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Lessons for 2017 : Top 3 IT Security Takeaways From 2016

Each year the cyberthreat landscape seems to get less favorable for businesses, and 2016 was no exception. Ransomware wreaked havoc on the healthcare sector. Meanwhile, phishing scams and malware intrusions cost banks tens of millions of dollars. Likewise, U.S. government agencies such as the IRS, and political entities like the DNC succumbed to fraud and social engineering, respectively. More recently, hackers used a sophisticated malware to hijack Internet-of-Things endpoints to create a botnet army strong enough to drown a DNS company in server requests.

Needless to say, 2016 didn’t turn out quite how we hoped it would. But that doesn’t mean we can’t learn from it. Let’s look at some of the top security takeaways from the year that was:

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1. Better Password and Account Management Is Needed

Two of the most prominent cyberattacks in 2016 could have possibly been avoided with better authentication practices. They include:

  • The Bangladesh Bank hack: It’s believed that cybercriminals were most likely able to orchestrate the attack after login credentials were compromised, allowing hackers to log in over a long period of time to plan out how they would use SWIFT to their advantage.
  • The IoT botnet army: The massive distributed denial-of-service that brought Dyn down was only possible because the IoT endpoints used in the attack still had default passwords.

In the case of the former, requiring more frequent password updates could have made it impossible for cybercriminals to log into SWIFT long enough to have executed the heist. For the latter, simply changing the default password could have gone a long way toward preventing the DDoS attack.

2. Ransomware Doesn’t Quit

If it ain’t broke don’t fix it. Ransomware certainly isn’t broke – quite to the contrary, the FBI estimates that encryption malware will have raked in $1 billion from businesses by the end of the year. We also learned in 2016 that paying the ransom doesn’t always work – Kansas Heart Hospital figured that out the hard way.

The only way to beat ransomware is to undercut hackers’ bargaining power. That means having a way to quickly and easily eradicate the malware without losing large quantities of critical data.

3. It’s Time to Start Practicing Better Security Hygiene

In 2016, we saw some of the cleverest social engineering schemes to date, including PETYA ransomware, which spreads through fake job applications sent to human resources departments.

Therefore, it’s more important than ever to give employees everything they need to practice sound security hygiene, and your IT staff the tools they require to enforce these best practices as much as they can.

Reboot to restore solutions like Deep Freeze can be incredibly useful in such critical situations. Deep Freeze helps users restore the pristine state/ configuration of their workstations, in the event of unwanted/ unauthorised system changes. While this isn’t a substitute for teaching your employees cybersecurity best practices, it’s a quick and effective way to sanitize computers on a regular basis.

For IT staff, Deep Freeze provides the ability to control software updates on endpoints, which helps them keep machines safe from newly discovered zero-day exploits. Pair this with application control software that allows for the blacklisting and whitelisting of certain executables, and it becomes that much easier to help employees improve their security hygiene, and enforce best practices.

Hopefully, we can all look forward to a more cyber-aware 2017.

To learn more about our solutions, contact us today.

Matt Williams

A self-proclaimed ‘tech geek’, Matt has worked in technology for a decade and divides his time between blogging and working in IT. A huge New York Giants fan, when not watching football Matt gets his game on playing Call of Duty with his friends and other tech bloggers.