The Human Side of Security: Security Threats and Considerations For Today’s Mobile Workforce
While flexibility is empowering the workforce, it is also complicating data security.
- By David Konetski
- Jul 20, 2017
As an industry, even as a community, we’ve been particularly focused on external cybersecurity threats. Colossal data breaches and high profile attacks on corporate data centers and institutional networks that have originated outside victim organizations have dominated the news cycle. However, it’s going to become increasingly important to focus on insider threats and the human element of cybersecurity as workforces continue to become more mobile. Over half (52 percent) of employees already work outside of a traditional office at least one day a week, while 18 percent are working from a public location every week.[i]
Whether by malice, accident or negligence, end users – people like you and me – are increasingly responsible for network breaches. Gone are the days where we work exclusively from our offices on our desktop PCs. Today we’re working from our homes, coffee shops, co-working spaces and other locations on laptops, smartphones, tablets and desktop computers. While flexibility is empowering the workforce, it is also complicating data security. With this in mind, there are a few key areas that will become increasingly important to focus on this year: social engineering attacks, user behavior analytics and the need for a multifaceted security solution to address both internal and external threats.
Gaining Access Through Social Engineering
While many external threats start with malware or phishing, we’re seeing an increasing number of attacks using social engineering to compel users to expose their credentials like passwords and usernames. These attacks are appealing because if successful, the attacker can pose as a legitimate user – and won’t be easily caught by anti-virus or anti-malware software. Social engineering uses various methods to target specific employees’ personal information with the intent to leverage that information to deceive those employees into handing over confidential, restricted company information. According to the results of the Dell End-User Security Survey, nearly half of all employees at companies large and small are regularly accessing social media sites on their work devices, which indicates this is an area of significant exposure, and one to which we need to pay more attention.
While the employee’s actions are usually not malicious, accessing social media using the same devices that are used to access corporate data can create significant cybersecurity vulnerabilities. Once an attacker gains access to an organization’s network with credentials stolen via social engineering, they can stay in that network for any length of time, stealing critical data or plotting a larger attack without an organization realizing that the person accessing the network and its information isn’t who they say they are. This is where user behavior analytics comes in.
User Behavior Analytics
While still in its early stages, user behavior analytics is rapidly gaining interest from a wide range of organizations. User behavior analytics leverage big data techniques to help organizations identify unique patterns indicating who is accessing the network, from where, and that they are who they claim to be. If the system detects anomalous behavior, the deviation creates an alert to help organizations determine if a breach is in motion and then take steps to stop it. User behavior analytics differ from other forms of security analytics because they focus squarely on users’ behavior rather than traditional security events. If someone has had their credentials stolen, eventually, an anomaly will arise – whether that’s logging in at odd times, poking around areas of the network that they don’t normally access, or moving large amounts of data.
Organizations Need a Multifaceted Approach to Cyber Security
The combination of both internal and external threats facing organizations today creates a significant threat landscape that requires a multi-layered security solution. While user behavior analytics can help detect and flag threats from within the network, you must also put programs in place to prevent these threats from occurring in the first place. It is essential to provide employee education to help reduce the incidence of insider induced breaches. According to the Dell End User Security Survey, only thirty-six percent of those surveyed feel very confident in their knowledge of how to protect sensitive company information. Many successful attacks target users who are traditionally more vulnerable to cyber-attacks, or those who handle sensitive data – be it smaller businesses without dedicated IT resources and education programs or organizations where data is of paramount importance. Better educating employees about cybersecurity and the role they play in helping to reduce threats should be part of any organization’s security strategy.
Finally, organizations need to focus on securing their data with file-based data encryption as well as protecting against external threats with an advanced threat prevention solution. The combination of both data encryption and advanced threat prevention ensures that while we reduce and quickly detect external threats, the data remains protected whether at rest on an endpoint or when it travels, both inside and outside of the organization.
[i] Dell 2016 Future Workforce Study