Actively prepare for cyber attack mode

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Focus should also be on the ability to help predict future cyber attacks, say experts.

Focus should also be on the ability to help predict future cyber attacks, say experts.

South Africa’s cyber security awareness month has been marred by a massive data leak that saw the personal information of about 30 million South Africans compromised.

This is according to cyber security experts, commenting on the impact of cyber security breaches on businesses.

According to Manuel Corregedor, COO of Telspace Systems, it’s important to realise information security awareness is not something that should only be done in October, but should be an ongoing initiative.

Most organisations in SA are to some extent educating their users on information security risks, he says. However, improvement is needed on a national level – that is educating all South African citizens regardless of whether they work for a corporate or use a computer at work, says Corregedor.

Meanwhile, David Cohen, BDO Cyber and Forensic Lab executive in SA, says there is little doubt most South African corporates lag behind their American and European counterparts in cyber and IT security awareness.

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In the current dynamic cyber threat environment, the majority of firms are challenged to fully identify the emerging reality they face in the immediate future, whether because of the evolving threats, or the capabilities of new technology, says Cohen.

There is no reason companies should assume cyber security strategies are fully valid year-on-year, and can remain effective by simply and incrementally refining plans, without testing their relevance, he adds. While the conducting of risk assessments, or review of vulnerabilities is becoming more common on an annual basis, this does not always lead to more effective security, explains Cohen.

“South African companies are still in a phase where they are coming to terms with the threats of a cyber attack, but we need to be quicker. Security experts are still focused on testing IT infrastructure for vulnerabilities and through various risk assessments plotting road maps.

“South African companies often struggle with the simulation of advanced cyber attacks and implementing advanced procedural plans and escalation strategies around attacks.”

Riaan Badenhorst, Kaspersky Lab Africa GM, notes as security education within organisations continues to be a challenge both locally and globally, cyber criminals will continue to leverage this.

Also, the lack of spending on IT security is a massive concern, especially as it can be costly for a business to recover from an IT security incident. This year, large enterprises in the region paid an average of $591 000 per security incident, while small and medium businesses faced an $88 000 bill per attack, he adds.

“It is no longer good enough for a business to place a minimal focus on IT security, or to merely be reactive towards IT security risks. Rather, decision-makers need to embrace a more pro-active strategy to IT security and they need to do this now.”

Companies’ security budgets need to be focused not only on preventing security breaches, but also on strategies actually designed to detect attacks as they happen and respond to them to minimise any damage, says Badenhorst.

Focus should also be on the ability to help predict future attacks. “Budgets need to be redirected towards services and solutions that go beyond preventative technologies – and into a comprehensive security strategy, that incorporates elements of threat prevention, dictation, response and prediction, for businesses to be able to effectively cope with the realities of modern-day cyber warfare – and be ‘threat intelligent’ around this.”

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