The business world is on high alert. President Biden, the FBI and Department of Homeland Security are warning the private sector about potential Russian-sourced cyber attacks. The consistent theme? “Lean into your cybersecurity strategy,” said Conrad Bell, C Spire Chief Information Security Office. “While there might be more threats than usual, malware, phishing attempts, zero-day attacks, etc, are not new. A smart strategy that deploys layers of security is the best approach to today’s threats.”
How robust is your strategy?
A business’ cybersecurity strategy needs to address four main areas of concern, says the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA). “In the absence of a specific threat, these should be your priorities,” said Bell.
1. Reduce the likelihood of a damaging cyber intrusion
- Validate that all remote access to the organization’s network and privileged or administrative access requires multi-factor authentication.
- Ensure that software is up to date, prioritizing updates that address known exploited vulnerabilities identified by CISA.
- Confirm that the organization’s IT personnel have disabled all ports and protocols that are not essential for business purposes.
- If the organization is using cloud services, ensure that IT personnel have reviewed and implemented strong controls outlined in CISA's guidance.
- Sign up for CISA's free cyber hygiene services, including vulnerability scanning, to help reduce exposure to threats.
2. Take steps to quickly detect a potential intrusion
- Ensure that cybersecurity/IT personnel are focused on identifying and quickly assessing any unexpected or unusual network behavior. Enable logging in order to better investigate issues or events.
- Confirm that the organization's entire network is protected by antivirus/antimalware software and that signatures in these tools are updated.
- If working with Ukrainian organizations, take extra care to monitor, inspect, and isolate traffic from those organizations; closely review access controls for that traffic.
3. Ensure that the organization is prepared to respond if an intrusion occurs
- Designate a crisis-response team with main points of contact for a suspected cybersecurity incident and roles/responsibilities within the organization, including technology, communications, legal and business continuity.
- Assure availability of key personnel; identify means to provide surge support for responding to an incident.
- Conduct a tabletop exercise to ensure that all participants understand their roles during an incident.
4. Maximize the organization's resilience to a destructive cyber incident
- Test backup procedures to ensure that critical data can be rapidly restored if the organization is impacted by ransomware or a destructive cyber attack; ensure that backups are isolated from network connections.
- If using industrial control systems or operational technology, conduct a test of manual controls to ensure that critical functions remain operable if the organization’s network is unavailable or untrusted.
By implementing the steps above, all organizations can make progress toward improving cybersecurity and resilience. In addition, CISA urges cybersecurity/IT personnel at every organization to review Understanding and Mitigating Russian State-Sponsored Cyber Threats to U.S. Critical Infrastructure.
CISA also recommends organizations visit StopRansomware.gov, a centralized, whole-of-government webpage providing ransomware resources and alerts.