Cyber attacks continue to target businesses of all sizes, with potential threats to customers’ personal data and even the functionality of critical infrastructure services. Cybersecurity awareness month provides an excellent opportunity to remind organizations and individuals about the cyber risks they face and how to mitigate them. This article takes a look at cybersecurity awareness month for 2022, points out some key prevailing cyber threats to consider, and outlines essential tips for strengthening your company’s security posture and staying safe online.
What is Cybersecurity Awareness Month?
Cybersecurity awareness month is an annual initiative occurring every October that raises awareness about the importance of cybersecurity among both individuals and organizations. Officially named National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCAM), the initiative began in 2004 when the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) teamed up with the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCA) to help Americans stay safe against online scams.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the NCA currently partner to raise cybersecurity awareness for a month each year, and the initiative’s reach has expanded internationally. Each year, cybersecurity awareness month centers around a distinct theme, which reflects how the cyber threat landscape constantly shifts as hackers alter their tactics and techniques.
Key Cybersecurity Risks in 2022
Let’s now take a look at some of the most important cybersecurity risks and threats faced by individuals, for-profit, and nonprofit organizations.
The Human Element
The overall theme for 2022’s campaign is “See Yourself in Cyber”—this theme recognizes the central role that people have to play in cybersecurity. In fact, a compelling report by the World Economic Forum published in 2022 traced 95 percent of data breaches to human error.
Common errors include being duped by phishing attacks, downloading malware, not updating apps, oversharing information on social media, and practicing poor password hygiene. These types of errors happen both in a business and personal context, so awareness at all times is regarded as increasingly important.
Larger Attack Surfaces
Digital transformation strategies and increased cloud adoption widen the potential attack surface in IT environments and lead to increased data security risks. The hybrid work arrangements that have become the norm since the pandemic further increase the attack surface as employees connect to business resources and apps from multiple devices, including their mobile devices.
Threat actors prize sensitive customer data when conducting cyber attacks because this valuable information commands a high price on dark web marketplaces. Ransomware attacks often involve a data exfiltration component because threat actors believe they can hold organizations to ransom with the threat of publishing stolen information. With more possible entry points than ever into IT environments, businesses face a big challenge in effective data protection.
Increased recognition of online privacy risks led to an increase in new compliance regulations and the strengthening of existing laws over the last few years. Organizations need to ensure compliance with these laws to protect sensitive data belonging to their customers. Falling foul of these laws by not implementing appropriate security measures lead to severe reputational and monetary risks.
At an individual level, societal technology changes pose increased online privacy risks. As more services become digitized, app-based, and interconnected, individuals need to share more of their information with different parties.
Essential Cybersecurity Tips for 2022
Bearing in mind the dominant cyber threats and the general theme of NCAM in 2022, here are some essential cybersecurity tips to consider at both a business and individual level.
CISA points out the importance of enabling multi-factor authentication (MFA) as a way to protect accounts from compromise. When given the option, it’s prudent for customers to turn MFA on for any online accounts they use. Internally, organizations should implement MFA for employee, contractor, and partner access to business apps and resources.
MFA requires users to provide an additional category of evidence beyond their standard username-password credentials before getting access to a specific account and its associated permissions. More secure MFA implementations typically require users to supply physical tokens or biometric scans, but it’s also important to balance user experience, compliance with data regulations, and effective security measures.
Update Software on Time
Reputable software vendors work year-round to ensure their apps remain secure. While vendors run security tests on apps before releasing them, vulnerabilities sometimes slip through testing or only emerge post-release. Security patches fix those vulnerabilities, but not applying patches on time puts the app in question at the risk of exploitation.
Even with antivirus solutions in place, software vulnerabilities can be exploited by hackers. Furthermore, the frequent use of third-party code and apps puts businesses at risk from software supply chain vulnerabilities. Applying software updates on time in both personal and business IT environments substantially reduces the risk of compromise from outdated, vulnerable apps. At a personal level, this means turning automatic updates on. Businesses should work to implement an effective patch management strategy to ensure resources, such as web applications, aren’t left vulnerable.
Improve Password Hygiene
With the human element of cybersecurity taking center stage for cybersecurity awareness month in 2022, encouraging proper password hygiene helps mitigate some of the more basic mistakes people make. Strong passwords are imperative; businesses should establish defined criteria to ensure that users can’t create basic passwords even if they want to. The same passwords shouldn’t be used across different accounts.
Given the fact that people might need to remember multiple passwords across both employment and personal accounts, it’s also worth considering a password manager. These platforms enable individuals to generate, save, and manage secure passwords for all apps they use from one vault.
Leverage Online Resources
An often overlooked way to improve information security is to leverage the wealth of online resources that are freely available. For example, CISA’s own BeCyberSmart resource arms individuals with essential lessons in online safety. Data Privacy Day is an annual international event that promotes privacy and data protection best practices.
Organizations such as ISACA publish regular cybersecurity podcasts, while gov websites, including CISA, make in-depth white papers and webinars available to download. The information for staying protected and avoiding mistakes is out there; make sure to use it.
Get Data Loss Prevention in Place
The ultimate motive behind many cyber attacks is targeting and seeking to exfiltrate the crown jewel of sensitive data assets that organizations and people increasingly store in their environments and on their devices. Effectively discovering, monitoring, and protecting confidential information calls for dedicated solutions.
Data loss prevention (DLP) tools help to secure sensitive data through a range of crucial functions, including the ability to scan content and contexts for sensitive information, enforce encryption, and block file transfers. These actions work best when deployable at the endpoint level, which is the riskiest attack point in today’s complex and distributed IT environments.
Endpoint Protector is a next-generation DLP solution that works across all platforms, including Windows, macOS, Linux, and Thin Clients. Through the use of lightweight agents, Endpoint Protector minimally interferes with business activities while providing robust and granular protection of sensitive data resources. You can also help ensure compliance with industry regulations, from HIPAA to CPRA to GDPR.
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