Malicious Until Proven Innocent

Today’s Threat Landscape and its Impact on Operations

By Michael O’Connell, Security Solutions Architect at Aspire Technology Partners

On a recent episode of the Digital Aspirations in Business podcast, we discussed the current threat landscape and strategies organizations can take to solve the unique cybersecurity challenges. Here is one part of the discussion.

Cybersecurity threats vary from industry to industry. Take healthcare, for example: Currently, the healthcare industry has become a primary target for ransomware. Ransomware is often spread through phishing emails that contain malicious attachments or through drive-by downloading. Drive-by downloading occurs when a user unknowingly visits an infected website, and then malware is downloaded and installed without the user’s knowledge. More recent methods of ransomware infection include exploiting vulnerable Web servers as an entry point to gain access to an organization’s network.

When ransomware successfully infiltrates a system, it can lead to negative consequences, including temporary or permanent loss of sensitive or proprietary information, disruption to regular operations, and financial losses incurred to restore systems and files. In some instances, healthcare providers have had to resort to pen and paper while security issues are addressed, and systems restored.

Horizontally, other industries are currently struggling with legacy infrastructure challenges and the influence of remote work on threat mitigation strategies.

Budget cuts create legacy infrastructure challenges

Covid created a seismic shift in the way network and security engineers approach their work. The pandemic also put a general strain on funding. As companies face new financial challenges, budgets are shrinking. As a result, legacy infrastructure remains stagnant as IT departments lack funding to replace and upgrade necessary tools and applications.

Here are 4-ways you can address your legacy infrastructure while minimizing the impact on your budget:

1. Perform a complete inventory of all devices and software on your network

It pays to know what’s on your network to understand the potential security risk external devices (those that are brought in to be shared in your network) and IoT devices present to your business. Understand the security implications of unauthorized software on your network.

Network inventory can be daunting if you maintain a slim team. Still, it essentially starts with building a list of devices such as smartphones, tablets, computers, routers, switches, etc., all of which are connected to your network. As your operation gets complicated, it can involve more detailed information about software and other applications in your environment.

One thing is for sure; it is important to have an accurate inventory of your network devices so you can track and monitor possible sources of threats to your environment quickly at any given time. With a good network inventory in place, you have visibility on software installations, compliance, and maintain secure connectivity.

2. Conduct a technology assessment of your infrastructure

This is a continuation of the first step (above). Once you know what devices are on your network, you need to understand the technology behind the devices. Are they new? Do they use the current technology? Are they updated to the existing software or firmware level? Research what technology you can still use and which needs to be replaced. Be prepared to update or upgrade your technology to enhance operational efficiencies.

3. Develop a plan to upgrade failing infrastructure with cost-efficient and value-added investments

Once your technology infrastructure assessment is completed, you can move on to the next step – planning the upgrade to your network. Careful planning will minimize the impact of infrastructure updates. Have a plan to restore the system to the last known good configuration to allow you to restore the network. Downtime can be scheduled during a typically slow time frame, potentially evenings, overnights, or weekends. Ensure that the upgraded equipment is pre-configured to avoid excessive downtime. Perform your upgrade one at a time to keep the changes simple. Notify your users well before the upgrade starts to allow them to close programs apps and safely store their data. And let them know when the activity is completed successfully.

4. Consider managed services to support and maintain your upgraded infrastructure

Not every organization has an internal IT department. Those that do may be short-staffed. Using an outside managed service provider allows you to augment your IT department as needed dynamically, And it supplies expertise over and above your internal staff. An outside vendor can improve response time for network issues, updates, and routine maintenance.

Moving to a single-platform and cloud-based/hybrid cloud environment is one approach that gives greater control to IT departments looking to protect their companies against ransomware threats.

Every enterprise is unique, but they all share a common need to secure and protect their human and digital resources. Starting with what you can control and manage is a good first step in establishing the fundamental elements for a secure workplace.

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Aspire Technology Partners is a Cisco Gold Certified Partner engrained in solution pillars that set us apart as a true Cisco solutions provider. We are committed to the continuous improvement of expertise and skillsets around Cisco initiatives that enable us to help and guide customers in the adoption and management of technology architectures designed to transform their organization. We hold Cisco Master Specializations in Collaboration, Security, Cloud & Managed Services and is one of only 25 partners in the US to receive the Cisco Advanced Customer Experience Specialization.

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