Written By Dr Al Hartmann And Presented By Charles Leaver
The following heading hit the news recently on September 7, 2017:
Equifax Inc. today announced a cyber security incident potentially impacting around 143 million U.S. customers. Wrongdoers exploited a U.S. site application vulnerability to gain access to certain files. Based upon the business’s examination, the unauthorized access happened from the middle of May through July 2017.
Lessons from Past Debacles
If you like your job, appreciate your role, and desire to retain it, then don’t leave the door open to enemies. A major data breach frequently begins with an un-patched vulnerability that is readily exploitable. And after that the inescapable happens, the cyber criminals are inside your defenses, the crown jewels have left the building, the press releases fly, costly consultants and outside legal counsel rack up billable hours, regulators come down, claims are flung, and you have “some severe ‘splainin’ to do”!
We are unsure if the head splainer in the current Equifax debacle will endure, as he is still in ‘splainin’ mode, asserting the breach started with the exploitation of an application vulnerability.
In such cases the typical rhumba line of resignations is – CISO initially, followed by CIO, followed by CEO, followed by the board of directors shakeup (particularly the audit and business responsibility committees). Do not let this occur to your career!
Steps to Take Immediately
There are some common sense steps to take to prevent the inescapable breach catastrophe arising from unpatched vulnerabilities:
Take inventory – Inventory all data and system assets and map your network topology and attached devices and open ports. Know your network, it’s segmentation, what devices are connected, what those devices are running, what vulnerabilities those systems and apps expose, what data assets they access, the level of sensitivity of those assets, what defenses are layered around those assets, and exactly what checks remain in place along all potential access points.
Simplify and toughen up – Implement best practices suggestions for identity and access management, network division, firewall and IDS setups, operating system and application setups, database access controls, and data encryption and tokenization, while simplifying and trimming the number and complexity of subsystems across your business. Anything too intricate to handle is too intricate to protect. Choose setup hardening heaven over breach response hell.
Constantly monitor and scrutinize – Routine audits are necessary but not enough. Constantly monitor, track, and assess all appropriate security events and exposed vulnerabilities – have visibility, occasion capture, analysis, and archiving of every system and session login, every application launch, every active binary and vulnerability exposure, every script execution, every command provided, every networking contact, every database transaction, and every delicate data access. Any gaps in your security event visibility produce an opponent free-fire zone. Establish crucial efficiency metrics, track them ruthlessly, and drive for unrelenting enhancement.
Do not accept functional reasons for insufficient security – There are always safe and effective operational policies, however they may not be pain-free. Not suffering a disastrous data breach is long down the organizational discomfort scale from the alternative. Operational expedience or operating legacy or misaligned top priorities are not valid excuses for extenuation of bad cyber practices in an intensifying danger environment. Lay down the law.