Reinforcing Cyber Security - What is Your Role?

Kelvin Brooks, CISO, City of Atlanta
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The quest for an automated and digitalized world has led to the incorporation of sensor-based chip-operated devices in our day-to-day lives as well as in organizations to streamline daily chores and enterprise operations. In the past decade, we have witnessed a significant spike in the number of devices connected to the IoT platform. Although the burgeoning IoT technologies have made our jobs effortless and more efficient, they have opened the doors to malicious cyber-attacks that can prove catastrophic for an organization or an individual. With billions of devices connected to the internet, attackers now have an array of tools to choose from to accomplish their unethical objectives. While enterprises have personnel entrusted with the responsibility of cybersecurity, home devices are often susceptible to web attacks due to the naivety of consumers. A plethora of IoT devices— smartphones, smartwatches, baby monitors, surveillance cameras, routers—with low levels of security utilized on a daily basis that can compromise minimal expenditure within minutes.

Are You Inadvertently Contributing to DDoS?

Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS), one of the many cyber-attacks, often has crippled organizations and compromised the privacy of people. DDoS continues to proliferate as consumers remain blissfully ignorant of the repercussions of such attacks and how they might be unintentionally a part of an insidious scheme. Security patch and regular firmware updates on network routers can thwart the risks of security breaches in the home network and impede the DDoS attack process. An average consumer often plugs in all IoT devices at home with a router secured with the factory-default username and password without realizing the potential risks he is exposing his devices too. Capitalizing on such blind spots of consumers, cyber terrorists easily scan a router network to discern its vulnerabilities and eventually exploit them to compromise the devices connected to the network. An innocuous gadget of great use can be transitioned into a major weapon in a cyber warfare—malware-affected bots—if consumers are not vigilant enough to add layers of security to their home network.

 It is now time people realize that the responsibility of cybersecurity is vested on everyone who is a part of the cloud environment and not only on the CISOs of the world 

Mitigating the risks of DDoS attacks is the responsibility of consumers and organizations alike. Public unawareness of cybersecurity is as much to blame as is an organization’s lenient security system. Being oblivious to security measures and by not adhering to them, consumers provide an easy pathway to web attackers to hack into their systems and exploit them at their will which subsequently contributes to a larger problem. We are prompt to receive suspicious calls, respond to unsolicited emails, and click on malicious web links and by doing so, we are not only making the job of web attackers easier but also making the job of security experts increasingly difficult. People should pay more heed to news related to virtual security and take security seriously. The responsibility of cybersecurity is vested on everyone who is a part of the cloud environment and not only on the CISOs of the world.

Virtual security is more consequential as it might prove detrimental to an individual’s identity and privacy that can be compromised within moments without the person realizing it until it’s too late. Physical threats can be anticipated but virtual threats catch you flat-footed and what exacerbates the problem is the tendency to remain incognizant of the growing risks of virtual security that are severely impacting individuals and organizations frequently. Only by educating ourselves about the menace of cyber-attacks and doing our bit to strengthen security, we can restrain the frequency of thriving DDoS attacks.

The Whys and Wherefores of DDoS

The compulsion of debilitating an organization or inducing chaos in the virtual environment stems from different factors. It could be a disgruntled employee who feels wrongly targeted by the law enforcement department of an organization or an exasperated self-proclaimed vigilante who is disappointed with the status quo and wants to make a statement by taking down a government website. Political vendetta of an outrageous citizen against the people in power might also trigger cyber-attacks to show the government up and purvey intolerance. Often, script kiddies hack into enterprise networks to extort a ransom. Whatever the reasons might be, a DDoS attack on an organization by jeopardizing the privacy of people in the process is quite daunting and must be kept in check.

Pathway to a Secure Cloud Environment

While launching a DDoS attack requires minimum implementation and expenditure, the cost that is incurred by an organization to combat the issue and protect its privacy is huge. Every organization, big or small, should beef up their security measures to dodge the blow of DDoS attacks. A company must enforce security policies that limit the access of a disgruntled employee to sensitive data that can be exploited to impact the economic growth of the business or taint its reputation. Maintaining a strong defense against cyber-attacks without hindering the productivity is indispensable for the smooth-running of any organization. As a CISO, I would suggest implementing a security awareness program in every organization and building a culture of security so that we realize security rests on everyone. Being a CISO is quite a task as you have to break the bad news to an organization, quickly transforming from “Dr. Know” to “Dr. Let’s talk about it.” I would also suggest my fellow CISOs collaborate and keep each other updated about everything related to cybersecurity so that we can conjointly build a safer virtual world.

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