HBGary CSO: How Small and Mid-Sized Businesses Can Protect Themselves

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    With a near-constant stream of security news, such as reports of hackers taking over unsecured appliances, vulnerabilities in Java and recent hacking incidents, SMBs would be right to feel concerned about the need to better protect their digital domain from unwelcome intruders.

    Indeed, the smaller size of SMBs does not necessarily make them less appealing to cyber criminals, according to Jim Butterworth, CSO of security at HBGary. On the contrary, hackers and cyber spies are increasingly targeting small businesses as part of long-term espionage campaigns. The strategy entails penetrating smaller – and less secure – partners in order to gain entry to targets such as multibillion-dollar companies or government agencies.

    With this in mind, Butterworth sent IT Business Edge a number of tips for small and mid-sized businesses, starting with the need for a “health check” of the corporate network. For this, Butterworth recommends that SMBs engage external malware experts to perform memory and forensic analysis on host computers for Trojans and malware infestations.

    In addition, businesses would do well to adjust their incident-response plan to cater to changing security realities. He wrote:

    “Just as your emergency response and business continuity plans are changed with the environment, an incident response plan must adjust to the changing landscape of cyber-attacks.”

    He emphasized that it is not about having a response plan, but whether that plan contains the pre-planned responses that are “necessary to defend [against] tomorrow’s adversary.”

    Another step that SMBs should do is to invest in their security infrastructure, notes Butterworth. The reason to that should be obvious: Antivirus software does not protect against targeted attacks, and are ill-suited to keep up with the thousands of malware variants that are created. So how can SMBs beat hackers at their game? “Evaluate new technologies that can help you identify and counter these attackers,” suggests Butterworth.

    Finally, there appears to be no running away from the need for user education, given how they form the largest attack surface for a business. This includes providing “clear, concise cyber guidelines for your employees,” as well as educating them about phishing attempts. The latter should include information such as the dangers of cloak links embedded within email messages or posted on social media sites.

    The need to properly educate employees on the dangers of phishing is echoed by the tech team from The Onion, which recently saw its Twitter account compromised via a targeted phishing attack. You can read more about it in “What SMBs Can Learn from the Onion Twitter Hack.”

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