We walk through a few steps to protect yourself and your employees from cyberterrorism groups, specifically looking at email security.
The crisis in Ukraine is more than an armed conflict. In fact, the war could escalate from the battlefield to your company’s smartphones, desktops, laptops and networks through a weapon you least suspect – email.
Since the start of the crisis, cybersecurity threats have increased for organizations around the world, mostly from Russian-backed cyberterrorism groups. What most people don’t realize is that email is the easiest way for cybercriminals to launch attacks that can hold business for ransom, steal data, disrupt operations and more. All they need is for one employee to click a link in an infected email to launch malware or ransomware in your organization.
Why is email so vulnerable? Because many organizations haven’t put the necessary protections in place to protect against attacks. Fortunately, IT leaders and security experts have access to both short-term and long-term mechanisms to protect their organizations and data.
What To Do Now: Email Security Settings and Communication
The first steps in protecting your organization from malicious email attacks do not have to be a costly, time-consuming endeavor. You can keep most of those messages out of your employees’ inboxes or better manage them with two simple steps:
- Check your company’s email security settings. Tools such as Exchange Server, Exchange Online, and Gmail have “default” settings out-of-the-box. Many organizations simply adopt these settings when configuring email, but they may not meet your organization’s security needs. You need to evaluate and implement these advanced capabilities, like Advanced Threat Protection, as soon as possible to head off attacks before they hit your employees’ email inboxes.
- Tell employees they should watch for suspicious messages. Cybercriminals even use warnings of unauthorized logins from Russia or Ukraine to encourage email recipients to click on a link. Remind employees of your policy for reporting suspicious emails, and explain the remediation efforts you have implemented, how these might affect their day-to-day work, and any recommended workarounds.
Finally, remember effective communication and security awareness starts with leadership. If you do not have leaders on board and effective security awareness training programs in place, start addressing those needs now.
What to Plan for the Future
To be sure, the impact of cyberattacks can be devastating. For example, last year’s Colonial Pipeline attack cost that company $4.4 million in ransom paid to hackers. Like many costly software attacks, Colonial Pipeline resulted from failure to implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA). MFA is one of two longer-term actions you should evaluate to ward off future attacks:
- MFA is the most critical need for securing employee identities and minimizing attack risk. Many organizations still have not fully adopted an MFA solution, often because leadership is not aligned around MFA or other security measures. However, avoiding MFA not only puts the business at risk but also may prevent the company from acquiring or renewing cybersecurity insurance.
Microsoft has noted even the U.S. government’s Office of Management and Budget recommends appointing a Zero-Trust strategy implementation officer to build alignment around security solutions such as MFA — an approach that applies to businesses, too.
- Other device-management solutions, such as Microsoft Intune, can protect mobile devices such as phones, tablets and laptops accessing your corporate systems. With increasing reliance on hybrid work, such tools ensure people access corporate systems from corporate approved and registered devices, including personally owned devices.
An Expanding Threat?
The U.S. Pentagon now refers to the Ukraine crisis as the world’s first “360 war,” fought on many fronts besides the battleground — and the threat will persist long after peace returns to Ukraine.
Remember: Cybersecurity is everyone’s job, not just IT’s. Strive to create a culture of Zero Trust within your organization. The future of your company, and maybe even our country, could depend on it.