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How to Combat Security Cracks Created By Collaboration | @CloudExpo #Cloud #Cybersecurity

The number of cyberattacks will grow as employees increasingly use collaboration tools to maximize their company’s productivity.

How to Combat Security Cracks Created By Collaboration
By Ram Vaidyanathan, ManageEngine

Cybercrime costs the global economy as much as $450 billion each year. And, the median cost of cybercrime has increased by nearly 200% in the last five years.

Meanwhile, collaboration has become the cornerstone of successful organizations. But collaboration often comes with a risk. The number of cyberattacks will grow as employees increasingly use collaboration tools to maximize their company's productivity. This is because these tools can provide new points of entry for hackers looking to cause damage. This issue could become more serious as we will see more radical collaboration tools in the days to come. Fortunately, there are always going to be readily available solutions.

Here are three ways in which an organization's security can be compromised due to increased collaboration.

1. A wolf in sheep's clothing: Companies collaborate with suppliers, vendors and customers in the cloud every day. Consider this scenario: A supply chain executive receives an automated weekly email with an MS Excel file from their logistics partner, giving the estimated time of arrival for products. A cybercriminal somehow discovers this practice. The criminal then impersonates the logistics partner by using a similar email address. The executive doesn't notice and downloads the attachment - an executable (.exe) file masked as an MS Excel file. When the executive opens the file, a wolf in sheep's clothing enters the company's network to steal trade secrets, financial data, and customer information. This modus operandi, called spear phishing, is popular globally. By some estimates, 91% of all attacks begin with spear phishing.

2. A betrayal: With the advent of bring your own device (BYOD), collaboration has become fairly common. Employees can now access work files while away from the office and increase their productivity. On the other hand, disgruntled employees can easily expose information or even sabotage company files. What if an employee who is about to join a competitor were to print customer contact details from a remote location? And what if this employee took this information to the new workplace? This betrayal could lead to the company losing its competitive edge.

3. A foreign adversary: Even governments are not immune to cyberattacks from foreign state-sponsored adversaries. Government employees may visit certain websites frequently to collaborate with employees from other departments or with their citizens. Malware placed on these sites could exploit vulnerable endpoints and compromise the devices of any visitors. Malware can also morph into more serious advanced persistent threats (APTs) that can lurk in the victim's system for a long time. This way, these adversaries could secretly keep a tab on issues of national security and international policy. When governments can face such threats, businesses are all the more at risk.

To fight data breaches and defend their business, organizations must protect all entry points. Here are few ways in which organizations can defend against each of the threats identified above.

1. Guarding the door: Application white listing, a method of checking applications against an approved list, is effective against criminals in disguise looking for an entry point. If an unknown program tries to run, it will be barred. This is very effective against spear phishing attacks. In addition, a log management system would help to collect logs on failed access attempts and decipher whether or not they are attacks.

2. Guarding from inside: A privileged password management process can help organizations protect against insider threats. All privileged identities and passwords are stored in a centralized vault and only approved devices are allowed to access information from remote locations. Furthermore, companies can video record all sessions, whether on-premise or remote, for a complete record of all actions.

3. Defending against international threats: Software applications that analyze packet flow can detect malicious traffic hitting the network in real time. In case of a sophisticated attack, the company can immediately view the offender's IP, the severity of the attack and the time of the attack. A detailed forensic investigation will enable the company to detect patterns and identify the source of unwanted intrusions.

In the present age of heightened collaboration, the risk of cybercrime is very high. Organizations need to defend against techniques such as spear phishing, malware and APTs, among others. Application white listing, privileged password management and network behavior anomaly detection are just three modes of defense.

And what happens in a future of radical collaboration tools?

Future collaboration tools will be even more powerful. For example, the combination of holography and brain decoding technology may create a society in which people have meetings between their virtual selves in the office. What if a cybercriminal impersonates a CEO's virtual self and compromises the business by giving wrong instructions during a meeting?  In a scenario like this, even if a criminal were somehow able to project the CEO's hologram inside the office, the ICT team could detect the deviation if there were inconsistencies with the CEO's known logic. There is no doubt that the future holds endless possibilities for collaboration, which we know to be integral for business success. We just need to make sure our security technology is well equipped to handle it. However sophisticated the attacks in an age of increased collaboration, a proactive ICT team will always prevail.


Ram Vaidyanathan is an IT evangelist at ManageEngine, the real-time IT management company. Ram closely follows emerging industry trends and is a frequent blogger on technology topics. His main interest is in the impact of the Internet of Things on IT management. He has an MBA from the Schulich School of Business.

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