On our blog and LinkenIn page, we talk a lot about cyber security risks and how to prevent them. Following a spate of recent attacks on schools and other businesses, here’s a timely reminder…

1. Phishing Attacks

  • Risk: Employees unknowingly opening malicious emails that seem legitimate, leading to data breaches or malware infections.
  • Mitigation: Implement regular employee training on recognising phishing emails. Use email filtering and scanning tools to detect malicious emails.

2. Ransomware

  • Risk: Malicious software that encrypts a user’s files, demanding payment to unlock them.
  • Mitigation: Maintain regular offsite backups of all critical data. Implement anti-ransomware tools and ensure all software is updated promptly.

3. Unpatched Software

  • Risk: Exploitation of vulnerabilities in outdated software.
  • Mitigation: Regularly update and patch software and operating systems. Use automated patch management systems if possible.

4. Insider Threats

  • Risk: Disgruntled employees or contractors with access to sensitive information might misuse it.
  • Mitigation: Implement strict access controls, segregate duties, and conduct regular audits of user activities.

5. Weak Passwords

  • Risk: Unauthorised access due to easily guessable passwords.
  • Mitigation: Enforce strong password policies, encourage the use of password managers, and use multi-factor authentication wherever possible.

6. Insecure IoT Devices

  • Risk: Smart devices connected to the network can be exploited to gain unauthorised access.
  • Mitigation: Change default passwords on all devices, segregate IoT devices on separate networks, and regularly update device firmware.

7. Misconfigured Cloud Services

  • Risk: Unprotected data or services due to incorrect configuration of cloud resources.
  • Mitigation: Regularly review and audit cloud configurations, utilise cloud-native security tools, and implement a cloud security policy.

8. Unsecured Physical Access

  • Risk: Unauthorised individuals accessing physical spaces where sensitive information is stored or accessible.
  • Mitigation: Implement security cameras, badge access controls, and regular audits of physical access logs.

9. Lack of Encryption

  • Risk: Data intercepted during transmission or when stored.
  • Mitigation: Use encryption protocols for data in transit and at rest.

10. Inadequate Incident Response

  • Risk: Increased damage due to slow or inappropriate response to a breach.
  • Mitigation: Create and regularly update an incident response plan. Conduct periodic drills to test and improve response times.

11. Impersonation:

  • Risk: An attacker pretends to be someone else (like a colleague, IT support, or a vendor) to gain unauthorised access or deceive individuals into revealing confidential information.
  • Mitigation:
    1. Educate employees about the risks of impersonation and teach them to verify identities before releasing sensitive information.
    2. Implement strict protocols for identity verification, especially for remote workers.
    3. Encourage face-to-face or video call verification if there’s any doubt about an individual’s identity.

12. Social Engineering:

  • Risk: Manipulating individuals into divulging confidential information or performing actions that compromise security. This can include tactics like pretexting, baiting, tailgating, and quizzing.
  • Mitigation:
    1. Training and Awareness: Regularly educate employees about different social engineering techniques and how to recognize them. Role-playing or simulation exercises can be particularly effective.
    2. Multi-factor Authentication (MFA): This adds an additional layer of security, making it more challenging for attackers to gain access even if they have deceived someone into revealing a password.
    3. Information Sharing Protocols: Implement strict protocols on what information can be shared and with whom. If someone requests sensitive information, employees should be trained to verify the request through multiple channels.
    4. Physical Security Measures: Prevent tailgating (when unauthorised individuals enter a facility by following an authorised person) by implementing badge access systems, mantraps, or security personnel at entrances.
    5. Regular Audits: Periodically test employees with simulated phishing and social engineering attempts to see if they fall for them. This not only gauges the effectiveness of the training but also helps identify areas for improvement.

It’s crucial to remember that social engineering targets human psychology. Thus, while technological defenses are important, continuous education and training to foster a culture of skepticism and caution are the most effective countermeasures.