In a world where over 54% of the population is online and the numbers continue to grow, it is but obvious that these people are leaving behind digital footprints and generating huge volumes of data every second.
This has made data the new oil, a treasure trove for organizations and cyber-criminals alike. Data is a valuable asset for organizations to improve the way they work and create micro-moments for customers, which will, in turn, boost their profitability and viability.
So, we see organizations consciously making efforts to strengthen their ‘digital’ so that they can gather data and consequently, gain valuable insights.
On the other end of the spectrum, cyber-criminals and hackers are finding new and technologically-advanced ways to orchestrate data breaches and cyber-attacks that will give them access to all the valuable data which they use for a wide range of purposes such as huge ransoms from the organizations, corporate espionage, identity theft and data theft, causing huge financial losses and disrepute to organizations and so on.
So, the tug of war between cybersecurity professionals and cyber-attackers is intensifying but definitely leaning more towards the hackers and cyber-criminals.
Because only large-scale breaches and attacks on big players like Facebook and Yahoo make it to the news and lead to widespread discussions but there is generally little to no talk of data or proactive strategies put down and executed by organizations to protect the data and privacy of their customers/users/clients.
Let me elaborate upon this with the example of the recent Facebook data breach. This Facebook breach resulted from the hacking of a vulnerability in one the platform’s modules – View As through which hackers could extract data of over 50 million users and could gain access to other platforms such as Instagram, Airbnb and so on which could be logged in through Facebook.
It is considered one of the biggest breaches faced by the company since its inception. This has become a big talking point and has been a major part of the news in the recent past. However, data and application security are not something that business owners are obsessed and paranoid about on a daily basis while they must be.
Over 50% of small businesses have experienced some form of cyber-attack or breach over the past year in the US alone. This is very telling of the lax attitude towards cybersecurity.
It is often observed that business owners have major misconceptions about cybersecurity, that it is someone else’s responsibility or that their applications will not be attacked or somehow impenetrable, that more investment alone will translate into sound cybersecurity without proactive engagement and so on.
Data is the new oil, and hackers and cyber-criminals are drawn to places where it is available and is easily accessible. With the advent of technology, they do not have to go searching from one place to another, they simply employ bots and other such methodology to snoop around for vulnerabilities and gaps that they can exploit. Combined with the lax attitude towards cybersecurity, it has become much simpler to orchestrate hacks and breaches today.
Data breaches result in not just financial losses to businesses but the loss of customer trust and subsequently, customers, impact the level of brand loyalty and leads to rapid decline of brand reputation and goodwill.
The reality is that customers want to associate themselves with and do business with those brands and organizations that are transparent, proactive and visibly show how invested they are in taking solid steps to protect their data and privacy.
Whether you are a small business or a global biggie, it boils down to how proactive and invested you are about securing your applications and protecting customer data.
Key Things Businesses Must Do
As discussed earlier, businesses cannot simply have investment spurts or scattered efforts every now and then or when news of big data breaches surface. It is indispensable for organizations of today to have a proactive attitude, dynamic strategy and sustained efforts towards cybersecurity.
With examples such as the Facebook breach, the cliché that any app is only as strong as its weakest link applies even more. Every update and every module of every application of the business must be subjected to thorough security testing as part of the quality assessment (QA) process to mitigate risks. In a nutshell, businesses must always be one step ahead of hackers.
- Frequent and in-depth security audits of their applications:
Businesses must invest in comprehensive security tools which will scan, detect, fix and monitor their applications regularly. Daily scanning and regular auditing of all aspects of applications is a must.
Scanning must also be done after any changes in systems, networks, business policies or other major changes. This way top OWASP threats, vulnerabilities, gaps, malware, anomalous and/or malicious activity, application defacements, attack signals, etc. can be effectively identified.
Manual penetration testing and security audits by certified security professionals can help identify business logic flaws, password strength, gaps in forms, carts, content, etc. and accordingly, find ways to strengthen the same.
Businesses and business decision-making is moving at a rapid pace today and so is the change in technology. This means your security design and security professionals must be quick, flexible and agile in their decision-making and actions to quickly detecting vulnerabilities and gaps and fixing them much before the attackers can do anything.
- Prioritizing security fixes for their applications:
Your security scanning may detect several different gaps and vulnerabilities, but it is crucial that you prioritize the fixes. It takes more than 100 days even for low-risk vulnerabilities to be fixed by developers.
So, it is important that your security tools are able to patch the vulnerabilities automatically and immediately while you prioritize and work on the fixes. Critical and high-risk vulnerabilities must be the first priority always.
- Leverage insights from security analytics:
Businesses of today leverage business analytics to build insights that will help them forge ahead of their competitors. It is equally important for them to use security analytics to gain deep insights about who, where and why attacks are happening, and unearthing patterns, trends and correlations regarding the same. This is important for strengthening the overall security of the applications.
- A managed WAF with certified security experts to manage it:
Web Application Firewall acts as the first wall of defense for web applications and automatically and immediately blocks bad traffic and malicious requests by patching the application-layer vulnerabilities while the developers and security professionals fix these.
It continuously monitors emerging threats and DDoS attacks and analyzes patterns in bad traffic and attack behavior.
Combined with these automated elements of the WAF, it is important to leverage the human expertise and unconventional thinking of certified security experts to manage the WAF so that no vulnerability or gap will go unnoticed, custom rules can be incorporated as per the needs of the business and zero false positives can be assured.
I would like to say that even an organization as big as Facebook, with all its might and R&D budget, is not free from security breaches. But, given the nature of their business and their size, they can more easily weather the storm when compared to smaller businesses.
So, it is of utmost importance for business owners and managers of businesses of all kinds and especially smaller sizes to be obsessed with the security of their applications and customer data all year round and not just when big breaches take place as they may not be able to recover from it like the bigger corporations.