2012 Threats in Review – Part 2

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In my last blog, I talked about how the 2012 Internet Security Threat Report points out the vulnerabilities common for small- and medium-sized businesses, and because of their mistakes for the larger enterprises that do business with them. So let’s talk about some good practices to address these risks.

First and most important is education. Employees need to understand what the company rules are on how to be secure, and understand each of their individual roles in the process. In turn, the roles and responsibilities need to support good security policies including separation of duties, access controls, and the idea of 'least privilege'. For anyone new to the concept, least privilege is illustrated most simply that a temporary secretary shouldn’t have access to the same databases at the same level of information sharing as the head of HR. People need information, but they only need data required for them to function in their everyday duties. Consumers and customers also need to be trained on the many vectors of attack, including social media, links, and the possibility of malware in attachments via email. Buyers are also increasingly looking for indications of security like the green URL bar for Extended Validation certificates, the padlock, HTTPS:// and trust marks. Have a good security policy, then follow up by telling everyone what it is and how you are protecting their data.

Second is doing business securely. While true that a small business may not be able to defend against the newest zero-day attack, or even be able to spell APT, it is the old attacks that are still the bulk of the vulnerability.  Communication and data flowing in and out of a network needs to be encrypted. If the company creates apps or proprietary code to distribute, the code should be signed with a digital shrink-wrap to assure end users that it wasn't tampered with en route. The PCI’s eCommerce Guide recommends SSL to secure your payment information, and recommends EV wherever possible for transactions.

Third is to protect your customers, your partners, and your employees by securing your websites. Review the results of all the malware scans and vulnerability assessments of your website that can be conducted by third parties. Symantec enabled malware scanning and vulnerability assessments as part of our SSL certificates, because we believe strongly that it's a basic security measure for any organization securing their website. Make sure your security policy includes deadlines for patching critical vulnerabilities.

The online security ecosystem is doing its part to code a better internet: Protocols are constantly under revision to remove vulnerabilities as they are found. Browsers have enabled the green bar to show where a company chose a higher level of SSL authentication for their identity, and they display warnings when content is served up insecurely on an encrypted page. Social media sites are leading some of the way toward an always on SSL approach, where the connection is encrypted from user log on through the entire site experience. App stores are joining the always on movement for SSL too. 

The Threat Report doesn't paint a bleak picture. More people are living and doing business online, and the world of eCommerce is growing annually. But the attackers are getting smarter, and no one can afford to say, "It'll never happen to MY Company." Because that's exactly what the bad guys want you to think. Lock your doors.

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