The holidays are a huge time for buying and giving to loved ones. Unfortunately, this increase in purchasing means there is an increase in phishing and other holiday scams. Phishing is typically targeted towards consumers aiming to collect credentials, credit card or financial information, although companies are also affected since many employees now use their personal devices for business reasons.
The most common forms of scams this time of year are non-delivery; where you pay for something online and never receive it, or non-payment; where the product is being shipped but the seller is never paid. Some tips to avoid this: do not click any suspicious links or emails in attachments or on other platforms/websites and be wary of any websites asking you to update account information.
While you’ve all heard of phishing, don’t forget about smishing this holiday season. SMS phishing is only the first step in these types of attacks. Once the system has been successfully compromised, scammers can then install malware on the targeted devices. This enables them to control device functionality and makes you vulnerable to other attacks. To avoid this, be diligent in your research of any websites you purchase from and be wary of emails or text messages relating to purchases.
Especially during this holiday season look out for any suspicious text messages or emails and employ email filtering. Companies can reduce these threats by patching, using multi-factor authentication whenever possible and incorporating security awareness training to better spot scams. Be extra diligent this time of year, as hackers are becoming more sophisticated and making their scams look more legitimate.
With increasing requests from clients regarding their cybersecurity controls, companies are looking to us to help in a number of areas, with questions about written security policies, vulnerability and penetration testing, risk assessments, and security awareness training. These questions and concerns, which were mainly targeted towards large companies are now also crucial for small and medium-sized businesses.
In addition to the previously mentioned topics, clients are looking to see that companies have certain security tools in place such as:
Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA): MFA is a keyway to provide an extra layer of security to prevent hackers from accessing your system. MFA is when an alternate means of identification, in addition to a password is necessary to log in.
Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR): EDR is a cyber security solution that continuously monitors, collects data, and responds to help mitigate cyber threats.
Backup: Companies should be sure to include multiple forms of backup with at least one stored off-site. Backups should also be regularly tested to ensure they can be restored as needed.
Patching: Patches are software and operating updates that help address any vulnerabilities and keep your system up to date.
If your company is getting overwhelmed by client requests about your security posture, you are not alone. If you think your current measures may not be up to par or do not have the time, Designed Privacy created a program that provides you with a guide to cybersecurity and the tools you need to keep your company and your clients protected and stay competitive.
This Fall, the personal health information of over 170,000 dental patients was exposed in a data breach associated with the Professional Dental Alliance, a network of dental practices affiliated with the North American Dental Group. According to the Professional Dental Alliance, patient information was exposed due to a successful phishing attack against one of their vendors, North American Dental Management. The phishing campaign gave attackers access to some of NADM’s emails, where the personal information of patients were apparently stored.
While the Professional Dental Alliance has said their electronic dental record system and dental images were not accessed, an investigation found that the protected health information of patients such as names, addresses, email addresses, phone numbers, insurance information, Social Security numbers, dental information, and/or financial information were accessed by the attackers.
These incidents reveal just how vulnerable professionals can be against cybersecurity attacks and data breaches. One of the reasons for this is because many professionals are small businesses who don’t have the time or expertise to deal with everything that goes into cybersecurity. So, many professionals rely on vendors and associations to ensure they are protected. The issue is, if those vendors and associations experience a breach, professionals are also at risk.
To keep their patient information safe, it’s vital that dental offices and all professional businesses pay attention to some of the human risks that can lead to cybersecurity incidents. The attack this week, for instance, was the result of a phishing attack that tricked an employee into handing over account credentials. Here are a few things all professionals can easily do on their own to stay secure:
Endpoint detection and prevention
Endpoint detection and response (EDR) is a type of security software that actively monitors endpoints like phones, laptops, and other devices to identify any activity that could be malicious or threatening. Once a potential threat is identified, EDR will automatically respond by getting rid of or containing the threat and notifying your security or IT team. EDR is vital today to stay on top of potential threats and put a stop to them before they can cause any damage.
Using multi-factor authentication (MFA) is a simple yet powerful tool for stopping the bad guys from using stolen credentials. For example, if an employee is successfully phished and the attack gets that employee’s login information, having MFA in place for that employee’s account can stop the attacker from accessing their account even if they have the right username and password. If possible all users accessing your system should have multi-factor authentication set up for all of their accounts. At minimum, however, it is extremely important that every user with administrative privileges use MFA, whether they are accessing your network remotely or on-premise.
Hackers are constantly looking for vulnerabilities in the software we rely on to run our businesses. All those software updates may be annoying to deal with, but they often contain important security features that “patch up” known vulnerabilities. At the end of the day, if you’re using out-of-date software, you’re at an increased risk for attack. It’s therefore important that your team stays on top of all software updates as soon as they become available.
Having a backup of your systems could allow you to quickly restore your systems and data in the event of an attack. This is especially important if you are hit by ransomware, in which the attackers remove your data from your networks. However, it’s essential to have an effective backup strategy to ensure the attackers don’t steal your backups along with everything else. At minimum, at least one backup should be stored offsite. You should also utilize different credentials for each copy of your backup. Finally, you should regularly test your back-ups to ensure you will be able to quickly and effectively get your systems online if an attack happens.
Security Awareness Training
As this latest data breach shows, phishing and social engineering attacks are common ways attackers gain access to your systems. Unfortunately, phishing attacks are not something you can fix with a piece of software. Instead, its essential employees are provided with the training they need to spot and report any phish they come across. Sometimes it only takes one wrong click for the bad guys to worm their way in.
A recent article in The Wall Street Journal highlights some of the big changes that businesses have made to their employee training programs since the start of the pandemic. Typically, these trainings are formal, multi-hour in-person meetings. According to Katy Tynan, research analyst at Forrester Research, “formal, classroom-delivered training was easy to plan and deliver, but organizations didn’t always see the intended results.” Once the pandemic came along, trainings moved online and offered fun, informal bitesize trainings that employees take overtime. These changes to classical training programs echo many of the behavior-design principles that we incorporate into our cybersecurity awareness training.
Let’s break down some of the key changes the Journal article discusses and how they related to behavior-design principles:
1. Keep it Simple
Instead of hours-long trainings, businesses are starting to break down their trainings into small pieces for employees. In behavior-design terms, this represents an important element towards creating change: making sure users can easily do what we are asking them to do. Simply put, you can’t throw a ton of information at someone and expect them to keep up with it all. What’s more, employees will be a lot more willing to go through with a training if they know it will only take 5 minutes instead of 5 hours. Keeping trainings short and easy to do are therefore important steps towards ensuring that your desired outcome aligns with your employees’ abilities.
2. Consistency is key
Most traditional training programs are a one-and-done deal. Once it’s over, you never have to worry about it again. However, this is exactly what we don’t want employees to take away from training. Instead, consistency is key for any changes. With short lessons, employees can go through the program in small, daily steps that are easy to manage while also keeping the training in their mind over an extended period of time.
3. Make it Interesting
The final piece of the behavioral puzzle is ensuring that employees actually want to do the trainings. Most traditional training programs may involve some small group discussions, but overall employees are shown videos and made to listen to someone talk at them for long periods of time. Employees are only taking in information passively. Instead, trainings should be fun, interesting, and engaging to keep users coming back for more.
The pandemic has brought about so many changes to our lives. While some of the changes have been for the worse, it’s also forced us to start thinking differently about how we do things and come up with creative solutions. The new trend in training programs is one such change. And what makes these changes so successful is the way it incorporates some of the basic behavior-design principles. This is an approach we’ve taken when we developed The PhishMarket™, our cyber awareness training program. By offering engaging and interactive 2-4 minute lessons given daily over an extended period of time, our program has shown success in reducing employee phish susceptibility 50% more than the industry standard.
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