Opinion

Tips for reducing security risks in 2013

It is a well-known fact that the world of business has changed beyond all recognition in recent years. As technology has evolved, so has the world of e-commerce, mobile and digital, to the extent that the business and technological landscape is completely different to that of three or four years ago. 

At the same time, however, it is important to remember that we have also seen the security threats that businesses face consistently evolving at the same rate.

While it is impossible to predict where we will be in four or five years' time, and which security threats will be most prominent, it is easier to predict what the main security bug-bears of 2013 will be. 

Here are my best educated guesses, in no particular order, along with my recommended solutions for dealing with them.

Advanced persistent threats

Advanced persistent threats (APTs) are likely to become a growing threat in 2013, as attackers broaden their target areas. Traditionally, these highly sophisticated attacks have been reserved for the defence establishment. However, perpetrators are increasingly targeting enterprises across a range of industries. 

Enterprises need to be aware that APT attackers have increasing resources to sustain targeted, multi-pronged attacks over a long period of time. To counteract APTs, IT security practitioners need to understand and locate the vulnerabilities that APTs exploit. 

Intelligence gathering needs to go a step beyond just researching malware, to understanding the systems used by an organisation and what the risks are. Consequently, strategies and policies should be devised to mitigate the risks and vulnerabilities, as user education is paramount to prevent social engineering.

We must remain focused on security in 2013 to stay safe and secure and make it a tough year for would-be attackers

Pat Phillips, Xceed Group

Recommendation: Advanced intelligence gathering to form strategies to prevent an APT attack.

Mobile malware

An increase in bring-your-own-device (BYOD) schemes poses a significant security risk to enterprises. Not only are these devices at risk of contracting malware, challenges can also be seen if a device is lost or stolen. In addition, mobile devices are being used to access social media, increasing the chances of reputational damage. 

A practical and standardised policy should be put in place to ensure that the risks of a security breach are minimal. Restricting or controlling access to confidential information will minimise the risks of a security breach. Determining clear security policies on the use of personal devices in the workplace will also benefit the security of the enterprise. Such policies should be enforced by technology.

Recommendation: Educate employees, create security policies for BYOD schemes and apply through technology.

Cloud computing

Security within IT environments is a difficult and complex challenge, even more so in the cloud due to its seamless scalability, multi-tenancy and third-party housing.

The use of datacentres for cloud environments has raised a number of questions concerning security. A common misconception is that the responsibility of data lies with the service provider, when in fact it is with the company in question in which responsibility lies. 

Organisations have been reluctant to use cloud environments as they may have no way of determining whether their data is being treated with the same level of diligence that they would use themselves.

Recommendation: Adopt information security audits with service suppliers as part of an overall best practice framework. Use best practice security models when determining the storage of data.

Internal threats

IT departments have focused a great amount of time, effort and expenditure on minimising the risk of a security breach from external sources. Nevertheless, one of the biggest threats to enterprises comes from internal breaches. 

Interestingly, internal breaches caused by malicious intent are remarkably low, while the majority are due to employee negligence. The main problem is employees using the internet for personal use, increasing the risks of virus infection and spyware. 

This is a problem that has been consistent over the past few years. Enterprises have attempted to minimise the problems through controls and policies in the past, however there is now a significant shift to allow such access. The associated risks should be understood and mitigated.

Recommendation: Introduce educational awareness for employees and perimeter vulnerability scanning.

Of course, this is by no means an exhaustive list, and there are a number of other threats that we shall no doubt come up against in the coming 12 months, but let’s all remain diligently focused on security in 2013 to make sure we stay safe and secure and make it a tough year for would-be attackers!


Pat Phillips is practice director at independent IT and business change professional services firm Xceed Group.


Image: Thinkstock

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This was first published in January 2013

 

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