How Tensions in the Middle East Call for Increased Cybersecurity

State-sponsored cyber attacks are no longer limited to military and defense organizations. Businesses across industries are potential targets, making cybersecurity more important than ever. 

It’s no secret that cybersecurity is a top concern for businesses today. The news is constantly full of headlines related to data breaches or cyber attacks, driven by everyone from solo hackers to state-sponsored actors. It comes as no surprise, then, that cybersecurity spending continues to rise in response. Individuals, businesses, and governments alike must constantly work to protect themselves from the growing range of bad actors who seek to attack them for profit.

From 2004 to 2017, the cybersecurity market grew approximately 35 times. It is now expected that cybersecurity spending between 2017 and 2021 will exceed a cumulative $1 trillion. Unfortunately, the cost of cybercrime is climbing even more rapidly. Between the current ransomware epidemic, the refocusing of malware toward mobile devices and smartphones, and the deployment of billions of under-protected Internet of Things (IoT) devices, to name a few, the cost of cybercrime far outweighs cybersecurity spending. To add to this growing list of threats, businesses must now also learn to contend with the possibility of state-sponsored political cyber attacks.

National Tensions and Cybersecurity 

Following the recent American attack on Iran’s General Qasem Soleimani, many are concerned about the possibility of a retaliatory attack from Iran. While such a response might have been reserved to a physical attack targeting significant political figures in the past, nowadays it is just as likely that retaliation could arrive in the form of a cyber attack. In today’s cyber threat landscape, businesses face just as much risk of attack from state-sponsored sources as do the military or defense industries.

The concerns surrounding the potential of foreign national cyber attacks are not unfounded. While individuals and businesses may not consider themselves useful targets for a state-sponsored attack, we have seen nations like Russia, China, and Iran all demonstrate otherwise. The ease of cyber attacks today means that any victim can prove to be of value to a nation’s political mission, as targeted attacks can serve to disrupt the US economy and other operations. With this approach, there is no consumer or business too small or seemingly insignificant to be targeted by a cyber criminal.

In fact, many experts say that small businesses might be in even greater danger than large enterprises, given that they often do not invest as heavily in cybersecurity. As with any type of criminal, cyber criminals are constantly on the lookout for vulnerabilities they can exploit in their attacks. Businesses that do not invest sufficiently in cybersecurity often become those vulnerable spots.

The unfortunate truth is that the existence of cyber threats as an attack vector makes everyone vulnerable in times of tension, not just nation-states. The former head of the UK intelligence agency Government Communication Headquarters, Robert Hannigan, said it best: “Five years ago we were aware of nation-state attacks, but we would’ve seen them as something that only a nation-state needs to worry about. Today they’re a problem for everybody.” In the wake of increased political tension, it’s more important than ever for all businesses to invest in quality cybersecurity.

Staying Safe from Nation-State Cyber Attacks

There is no way to guarantee that you will not be targeted in a cyber attack. However, there are several key steps that you can take to reduce your vulnerability to attack — and to reduce the potential impact of an attack if it does happen to occur.

Businesses can begin by implementing security measures that reduce their vulnerability to attack, making it less likely that a nation-state would make you a target or successfully breach your network. One of the most important measures that a business can take is creating a robust patch management system. Patch management seeks to find faulty code in software and services and resolve them before they are exploited by bad actors or lead to system failures. Other important precautions include scheduling regular staff security awareness training to prevent social engineering, installing antivirus software, and employing multi-factor authentication for devices and accounts.

Once these preventative measures are in place, businesses should also consider steps they can take to mitigate damage if they do fall victim to an attack. Maintaining regular data backups is critical to help ensure that company data is protected in the event of a ransomware attack. Having an incident response plan in place can help critical business operations continue to function effectively in the wake of a breach, reducing the long-term reputational damage of a significant cyber attack. All in all, there’s no shortage of things businesses can do to protect themselves — but there is often a shortage of resources to take all the necessary steps, giving bad actors an advantage.

Cybersecurity With a Partner

Maintaining cybersecurity is a continuous, ongoing process with many moving parts — all of which need to be executed correctly in order to avoid vulnerabilities. With nation-state attacks joining the ever-growing list of possible attack vectors, companies are often stretched thin to keep up.

The cybersecurity experts at Turn-key Technologies, Inc. (TTI) understand the pressure of maintaining prevention tactics in a time of constant cyber crime. Our team can help manage and secure your network, whether you’re looking to begin staff training or create an incident response plan. With nearly thirty years of experience protecting our partners’ networks from bad actors, we’re here to help — whether it’s protecting your business from nation-state actors or internal threats. Contact us for a network assessment and consultation to get started today.

By Tony Pugielli

February 21, 2020

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