10 Fundamentals to Fight Breach Fatigue

You don’t have to spend a lot of years in cybersecurity to experience a phenomenon that’s been dubbed breach fatigue: the tendency to get tired of hearing about data security breaches. Breach fatigue can affect people differently based on their professional roles. For IT managers at smaller companies, breach fatigue can lead to a “why bother?” attitude. After all, if a major bank that spends hundreds of millions of dollars a year on cybersecurity can still get hacked, is there any hope for small to midsize businesses?

Unfortunately for MSPs, attitudes like that can undermine your efforts to sell security products and services, so it is important to be ready with a response to this rebuttal. For example, I would say: “Your chances of surviving a cyberattack are actually quite high IF you’ve taken care of the fundamentals.” Before I describe those fundamentals, let me explain why I am confident in that statement.

First, I should note that each time a new data breach makes headlines, it adds to the workload for security researchers. Why? Because we want to find out how that breach happened so we can tell people how to avoid succumbing to the same type of attack. Unfortunately, it can take days or weeks, sometimes even years before we get the full story (which often differs from the first reports of the event).

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Remember when JPMorgan Chase suffered what prosecutors later described as "the largest theft of customer data from a US financial institution in history"? When the news of that breach first got out, there was talk of a sophisticated nation state attack, even Russian involvement. We later learned that, although the bank had very sensibly installed two-factor authentication on its servers, it had missed one. That one server was how the hackers, con artists not a nation state, got in.

More recently we learned that an even more shocking breach – Equifax – was due to a failure to patch a well-publicized vulnerability (the congressional testimony of the Equifax CEO, who stepped down in the wake of the breach, suggested that the responsibility for patching rested with one person, who apparently slipped up). Back when Target was breached, network security alarm bells were ignored and people failed to notice plaintext files full of credit card data being shipped to unapproved FTP servers in Russia.

The overarching theme here is that taking proper care of the fundamentals I’m about to discuss would have stopped many big-name breaches from happening. The good news for smaller companies is that they are likely to have fewer servers to watch over, fewer rogue projects flying under the radar, and simpler data flows to monitor.

So here is my pick of 10 fundamentals which, when properly managed, will go a long way in thwarting the bad guys:

  • 1. Timely patching of vulnerabilities
  • 2. Endpoint protection on all endpoints, including servers, at all times
  • 3. Encryption of data at rest
  • 4. Multi-factor authentication on all remote access, RDP, etc.
  • 5. Network segmentation
  • 6. Network monitoring / data loss prevention
  • 7. Removable media controls
  • 8. Backup and recovery plan
  • 9. Incident response plan
  • 10. Employee security awareness

Yes, that’s a lot of work, but if your customers get it done, their odds of both avoiding and surviving breaches will improve greatly.

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