The new year has begun; here comes another New Year Special from The Threat Report. Today, we take a look at how mid-tier enterprises can protect themselves from all kinds of cyberattacks- known as well as unknown ones.

2018 saw mid-tier enterprises facing lots of cybersecurity challenges, with hackers seeking to exploit all kinds of threat vectors. 2019 would definitely see cybercriminals trying to explore new technologies and challenges so that new threat vectors open up for them, helping them to attack businesses. Hence, it becomes important that we understand the possible cyber risks that mid-tier enterprises (and their employees) might have to encounter and be armed to combat them. We discuss such cyber risks and provide tips, pro-active tips, which would help prevent them. Here we go…

Prevent phishing attacks

Phishing attacks are always the most favorite of scams for cybercriminals. Of late, phishing scams have become more sophisticated; unsuspecting victims get hit by phishing emails that seem to be coming from genuine people- clients, banks, supervisors etc. Such emails would seem to be from an employee’s supervisor asking the employee to sign a very important document; it could also seem to be from a client and comprising an inquiry or an order. Sometimes it would seem to be from the victim’s bank, asking verification of account details. The unsuspecting victim would click on the given link or download an attachment, thus triggering off a cyberattack that could impact an entire organization. Experts opine that 2019 would see more sophisticated phishing scams happening and hence it’s for everyone to be prepared to combat them in the most effective of manners.

Here’s a list of things that could help prevent phishing attacks:

• If an email asks you to click on a link or download some document to verify something, it’s always good to verify with the sender directly even if the mail looks very much genuine.
• It would be good to have it as a golden rule that all email links to documents or sensitive login pages are seen as suspicious and hence handled with extreme care.
• Have sandbox-based automatic testing, wherein all email links are checked for phishing scams or malware attacks before they land up in the email inbox.
• Always visit a company’s official website and do a detailed check whenever you get a link in an email that redirects you to that website.

Prevent attacks that happen via PDFs/MS Office applications

Cybersecurity experts opine that 2019 would see the re-emergence of attacks based on MS office documents and PDFs; hackers would seek to exploit the trust that users place on PDFs and Microsoft Office applications to launch attacks. Thus, they would have a new attack vector that they could exploit to gain access to organization networks and systems. An unsuspecting victim would be lured into clicking on a PDF or document that is attached to an email; the victim, who is under the impression that all PDFs or MS office documents are safe, doesn’t realize that the one he has downloaded contains malicious content. The hacker exploits the innate human curiosity or tries to play on people’s fears and get them to open documents that contain malicious content in them.

The preventive strategies for such attacks are simple. Here’s a list of things you could do:

• Always have the latest versions of Adobe Acrobat and Microsoft Office. For this, you must always follow a policy of constantly updating your software.
• Make it a policy to do in-depth analyses of all incoming documents, irrespective of whether they come via emails or via browser downloads, or as email links. Treat all incoming documents as executables and verify them before opening them.
• Always have the necessary security programs installed; give utmost priority to sandboxing.

Prevent IoT-based attacks

This is the era of IoT (Internet of Things); hackers tend to execute attacks through IoT devices, especially those that are left connected even after use and most often remain unsecured. Such devices end up being a gateway for hackers to gain entry into enterprise networks as well. Here’s a look at things that could help prevent such attacks:

• If possible, make it a company policy to not allow employees to connect personal IoT device to the enterprise network, especially the sensitive areas of the network.
• Try to have a segmented off Wi-Fi network for connecting IoT devices (if at all they need to be connected) rather than connecting them to the main network.
• It’s not advisable to use physical jacks in the finance department, which deals with sensitive consumer data.
• Educate and train employees about security pertaining to IoT devices; they must understand how data breaches happen via smart technology products.

Prevent password hacking

People often tend to reuse earlier passwords or choose predictable passwords to make things easier for them, but they forget that in the process they are making things easier for hackers as well. Cybercriminals hack into badly designed/badly protected password databases and use these stolen credentials to gain access to enterprise networks by hacking personal emails or systems.

Here’s what you could do to prevent such attacks:

• You can go for cloud-based single sign-on, with two-factor authentication; this needs to be done for personal logins as well as for company websites/databases. This helps avoid password reuse.
• Always make it a policy not to reuse earlier passwords, though it would be a bit inconvenient.
• Always go for complex, long passwords.
• You could even think of integrating cloud-based identity management platforms into the company’s cyber-infrastructure strategy.

The moral of the story is…as we step into 2019 and get ready to face all kinds of cyber risks, it would be best, for mid-tier enterprises, to implement cybersecurity strategies that are layered as well as dynamic. They should also install all necessary software to ensure comprehensive protection; this includes real-time cloud sandboxing, next-generation firewalls, antimalware software, email security solutions etc. They should also implement proper access control and secure mobile access controls.

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