Summary: Reports of major corporations to individuals subjected to a cyber-attack can be read about nearly every day.
You used to be able to visit a physical store or purchase online a security software program that would protect your computer from malware attacks. The software was sufficient to protect your computer from external attacks in what you thought was a smart cyber defense/security move. In the case that some malware got through, it was easy enough to clean up and move on as if nothing happened. This is no longer the case. Reports of major corporations to individuals subjected to a cyber-attack can be read about nearly every day. No one is safe from an attack, mostly because potential victims of cyber-attacks are not taking the proper steps to setup strong cyber security and defense guidelines. With that said, cyber defense is in no way the same thing as cyber security.
In order for cyber defense to be effective, cyber security must have some strategy involved. The hope that simple software to block cyberattacks is enough to protect our information is no longer possible. While cyber security means the state of being protected against attacks, cyber defense is the anticipation of fighting back against attacks. Cyber defense focuses on preventing, detecting and providing timely responses to attacks so that no information is altered. A proper defense devises and guides a strategy that can counter the malicious attacks. Some of these strategies include reducing the appeal of the environment to possible attackers, enacting preventative controls to ensure attacks would be expensive, understanding the critical locations and sensitive information, reaction and responsive capabilities, and attack detection capability. Cyber defense is a complex process. Finding a way to minimize the complexity of a strong defense will enable your company to stay on pace with the threat without expending additional resources than necessary. Today’s cyber attackers are much more sophisticated and determined to break through your barriers to gain the information they want. They don’t care who the company is, large or small, public or private, they will find a way to get what they want, even if it is just to tear down your computer network.
Ransomware is the latest way of attacking companies. The hacker is able to get into the company’s system and take control, holding it ransom until the company pays the price. Quite often the companies that fall victim to this kind of attack do not have a proper cyber defense program. They may have a mixture of different cyber security programs but those programs do not work together to build complete protection, instead leaving several holes that attacks can find their ways through.
Possibly the greatest challenge companies face is that any employee could be attacked. It is not just the higher level executives that are targeted by cyber attackers, it can be the lower level employees who are not properly prepared or educated on safe cyber practices. Companies, and thus their employees, rely on their security programs to protect them, resulting in careless actions like opening up emails from unknown sources or entering questionable websites.
In order for a company to keep their information safe in all areas and at all levels, there needs to be a level of respect and knowledge of the tools, tactics, and procedures cyber attackers use. To properly defend against cyber-attacks, companies must change their mindset that they are under attack even if they don’t think their company is important enough to be a target.
Software like Darktrace acts like a human immune system instead of just a barrier to keep threats out. Regional head of the program, Sanjay Aurora explained, “Once you understand the devices and people, once you notice subtle changes within the network, you establish a pattern of life, and whether it is lateral movement or unusual activity – maybe an employee using a device they don’t normally use, or a fingerprint scanner acting unusually – the immune system notices and takes action, detecting these things in network before they become a headline.”
The ever constant problem is that whatever processes or programs companies use to protect from cyber attackers can be learned and eventually used against the company. Hackers are resourceful and willing to learn what they need to get what they want, and they want your company’s protected information. Thomas LaRock of SolarWinds said, “Think of this as a spy game, where you have agents that go from one side to another. There is bound to be a person somewhere right now working on machine learning models to deter crime. One day they could be found to be working for the criminals, using machine learning models to help commit crime.”
The need for cyber defense has grown. The National Centers of Academic Excellence in Cyber Defense has established a program to focus and learn about how to protect national information infrastructure and reduce vulnerabilities to cyber-attacks. They do this by promoting higher education and training in the area. More students are exploring cybersecurity degrees at the undergraduate and graduate levels to answer the need. As head of the University of Georgia’s Department of Computer Science Thiab Taha said, “We would like to educate students so that they can actually combat the hacking invading a lot of people’s privacy and security.” Senior Vice President for Academic Affairs and Provost Pamela Whitten added, “Cybersecurity touches nearly every aspect of modern life…”
Whatever route your company takes towards cyber security and cyber defense, both are equally important considerations and steps to take toward protecting your company. Utilizing just one method is not enough to protect your company from an attack and neither is keeping just one method of defense. Your defense methods must be ever-changing to keep up with the adapting hackers.
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