Apply basic best practices to mitigate cyber risks


Businesses can mitigate most of the cyber security risks by applying basic best practices and having the right defenses for their size, complexity, importance of their data and business continuity advises Dimitris Raekos, GM, Eset Middle East.

Q1. Always-on connectivity required by smart devices opens up greater avenues for cyber criminals. What are some of the entry points and how they can be plugged to protect against imminent threats?

Users are embracing smart devices both in their home and business environment so do their security problems. The problem with IoT devices is that they are very broad in applications; available for entertaining & recreational activities but also for smart buildings, industrial automation and off course office use. Unfortunately majority of smart devices have certain vulnerabilities or lack proper configuration therefore cyber attackers are always looking to monetize such opportunities. In order to be as generic as possible, it is a very good idea to select devices whose firmware can be upgraded easily. A web research can unveil this process by showing the availability of the updates and hence this is a good indicator for someone to decide on the vendor. Moreover, it is really important to have a manual in a language that is well understood and always change the default passwords to something more complicated.

Q2. Online businesses especially financial institutions are innovating to offer personalized experience to their customers. What are the challenges they face and how are they addressing these challenges?

Financial institutions are always a target and black hats are always looking to find their weaknesses. One of the biggest challenges of an organization that processes financial and personal data is – compliance. Making sure that the client data is safe might be quite complicated especially when they are outsourcing activities to reduce costs, for example, via external call centers or cloud services. Therefore they need to make sure that their suppliers or subcontractors are following the required security measures. Something very important to point out is that complying with regulations doesn’t make an organization 100% secure, however it creates a good corporate framework and culture. In addition, customers are looking to receive the same experience from different channels 24/7 therefore this increases the exposure risk of the organization for cyber-attacks and for compliance as they will need to balance and satisfy both customers and regulatory authorities.

Q3. With changing demands on the modern networks, how can businesses ensure all-round network security?

Nowadays, through dark-web you can find a wide range of ransomware packages offered as a service, just as if it were a legal software. On top of that, various services offer credentials that give access to servers in various parts of the world via remote desktop protocol (RDP). The prices are in the range of US$8-15 per server and you can search by country, by operating system, and even by which payment site users have accessed from that server. If we also add the vulnerabilities of IoT devices that are entering the office space and touching company’s data, we have a very dangerous mix.
Businesses can mitigate most of the above cyber security risks by applying basic best practices and having the right defenses for their size, complexity, importance of their data and business continuity. Best practices include a recognized Endpoint Security protection that will not remain with the default settings but it will properly configured as per the environment requirements. Employment of 2FA can protect access on local area network and cloud resources of organizations including emails, server logins, CRMs, ERP etc. Backing up the data is always important because whatever measure taken we should be aware that cyber criminals might be one step ahead. Larger organizations are suggested to have more network intelligence by monitoring the traffic of their internal network for potential anomalies and APTs.

Despite the suggested measures, all of the above can fall apart by the lack of awareness of a single user therefore it is crucial that employees must follow a cyber awareness training.

Q4. Please give us a sense of the enterprise security market in the Middle East and how prepared are businesses?

During the last couple of years we have observed significant efforts from the government, vendors and managed security providers to increase the awareness in organizations and individuals related to cybersecurity risks. Large enterprises and organizations have already started adopting appropriate strategies. One of the biggest flops of enterprises are the marketing hypes around important technologies that include or are solely based on machine learning, artificial intelligence and blockchain. Therefore, it is very important to understand these technologies; and be aware up to what degree can help them. In a recent ESET study we have seen IT people be confused from the terminology used by different vendors therefore organizations need to seek more clarity from vendors and their claims to avoid unpleasant situations.

Q5. Data in cloud environments poses unique challenges. Are businesses able to protect their data against

It is quite difficult to keep your data safe inside a local network, similarly risks and more exposure exists when data is in the cloud. Cloud providers usually have stronger security measures in place for their compliance but again nobody can reassure that data will be safe. Companies should take their own protective measures whatsoever. Before they choose their preferred cloud service provider they should carefully read the T&C of the agreement and find out where their data will be located. They should start by using 2FA wherever possible, and give a lot of importance to passwords and they over-usage. If their data is really critical, it should be encrypted or alternatively use a cloud service that offers such functionality.