Recent events have rapidly shifted the way that we live and work. Doctors are practicing telemedicine from a kitchen table, executives are running entire organizations on the same home network as their families, and hundreds of thousands of bankers are running the global economy at home from their laptops.
The reality is that most organizations weren't prepared for such an abrupt digital shift at this scale. Attackers are having a field day. As businesses turn to digital technology, specifically laptops, to drive the entire organization, connections are more unstable and networks are unprotected. And as we know, a single ransomware attack on one laptop could bring your business to a screeching halt.
It's clear that remote work will continue to be a large part of how we operate for the foreseeable future. When employees work outside of the office perimeter and its security protections, the organization naturally becomes more vulnerable. This heightened vulnerability means cyber resiliency will continue to be critical to business resiliency. Here are five steps business leaders can take right now to mitigate risk and protect their organizations.
Embrace Zero Trust
Adopting an "assume breach mentality" and implementing a zero-trust framework is the first step toward resiliency. Instead of automatically trusting traffic within the network, assume that everything can be dangerous or malicious. Zero trust eliminates automatic access for any source, internal or external, and instead uses a whitelisting model. Endpoints are only permitted to connect to what's absolutely necessary and no unauthorized lateral movement is allowed. This means the first endpoint that's infected becomes the last endpoint that's infected.
Enable the Principle of Least Privilege
That leads us to network governance — it's how you can start to implement a zero-trust framework. What people are allowed to do and where they are allowed to go needs to be adaptable, but it also needs to operate on the principle of least privilege. Administrators should define the authorized apps and services that are allowed to communicate on the network. Then, monitor the network to ensure you haven't missed anything. Finally, turn on enforcement to block anything that is not allowed. This least-privilege approach offers administrators an easy way to stop unnecessary network communications.
Have a Backup for Your Backup
In today's world, one security layer simply isn't enough. Organizations need to think about what happens when their first line of defense fails. What can you do to limit the impact of an initial breach? Think extending zero-trust to the edge to protect endpoints from each other, implementing multifactor authentication or single sign-on to make passwords go further, or leveraging segmentation to supplement your firewalls. Organizations have to get things right every single time — bad actors only have to get it right once. Unfortunately, bad actors have nothing but time on their hands, so you need to do everything you can to bolster the defenses you already have in play.
Stop Lateral Movement with Segmentation
If you assume that bad things are going to happen, you have to work toward minimizing the damage when they do. Segmentation prevents attackers and threats from moving laterally — moving from one laptop to another. It's the same concept as compartments on a submarine; if there is a leak, the entire hull doesn't fill with water because the submarine is divided into separate compartments. The leak is contained by default to keep the rest of the ship, and its occupants, safe and secure. In cybersecurity, we can segment our endpoints, so while ransomware might infect and even disable one laptop, it can never use the first compromised endpoint to infect all of the others. The rest of the enterprise can keep running because the ransomware was contained to only the first infected laptop. The breach was unavoidable, but the catastrophe never happened and the incident was not devastating because the laptops were segmented.
Focus Your Approach
There's a lot you can do to make your organization more secure, but I'm willing to bet you only have a finite amount of resources. Focusing on what will make the greatest impact on your overall security posture is crucial. Start by identifying your mission-critical assets and implement zero-trust solutions around them — it's nonnegotiable in order to keep your crown jewels secure. Then, focus on other security controls that will help keep you and your data safe, even if your first line of defense fails. Identify your business's priorities and create a realistic strategy that reflects them.
Keeping all the bad things out is an ideal rather than a realistic goal — in both cybersecurity and everyday life. Viruses find a way. You have to have both the protective layer and a backup plan to contain the breach when the first defense fails. If a spread is safely contained, the majority of operations can carry on as normal. That's resiliency — and that is the end goal.