Many companies find out the hard way that business IT security is never fully “done.” As soon as you implement safeguards against today’s threats, tomorrow, hackers will come up with new and inventive ways to break into company networks.
This is why cybersecurity approaches evolve. Once new threats and attack types are identified, the security industry creates solutions to address those. A recent example is the growth of zero-day and fileless attacks, which are designed to get past common security systems, like anti-malware.
Between 2019 and 2020, fileless attack rates grew by nearly 900%.
Fileless attacks don’t actually use any malware, which is what allows them to get past antivirus/anti-malware programs. Instead, they’re designed to send malicious commands to a trusted operating system component, such as Windows PowerShell.
Those malicious commands can open a portal to allow a hacker to plant ransomware, take over a system, and more.
Another big problem is zero-day attacks. These are attacks that exploit newly found vulnerabilities that haven’t been cataloged or addressed by patches yet. The recent Microsoft Exchange Server hack that compromised roughly a quarter of a million business servers used four zero-day exploits.
One of the new security approaches that have been designed to deal with attacks of this type and others, is Zero-trust.
Just as the name suggests, Zero-trust security entails taking a stance that no user, command code, or software is inherently trusted, even if it appears to have legitimate permissions.
This type of security puts more checks and balances in place to keep networks secure from all types of advanced attacks, including those that may use AI and machine learning.
How to Achieve a Zero-Trust Security Environment for Your Small Business
Zero-trust security isn’t a single application or tool. It’s a combination of tactics and actions that build a Zero-trust framework throughout your company’s technology environment.
This type of approach is economical to implement because companies can take a layered approach and implement one tactic, then another, as it works with their budget.
Here are the steps to achieving a Zero-trust cybersecurity environment.
Implement Different Levels of Multi-Factor Authentication
It’s important to have MFA implemented to protect your company cloud accounts and website logins. 77% of all cloud account breaches are due to password compromise, and MFA keeps a majority of these incidents from happening.
Zero-trust is about not simply trusting one login password, but about putting more checks and balances into your system. What this looks like for MFA is implementing different levels, such as:
- Asking an additional challenge question for high-privilege accounts
- Restricting access if someone is logging in from outside a particular geographical region
- Using timed-out logins that will log a person out after a certain period of inactivity
Use Safe-Listing for Applications
One way that you can keep out zero-day intruders is to use a safe list that includes only those applications that are allowed to execute commands on a device.
With safe-listing, a security system doesn’t have to know if an application is “bad” or contains malware. It only needs to know which applications are safe, and it will block all the others by default.
Use Application Ring-Fencing
Ring-fencing is closely related to safe-listing, and it takes the protections a step farther. This is the Zero-trust tactic used to guard against fileless attacks that send malicious code to trusted applications.
What application ring-fencing security does is restrict the types of commands that one safe-listed application can send to another. So, if a malicious command is sent to PowerShell asking it to remove certain security settings, ring-fencing would block its ability to carry out that questionable command.
Ensure You Have Continuous Network/Device Monitoring
Continuous threat monitoring is another important tenant of Zero-trust security. Systems need to be monitored for any anomalies that could point to a malware infection or other type of security breach.
The easiest way for a small business to have devices continuously monitored for threats is through managed IT services. This type of plan offers multiple security safeguards for one affordable monthly price and is designed to ward off threats before they can become a problem.
Use the Rule of Least Privilege
One of the easiest tenants of Zero-trust security to implement is the Rule of Least Privilege. What this means is only giving users the lowest access privileges possible to a system or cloud application that they need for doing their job.
Too often, companies will set up new uses with admin or editing privileges that they don’t really need. The more admin accounts you have, the more at risk your account is of a breach.
One of the best ways to protect an account like Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace is to have one dedicated admin account only and have admins use that single account when doing administrative tasks. Their individual user accounts can have lower privileges and would be used for email and everyday work.
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