Legal organizations store and handle large volumes of sensitive client data, making them particularly likely to be targeted by cybercriminals.
Legal firms and other organizations in the legal sphere require carefully crafted policies that carefully consider their unique and specific needs.
Cybersecurity insurance (also called cyber liability insurance) can help defray the costs associated with cybercrime if your customer data or technological systems be targeted by cybercriminals.
Technology has become a fact of life in the business world, and the legal sphere is no exception. With unique cybersecurity considerations, strict codes of ethics that must be adhered to, and a technological landscape that can sometimes make security feel like an afterthought, legal organizations of all stripes, including law firms and the SaaS companies that serve them, need to take extra precautions to ensure all sensitive data is secure and all regulatory and ethical guidelines are being adhered to.
Legal Organizations Have Unique Cybersecurity Considerations
Legal organizations store and handle large volumes of sensitive client data, making them particularly likely to be targeted by cybercriminals. When a lawyer is hired, one of the first things they do is gather large amounts of sensitive client data, including occupation, personal finance details, criminal disclosure information and other sensitive data such as abuse material or violent crime scene evidence.
If this highly sensitive information is unintentionally disclosed via a data breach or through a more targeted attack such as phishing, victims of crime may find themselves revictimized, compounding their trauma. Failure to safeguard sensitive data can also cause severe reputational damage, impacting the firm’s future.
Unfortunately, robust cybersecurity policies and practices are still not universal among law firms. According to a 2021 American Bar Association Report, only 53% of surveyed firms have policies in place to manage the retention of data and other information held by the firm, and only 36% of firms have an incident response plan in place. Furthermore, 17% of firms have no policies in place at all, with 8% stating they didn’t even know about cybersecurity policies.
When it Comes to Cybersecurity Policies in the Legal Sphere, There’s No One-Size-Fits-All
While more general organizations may be able to meet their needs with a copy-and-paste approach to implementing a cybersecurity policy, legal firms and other organizations in the legal sphere require carefully crafted policies that carefully consider their unique and specific needs. While large firms with generous cybersecurity budgets may have the people power and funds to invest in state-of-the-art cybersecurity infrastructure and well-trained in-house cybersecurity teams, smaller firms may not have the same resources at their disposal. As such, smaller organizations often choose to partner with trusted Managed Security Services Providers (MSSPs), who possess the technical and security knowledge needed to craft a comprehensive and robust policy.
SaaS: What You Need to Know to Serve Your Legal Clients Effectively
SaaS (Software as a Service) companies that serve legal firms and other organizations in the legal sphere need to be cognizant of the unique regulatory and ethical requirements such organizations face. A SaaS company that can offer the high level of data security required to handle sensitive legal information and who is equipped to meet the regulatory and ethical requirements legal organizations are governed by is more likely to wake up to an inbox full of client inquiries than an organization that takes a more general approach.
If your SaaS organization is looking to entice legal clients, you should consider tailoring your product offerings to meet their unique needs and ensure your organization is equipped to address their specific security concerns.
Safeguarding Sensitive Data in a Legal Setting
Like financial institutions and health care settings, legal organizations such as law firms handle high volumes of highly sensitive personal data that needs to be heavily safeguarded. However, while there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to developing a robust cybersecurity posture, there are some basic steps all organizations should be taking to best safeguard their data.
If your organization has experienced or is currently experiencing a cybersecurity incident, please contact our team of experts immediately and consider reviewing our educational article: Hacked? Here’s What to Know (& What to Do Next).
Conduct a Risk Assessment
You can’t solve a problem you don’t know exists. All organizations should begin by conducting a thorough risk assessment, including a vulnerability scan. A risk assessment evaluates your existing infrastructure for vulnerabilities and threats, giving you a better sense of the risks you face. A comprehensive risk assessment will also include recommendations for mitigating identified risks.
Once your initial risk assessment is complete, it is important to remain vigilant. Risk assessments should be conducted regularly and after any major system changes or upgrades to ensure that any new vulnerabilities can be quickly identified and addressed.
As part of your risk assessment, you may also want to consider investing in a pen test. Pen (penetration) testing involves hiring an ethical hacker to stress test your organization’s cybersecurity defenses, searching for gaps and vulnerabilities that they can exploit to gain access to sensitive data and systems. Once the test is complete, the hacker sits down with your team and reviews their findings, including recommendations for addressing your current cybersecurity shortfalls. Pen testing is particularly useful because it gives you a chance to view your security posture from the point of view of an attacker and can help uncover vulnerabilities and other shortcomings so they can be addressed before cybercriminals are able to exploit them.
Develop a Tailored Cybersecurity Policy & Incident Response Plan
Once your initial risk assessment has been completed, you can begin developing a tailored cybersecurity policy, including an incident response plan. Cybersecurity policies are becoming more common, with The American Bar Association’s 2022 Cybersecurity Survey reporting that 89% of respondents have one or more policies governing technology use in place (up from 83% in 2021 and 77% in 2020). However, only 76% of respondents have an email policy in place, and only 63% have a computer acceptable use policy, including 60% for internet use, 59% for remote access use, and 53% for business continuity and disaster recovery.
The same 2022 survey also found that only 42% of respondents have an incident response plan in place, including 72% of firms with over 100 attorneys, 46% of medium-sized firms (10-49 attorneys), and a mere 9% of solo respondents.
These statistics are concerning in a world where technology permeates nearly every aspect of business, including the legal sphere. A well-developed cybersecurity policy is critical for ensuring that all software and hardware used by your organization is capable of safeguarding sensitive client data and is being used in ways that promote, rather than hinder, your cybersecurity posture.
An incident response plan is equally important in a world where, sadly, it is less a question of if an organization is hacked but when. A well-crafted incident response plan offers detailed instructions for your team regarding detecting, responding to, and recovering from a cybersecurity incident. Please consider reviewing our Guide to Creating an Effective Incident Response Plan for practical, expert-driven advice on how to draft and implement an incident response plan.
Consider Cybersecurity Insurance
Cybersecurity incidents can be costly, and not just in terms of a firm’s reputation. In addition to the loss in productivity an incident such as a ransomware attack can produce, organizations often find that the costs associated with recovery and mitigation can quickly add up, easily overwhelming smaller firms with more modest budgets.
Cybersecurity insurance (also called cyber liability insurance) can help defray the costs associated with cybercrime if your customer data or technological systems be targeted by cybercriminals. Your exact coverage will vary depending on your insurance provider and other factors, but most policies typically cover legal costs and damages such as:
Incident response costs: This includes the cost of access to a 24/7/365 cyber incident response team and the costs associated with hiring a dedicated team to help you manage and coordinate your incident response after an incident.
Legal, forensic, and incident management costs: This includes the cost of any legal advice required from other firms, as well as notification fees, crisis management services, and, if applicable, credit monitoring services for affected clients.
Social engineering coverage: Some plans may cover cases where an employee was tricked into providing access to a system or sending funds to fraudsters.
System business interruption: This includes losses sustained due to system outages, which can curtail or even halt productivity.
System damage and restoration costs: This includes replacing or repairing damaged equipment and restoring any software damaged during the incident.
A lack of employee training can undermine even the most detailed, robust, and comprehensive cybersecurity posture. All partners and employees should receive comprehensive cybersecurity training as part of your organization’s onboarding process. This training not only sets the tone that cybersecurity is important to your organization but can also help team members understand why cybersecurity is important and why their actions can either safeguard or expose sensitive client information.
Legal organizations should also consider offering all team members regular refresher training to help keep best practices top of mind and ensure that all changes and updates to your cybersecurity policy and incident response plan are communicated in a timely manner. This also provides an opportunity for team members to ask any questions they may have about your policy or offer any insights they might have regarding your current cybersecurity posture.
As part of your ongoing training, you may wish to consider staging tabletop exercises. Tabletop exercises are analogous to cybersecurity fire drills: Your team is presented with a hypothetical cybersecurity incident and tasked with responding. Tabletop exercises allow team members to leverage your current incident response plan, testing both its efficacy and their own skills. Once the exercise is complete, you can then review your team’s performance and address any shortfalls while also gathering valuable feedback regarding any gaps or deficiencies in your current cybersecurity posture.
Partner with Cybersecurity Experts who Understand Your Unique Security Considerations
As any good lawyer knows, not everyone can be an expert in everything. By partnering with an MSSP that understands your unique security considerations as a legal organization, you can rest assured that your security is in good hands and free up your team members to focus on your business. A good MSSP will employ a wide variety of cybersecurity and IT experts and monitor your network 24/7365 for suspicious activities. They can also help you develop tailored employee training guides and help you ensure your current cybersecurity posture and incident response plan are able to meet your needs.
Cybersecurity risks can exist where you least expect them. To help keep your team, and your data, safe, this next section will discuss several common cyber risks and offer practical advice regarding appropriate mitigation tactics.
Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, video conferencing software has become increasingly mainstream and is often used in judicial and legal settings alike. Incidents of Zoom bombing, where malicious parties interrupted and disrupted Zoom calls, were distressingly common and disrupted at least one virtual court case. While Zoom has since rolled out end-to-end encryption in response to these incidents, it is still not enabled by default. As such, all law firms, courts, and other legal organizations and entities must ensure that this feature is enabled for all remote legal proceedings and client meetings.
Legal organizations should also consider adopting other security controls, including requiring participants to register before calls and requiring authentication, in order to help ensure private proceedings, meetings, and other forms of communication remain private.
The sudden shift to remote work brought with it some growing pains, and while most organizations that continue to allow employees to work from home have smoothed out the most serious wrinkles, some security gaps may remain.
If attorneys or other team members are going to be accessing sensitive client data from outside the office, you should consider investing in secure connections and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks).
Secure connections refer to connections that have been encrypted using one or more security protocols. This ensures that all data flowing between two or more nodes is secure, preventing unauthorized third parties from accessing sensitive data and preventing this data from being altered or viewed by unknown parties. To help ensure security, secure connections require users to validate their identities.
On the other hand, VPNs leverage public internet connections to create private networks by masking your IP (Internet Protocol) address. By obscuring the user’s activities from outside view, a VPN user’s online actions become virtually untraceable, making this technology ideal for team members handling sensitive client data.
Decentralized Client Data
Decentralizing client data storage is the digital equivalent of not putting all of your eggs in one basket. Rather than storing all sensitive data in a single encrypted location, data is split into multiple pieces, each of which is encrypted and stored in a different location. Encryption has long been a vital part of any cybersecurity posture, but like any tool, it is imperfect. Encryption rests heavily on encryption key management, and its efficacy depends on choosing a key randomly and never reusing encryption keys. Encryption efficacy also depends on correct implementation, leaving room for error.
However, by decentralizing your client data and encrypting it, you can make it all but impossible for cybercriminals to reconstruct the data unless they can gather all the pieces before they are discovered. Even if a cybercriminal is able to gain access to sensitive data, the information they get may be either unusable (due to how it has been split up) or limited in scope since only a few clients may be impacted. This makes the attack both easier to contain and easier to recover from and minimizes potential damage to clients.
The cloud is a collection of web-based applications that allow users to remotely access programs via the internet, in contrast to the traditional approach of purchasing a program, installing it on your computer, and running it locally. While the cloud has revolutionized how many organizations approach work, it has also brought with it new security vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. For example, a misconfigured cloud could leave your organization vulnerable by allowing unauthorized third parties to intercept, view, or even alter sensitive data. Because the cloud is specifically designed with data sharing and accessibility in mind, it can be difficult to ensure that only authorized users are able to access data. A common example is link sharing, where any party with a link can access, even edit, steal, or delete data. This lack of control over where your data is stored can also leave you vulnerable to other forms of data loss, including data lost via a natural disaster that destroys physical servers or human error. In order to counteract this risk, functional and tested data recovery and backup processes need to be in place, and security needs to be baked into every network layer to best safeguard sensitive client data.
One of the main advantages of the cloud is the ability to access your organization’s data from anywhere, which is, unfortunately, both a boon and a security risk. Cybercriminals often target cloud-based networks because they are more easily accessed from the public internet. However, if team members are accessing sensitive data from their own devices, they may not have the same level of security as you do internally. As such, organizations that rely on a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy rather than providing team members with laptops, smartphones, and tablets should take steps to minimize security risks. For more information and practical advice on how to achieve this goal, please consider reviewing our article Keeping Your Network Secure in a “Bring Your Own Device” World.
Using the cloud also means relying on a third party to handle your data, limiting your organization’s visibility and control over your infrastructure and trusting that your cloud provider takes security as seriously as you do. As such, if you choose to leverage the cloud, you should vet potential providers carefully and make sure their security posture meets your high standards. You should also explicitly ask how threat notifications and alerts are managed so that you can ensure your team is notified as soon as possible if an incident does occur.
Your email servers should also be assessed for vulnerabilities. This is particularly important since email is a common way organizations share sensitive files both internally and with authorized third parties such as clients. There are several steps you should be taking at the organizational and personal levels to improve email security. This includes:
Developing Strong Password Guidelines
By insisting that users adopt strong passwords, you can help make it more difficult for cybercriminals to access team members’ emails illicitly. To help you design a strong password policy, NIST (the National Institute of Standards and Technology) offers password guidelines in section 5.1.11. Memorized Secret Authenticators of their Digital Identity Guidelines.
Two-factor authentication (also called multi-factor authentication) adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to enter their password before sending an authentication prompt to their personal device, which they then have to accept. Not only does this make breaking into an employee’s email more difficult since the cybercriminal would also need physical access to their phone, but it can also serve to alert team members if someone is trying to break into their account.
Scanning All Incoming Attachments
Anti-virus software may seem basic, but it still plays an important role in any robust cybersecurity posture. Anti-virus and anti-malware tools can be used to scan all incoming emails and flag suspicious attachments, which can help prevent team members from inadvertently downloading viruses or granting unauthorized users access to sensitive data.
Staying Off Public Wi-Fi
We’ve discussed the dangers of public Wi-Fi in our article Airports are a Hacker’s Best Friend (& Other Ways Users Expose Themselves to Risk), but it bears repeating here. Unless you know that a publicly accessible network is safe to use, the best course of action is to avoid connecting to it. One tactic cybercriminals use is to set up plausible or innocent-sounding public Wi-Fi networks, which are often named to closely resemble legitimate networks (think Coffee-Shop-Guest, which makes users think the network is owned by the coffee shop they are currently visiting). When unsuspecting users connect to the network, their traffic is intercepted, compromising both the user’s and your organization’s security.
Investing in an unlimited data plan can remove the need to search for free Wi-Fi, but this is one of those cases where the mantra “when in doubt, go without” strictly applies.
Keeping Your Personal & Business Email Separate
Not everyone needs to have your business email, and in fact, it is better from a security perspective if they don’t. By limiting your work-assigned email address to work-only tasks, you can reduce the chances of that address being leaked to cybercriminals. As such, it is always a good idea to have both a personal email address and a work email address. That way, if your personal email address is compromised when you sign up for that interesting-looking newsletter, you aren’t potentially handing over sensitive information.
Depending on how much you rely on your email for networking and other professional, but not strictly-internal-work-related, activities, it may even be beneficial to set up an email address specifically for professional networking purposes to print on your business card so that you can keep your work-issued email address on a strictly need-to-know basis.
Logging Out When You’re Done
Even if you are absolutely sure that the device you are using is secure, it’s good practice to log out of your email when you are done. That way, if you lose your phone or your laptop is stolen, and the cybercriminal is able to guess your device’s password, you aren’t inadvertently handing over access to your email as well.
Keeping an Eye Out for Phishing Attacks & Other Suspicious Activities
Phishing attacks are a type of social engineering attack used to steal user data such as login credentials, payment card information, or PII (personally identifiable information) or trick unsuspecting users into installing malware by clicking a link or opening an infected file.
Phishing typically relies on text-based forms of communication such as email, SMS (text messaging), or other messaging apps and involves a cybercriminal pretending to be someone you are already primed to trust (such as your boss, a colleague, or an employee from your bank) and tricking you into performing an action you otherwise wouldn’t perform. For more information about phishing scams and steps you can take to avoid them, please consider reading our article Phishing Attacks are Evolving: What You Need to Know to Keep Your Company Safe.
Workers are also more likely to fall for social engineering attacks if they work remotely. This is because more official communication (such as a directive from your boss) happens over text-based channels such as email or the phone as opposed to in person. This makes it easier for cybercriminals to mask their identity and offers ready-made excuses such as asking you to hop on a video call while keeping their own camera off because of “poor internet connectivity”, preventing you from visually verifying who you are speaking to.
Law firms and other organizations that interact with or are part of the legal sphere interact with vulnerable individuals regularly and handle high volumes of highly sensitive personal information. As such, they have a high ethical and regulatory bar to clear when it comes to safeguarding client information that requires a tailored approach to cybersecurity.
Safeguarding your digital assets can be difficult in an increasingly connected world that often values connectivity and ease of use over security, but you don’t have to handle it all alone. By partnering with an MSSP that understands your organization’s unique security needs, you can thoroughly assess your current security posture, implement an incident response plan, develop targeted employee training, and take other critical steps to secure your network and your data.
Cyber warfare is similar to cybercrime, but it typically involves nation-states (rather than rival corporations or independent hacker groups).
Cyber warfare is not currently subject to agreed-upon rules of engagement, which means that organizations in any vertical could potentially become targets.
Managed Security Services Providers can help you assess your current posture, identify potential weaknesses, and help you fortify your defenses.
Safeguarding your organization’s digital assets used to feel as simple as hiring a few security guards and making sure all your employees knew to lock up correctly at the end of the day. However, with the internet now crucial to many critical business functions, a robust cybersecurity posture is no longer a want but a need.
As the war in Ukraine has demonstrated, even the nature of war is changing: While fighting was once constrained to the physical world, conflicts are increasingly unfolding on a digital front as well.
Like cybercrime, cyber warfare involves a cyber attack or series of attacks launched by one party and targeting one or more other parties. However, unlike traditional cybercrime, cyber warfare typically involves nation-states (rather than rival corporations or independent hacker groups) targeting other nation-states or organizations within those rival states to sow confusion and destabilize their enemies.
Cyber warfare may involve:
Stealing state secrets (including classified research)
Many cybersecurity experts consider Stuxnet to be “the world’s first digital weapon“, and this attack prompted many serious discussions about the fact that, unlike traditional warfare, whose rules of engagement are laid out explicitly in the Geneva Conventions, cyber warfare is not currently governed by any similar constraints.
The War in Ukraine May Signal the Dawn of a New Era for Cyber Warfare
According to many experts, the ongoing war in Ukraine marks a turning point in the history of cyber warfare. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine relies on both traditional military tactics and cyber warfare, which involves using digital tools to sow confusion, disseminate propaganda, damage infrastructure, dismantle government software, and carry out destructive espionage and attacks.
Microsoft’s 2022 Digital Defense Report found that 90% of Russia’s attacks during 2022 targeted NATO member countries, and 48% of those attacks targeted private IT firms based in member countries. As the war continues, Russian state hackers and state-backed organizations will likely continue to use cyber warfare to target Ukraine’s energy, transport, and digital infrastructures, potentially signaling the dawn of a new era in which civil organizations and even private companies are specifically targeted during times of war.
What Makes Cyber Warfare Different From Hacking & Other Forms of Cybercrime?
In essence, it is what motivates each of these actions that define which category a cyber attack falls under. Cyber warfare is primarily motivated by a desire for military gains, while cyber terrorism is primarily motivated by political ideology, and cybercrime is primarily motivated by a desire for personal gain (either in the form of financial gains or fame). However, the definitions of each of these attacks are not cut and dry, and some types of attacks may fall under multiple categories. Examples include a country engaged in cyber warfare spreading political propaganda to improve their international image and demoralizing their enemies or cyber terrorists engaging in ransomware attacks to fund their operations.
Should My Organization be Concerned About Cyber Warfare?
When it comes to cybersecurity, it is always better to be over-prepared than underprepared. While organizations in some verticals, such as finance, manufacturing, utilities, and healthcare, should take extra precautions due to their increased chances of being targeted, the fact that cyber warfare is not currently subject to agreed-upon rules of engagement, which means that organizations in any vertical could potentially become targets.
Safeguarding Your Organization
This section will discuss what steps all organizations should take to best prepare themselves to face a potential cyber warfare attack.
The first thing any organization should do to strengthen their security posture is create an effective incident response plan (IRP). The purpose of an IRP is to provide instructions to your workers on how to identify, respond to, and recover from, a cyberattack.
Your IRP should be a living document that is updated regularly and include:
A mission statement
Clearly defined roles and responsibilities
A list of cybersecurity or cyber warfare incidents that your team is likely to encounter
Up-to-date emergency contact information for all relevant parties
Familiarize Yourself With Common Forms of Cyberattack
Cyberattacks come in a variety of forms, and what may be unheard of yesterday may become commonplace tomorrow. By keeping up with the latest news in the cybersecurity world, you can help ensure your organization is prepared when disaster strikes.
Securing your network and other digital assets may be daunting, but your MSSP (Managed Security Services Provider) can help you assess your current posture, identify potential weaknesses, and help you fortify your defenses. As part of this process, you should:
Secure Your Network
Something as simple as a well-designed firewall can help significantly improve your defense posture. However, while an ordinary, one-size-fits-all firewall is better than no firewall at all, a managed firewall can provide better protection and more information.
A managed firewall is designed to help you keep tabs on all network activities and send out an alert if it encounters anything suspicious. A managed firewall can also be tailored to meet your organization’s unique security needs and help ensure unauthorized users are kept off your network.
Keep Your Software Up to Date
Something as simple as a software update can mean the difference between a successful attack and a thwarted one. When software companies discover vulnerabilities or problems in their products, they develop and release patches, small snippets of code designed to address the situation.
However, your organization is only protected by security patches if they are installed. Cyber warfare actors and cybercriminals are also more likely to target recently patched software since they know that not all organizations are diligent enough to install the patches immediately.
Protect Your Endpoints
Even the strongest fence is useless if you leave the gate open. If they aren’t properly protected, endpoints such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones can allow unauthorized users to access your network. Safeguarding your endpoints is particularly important in BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) settings, where employers don’t have direct control over all network endpoints.
To improve your security posture, you should ensure that all endpoints that have access to your network use multi-factor or two-factor authentication, have appropriate security software installed, and that all software is kept up to date to ensure you can benefit from all new security patches.
Implement Secure Password Guidelines
Something as simple as implementing secure password guidelines can mean the difference between a secure network and a vulnerable one. To help ensure all team members are using robust passwords, you may want to develop a password policy based on section 184.108.40.206 (Memorized Secret Authenticators) of the NIST’s password guidelines.
Access to sensitive areas of your network, such as your security settings and financial records, should be granted on a need-only basis. By not granting more expansive permissions than an employee needs to do their job, you can limit the number of individuals within your organization who have access to sensitive data.
By curtailing access, you can help ensure that if a team member’s username and password become compromised (because, for example, they fell for a phishing scam), those credentials are statistically less likely to grant unauthorized users access to sensitive information. As part of this process, you should also ensure you have a clear offboarding procedure in place for revoking former team members’ credentials so that both former employees and potential cyberattackers can’t use inactive credentials to gain unauthorized access.
Back Up Your Data Regularly
If you are targeted by a ransomware or other type of malware attack, your data may become corrupted or lost. As such, having the ability to roll back to a recent backup can help you avoid service disruptions or other problems. However, any data generated after the last backup is unlikely to be recovered if an incident occurs, which is why it is important to back up all data regularly.
Invest in Regular, Ongoing Security Training
Defending your organization against cyber warfare is everyone’s responsibility. Even the best plan is only useful if everyone understands what it is, why it’s important, and how to implement it effectively. After all, even the most studious and diligent team member won’t be able to follow your cybersecurity and cyber warfare protocols if they don’t know what they are.
To help keep your team in fighting shape, all workers from the CEO downward should receive comprehensive cybersecurity training as part of your onboarding process and undergo regular refresher training. To help ensure your training is effective, all team members should:
Understand why cybersecurity and cyber warfare defense is important
Understand what steps they need to be taking to best safeguard your organization
You may wish to consider running tabletop exercises as part of your training. Like fire drills, tabletop exercises are designed to give employees a chance to test their cybersecurity and cyber warfare defense knowledge in a safe environment. Team members are presented with a hypothetical scenario, such as a ransomware attack, and then instructed to work as a team and, with the help of your incident response plan, respond to the attack.
Once the scenario is complete, your team can sit down with your Managed Security Services Provider or in-house security team and evaluate their performance while also identifying any deficiencies in your IRP so they can be addressed. Regularly scheduled tabletop exercises can help keep digital security top of mind and ensure all workers are familiar with any changes or updates to the plan.
Stress-Test Your Defenses
Just like the best way to find out if a boat is leaking is to put it in the water, the best way to find out if there are any holes in your security posture is to put it to the test. Pen (penetration) testing involves hiring an ethical hacker to stress-test your security posture by searching for vulnerabilities and then attempting to exploit them to gain access to your network. Once the test is complete, the hacker will sit down with your team and explain what they did, what vulnerabilities they were able to discover and exploit, and what steps they suggest you take to address these security deficiencies. This information can then be used to improve your security posture through actions such as improving your cybersecurity and cyber warfare training, addressing hardware or software deficiencies, or updating company security policies.
Cyber warfare has become a serious threat, and that threat is only predicted to grow. Investing in a robust cybersecurity posture can help safeguard your digital assets and hinder the efforts of cyber warfare attackers targeting your country. Please contact our team today to learn more about which steps your organization should be taking to improve your security.
Social engineering differs from other cybersecurity threats by targeting people instead of directly attacking digital assets.
Common social engineering tactics include baiting, quid pro quo, phishing, spear phishing, pretexting, and tailgating. One or more of these tactics are involved in approximately 50% of all data breaches.
You can protect yourself and your organization from social engineering by creating a detailed cybersecurity policy, using multi-factor authentication, and frequently updating passwords. It’s also a good idea to consider endpoint detection and response or SOCaaS solutions—both of which VirtualArmour provides.
The team here at VirtualArmour has up-to-date knowledge of the cyber threats currently faced by organizations of all kinds, so we’re here to help you understand the risks of social engineering and the best ways and cybersecurity tactics to keep your data safe from these attacks. Read on to learn everything you need to know about stopping social engineering in its tracks.
Social engineering is an umbrella term that describes various tactics aimed at getting victims to commit security errors, thereby compromising sensitive data to which they have access. Unlike attacks that exclusively target technology, social engineering attacks manipulate the psychology of human beings to circumvent their judgment, often by creating a false sense of anxiety or urgency.
Robocalling is an easy example of social engineering, where fraudulent pre-recorded messages impersonating authorities (like government offices or financial institutions) request personal information such as credit card data or login credentials, accompanied by vague threats of legal action or imprisonment if the request is not carried out immediately. This is a form of phishing—a category of social engineering that we’ll explain in more detail later in this article.
What Are the Most Common Current Social Engineering Tactics?
Knowing how modern social engineering attacks manifest is the first step to recognizing and repudiating them. Here are a few of the most common kinds:
Baiting: this tactic falsely promises the victim something of value (often for free or at an implausibly discounted price), in exchange for a seemingly innocuous action—like clicking a “survey link” to get a free gift card, when the link actually takes the visitor to a spoofed login page that captures their username and password, then provides them to the threat actor.
Quid Pro Quo: this technique is similar to baiting, but usually involves the offer of a service in exchange for information. One common example is when a threat actor contacts a potential victim and impersonates an IT provider, offering to solve an alleged “problem” by providing free software—which is actually malware or ransomware.
Phishing: one of the most widely used forms of social engineering by far, phishing involves the threat actor assuming a false identity (often a bank, boss, or government agency) and requesting information that the victim would normally provide to the impersonated party.
Spear Phishing: this technique goes a step beyond basic phishing by targeting a specific victim with details (usually stolen) designed to lend legitimacy to the attack. One example might be an email where the threat actor impersonates your boss and uses stolen information to reference work details only they would reasonably know before making a request for personal information—in order to convince you the request is genuine.
Pretexting: these social engineering schemes involve a story (or pretext) that makes an attempt to steal information look more plausible. Pretexting is often a key part of phishing scams—one classic example being the infamous “Nigerian Prince” scams that became world famous at the end of the 2010s.
Tailgating: one of the simplest forms of social engineering (but nonetheless effective in many cases), tailgating involves waiting until an authorized party has accessed a device or area where information is stored, then following them before the window of entry closes. This could be as straightforward as following a staff member of a company’s IT department into the server room to create a backdoor after the target has unlocked the door with their keycard or biometric scan.
Best Practices for Protecting Your Organization from Social Engineering
Here’s a list of what you can do to keep your organization and sensitive data safe from social engineering attempts:
Create a Detailed Cybersecurity Policy
Enshrining rules for protecting your organization’s data will make your personnel less likely to make errors in judgment when faced with social engineering attempts. This should include a checklist for recognizing suspicious communications, a detailed protocol for physically accessing spaces or devices where privileged information is stored, and a response plan to mitigate the damage any successful social engineering attempts can cause.
Use Multi-Factor Authentication for Endpoints
Having authorized personnel verify their identity more than once when accessing sensitive data creates failsafes. For example, a threat actor may be able to gain a username and password by successfully targeting an employee with a phishing email, but may be rendered unable to exploit those credentials if 2FA also requires them to log in using a code sent to the employee’s mobile device.
Change Passwords Often
Part of your organization’s cybersecurity policy should involve updating passwords on a regular basis—and requiring strong new passwords that haven’t been used before. This reduces the window of opportunity for threat actors to use any credentials they’ve managed to steal in social engineering attacks.
To learn more about protecting yourself, your organization, and your data from social engineering and other cyber threats, contact VirtualArmour. Our team of experienced cybersecurity pros will be happy to recommend strategies for moving you toward a zero-risk IT environment.
Endpoints are access points to an organization’s network—including tablets, smartphones, laptops, desktops, and any other device that can access your digital information.
IoT (Internet of Things) technology like smartwatches, wireless Point of Sale systems, and more mean that most organizations have many more endpoints than they did just a few years ago. While this improves access, it also increases vulnerability to cybersecurity threats.
Common cybersecurity threats to endpoints include phishing, malware, ransomware, data theft, and software or hardware that has not been properly upgraded.
The best ways to protect your endpoints include tracking and monitoring them, upgrading your hardware and software frequently, and investing in professional cybersecurity services like vulnerability scanning and EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response).
Every organization’s network has endpoints that need to be protected from malicious actors—but what defines an endpoint is an endpoint, and what are the best practices for keeping yours safe?
As experts in providing managed cybersecurity solutions, including next-generation endpoint detection and response tools, VirtualArmour’s team is here to help you understand more about endpoints: what they are, the kinds of threats they’re vulnerable to, and how you can safeguard your network’s endpoints to bolster your cybersecurity posture and move towards a zero-risk IT environment.
By definition, an endpoint is any device that allows the user to connect to a given network. Common examples of endpoints include desktop and laptop computers, tablets, and smartphones, as well as servers, ATMs, medical devices, and common pieces of wireless office equipment like printers and scanners.
PoS (point of sale) systems like payment card readers
Smart hubs and smart home devices
Some industrial equipment
Essentially, anything that sends data to (or receives data from) your organization’s network should be considered an endpoint—including any personal devices used by your employees under a BYOD (bring your own device) policy. This has critical cybersecurity implications for organizations, which we’ll cover next.
Why Endpoint Security Matters for Businesses (& Other Organizations)
Endpoints are necessary for accessing a given network, but it’s a double-edged sword. While more access means more convenience and control for legitimate users, it also means more vulnerability to threats.
Essentially, the more endpoints a network has, the wider its attack surface (the sum of all points where unauthorized users can enter or extract data from it) is. This means as organizations develop, they require scalable cybersecurity solutions to protect their networks and their growing number of endpoints.
What Cyber Threats are Endpoints Vulnerable to?
Understanding the ways in which endpoints can be attacked lets you plan more effective defenses. Here are a few of the most common cyber threats that can affect your network’s endpoints:
Phishing: This is a common form of social engineering scam that tricks the user of an endpoint into disclosing sensitive information (like passwords or payment card info) by posing as a trustworthy party like a system administrator or a bank. Phishing is often carried out via emails, text messages, and robocalls, depending on the device through which the attacker is communicating with the user. However, it differs from the other items on this list because it typically requires the recipient to take action (by providing details directly, downloading an unsafe file, or clicking on a fraudulent link) before it can succeed.
Malware: Any software that disrupts an endpoint’s intended function, gives threat actors unauthorized access to a device, or provides data to parties that shouldn’t have it is a form of malware. Malware is often spread through phishing scams that ask a user to visit a link or download a file, which then transfers malware to their device.
Ransomware: A specific type of malware that gives a threat actor control over an endpoint and its data unless specific conditions are met by the party or organization targeted. As of 2022, there is one ransomware attack every 11 seconds and the global cost of these attacks surpasses $20 billion annually.
Data theft: An umbrella term that covers any unauthorized dissemination of data from a compromised endpoint. Data theft can occur via phishing, ransomware, or other forms of malware—but it can also occur directly, if an unauthorized user gains access to an endpoint with stolen credentials or if an authorized user abuses their access.
Software and hardware vulnerabilities: Older devices and endpoints that have not been patched or upgraded appropriately are the most vulnerable to cyberattacks, since they lack the necessary defenses to repudiate modern threats.
Best Practices for Endpoint Security
Here’s a list of things you can do to keep your organization’s endpoints as secure as possible:
Track and monitor all endpoints on your network: It’s vital to be aware of every device that can access your organization’s network—especially your team’s personal devices, since these may not adhere to your cybersecurity policy.
Upgrade your hardware: As a rule of thumb, the older a device is, the more easily it can be exploited. It’s best to replace any devices that are over four years old.
Update all software regularly: Ensuring that all software is updated as soon as possible reduces the window of opportunity for threat actors to exploit vulnerabilities before they can be patched.
Arrange frequent vulnerability scans: Vulnerability scanning reveals flaws in your IT environment (including endpoints) that can be taken advantage of by threat actors, allowing you to fix them and preemptively ward off attacks. Best-in-class vulnerability scanning is just one of the cybersecurity services VirtualArmour provides.
Invest in EDR: Investing in managed endpoint protection tools gives your in-house IT team more time and resources to focus on tasks that help your organization grow, and puts your endpoint security in the hands of trained professionals who use their cutting-edge skills and knowledge to stay a step ahead of attackers. VirtualArmour’s Endpoint Detection and Response solutions provide you with the tools to monitor all endpoints in your network and expert support from our team when it comes to properly administering and upgrading them.
Endpoint Protection is Just the Beginning
Moving towards a zero-risk IT environment requires you to protect your endpoints diligently—but each organization has different needs, so it’s natural to have questions about what kind of endpoint protection strategy will serve you best and what other tools you may benefit from.
Speak with a cybersecurity expert who can give you a clearer picture of the risks you face and the best way to address them, contact VirtualArmour. We’ll be happy to help you learn all you need to know about protecting your endpoints and keeping your network safe.
XDR stands for Extended Detection & Response. It combines EDR (Endpoint Detection & Response) with other cybersecurity tools, creating a single platform to identify and respond to threats.
There are two kinds of XDR solutions: open and closed. Open XDR allows for integration with tools by different vendors, while closed XDR can only integrate with tools from a single vendor.
VirtualArmour’s managed open XDR goes a step further by providing expert guidance and administration for open XDR platforms. Having this kind of support allows an organization’s in-house IT staff to focus on tasks that advance business goals and leave cybersecurity to experienced pros.
Open XDR is a cutting-edge approach to identifying and addressing network threats, but what makes it different from standard XDR solutions—and what value does it offer organizations? Understanding what makes open XDR unique can show you how to fit it into your cybersecurity posture, reducing your risk and giving you peace of mind during your everyday operations.
As providers of high-end managed open XDR and other state-of-the-art cybersecurity services, our team at VirtualArmour knows how to implement these tools for maximum results. Read on as we show you how open XDR works and where it fits in your IT environment.
XDR stands for Extended Detection and Response. It’s a newer and improved version of EDR (Endpoint Detection and Response), which is an umbrella term for tools that protect your network’s access points—or endpoints—from ransomware, malware, and other threats.
Where XDR differs from EDR is that it covers more than just your endpoints. In fact, XDR integrates EDR technology with other parts of your security stack. Essentially, it becomes a single platform from which you can detect, monitor, and respond to threats across your:
Identity access and management tools
However, not all XDR tools are the same—so let’s take a closer look at the two main types: open or closed.
Open XDR vs. Native (Closed) XDR
Both Open XDR and closed XDR solutions are made to bridge gaps between different cybersecurity tools, providing single-pane visibility for your security stack and making it easier to manage efficiently. The difference comes down to the kinds of tools each type of XDR solution is capable of integrating.
Open XDR systems are designed to work with programs and tools from different providers. This makes them an especially popular choice for organizations who are updating their cybersecurity posture, as their legacy systems are unlikely to have come from a single source originally.
Closed XDR solutions are also called native XDR solutions, because they’re designed only for use with tools belonging to the same security vendor. Using this type of XDR solution requires an organization to switch any cybersecurity tools from different vendors to those supplied by the vendor who provided it.
How Open XDR Benefits Organizations
Ultimately, each organization has to make its own decisions about whether to use open or closed XDR—but open XDR provides several unique advantages. Here are a few of the most important if you’re considering open XDR for your business:
Pick & Choose Your Vendors
Since open XDR solutions are built for compatibility with security tools from different vendors, you won’t be locked into choosing an entire suite of options from a single provider. Find a firewall you like from one vendor but prefer the endpoint protection another offers? Open XDR lets you use both.
Stay Up to Date
Choosing a closed XDR solution doesn’t just mean you’re tied to the same vendor’s tools now—it also makes it harder to switch later on if one or more of those tools becomes obsolete, because you can’t get rid of one without getting rid of them all (at least, not if you want to keep your security stack complete).
Open XDR, on the other hand, makes your stack modular, allowing you to switch out any part of it at your convenience. This makes it easier to keep your security stack current and make sure it meets the needs of your growing organization.
Plug Security Gaps
Using a single vendor to cover all your cybersecurity needs can be effective, but you have to choose carefully, because not all vendors invest equally in their products. That means picking and choosing from different providers—which is only possible with open XDR solutions—can actually leave you with fewer security gaps than trusting a single source to provide you with every cybersecurity tool in your stack.
Of course, trying to sort out the best possible tools available from the wide range of different vendors that exist can be time-consuming and difficult, especially if you’re not an IT expert. That’s why managed open XDR can be an even better investment for many organizations.
VirtualArmour’s Managed Open XDR: A New Approach to Threat Detection & Response
VirtualArmour takes the concept of open XDR one step further by providing expert guidance and hands-on assistance to integrate your stack and normalize the data it provides. This concept—called managed open XDR—provides additional benefits, including:
Expert-built custom integrations for specific tools
Hands-on assistance setting up access controls and tenant structures
AI correlation of data to provide enhanced visibility
On-demand troubleshooting and consultation to find the best tools for your stack
By entrusting the management and oversight of your open XDR solution to professionals who live and breathe cybersecurity, you can give your in-house IT team more time and resources to spend on processes that improve your operations—like improving the speed of your network and adding additional features for users.
Open XDR: Where Freedom Meets Protection
Open XDR solutions give you the power to choose the cybersecurity tools that work best for your organization, while providing a unified framework for accessing and controlling them. As such, they represent an ideal way to retain your autonomy while taking threat detection and response for your organization seriously.
To learn more about the benefits of managed open XDR, contact us and speak with a member of our team. We’ll be happy to show you how our help can improve your open XDR solution even further and keep your organization’s digital assets safe.