8 Cybersecurity Myths Debunked

The last thing any business needs is a swarm of myths and misunderstandings seeding common and frequent errors organizations of all sizes make in safeguarding data and infrastructure.

Brian Engle, Chief Information Security Officer, CyberDefenses

January 31, 2019

4 Min Read

Cybersecurity plays an integral role in the realm of good business models. You'd be hard pressed to come across an enterprise which doesn't have some form of cybersecurity policy as part of its infrastructure. But even cybersecurity programs built with good intentions can fall short. Why? The best intentions are often based on an array of myths perpetuated by a combination of mistrust, misunderstanding, and lack of information. These are the myths of cybersecurity, and I'm going to break down some of the most common ones found throughout the tech industry.

Myth 1: You're Too Small to Be Attacked
You read about data breaches all the time. Big companies suffer penetration attacks with millions of user data compromised by the nebulous realms of hackers. "Well," you think, "that'll never happen to my business, there's not enough value, we're too small." And that's just wrong. In 2016, 43% of all cyberattacks were conducted against small to medium-sized businesses. This is a growing trend, with malware and malicious attacks escalating in both complexity and frequency. You're as likely as a target as any major enterprise, so don't buy into this line of thinking.

Myth 2: Passwords Are Good Enough
The downfall of any security policy is the lazy "set it and forget it" mentality. Cultivating this lethargic approach is the adoption of complex passwords and believing it's good enough. You have your staff memorize a 12-character login phrase with special characters, caps, and numbers? That must be enough!

It's not, because a mix of social engineering and complex malware attacks can circumvent it  with alarming ease. Password reuse across multiple platforms makes you dependent on the security of other organizations, where a breach of their password database places accounts at risk on your systems. Malicious third parties employ a wide range of bots and auto-attacks to hasten their process, and without two-factor authentication and a level of encryption (especially on vulnerable public networks), one password just isn't sufficient in today's dangerous cyber world.

Myth 3: Antivirus Is Good Enough
Much like the "set it and forget it" password philosophy, this equally applies to your antivirus setup. It's tempting to believe the fancy software your enterprise invested so much capital in will thwart any and all attackers, but again, that's not true. Antivirus is of foundational importance, but good cybersecurity requires a rigorous program that includes protection, detection, and response preparation along with safe practices for user behaviors.

Myth 4: It's IT's Problem
Computers are hard, so let IT handle everything, right? This, again, is a foolish way to look at cybersecurity. Some businesses lack the capital to hire experienced staff. And, even with a good IT team, said staff are limited in what they can handle. If you expect your IT team to manage every single tech-related problem, from resetting logins to managing network infrastructure and dealing with potential intrusions, you're asking for trouble. Every staff member should be familiar with good cybersecurity practices.

Myth 5: BYOD is Safe
While a BYOD (bring your own device) policy is popular and cost-effective, it's a whole new avenue of risk for a business. Assuming smartphones and mobile devices brought by staff are secure is a serious error in judgment. Apps with personal data, logins, and business-related info are easy to compromise, and every unsecure device is just another potential hole in your cybersecurity foundation. It's important that employees follow rigorous guidelines when using their own hardware.

Myth 6: Total Security Is Possible
The eternal struggle of cybersecurity is its constant need to adapt to new threats. As security teams adapt strategies and tactics to meet those threats, attacks evolve to counter the changes. It's a constant battleground, meaning total security is impossible to achieve. A business should always expect some form of cyberattack and should always have backup, incident and crisis preparedness, and disaster recovery (BDR) measures in place. You can only take a proactive approach towards malicious threats, not counter them in their entirety.

Myth 7: You Don't Need Assessments and Tests
I couldn't think of a more disastrous approach to a cybersecurity plan. This is like working on a term paper and submitting it with zero revisions, edits, or extra eyes. You cannot reasonably expect your current cybersecurity plans to be foolproof without conducting assessments and penetration tests. These self-evaluations are invaluable, revealing where you're weakest and strongest.

Myth 8: Threats Are Only External
Competent security requires just as a hard a look at internal staff and policies as do the various third-party attacks. This is because — whether from human error or malign intent — cybersecurity risks are as likely to emerge from your own enterprise as outside of it. More is at risk, too, considering staff are the pathway to the most sensitive info.

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About the Author(s)

Brian Engle

Chief Information Security Officer, CyberDefenses

Brian Engle's role as CISO/Director of Advisory Services allows him to lead the delivery of strategic consulting services for CyberDefenses' growing client base with risk management support, information security program assessment, and cybersecurity program maturity evolution. Brian has been in the field for over 25 years. He was the founder of Riskceptional Strategies, a consulting firm focused on enabling the development of successful strategies for implementing, operating, and evolving risk-based cybersecurity programs.

Brian's previous experience includes executive director of Retail Cyber Intelligence Sharing Center (R-CISC), CISO and cybersecurity coordinator for the state of Texas, CISO for Texas Health and Human Services Commission, CISO for Temple-Inland, Manager of Information Security Assurance for Guaranty Bank, and Senior Information Security Analyst for Silicon Laboratories. He served as a past president and lifetime board of directors member of the ISSA Capitol of Texas Chapter, a member of ISACA, and holds CISSP and CISA certifications.

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