to report potential issues. Feedback can help you highlight problems you would have never discovered otherwise.

5. Failure to Stop Shadow IT Channels

It’s important to understand that no matter how many regulations, guidelines or control systems you put in place, not everyone is going to play by the rules. This fact is especially applicable to employees or personnel that regularly use personal devices for work, or vice versa.

Your employees are going to use unauthorized applications or tools, otherwise known as “shadow IT” channels. By 2020, a third of successful attacks experienced by enterprises will originate from shadow IT resources.

How to Prevent Shadow IT Channels

In most cases, you cannot stop shadow IT channels from happening, but that doesn’t mean you should be blind to it. Do what you can to profile and assess risk from shadow applications, then deploy controls or preventative measures. At the very least, you should have enough information to pass on warnings to your workforce. You can advise against using select apps or tools that have a higher risk than others, for example

6. Failure to Evaluate IT

Currently, there is a significant shortage of cyber security skills and knowledge, and it’s not likely to change anytime soon. It’s a common cyber security mistake, however, for companies to look at their IT team as the best in the business. And while that may be true for organizations specializing in cyber security, it’s often not the case for those outside the industry.

By not evaluating your IT team, you put your business at risk. While IT staff may be talented in other areas, they may not have the skills to manage your company’s cybersecurity. It’s not uncommon for many IT departments to be understaffed as well, which can lead to a shortage of time for managing your company’s security.

How to Prevent Limited IT Departments

Take an objective look at your IT department. What are their skills? How much knowledge do they have about cybersecurity? Is there a shortage of time and resources to manage your company’s cybersecurity?

If you find your team isn’t capable of securing your company’s data, don’t be afraid to enlist help with your IT and cybersecurity needs. Many third-party organizations specialize in this area, giving your team assistance during times of severe traffic, network strain or a full-on attack of your systems.

7. Failure to Create a Reactionary Strategy

So many organizations and IT departments focus on the preventative maintenance side of cybersecurity. Yes, it’s essential to ensure that you can control and prevent attacks on your systems. That shouldn’t be the only thing you focus on, though.

What ends up happening for many companies is they encounter a breach or attack — and end up defenseless. The average time attackers stay hidden on a network — with continuous access — is more than 140 days. They remain quiet and leech data for as long as possible.

If you invest all your resources into the preventative side of the equation, yet little in reactionary strategies, you’re going to be sitting on your hands while hackers take advantage of your weakened system. And, unfortunately, you may not even know it’s happening until you’ve lost that valuable data.

The average cyber attacker stays hidden on a network for 140 days

How to Prevent a Non-Existent Reactionary Strategy

Split the difference and invest as much time with reactionary and damage control processes. When a hacker gains access to your systems, how long will it take to identify the breach? Will you be able to lock them out and prevent further damage? Can you ensure data is encrypted and secure, even if extracted? How quickly can you close the vulnerability? These are all questions and concerns that need addressing.

8. Failure to Disclose a Breach or Attack

You’ve likely heard of the Equifax attack by now. What’s particularly disconcerting is that they waited so long to disclose the breach to their customers and audience. This decision further emphasized how the company approached its cybersecurity, as the attack was preventable.

In the time Equifax stayed silent, many customers and their information may have been used to cause immense damage — such as identity theft. Because of Equifax’s choices, its brand has lost credibility and trust, which are critical factors for a company involved in the credit industry.

How to Prevent Non-Disclosure of a Breach or Attack

Do not wait. At some point, you’re going to encounter a breach, it’s inevitable. Take action as soon as possible, and then disclose the attack to your customers. Share how you’re going to protect or compensate the affected individuals, and what you’re doing to combat and prevent future hacks. Establishing communication channels without delay will do wonders for your reputation.

Avoid Common Cyber Security Mistakes with BlackStratus

As you’ve no doubt realized, some of the most common IT security mistakes are avoidable. Education and training is a great start, plus informing your employees and customers makes a substantial difference in combatting security threats. Phishing emails and messages, for example, can be easily spotted if you know what you’re looking for, and how to avoid them.

59% of employees steal proprietary corporate data after quitting or being fired

Other IT security mistakes relate to internal practices and policies. If you use physical authentication to access systems — like a key card or badge — it’s important you train your personnel on keeping it safe. Not sharing access with third parties or friends, as well as tracking the location of these items, is critical too as a whopping 59 percent of employees steal proprietary corporate data after being fired, or when they quit.

Some of the other IT security mistakes are a little tougher to prevent, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t try. Establish a plan early, both preventative and reactive. Find ways to enforce the policies across your organization. If someone is not following the rules and putting your company and data at risk, then you need to take action.

Create a culture of security and protection, and you’ll have a whole lot less to worry about in your day-to-day activities. And if you need support, Black Stratus can help. Not only do we provide a log management solution, LOGStorm™, but we also offer a cloud-based security solution — CYBERShark.

Learn why companies trust us to manage more than one million devices by contacting us today.

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Rich Murphy