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For business leaders in organisations that leverage cloud-based systems, building and maintaining a strong cyber security posture must be at the top of your list of priorities. With the number of cyber security threats multiplying exponentially, robust defence mechanisms are vital to keeping your data, people and customers safe.

The mitigation of cyber security risks is a multiple-tier system that involves risk assessment, access management, employee education, incident response, and more. With the right approach, you can secure your cloud infrastructure and prevent financial, reputational, and compliance problems.

Let's take a closer look at implementing strong cyber security measures to protect your cloud-based systems.

Understanding cyber security threats: What to look for

The key to mitigating cyber security threats is understanding how they work and what vulnerabilities attackers may look to exploit. Since the most common reason data breaches hurt your business is the lack of cyber awareness throughout the organisation, educating yourself and your employees on cyber security best practices is crucial.

Email and SMS spear phishing attacks

A spear phishing email is a message that contains a malicious link or attachment. Once the user takes the intended action, such as providing a login or downloading a file, the threat actor gains access to valuable data.

Since the email mimics messages sent by trustworthy companies or individuals, the user who ignores best cyber security practices makes the mistake of following the call to action. Examples are:

  • An email with a link to a fake website that tricks the user into sharing corporate logins and passwords.
  • An email that looks exactly like a message from the CEO, telling the employee to take action (e.g., transfer funds to another company).

SMS phishing or smishing is an SMS or voice message which tells the recipient to take action that puts the company in danger. For example, to change a password or to share credentials.

According to research and surveys, around 42% of employees fall into the trap of spear phishing attacks.

Spyware and ransomware

Spyware is a virus that enters the user's systems, collects data, and sends it to a third party. Meanwhile, ransomware is a malicious program that encrypts data in your system and demands a ransom in exchange for decryption instructions.

These programs infect your computer network through downloaded attachments, clicked malicious links, and infected website downloads.

Insider threats: a weak link

Insider threats are current or former employers who put your data at risk in two ways:

  • Fail to follow best cyber security practices and download a malicious attachment or click a dangerous link.
  • Intentionally share account credentials or steal data from the company for malicious purposes.

Since employees often have direct access to sensitive data, they can often be the weakest security link in the company.

Zero-day exploits

Zero-day exploits are malicious cyber attacks that take advantage of existing software vulnerabilities before developers have a chance to catch them.

Malicious actors often target SaaS businesses because these companies send out software updates to many clients simultaneously. Accordingly, the virus travels along with the update to the entire client base. If you are using SaaS, you can receive an update message that appears genuine and invite malware to your cloud infrastructure.

Insecure APIs and misconfigurations

APIs allow applications or app components to communicate with each other over the internet or network. Lack of proper security makes the transferred data vulnerable to attacks. One of the biggest cyber attacks in Australia, the Optus data breach, occurred due to API security issues.

When the malicious actor gains access to the API, they don't just get a chance to steal data. They also have an opportunity to implement malicious code into the application and initiate a Zero-Day exploit.

Being a target: advanced persistent threats (APT)

An advanced persistent threat (APT) is a well-orchestrated cyberattack with the goal of infiltrating the network without detection in order to steal sensitive data. Examples are spear phishing attacks, spyware, and ransomware. What makes these attacks unique is whereas many phishing attacks are brute-force operations that are sent indiscriminately to multiple targets, APTs often involve intricate and comprehensive planning against a highly specific target.

A team of malicious actors plans these attacks carefully. They usually have sizable funding that allows them to spend a substantial amount of time studying the target and maximising the success of the attack. The common targets of APT attacks are government bodies as well as energy, telecoms, finance, and IT sectors.

Social engineering

A social engineering attack involves the cybercriminal using psychological tricks to manipulate the user into taking action. Examples include:

  • Baiting – making false promises to capitalise on the user's desire for financial gain
  • Scareware – sending security alerts and notification popups about a virus infecting the system, so the user downloads malicious "antivirus" software
  • Phishing – leveraging the user's trust of their colleagues or creating a sense of urgency with carefully crafted messages can trick the recipient into taking action

The distracted, scared, and confused employee is more likely to follow the attacker's lead and share credentials or allow a virus to enter the system.

Most common industry breaches and stolen data type

While all industries are vulnerable to cyberattacks, some are more attractive to malicious actors than others. They include:

  • Manufacturing
  • Finance and insurance
  • Professional, business, and consumer services
  • Energy
  • Retail and wholesale
  • Education
  • Healthcare
  • Government
  • Media and telecom

The reasons why cybercriminals choose one industry over another can vary. For example, threat actors target healthcare organisations because they maintain vast amounts of sensitive patient data. Meanwhile, small retailers and consumer service providers that maintain client payment records often don't implement sufficient security measures. This makes them easy targets.

Data that threat actors usually look for includes:

  • Personal sensitive data
  • Corporate account data
  • Intellectual property
  • Payment transaction and banking details

The consequences of cyberattacks can be devastating across all industries. The average total cost of a data breach is $4.35M. Besides financial problems, companies suffer reputational damage, legal liability, and productivity issues. Around 60% of SMBs go out of business after becoming victims of a cyberattack.

Since cybercriminals often steal sensitive data that belongs to the company's clients, individuals suffer from corporate data breaches as well. Threat actors use this data for stealing identities and money as well as causing reputational damage and demanding ransom.

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Cyber security threat mitigation

Cyber security threat mitigation involves a number of strong tactics aimed at identifying threat possibilities early and minimising the negative consequences. Each business regardless of its size or industry needs a security policy and checklist that outline effective measures, including:

Regular employee training and strong password policies

Cyber awareness is key to mitigating cyber security threats. While employees are your company's greatest assets, they are also the weakest security link. That's why you need to implement regular cyber security training that teaches your workforce how to recognise malicious actions, including suspicious emails, links, and programs.

You also need to implement comprehensive password policies that encourage employees to create strong passwords and change them regularly. Assigning passwords may be the best way to ensure their quality.

Privilege access control and identity management

To minimise the chances of accidental or intentional sharing of credentials, consider limiting employee access. Not all employees require access to all elements of the cloud infrastructure. Grant access privileges according to each employee's needs. This way you won't just prevent them from facilitating data breaches, you will know the source of the breach if it occurs.

In most cases, just one account with administrative privileges is sufficient to ensure smooth company operations. The rest of the accounts should have limited access.

Regular security assessment

Cyber security assessments involve evaluating cyber security risks for your business and discovering loopholes in cybersecurity measures. Since cyber technologies change rapidly, cyberattacks become more and more sophisticated.

It's up to the company to follow the latest cyber security trends and implement them on time. The assessment allows you to prioritise risks and identify areas for improvement.

Data encryption

Before transferring and storing data on the cloud, consider encrypting it. Encryption can protect your data even if it falls into the wrong hands. Only the owner of the encryption key can gain access to your digital assets.

Encryption is one of the most effective cyber security tactics for cloud infrastructure. While it comes with a few downsides that involve the speed of operations, encryption provides top-notch protection.

Data backup plan

A strong data backup plan, including the involvement of blue teams, is crucial to keeping your data in your hands. If your business suffers from a ransomware attack, you can turn to the backup and ignore the threat actor's demand for ransom. While you can store backup data on cloud servers, you also need to consider local offline storage as well. Blue teams play a vital role in ensuring the effectiveness of such backup strategies. 

Effective offboarding process

Many data breaches happen because ex-employees either share account credentials with third parties intentionally or ignore the best cybersecurity practices and lose data to malicious actors.

To avoid this issue, you need to make sure that access to cloud storage, systems, and other data is revoked the moment the employee leaves the company.

Prevention is the best way to mitigate any cyber security threat

No matter how strong your cybersecurity measures are, the best way to avoid the severe consequences of a cyberattack is to prevent them from targeting you in the first place. By focusing on proactive defence, you are minimising the need for reactive tactics.

Comprehensive prevention strategies coupled with a robust cyber security solution can keep your cloud infrastructure safe amidst the growing number of cyber security threats. Meanwhile, this can help you qualify for top-notch cybersecurity insurance and protect your assets even further.

If you'd like to learn more about how Canon Business Services ANZ can help your business secure your cloud infrastructure in the most effective way possible, contact our team of cyber security experts today.

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