More than Just Hackers – The holistic approach to online security

We’ve said it before, and we’ll say it again: online security is a big deal.

In this digital world, our IT systems and networks are the integral engine room of our businesses. The platform from which we communicate, transact, and carry out our daily operations.

And, most importantly of all, it is where we collect, store, and use the data that drives us.

Think about what’s on your systems; contained within those hundreds, thousands, possibly millions of files, documents, emails, folders, and databases. Personal information, intellectual property, sensitive or confidential material. Data entrusted to you from clients or data that could harm you, should it fall into the wrong hands, get lost, destroyed, or compromised.

This is the data contained online, and within a company’s system. And it needs to be protected. Protected against very real, potentially catastrophic threats. Threats from which no-one is immune, and liable to hit at any time.

Cyber-attacks are rarely out of the news, of course. From a headline grabbing point of view, there’s something kind of sexy about a major corporation being struck by a cyber-criminal. It still all sounds a bit futuristic. And when you start to look at the damage – the compromised data of millions of Yahoo users, or the financial impact on Tesco Bank, for instance – then it makes for a major scandal-loving news story.

But, to an extent, this paints a distorted picture of the kind of threats to data that we all face on a daily basis. These are stories that place the focus on external factors, undoubtedly a major threat, without taking into account other threats that exist. Threats that may exist from within your system, for example, which can be equally as damaging. But, as they are less reported, are they being as carefully guarded against?

Back in mid-February, an engineer from Google discovered a bug within the code of content distributor, Cloudflare. The bug had the potential to cause data to leak from thousands of websites that use their backend service. Fortunately, the issue was quickly resolved with little damage occurring. But given that Cloudflare is used by all manner of data sensitive organisations from banks and retailers, to insurance companies and dating sites, the harm could have been enormous.

And offers a timely reminder about the ‘other’ ways in which online security can be breached, beyond the headline grabbing hacker threats.

Keeping your security robust to all threats

There’s no one catch-all solution to online security; and as the Cloudflare example highlights, focusing attention against threats from only one channel can leave you vulnerable to others. Furthermore, cyber-risks are ever-changing beasts, meaning that your security measures need to be adaptable and evolving to meet new challenges.

When you consider the costs attached to a breach in your system, both financially and to the reputation of your brand, then employing robust measures to protect yourself should be a business-critical decision.

And, as is always the case when protecting the integrity, finances, and well-being of your company, the approach should be multi-faceted; taking preventative measures, with regular scrutiny, while covering yourself against the worst-case scenarios.

High-level Security Protocols

We would like to think that it goes without saying that most businesses have the wherewithal to implement security software of one kind or other into their system. Generally adopting anti-malware software, robust firewalls, and spam / anti-phishing filters for your email systems. It’s likely that you’ve also incorporated a multi-step access system (password + security question, for example), to offer greater protection against hacking threats.

Taking the next step, adopting powerful network security protocols to your system delivers additional – and very effective – measures against unauthorised access to the data that you wish to protect.

Typically this might take the form of encryption, whereby data is scrambled and unreadable until decrypted by special algorithm. Internet Messaging apps, such as WhatsApp, will use a form of network security protocol – such as Secure Socket Layer (SSL), as they provide a means by which one can communicate and share information in a secure online environment.

Regular Penetration Tests

Penetration testing is essentially a check on the security level of your network. A test which probes your system, seeking out weak spots and areas of vulnerability. If you’re serious about protecting your system against hackers, malware, or any other threat that may exist, then you really need to ensure that your system’s security is up to the task.

Threats change, and new vulnerabilities will always emerge – maybe a piece of code or software that’s not been updated, or simply a new bug yet to be detected. Meaning that checks and maintenance of your security should be an ongoing thing. Incorporating regular penetration tests is another step towards keeping pace with a volatile, and hostile digital landscape.

Cyber liability insurance

The reality is that nothing can truly offer 100% protection against a breach. There always exists the possibility that you will be hit and effected. So why wouldn’t you protect yourself with suitable cover, should the worst occur?

You’d cover your property against fire, theft, or storm damage. When data loss or breach can be so costly – to the point that businesses can and do go under – investing in cover against cyber-attack, either through adding to an existing policy, or via a new scheme, might be the most important cover you ever take out. Saving you extraordinarily high costs to your bank account, and demonstrating a diligence that can lessen the impact on your brand, in the eyes of your clients and the market.