This is Part Two of a two-part series on how to protect your security systems against cyber threats. Read Part One here.
There is a world of difference between knowing the right thing to do and actually following through and doing it. Think about doctors who repeatedly remind their patients to quit smoking, or to be careful with their cholesterol, to get regular exercise and adopt healthier eating habits instead of eating bacon with every meal. We know what we should do. Quite often, though, that knowledge is not enough to actually change our behavior.
You were probably aware of some fundamental cybersecurity best practices before you started to read this article. But let’s focus on two: passwords and firmware.
Always change default passwords.
I cannot emphasize this enough. Never, never use the default password for your network endpoints. That is an easy change to make, but one that’s nearly as important as creating complex passwords. Make a habit of changing the manufacturer’s default admin password as well. It should never be used for any reason. Rotating complex admin passwords on a regular basis is an even better habit. Simply changing passwords to something that can't be easily discovered by a quick Google search will give you an important measure of cyber protection.
Be fanatic about updating firmware.
Updating firmware regularly is similar low-hanging fruit. If a known exploit only impacts certain versions of firmware, then devices running out-of-date firmware will be the weak links in your organization’s cybersecurity chain. So do not procrastinate when it comes to installing firmware updates that address those critical security vulnerabilities.
What might sabotage healthy cybersecurity habits?
Even if you have the best intentions to adopt these healthy cybersecurity habits, a dynamic network environment can quickly undermine them. The first thing you need to do is understand your environment. How many IP devices are in your security infrastructure? Do you have reporting tools that can tell you which devices deviate from your standards? Do you even have standards defined? If you don’t know which devices in your environment are still using the default password, or are running out-of-date firmware, it is impossible to begin to address these issues.
You need to establish a baseline and take regular snapshots – daily, if possible – to continually compare your infrastructure against that baseline.
The second thing you need to do is pay attention to the natural volatility of your network. In a multi-device environment, you can expect that at least some number of devices will require troubleshooting at any given moment. Standard troubleshooting steps might call for a reset to the factory default, meaning you might suddenly have a device with a default password on your network again.
Even if you go through an exercise to level-set passwords and firmware, you still might have missed a small percentage of devices that were offline or unreachable. When those devices eventually come back online – or are replaced by your support teams – there will once more be devices that do not meet your cybersecurity standards.
Maintain healthy cybersecurity habits.
Cybersecurity requires constant discipline, vigilance and monitoring. Like developing healthy eating habits, you need to keep at it every day. It’s not enough to take the time to change passwords and update firmware on all of your security devices if you don’t follow up the very next day to make sure everything is still current. And the next day… and the next… Because the reality is, your adversaries are just waiting for you to let your guard down. They can be very patient and persistent in their attempts to find vulnerabilities on your network. By instituting a process to change default passwords and out-of-date firmware – as well as a process to regularly monitor and update devices that fall out of compliance – your organization will be well-positioned to combat potential cyberattacks.