Practical Cybersecurity

August 19, 2022

When it comes to cybersecurity, businesses face a paradox. On the one hand, the financial consequences can be disastrous if they don't invest in cybersecurity. However, in an environment of inflation and recession, the budget cannot afford to spend a fortune on security services. With this in mind, we have prepared this article, where we explore security solutions that, combined in the right way, can mitigate the risk of your company to cyber-attacks.

The Layered Security Approach

The recommended way to approach cybersecurity is to think of it in layers. Authentication, traffic encryption, logging, and penetration testing are some of these layers, each addressing a different security angle. Next, we will review the most effective solutions to combat cyber attackers without breaking the bank.

Nextgen AV (EDR/XDR)

When it comes to protection against cyber-attacks, the first thing that comes to mind for the average user is to use antivirus software. For decades, antivirus has been used as the first line of defense against malicious agents, thus becoming a mandatory component to protect endpoints. However, since its inception, antivirus software has had an Achilles' heel, its reliance on signatures associated with known malware files. Hackers are aware of this weakness, so they create new viruses knowing that antivirus vendors can take days or weeks to include their code in the malware blacklist.

Fortunately, today there is an effective solution to this situation, the combination of NGAV and EDR/XDR protection mechanisms. Let's review what these powerful protection tools consist of:

Next-gen Anti-Virus (NGAV)

What makes an antivirus an NGAV? Simple, they don't depend on signature updates. Instead, they use advanced detection algorithms based on machine learning, behavioral analysis, and more that allow them to detect potential threats and block them before they cause damage. Moreover, NGAVs are lightweight, and their response time to threats is quite fast. Despite its virtues, make no mistake, a next-generation virus can outsmart even the most sophisticated NGAV. For that reason, it is essential to combine them with EDR/XDR solutions.

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)

As its name implies, EDR is a security mechanism designed to detect suspicious activity and block it before compromising the endpoint. EDR solutions are able to do this, in simple terms, by checking for registry changes, modifications to crucial system files, and monitoring network packet activity. This data is used by an algorithm that compares current activity with usual activity looking for suspicious deviations.

Extended Detection Response (XDR)

There are situations where both NGAV and EDR can be circumvented. In this scenario, the priority is to prevent the attack from spreading to the rest of the endpoints and infrastructure. The security mechanism in charge of this task is the XDR. XDR provides response orchestration beyond a single device. In short, XDR is the perfect complement to NGAV and EDR since it contains threats that try to spread through the infrastructure.

Strong Passwords, MFA, and Auth0

In times when cloud-native applications are the norm, it is necessary to ensure that users have robust authentication methods. In this sense, the most used techniques are strong passwords, Multifactor Authentication (MFA), and OAuth 2.0.

Strong Passwords

Users often use weak passwords for a straightforward reason, convenience. The good news is that by implementing password managers in your organization, you can enforce the use of strong passwords without compromising this aforementioned convenience. And best of all, it's an easy and affordable solution to a critical security issue.

Multifactor Authentication

Even if you use strong passwords, it is recommended to accompany them with an MFA solution. There are several implementations of multifactor authentication, the most popular being sending the authentication code via SMS or using an app like Microsoft or Google Authenticator.

OAuth

In simple terms, OAuth is an authentication standard that allows access to websites or applications without needing to maintain another password. Using OAuth, your organization can leverage the security benefits of MFA and strong passwords across all your enterprise applications without the added complexity required to maintain and secure and control multiple user databases and access levels. Examples of OAuth providers are Google, Facebook, GitHub, and Twitter, among others. Depending on your specific requirements, your organization can also maintain its own OAuth backend.

IDS/IPS, Proxies, and VPNs

We've talked about endpoint security and application authentication, but what about web applications running on your infrastructure? Using IDS/IPS, web proxies, or VPNs is a cost-effective security layer in such a scenario.

IDS/IPS

An intrusion Detection System (IDS), also known as Intrusion Prevention System (IPS), is a software or hardware-based security mechanism that constantly monitors the network for suspicious or unauthorized activity. Depending on how they are configured, IDSs can only notify the IT team or automatically block connections that match pre-established rules.

Web Proxy

Using a web proxy is an inexpensive and effective way to protect your network. The web proxy hides the IP address from all outgoing traffic and provides a secure entry point for remote connections to your internal network.

VPN

You can think of a Virtual Private Network (VPN) as a web proxy that encrypts all traffic. The advantage of this solution is that it hides the content of packets leaving and entering your network from attackers, making them the recommended alternative for security-conscious organizations. There are many different VPN solutions available, and many have their own merits; however, due to cipher and configuration vulnerabilities, all requirements must be considered before implementing a solution.

Vulnerability Management Scanning/Patching

One of the most effective ways to protect your business against cyber-attacks is to detect potential "entry points." There are several methods for this, with vulnerability scanners being the most popular because they are inexpensive and convenient. When talking about Vulnerability Management, Scanning/Patching generally refers to software that constantly scans devices, servers, firewalls, proxies, applications, and other components of your network for known weaknesses. These vulnerabilities range from security patches not installed on endpoints to open network ports, misconfigurations, weak passwords, and more. It should be noted that industries that comply with NIST, PCI DSS, and HIPAA regulations must use Vulnerability Scanning to protect sensitive data.

External Penetration Testing

Another effective technique that seeks to prevent cyber-attacks before they occur is External Penetration Testing. This method tests the organization's defense perimeter by searching for points within reach of the internet that are likely to be compromised. An essential aspect of this technique is combining automated and manual testing performed by highly qualified experts with cybersecurity experience. Both infrastructure and applications should be tested thoroughly at least once yearly; testing more often helps to stay on top of known vulnerabilities.

Attack Surface Mapping

According to the Open Web Application Security Project (OWASP), Attack Surface Mapping or Attack Surface Analysis is about mapping out what parts of a system need to be reviewed and tested for security vulnerabilities. Attack Surface Mapping is critical to understanding what vulnerabilities exist for your organization and discovering what data and information are openly available to hackers. This more advanced security solution requires a company like ZCS™, which specializes in cybersecurity, to conduct this in-depth study.

Social Engineering/Phishing Attacks

Today hackers use social networks to investigate employees and managers to design sophisticated phishing attacks. This social engineering has proven effective in gaining access to credentials and private information that can then be used to compromise your organization. In this sense, the best protection is to carry out training on Social Engineering/Phishing to raise awareness among your staff about handling suspicious emails.

Security Log Management

Up to this point, all the solutions discussed are either proactive or reactive in the face of cyber threats. However, what to do if all these defenses fail? This is where security log management comes into play. This mechanism analyzes the security logs looking for problems, integrity violations, or unusual activity. The forensic data provided by these logs is vital in the event of a security breach, as it makes it easy to identify compromised endpoints or services and act accordingly quickly. This brings us to the next point, how to respond to security incidents?

Incident Response Plan and Services

An often underestimated best practice is to have an incident response plan. No matter how many layers of security your business uses, sooner or later, an attack may be able to penetrate your defenses. So, the question is what to do when it happens. The incident response plan is just about that. The plan consists of documentation that describes in detail the steps to follow in case of different types of breaches. When cybersecurity experts like ZCS™ have designed these procedures, you can respond quickly and effectively. If your organization does not have a dedicated Cybersecurity team, it is essential to have Incident Response services contractually established through a reputable provider. Considering that every second counts when an attacker is detected, Incident Response Plans and Services are invaluable.

Final thoughts

In this article, we have briefly examined different security solutions that will undoubtedly help improve your organization's cybersecurity without spending a fortune. You might have noticed that these solutions are like pieces of a puzzle. Each piece has an intrinsic value, but it is necessary to combine them to achieve the desired objective.

The million-dollar question is, can your team put this puzzle together, or will they need expert help?

Regarding cybersecurity, it's not wise to take unnecessary risks. For less than you think, you can hire ZCS Carbon™ Managed Security Services, a set of solutions that include penetration testing, cloud security, vulnerability assessment, managed detection and response, and more. Our team of cybersecurity experts is capable of designing custom solutions using the most advanced technology that guarantees your peace of mind. Contact us today for a free consultation.

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