Heartbleed made the rounds in the media as the security threat du jour. What made Heartbleed so dangerous was that the OpenSSL protocol it exploited was utilized by most websites. Just about everyone was put at risk.
I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but Heartbleed isn’t an anomaly; it’s one of many security risks you expose your data to when it’s connected to the Internet. The only way to protect your company’s data is to understand and prevent the risks. Here’s how:
1. Prevent and detect intrusions.
This should go without saying, but the risk of infection is decreased when network security technologies, like firewalls and an intrusion prevention system (IPS), are properly deployed. Your network should have systems in place to block intrusions, but you also need IPSs that monitor network traffic to detect and prevent malicious activity.
This becomes even more important as we enter an age where the Internet of Things is ubiquitous. Apple’s iOS was once considered more secure than Windows. It’s not that the coding was so much better, but because nobody had a Mac in those days, the authors of malware and viruses largely ignored it in favor of creating chaos on a massive scale.
This is no longer the case — advanced persistent threats are the most advanced forms of malware, and they’re capable of infecting a wide range of devices.
2. Update your software.
The Zollard worm is a PHP exploit that’s been making the rounds in recent months. What separates this worm from Heartbleed is that the vulnerability it exploits was already patched in 2012. But the Zollard worm continues to wreak havoc because many system admins haven’t installed the patch on all their devices, leaving them vulnerable to attack.
As the number of connected devices increases, CSOs find themselves responsible for securing large deployments of devices that may or may not have been designed with security in mind. From servers to desktops to mobile devices, every enterprise device is at risk.
Don’t trust employees to update their devices individually. Instead, force updates companywide, and follow up to ensure every connected device is patched.
3. Encrypt your data.
No matter what industry you’re in, your servers contain a lot of personal information, from customer credit card and bank account information to employee Social Security numbers. Keep this information secure by encrypting it and using a VPN when the data is transmitted over the Internet.
Snapchat recently hit rough waters for not being transparent about the information on its servers. Its supposedly temporary chats turned out to be much less temporary than users thought, and not only was information stored, but it wasn’t properly encrypted — which led to a security breach that leaked more than 4.6 million users’ account information to the public.
4. Run background checks on vendors.
You don’t hire employees without first checking their history to evaluate the risks, so why wouldn’t you do the same for your software vendors?
Evaluate the security posture of all third-party vendors and partners. If a third-party vendor (e.g., a cloud or SaaS provider) provides any part of the technology used in your solution, you should view it as an extension of your own organization. Request to review a copy of the vendor’s security policy or most recent SSAE 16 report.
5. Dedicate resources to data security.
You can have the most cutting-edge security software on the market, but it doesn’t matter if you have no one to monitor it. I can’t imagine the White House without a Secret Security detail, along with security provided by the NSA, CIA, and FBI. You should protect your data the same way.
Dedicate an individual or team to focus on security. Members of this team must work closely with the application development and IT operations groups to identify risks, maintain the company’s security policy, and oversee incident response procedures.
Twitter has one of the fastest threat response teams in tech. When its servers were compromised, the breach was detected quickly. Twitter responded by pulling the plug on the service while the security team corrected the issue. As a result, only 250,000 accounts were compromised.
The Internet is a dangerous place, and security is becoming more complicated as users connect with an ever-expanding variety of devices. Your network will never be completely safe online, but a dedicated security staff monitoring firewalls and encryption will give you peace of mind.
No matter what you can afford to spend on security, make sure you keep your software updated. The worst security breach is the one you could’ve easily prevented.