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The first and last line of defence

As the frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks increase at an alarming rate, much attention has been paid to high-profile data breaches of enterprise companies. Just recently, EasyJet revealed that the personal information of 9 million customers was accessed in a cyber attack on the airline; and the examples don’t stop there. British Airways was fined £183 million in July last year after hackers stole data of half a million customers and in the same month, the Marriott hotel group was fined £99.2 million for a breach that exposed the data of 339 million customers. 

With media attention typically placed on data breaches of this scale, this could give the incorrect impression that the cyber security risk to SMBs is much smaller. It’s true that SMBs by their very nature don’t have thousands of employees or millions of global customers, but that doesn’t mean that they are not a target. Every business still has a combination of employees with personal data, payroll information, company credit cards, suppliers that use their systems – all valuable data that a hacker could potentially use to their advantage. Clearly, technology has a large role to play – but technology alone can’t prevent every type of attack.

Andrea Babbs, UK General Manager, VIPRE Security, explains how a combination of technology, regular training and tools that help the user to thwart potential hacks can provide a layered defence for organisations to mitigate the threats they face….

Technology alone is insufficient

Life and work as we know it is changing as a result of the Covid-19 crisis. Businesses were forced to implement a working from home policy (if they could) almost overnight, with many unprepared in terms of infrastructure and security. Cyber criminals have used this to their advantage, producing ever more sophisticated, convincing and dangerous methods to target businesses and individuals.

Technology, including solutions that provide a vital protection against email mistakes, can help users spot phishing attacks – such as the email that purports to come from inside the company, but actually has a cleverly disguised similar domain name. This technology can automatically flag that email when it identifies that it is not an allowed domain, enabling the user to cancel send and avoid falling for the phishing attack. In addition to email security and endpoint securitythat protects against emerging threats such as spyware, viruses, ransomware etc., this can be a valuable tool in an organisation’s armoury. 

But despite companies such as EasyJet investing significant amounts into essential cyber security software, the breach examples above clearly show that deploying technology in isolation is not enough to entirely mitigate the risk of cyber attacks. The key is to change the mindset from a full reliance on IT, to one where everyone is responsible. 

Employees are a key part of a business’ security strategy. Those that are educated about the types of threats they could be vulnerable to, how to spot them and the steps to take in the event of a suspected breach are a valuable and critical asset to a company. Employees are the soldiers on the front line in the battle against cyber criminals. They need to be trained to be vigilant, cautious and suspicious and assume their role as the last line of defence when all else fails. 

The threat landscape continues to evolve so rapidly that those businesses not conducting regular cyber security training for their employees are not secure. Relying on security software isn’t enough. But training shouldn’t just be a tickbox exercise either, a once a year session on cyber threats won’t be enough to keep the workforce sufficiently informed and vigilant. 

Security Awareness Training

Organisations cannot be expected to stay one step ahead of cyber criminals and adapt to new threats on their own. They need to recruit their employees to work mindfully and responsibly on the front lines of cyber defence. 

According to Verizon’s 2019 Breach Investigations report, 94 percent of malware is delivered by email, making it the most common attack vector. One element of ensuring that the workforce is alert to the threat of phishing emails is to conduct a regular internal phishing email campaign that can also provide analysis on which employees failed to spot the phishing attempt, and therefore, may require additional training. Would your employees know how to spot a scam attempt? What about the following real-world examples taken from actual events? 

  1. A scammer purporting to be a company executive sends an email to an employee requesting a wire transfer to be sent immediately to a supplier. With a senior colleague making the request, and added pressure at the moment to be seen as ‘working’ when working from home, the employee complies and wires funds to a fake account. 
  2. An email is sent to your outsourced HR provider claiming to be from the company CEO requesting personal employee data. Without spotting the fraudulent nature of the email, the HR provider complies and shares personal information with the scammer which could be used to create false documentation. 

Fortifying the defence strategy

The essence of a solid cyber security strategy is a layered defence that includes endpoint security, email security and a business-grade firewall for the security of your network. But even with the most sophisticated software in place, hackers make it their mission to stay one step ahead of IT defences. Employees can, therefore, be a proactive weapon in an organisation’s defence, or a hole in the fence for cyber criminals to pass straight through to the corporate network. That is why regular training, in addition to complementary security tools, can provide a fortified strategy for organisations to mitigate the threat of a cyber attack. The workforce should be trained to question everything, be cautious and double check anything that they think is suspicious. The difference between a trained and an uneducated workforce could mean the difference between an organisation surviving a cyber attack, or suffering the devastating consequences.


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