by Joe Hewitson
Take a moment and think back to what life was like 20 or so years ago. What tech themes do you remember most from that golden age of computing? Was it the sounds of R2-D2 emanating from your modem as you joined the growing online community? Or, perhaps you recall best those glorious moments when you finally reached the end of The Oregon Trail without losing your brother to dysentery.
Whatever pops into your mind first, it probably wasn’t related to IT security strategy. Indeed, the fizzle of Y2K arguably represents the scariest issue faced back then, but we live in a very different world now. Cybercrime has evolved into a massive industry, and cybersecurity risk has grown right alongside it. With that in mind, here are a few things you need to know about potential vulnerabilities within the current state of global cybersecurity, so you can update your cybersecurity strategy to fend off modern threats and keep the business secure on all fronts.
The internet has become the vehicle through which users can explore the world. Without it, the world would undoubtedly plunge into dark chaos and never-ending boredom. After all, what’s left for people to do when they can’t scroll through status updates, tweets, and cat pics?
The business world is no different, and yet in 2001, much of the United States had to deal without such connectivity in the wake of the September 11 terrorist attacks. Due to a power outage from the event, a critical internet hub was brought offline as detailed by a recent Harvard Kennedy School report. While you may not remember that specific outage—and it may seem like forever ago—it serves as a poignant reminder that despite its immense distribution, the internet is still susceptible to physical attacks at critical points.
How can your security strategy possibly account for such an attack? The answer is actually quite simple: Make sure your online assets are geographically distributed. By decentralizing your business’s online profile, you distribute cybersecurity risk, as well.
When you visit a website or use an online service, communication between your device and the remote server is accomplished through packets of data. While that may seem like common knowledge to you, the Border Gateway Protocol (BGP) is not well known or understood by many non-tech savvy employees. This protocol is responsible for directing each packet along its journey. Unfortunately, BGP is entirely reliant on trustworthy BGP instructions from internet service providers. In 2013, that trust was compromised when Belarusian internet providers sent intentionally bogus BGP instructions, which routed swaths of US traffic through Minsk and Moscow.
Unless you’re actively monitoring each router hop of your dutiful packets, you wouldn’t even notice something like this happening. This could happen again—and worse, those responsible could be capturing your traffic. Ensuring encryption of data sent across the sometimes lawless highways of the internet is your best form of protection. You can tackle this through tunneling, VPN, or simply using secure sites and services.
Almost everyone has fallen victim to this scenario at one point or another: You boot up your device only to find a computing environment that closely resembles a ransacked apartment. Pop-ups appear incessantly, new programs mysteriously install, family members start receiving odd emails from your account you clearly never penned—clearly, you’ve contracted a virus.
Just like the world recently witnessed with Petya and its variants, malware continues to evolve into more capable—and malicious—strains. Could there one day exist a “master strain” that infects all devices, thus giving birth to Skynet and ushering in the end of humanity? While you may not need the services of John Connor anytime soon, it’s not hard to imagine a bigger, badder virus spreading around the globe. Resisting such a strain depends on your endpoints. Job number one is improving visibility of endpoint health, so you have a baseline upon which you can quickly see the effects of a possible outbreak. Step two is empowering the endpoints themselves with the ability to fight back. Whether it’s self-healing printers or auto-patching firmware, investing in smarter, more secure devices will go a long way in the fight against a super strain.
While these are but a few of the imminent global cybersecurity threats floating around out there, don’t go disconnecting your point of presence just yet. Yes, there are a lot of “bad guys” scouring every nook and cranny of the internet—and related infrastructure—for potential vulnerabilities, but you know what? There are a lot of good guys, too, fostering impressive security innovations. These advancements, in conjunction with a sound security strategy, will help you create an imposing defense against modern would-be attackers.