Managing application access to manage risk

Employees, customers, third parties and partners expect to be able to access a business’s applications whenever they need, and wherever they are. Access must be seamless for the user and delivered on-demand – but herein lies the problem. Easy access and availability of applications is being exploited by hackers, who are increasingly using these as portals into an organisation’s network, and their valuable data.

How big is the problem? How can it be prevented? And how can smaller businesses – or those whose finance and IT teams are stretched – ensure they have sufficiently robust tools in place?

What’s the problem?

In the UK alone, around a third of businesses identified cybersecurity breaches in the 12 months to April 2019. Around a fifth of these admitted that identifying a breach or attack resulted in staff being stopped from carrying out their daily work. So not only do organisations suffer penalties and fines from such incidents, they also face major losses in employee productivity levels, and risk damaging their reputation in the eyes of the public and customers.

Breaches should be considered a case of when, not if, and no company is immune. Global IT and consulting business, Wipro, for instance, recently confirmed that it’s carrying out an internal investigation following a breach which had reportedly been going on for months. Wipro detected potentially suspicious activity on a number of employee accounts on their networks, with attackers – thought to be state-sponsored – gaining access via a highly sophisticated phishing scheme.

Domain name system (DNS) hijacking is another tactic which is being employed – to pretty devastating effect. The ‘Sea Turtle’ campaigns, for example, have already affected at least 40 MENA organisations, including ministries of foreign affairs, ISPs, and DNS registrars. Traffic intended for a genuine website is redirected to a malicious server, which hosts a copy of the targeted website – a spoof – allowing hackers to steal user credentials. The targets aren’t merely individual businesses; it extended to entire countries, compromising regional domains including .ru and .co.uk.

Why is it happening?

Hackers are relentless, and attacks are unfortunately an enduring threat in any sector. Employees may not be adequately informed about cyber risks, for instance adding a third-party application or IoT device to a network without authorisation. Or, organisations themselves may be failing to acknowledge these risks: PwC recently reported that just 34% plan to assess IoT security risks across the business ecosystem.

Finding the time and resources within their in-house IT team can also be problematic for organisations. Managing application delivery, security, and access is a 24/7/364 task, requiring a combination of specialised human skills and advanced technology.

What’s the solution?

If you don’t have the resources in-house – outsource. We know that internal security teams are often stretched, so we have launched a new managed service for network access, meaning security teams can focus on business-critical work, free from the constraints of continuous, proactive application monitoring.

Application security must be guaranteed at the application layer, with rules configured to allow an organisation to carefully police which employees have access from which devices and which locations, as well as implementing DoS and DDoS rules which prevent applications being taken offline. Identification and notification of potential issues must be rapid – according to IBM, the average time taken to identify a breach is a massive 197 days, and to contain a breach, 69 days. As such, our team monitors networks and offers help desk support around the clock. Similarly, instead of an in-house IT team having to keep checking and updating security systems, this can be carried out remotely, with full deployment of patches, updates and upgrades to device-specific software.

Managing these devices can also be problematic for smaller teams, which are faced with a growing number of end-points being added to a network, largely due to the rise of flexible and remote working practices. This function can also be outsourced, with a team provisioning and managing secure and remote mobile access to an organisation’s IT system across all networks and devices. Authentication and access policies – including facilitating flexible sign-on and identification for end-users – can also be managed, monitored and enforced.

A 2018 survey reported – reassuringly – that almost 60% of European executives, departmental heads and IT managers, plan to increase their cybersecurity budgets in the year ahead. How this money is spent will be crucial, though. Adding human resources to an internal IT team may seem a cost-effective solution in the short term, yet it’s merely a sticking plaster. This approach will not provide the long-term remedy of continuous, specialist application management needed to secure an organisation’s network, its data and its customers, colleagues, and revenues.

For more information on how SecureData can help your business manage secure and remote mobile access to your organisation’s IT system across all networks and devices contact us today.

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