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Why You Need Layered Security

Definition: A layered cybersecurity approach involves using several different components in your strategy so that every aspect of your defense is backed up by another, should something go wrong.

Why Is a Layered Cybersecurity Approach Necessary?

Cybersecurity and Layered Security Today

Cybersecurity has been a priority for businesses for several years, and today ranks as one of the three most important considerations for organizations when investing in new technology (the other two being data and analytics solution adoption and cloud-based app implementation.

Related Post: What Do Business Digitization Strategies Look Like Today?

We only have to look back at the business environment over the course of the COVID pandemic to see the damage being done by various forms of attack—whether it’s ransomware, phishing, or any other attack vector.

So it was already on the agenda for most people; in fact, we published a blog about the need for small and midsize businesses to stop relying on basic security software because traditional antivirus solutions are simply not up to the task of handling modern cyber threats.

COVID-19 and Cybersecurity

The coronavirus pandemic, in addition to uprooting businesses and employees across the country and the world, has also had the effect of waves of cybercriminals rushing in to fill the vacuum of under-secured organizations and take advantage.

Related Post: Coronavirus Scams: Q&A With Impact’s Director of MIT Security Services

96% of IT decision makers believe their organizations are susceptible to external cyberattacks and 71% say they are not prepared to cope with them.

Hackers and other cybercriminals thrive off of uncertainty, and the COVID-19 crisis has unfortunately presented them with an easy target—that being businesses, usually SMBs, being unprepared to deal with emerging cyberattacks and vectors.

In the earlier stages of national lockdowns, people were anxious, vulnerable, and—most importantly—away from their usual places of work; meaning devices are often far less secure than they normally would be.

In other words, a combination of lacking security software and lacking security awareness from end-users fostered an environment in which cyberattackers could thrive; something that’s persisted to the present.

Even with lockdowns ended and workers back in the office, organizations are offering flexible and remote work opportunities. For businesses that do have flexible working options in place for their employees, they should strongly consider whether or not their current security solutions are adequate for protecting end users operating outside of typical office networks.

By far the most threatening attack we’ve seen over the last few years has been phishing scams, which are hooking people in by posing as informational sources for end users, only to infect their device when they click on the attached file or link. More sophisticated phishing scams will direct people to websites that look legitimate but are fake and ask them to fill in their details as a way to steal information.

Phishing emails spiked by over 600% after pandemic lockdowns as cyber-criminals look to capitalize on the fear and uncertainty generated by the COVID.

During the initial stages of the lockdown, there was a large uptick in the number of phishing emails that pertained to COVID-19 being sent, and with 52% of cyberattacks directly attributable to human error, it’s clear that many workers lack the correct knowledge to appropriately deal with this new wave of attacks.

This example, shown below, demonstrates how cyberattackers use current events to exhibit a veneer of legitimacy while preying on those least predisposed to dealing with these types of attacks—notably end-users who are not educated about security awareness and what to look out for.

Example of a coronavirus scam email, layered cybersecurity

Remote Work and the Internet of Things

The perfect storm of cybersecurity vulnerabilities has been further exacerbated by two things: the long-term proliferation of devices that operate and handle data in company networks; and the scale of remote working which has increased enormously in recent years.

It was already difficult for organizations to secure their workers’ various devices, now it’s an entirely different proposition to safeguard them while they’re operating outside of tradition networks.

It should also be noted that while in many ways the pandemic sped up the shift to remote or hybrid work for many businesses, there are a couple of considerations to take into account.

Firstly, many organizations even prior to the pandemic were beginning to adopt work-from-home practices for their workforce, and so while the speed of remote work uptake has been substantial, it’s not in the grand scheme of things an occurrence that’s completely unexpected.

Secondly, the number of Internet of Things devices, whether it’s phones, laptops, tablets, TVs, or smart sensors on the factory floor, has risen significantly.

With this substantial rise in endpoints comes a substantial rise in potential attack vectors, and consequently a greater likelihood of being the victim of a breach.

The Benefits of Having Layered Security Elements

Businesses need a layered cybersecurity approach for many reasons, but mostly because it provides many different benefits that keep organizations more secure and protected as time goes on and cyberattacks become more frequent and more intelligent. Here are some of the major benefits of having layered security elements:

  • Outdated Technology Becomes a Vulnerability: Hackers and their attacks are always changing to beat the latest cybersecurity technology which means old techniques, strategies, software, and other tech can quickly become a vulnerability point once it’s gone beyond its lifespan. With a layered security approach, you have multiple lines of defense to keep your business secure so that one piece of outdated tech doesn’t bring your entire system down. This gives you time to adjust, find new solutions, and implement them before it becomes a major problem.
  • Maintain Compliance: Many compliance regulations require layered security elements for data protection and data privacy. Not having these in place can make your business noncompliant and risk fines and other penalties.

How Does a Layered Strategy Work?

Not Relying on Basic Security is Key

Owing to the current cybersecurity landscape, it’s becoming more apparent that a basic security strategy simply won’t cut it in today’s environment.

As the cybercrime industry grows in size, resources, and sophistication, organizations must respond to keep pace, something that doesn’t appear to be happening.

In a survey by the Ponemon Institute, only 26% of respondents said their organizations have been able to decrease the time it takes to respond to a cyberattack

In order to effectively meet and head off the rise in attacks, which can very easily bankrupt an SMB, companies must invest in a strategy that employs a range of technologies and solutions to cover all bases.

Utilizing an Array of Layered Cybersecurity Elements and Solutions

What exactly do we mean when we say this?

Well, many businesses, big and small, may be accustomed to just using a basic firewall and antivirus solution. Maybe they don’t have the resources to buy a raft of different solutions and pay a team to operate them, or perhaps that’s just what they’ve always had and never gave it a second thought.

An organization should not see cybersecurity as a one-and-done job—much like digital transformation in general—it’s a continual process that involves monitoring, threat hunting, training, and more.

The idea behind this is that each solution can act as a kind of failsafe, so your business isn’t relying solely on your operating system’s built-in firewall.

The Elements of a Multi-Layered Network Security Strategy

What solutions do you need exactly to have a layered cybersecurity strategy?

Well, let’s go over the technology you need to adequately protect your business from harm.

What Layers Should You Have In Your Security Strategy | Why You Need Layered Security

Layered Access Control: Network and Mobile Device Management

A management system is used by organizations and vendors to monitor the health of devices.

It’s essentially your eyes and ears for every device that you need to look after within your company’s network, even the devices of remote workers operating out of the office—if they are handling any of your business data on a device that’s not monitored, it can cause big issues if it becomes compromised.

This is especially significant for businesses that deal with sensitive information, like healthcare providers or accountancy firms.

Ways an MDM can help:

  • Restrict layered access control to apps or device settings
  • Standardize devices
  • Establish Security policies
  • Enable Network security for BYOD (bring your own device) policies
  • Quicker device provisioning, deployment, and employee onboarding

87% of companies are dependent to some degree on their employees’ access to mobile business apps from their smartphones

Advanced Spam Filtering

Advanced spam filtering will help protect your employees from receiving dangerous phishing emails.

But don’t email providers have spam filters anyway?

Well, yes, but filters that are free are often lacking in many of the filtering techniques used by advanced filters. Anyone who has a Gmail account will know that spam can still get through, in spite of its filter.

A quality advanced spam filter will offer the following techniques:

  • Reputation-based email filters
  • Whitelisting
  • Blacklisting
  • Greylisting
  • Antivirus
  • Content Analysis

Next-Gen Antivirus and Multi-Layered Network Security

Related Post: What Is Next-Gen Antivirus?

Traditional antivirus solutions lack the capabilities of next-gen antivirus software, which utilize the following technologies:

  • Machine learning: Files are analyzed using an automated bot that can discover any malicious elements—all without any interruption to the user.
  • Behavior analysis: Computer processes can be monitored in real-time and detect any abnormal behavior, terminating malicious processes.
  • Threat intelligence: When a device encounters a threat, every other device under the network will be updated to counter the danger without any need for manual input.

SMBs are not prepared for cyberattacks | Cybersecurity statistics | Why You Need Layered Security

Web application firewall

A web application firewall is used to stop threats against your website or applications hosted on your site.

In many cases, business applications are tied into your network, so a WAF can help protect this communication channel.

Website backup and restore

18,500,000 websites are infected with malware at any given time, while the average website is attacked 44 times every day

It’s not just your networks that are vulnerable, your website is too. A solution that allows you to instantly backup and restore your site should the worst happen is absolutely vital, and yet many, many businesses have nothing to protect their sites in the event of a breach.

In the first half of 2021, there were 1,767 publicly reported breaches, exposing a total of 18.8 billion records.

Multifactor authentication (MFA)

MFA is a simple and highly efficient way of ensuring the security of your workers’ login credentials.

Microsoft cloud services see 300 million fraudulent sign-in attempts every day. They estimate that MFA blocks 99.9% of automated attacks

MFA requires the user to have a traditional sign-in method (usually a password), in addition to something more personal, like a fingerprint or text message.

Security awareness training

According to Kaspersky, 46% of cybersecurity incidents in the last year were due to careless or uninformed staff

We’ve spoken about how cyberattacks are increasing and in particular the rise of phishing attacks on SMBs. Phishing relies on exploiting end users who don’t know what to look for in a spam email.

To address this, it’s absolutely crucial that organizations train their employees so that they won’t be hoodwinked by a cybercriminal.

Bottom Line

  • Cyberattacks are increasing in scale and sophistication—combined with large remote workforces, SMBs must be vigilant about their security
  • In 2020, it’s not enough for an SMB to rely on a single or even a few solutions, they must adopt a layered cybersecurity approach
  • A layered cybersecurity strategy means that if an attack gets past one solution, another will be able to pick up the slack as a failsafe

In light of recent events, many organizations have found themselves playing catchup with their cybersecurity, trying to implement makeshift solutions to make up lost ground while their workforces are working remotely for the immediate future.

To find out more about how you can ensure your business’ cybersecurity is in good shape for now and for the future, download our eBook, “What Makes a Good Cybersecurity Defense for a Modern SMB?”.