IT security risks continue to become more challenging, not just because of the new technologies of systems and applications, but also because of the size and stature of criminal organizations involved in malicious cyber activity.

Over the course of the past 18-24 months, there has been a documented increase of involvement from politically and socially motivated hacking groups, cyber criminals and government-sponsored cyber organizations. These groups have a great number of technical resources available to them, and in many cases, a large financial backing. As a result, they are able to create complex, automated and programmatic solutions designed to detect the existence of vulnerabilities, as well as install malware and viruses onto vulnerable devices without manual intervention. Once a device is detected and/or an application is installed, information can be gathered automatically. For high-value targets, individual attackers can be dispatched to infiltrate the located systems and gather their bounty. 

Unfortunately, most organizations have neither the technical expertise nor the financial ability to purchase the necessary security technologies to increase their IT systems protection. As a result, the average organization needs to take a layered approach to security, covering all devices and applications from the weakest to the most critical. 

The weakest IT devices across all industries today are mobile devices, which include smartphones, tablets and wearable devices. These devices have few, if any, security applications available to them. They are often used for both business and personal tasks, which leads them to have the highest level of risk. In order to mitigate the potential for loss, an organization must develop written mobile device policies and processes, including a Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) policy. These policies should define acceptable usage of mobile devices, as well as the organizations rights to manage, monitor and control them and the individual’s rights to company resources and their own personal information. Also, the organization should research and define an appropriate Mobile Device Management (MDM) solution that will allow their IT resources to manage the mobile devices in an efficient and effective manner. MDMs can be used to remotely manage, update and even delete devices in case of loss, theft or termination of the employee. 

The second weakest IT platform is remotely accessible applications, such as Web and mobile applications. The reason these applications present an issue is because they allow devices and users outside the enterprise’s perimeter security solutions to access internal servers, systems and data, directly bypassing these legacy security systems. In order to reduce the likelihood of risk, application firewalls and increased access control systems need to be implemented on the application servers. These automated processes should be configured to limit the languages a mobile device can use to communicate with them; control authorization using multi-form factor authentication; control the individual tasks a person or group can perform at any time; and maintain all systems data at the server level, instead of transferring information to the mobile device or remote workstation.

Finally, all organizations should understand that securing the companies systems and intellectual property is always their responsibility. With the increased availability of cloud computing applications and systems, more organizations are taking advantage of the cloud’s benefits in cost, flexibility and time to production. Nevertheless, even when an organization moves their systems to a cloud provider, the enterprise remains responsible for security, system accessibility and performance.. To be able to fulfill these responsibilities, the organization needs to implement contractual service-level agreements and the receipt of independent third-party monitoring, metrics and auditing reports.

Through a layered approach in securing its overall IT environment, an organization can limit hacking organizations through automated detection, limiting the potential for higher levels of malicious activity and attention.