Digital Transformation Has Heightened The Need For Cyber Strategies

By David Rajoo, Country Head of Cybersecurity Engineering for Palo Alto Networks in Malaysia

Up to October 2021, 8,922 cyber security cases have been reported in Malaysia. Since October of this year 30 out of 58 reported ransomware cases involve companies and organizations, declared by Datuk Dr Amirudin Abdul Wahab; Chief Executive Officer of CyberSecurity Malaysia. Fraud, intrusion, malicious codes, cyber harassment are the top threats to Malaysia cyberspace, especially to small businesses.

As a result of the pandemic, small businesses are pressured to pivot their business, retain their employees, and stay profitable, which takes time, focus, and budget away from cybersecurity. This makes them an easier target for hackers than bigger organizations. In line with the government’s budget this year to increase economic resilience and restore lives, Palo Alto Networks has come up with some tips for small businesses to improve their cyber security skills. 

Practise Zero Trust Principle — “never trust, always verify”

Enterprises’ security are recommended to use Zero Trust Security System to gain visibility and context for all traffic – across user, device, location and application. Zero Trust is a security model based on the principle of maintaining strict access controls and not trusting anyone by default, even those already inside the network perimeter such as your employees. Achieving Zero Trust is often perceived as costly and complex, but it starts with adopting a mindset of continuous validation. 

Small businesses such as emerging e-commerce sellers, who use Zero Trust will be able to better protect their business website from becoming a harvest festival for hackers to steal staff and customers’ confidential banking data or passwords by examining every single movement made to the corporate network. With the visibility to your network users identity and payload (computing activities), it helps to stop the attack before data can be reached and protect your most valuable business data, network assets, and transactions as well as business credibility for the business continuation. 

Monitor your network connections

As Zero Trust is not dependent on a location, as users, devices, and application workloads are now everywhere, so Zero Trust must be enforced across your entire business environment. Hybrid workplace has expanded the playground for hackers as users are allowed to access critical applications and workloads from anywhere such as home, coffee shops, offices, and small branches. Personal and mobile devices that switch on and off on public and private networks allow hackers to choose the preferable ‘lubang’ that is closer to the data. As the moving devices have blurred the edges of legacy perimeter-based security, traditional firewalls are not as secure as before.

The right users need to have access to the right applications and data. Know who is accessing your network and remove the unauthorised or unknown personal devices on your network time-to-time. Instead of sharing the whole data pool to all your employees, share the needed data authority with the needed user only. Set up multi-factor authentication for your utmost sensitive data such as payment data, customer-based, health records, etc. This will require all users to prove their identities – by using usernames, passwords, and biometric data to sign in, for instance – before they can access information. With this, business owners will have consistent visibility, enforcement, and control by tracking, monitoring and auditing the users and devices. 

Train your staff – Security Awareness Training

91% of cyberattacks always, if not more often than not, start with an email, which either leads to malicious links directly or which contains dangerous attachments. Aside from monitoring your network, train your staff to be cybersecurity aware. Being unaware or even unconcerned about securing our home network and against the common tactics used by cyber attackers is what creates these loopholes. The training should be starting from employee onboarding to ensure the individuals understands the consequences of cyberattack that might lead by a minor action such as clicking a link, an attachment, a banner advertisement, or downloading from unknown software. Also, limit your employees from using company laptops for personal objectives to reduce the possibility of getting unknown viruses, malware, or ransomware.

Backup your data 

Moving data storage from a traditional server to cloud storage is definitely one of the biggest digital transformation moves for enterprises, especially when the pandemic hits and accelerates the needs of the cloud. Business owners start to realise the benefits and convenience given by cloud services. Some might choose to use VPN to access the old server, some choose the free cloud services provided by tech giants such as Google. However, there’s some concerning myth on public cloud security – the truth is – cloud services have strong cybersecurity measures in place,  as these tech giants improve and update their security system and fix system bugs time-to-time. However, it is not SOLELY the cloud service provider responsibility. There is a shared responsibility between cloud service providers and businesses using them. Business owners need to take the responsibility and effort to ensure the sensitive data are stored safely and shared appropriately with proper authorization.

In July 2021, Google Cloud announced its partnership with Palo Alto Networks to introduce Cloud IDS (Intrusion Detection System) to help cloud customers solve critical network security challenges. However, enterprises are reminded not to abuse the usage of free cloud services as you might experience lost data, weaker security, disorganised control over the free cloud storage.

Invest in authorised software and cybersecurity services – do not install a pirated one!

Free crack code is a honey trap that allows you to enjoy the software service for free. However, the source of the crack programme remains unknown. It will be an open door to welcome hackers for them to sneak into your employees’ devices and your company network to steal or kidnap your assets. In a worse case,  the malware you installed is ransomware, you will be locked out of your computers until you pay ransom to the perpetrators. In addition, these crack codes from dodgy websites will further lead you to a trap with tons of unknown risks. These are the tricks used by a group of hackers to obtain your confidential data, passwords, and more, including your valuable money.

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