Confusion over the definitions of "threat" and "risk" exist when IT security teams talk to members of the executive suite. One strategy security professionals may consider is approaching the discussion from a business perspective instead of leading with fear, said Don Freese, deputy assistant director with the FBI's information technology branch.
Freese, who served as a keynote speaker Monday at the ISC(2) Security Congress convention in Austin, Texas, noted that risks are measurable, providing that companies practice good security hygiene, such as logging network activity and taking inventory of the data that the enterprise possesses.
In addition to those best practices, Freese also advised IT security leaders to consider the industry that they operate in and the type of data that would be desired by cybercriminals or nation-states. That assessment would help provide a framework for the potential intent of the attackers and the magnitude of the impact to the company's business.
And while companies may prefer to horde as much information as possible on customers - to use for driving sales - Freese cautioned against this practice.
"The more data you keep, the more ways an actor can come after you," he said.
Calling on the FBI
If a company suspects a nation-state has launched a cyberattack against their organization, they can work with the FBI in a confidential manner, Freese said. And the type of information that will help the FBI in its investigation are strong data metrics, such as incident logs and data that shows activity trends for at least a three-year period, he advised.
Recent trends in nation-state activity that concern Freese are an expanded role these entities are adopting. Although intelligence gathering is the tradecraft of nation-states, these players are taking coding, technology, and social engineering to new levels and morphing into cybercriminals as well, he added.
For example, the FBI has noticed nation-states are using malware sniffers to see how the federal agency will react, depending on which industry is poked, Freese said. While not much is going beyond the sniffing, the FBI is aware criminal intent is behind these actions, he added.
In addition to stressing the importance of building relationships with customers, vendors, and employees, Freese also noted companies may want to take the initiative and get to know the agents at their local FBI office before a cyberattack ever hits.
"Going to the field office is one first step," Freese said. "We are very relationship oriented."
But it takes more than just one visit to develop a relationship, he said. Consistently meeting with the agency to develop trust and respect between the parties is the best tack.
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