In the cyber world, we often hear about how everyone today is vulnerable to attack–Be it businesses, individuals, or even nations, no one is safe from the cyber threats that run rampant today. Though we know generally what the term means, it is important for us to define what it means to be vulnerable in the context of cybersecurity.
So, what is cybersecurity vulnerability? Vulnerability is a term that refers to a flaw in a company’s system which leaves it exposed to and defenseless against the attacks of cyber criminals. A company is considered vulnerable when there are little-to-no protections between its data and malicious actors who want to steal that information. It’s like protecting your car from being broken into–if you leave it unlocked, it is much easier for criminals to get inside; by locking the vehicle, however, you make it that much harder for people to break in, and they will likely skip over your car to get into one that is easier to attack. Hackers often do the same thing when it comes to secure and vulnerable entities.
There are numerous flaws within a company that can leave it vulnerable, and among some of the most dangerous of these cybersecurity vulnerabilities are access control issues, buffer overflows, and social engineering.
Access Control Issues
Access controls are a major factor for any business’ operations in that they determine who is allowed to do what. This authorization is referred to as privileges (or permissions) which are access rights granted by the operating system. This can mean figuring out who is allowed into a company’s server room or determining who has access to private files that include sensitive client data.
If used properly, access controls can keep your business safe by not allowing certain information or locations to be easily accessed by everyone, even some employees within the company who simply do not need access to that information. If these controls are misused or not used at all, however, it can put your company data at risk by having control out of your hands.
Buffer overflow is a very common cybersecurity vulnerability that is, unfortunately, also very hard to detect. A buffer is a reserved memory space; in a buffer overflow attack, an application, one that stores data in more space than its buffer, is exploited into manipulating other buffer addresses and using them for the criminal’s vicious plans. The manipulation of other buffer addresses includes overwriting the data, damaging that data, and sometimes deleting the data as well. Thankfully this vulnerability is as hard for the hackers to carry out as it is for systems to detect.
Social engineering is a focused attack which tries to trick users into divulging confidential information, such as organization secrets, or granting them access to private company computers without the victim’s knowledge. It is easier for cyber criminals to trick humans than to hack into your company through intricate code, so this is a common attack method for these malicious actors. There are multiple scams included in social engineering, but the most prevalent of this type of vulnerability appears in the form of phishing emails.
The best way to protect against a phishing email is to educate your employees on what to look for, including (1) an urgent request/deadline, (2) an embedded link within the email, (3) poor grammar or spelling throughout, and (4) the email appears to be coming from an unknown sender. Social engineering is different from other cybersecurity vulnerabilities in that it preys on the weaknesses and lack of knowledge in the human operators of computers, rather than entering the business through a flaw in the technology itself.
How to Reduce Your Company’s Vulnerabilities
Vulnerabilities are what cybersecurity companies like Axiom seek to reduce in businesses everywhere. As with anything in the cyber world, there is no silver bullet solution to keeping your company safe from its own network flaws; however, there are a few things you can do in order to reduce your company’s vulnerabilities:
- Educate your Employees– Employees can be your weakest link in regards to cybersecurity if they are not knowledgeable about looming threats and vulnerabilities–educate these employees, however, and you’ve got your greatest asset in the fight to stay secure. Not only should IT employees be well-versed in current cybersecurity vulnerabilities, but for all employees, from the highest level executives to the newest interns, cybersecurity education needs to be a company-wide mission. If an employee authorizes something that they are not aware is malicious, no firewall can say that it is not allowed; employees are the first line of defense in protecting your data.
- Run a vulnerability analysis– By running such an assessment, you can spot security holes and flaws that leave you vulnerable to attack. Generally this process first defines flaws, identifies them if they are present, and then classifies them into their proper categories. Once these existing threats are known to your company, you can take the necessary steps to secure your business in these areas. Knowing where you stand currently in regards to cybersecurity vulnerability can give you an idea as to whether or not your security defenses are where they need to be to give you the peace of mind that you are properly protected.
- Keep software security patches updated– These patches can remedy flaws or security holes that were found in your vulnerability analysis. For those who can be forgetful in keeping anti-virus and anti-malware software up-to-date, you can set up automatic updates to stay ahead of this security flaw.
- Back up and encrypt your sensitive data– Locate where your important data, such as names, social security numbers, bank account information, passwords, and other personally identifiable information (PII), is stored and make it as secure as you possibly can. By having backed-up copies of this sensitive information and then encrypting these files, hackers won’t even be able to use this data if they are sneaky enough to steal it.
- Talk to a professional– Taking on the task of securing your business can be a challenge, but you don’t have to go it alone. Many companies, particularly smaller businesses who lack an in-depth IT department, reach out to professionals to manage their cybersecurity defenses. Axiom Cyber Solutions is proud to be helping businesses of all sizes across the country to get and stay secure from those flaws that leave them vulnerable with our SecureAmerica Automated Threat Defense Platform.
All companies are vulnerable to attack–in fact IT professionals say it’s not a matter of if an entity will experience a data breach, but rather when. That being said, by implementing these steps above, you can make it harder for hackers to get to your private information and make yourself and your company less vulnerable to attack.
Hailey R. Carlson | Axiom Cyber Solutions | 1/17/2017