October is National Cybersecurity Awareness Month and – as with other dates that are set aside to raise awareness – vendors, organizations, and the government will be peppering the citizenry with products and recommendations to help improve security, and behavioral traits to avoid. One of the first steps in raising awareness, though, is measuring how your organization actually quantifies security awareness. For example, is it through completion of formal cybersecurity training and testing? Requiring employees to sign a human resources document explaining cybersecurity etiquette? Or is it something more technical, like ensuring certifications are up to date for appropriate team members?
Regardless of how your organization measures its cybersecurity awareness, consider the following three areas to get your month started off correctly.
Why it Needs Attention
Administrator and root accounts should only be used when the application, infrastructure, or operating system actually needs them. They should never be used for everyday log on events and absolutely never for routine tasks like browsing the web or email.
Educate all team members on the risk of using administrator accounts for everyday functions and measure when they are being used inappropriately. Reports can demonstrate the trends to secure your organization as people stop using these accounts incorrectly.
Why it Needs Attention
Proper remote access into your organization, whether on premise or in the cloud, should be sanctioned by IT. Inappropriate remote access using desktop solutions that allow you to “connect anywhere” represent a huge risk as Shadow IT. They should not be allowed, and represent one of the primary vehicles a threat actor will use to compromise your environment.
Using an asset management, software delivery, or even a vulnerability management solution, discover any Shadow IT that allows remote access. This can be anything from unauthorized SSH, VNC, and RDP, to third party applications that allow connections via a “go to asset” mentality. Then, work on a plan to disable them and place them under a proper Remote Access paradigm so credentials, access, and indicators of compromise can be properly measured and reported on. Demonstrating the removal of remote access Shadow IT via reports will provide a significant contribution for your awareness this month.
Why it Needs Attention
Identifying risks is an ongoing process. The act of performing an assessment, prioritizing the risks, and performing remediation or mitigation must occur every day through the year. Unfortunately, due to the monotonous nature of this process teams become complacent. There are only so many times you can say the “sky is falling”, or "patch now!" before teams react with – “not again”. Awareness needs to be relevant and vulnerability management needs to accommodate an organization’s culture and prioritization in order for individuals and resources from becoming the next headline in the daily paper.
Make vulnerability management fun. Yes, that is what I said. If you make remediation and mitigation cycles an actual competition between teams, the team that minimizes the risks the fastest wins. This could include overall patch deployments, lowering critical scores, or other measurable metrics. Teams will compete and ultimately have bragging rights. If management allows prizes or other compensation for the winning teams, you will be surprised how fast many long-standing risks actually get corrected.
If you consider these basic recommendations, National Cybersecurity Awareness Month can be measured as a success within your organization. Remember, the most important thing about this month is that it would instill security throughout the year and any initiatives should not be a one-time effort. If you are looking for how BeyondTrust’s privileged access management, remote access, and vulnerability management can help produce reports demonstrating the effectiveness of your initiatives, contact us today. Demonstrating awareness can actually be as simple as a report demonstrating behavior changes based on your internal awareness and education strategy.
Morey J. Haber, Chief Security Officer, BeyondTrust
Morey J. Haber is the Chief Security Officer at BeyondTrust. He has more than 25 years of IT industry experience and has authored three books: Privileged Attack Vectors, Asset Attack Vectors, and Identity Attack Vectors. He is a founding member of the industry group Transparency in Cyber, and in 2020 was elected to the Identity Defined Security Alliance (IDSA) Executive Advisory Board. Morey currently oversees BeyondTrust security and governance for corporate and cloud based solutions and regularly consults for global periodicals and media. He originally joined BeyondTrust in 2012 as a part of the eEye Digital Security acquisition where he served as a Product Owner and Solutions Engineer since 2004. Prior to eEye, he was Beta Development Manager for Computer Associates, Inc. He began his career as Reliability and Maintainability Engineer for a government contractor building flight and training simulators. He earned a Bachelor of Science degree in Electrical Engineering from the State University of New York at Stony Brook.