May 11, 2023

Creating a cybersecurity disaster recovery plan

By Ron Cadwell

Cybersecurity Disaster Recovery Plan

Continuation from Part 1

Disaster recovery is a subset of business continuity planning that focuses on restoring IT infrastructure after a disaster. A disaster recovery plan should comprehensively outline the procedures and policies that will enable an organization to recover from any potential disasters, whether they be natural or manmade.

Disaster recovery of IT systems generally involves creating regular backups of the entire infrastructure at an alternative location. All critical systems are transferred rapidly to the disaster recovery site, replacing the primary system, and ensuring that business operations can continue despite the disaster, albeit with reduced computing power. End users may experience slower application performance, but the system remains functional.

Sometimes, disaster recovery systems function so effectively that businesses may entirely transition to their secondary locations and make their backup systems the primary ones for an extended timeframe. For example, during Hurricane Sandy in 2012, many companies in lower Manhattan relocated their operations to disaster recovery sites and continued to operate from there until the threat subsided.

To ensure adequate disaster recovery, organizations should also develop alternative communication channels and work locations, as well as train their staff on disaster recovery procedures to minimize the impact of a disaster and speed up the recovery process.

Similarly, to risk assessments and incident response plans, it is essential to regularly test and update any disaster recovery plan to ensure its effectiveness and relevance.

Ensure Network Security

Network security measures are essential for safeguarding a company’s network, infrastructure, and data. Fortunately, a range of advanced cybersecurity techniques and tools are specifically geared toward upholding network security.

Firewalls, the basis of network security, prevent unauthorized entry by managing incoming and outgoing network traffic. Computers and networks are permitted access if they follow the rules, while those that do not are prevented from entering.

With hackers using more advanced tactics, firewalls have become increasingly sophisticated. The latest models are comprehensive network security systems that use various methods and encryption techniques to thwart malicious activities and potential breaches.

With the spread of remote and hybrid work setups, securing remote access for employees has become imperative. VPNs not only enhance network security in a WFH situation, they also improve network performance and reduce latency. Many VPNs also have additional features like ad blocking, malware protection, and split tunneling.

Installing malware protection, such as antivirus software, is also essential to strengthening network security. Antivirus software scans newly downloaded applications or data to ensure they are malware-free. Antivirus software can also detect unexpected malware threats and websites, as well as emails that attempt to phish employees.

Enabling two-factor authentication is another effective measure for enhancing network security. Two-factor authentication, or 2FA, can take various forms, such as answering a personal question, receiving a code via email or text, or using biometric identifiers like fingerprints.

Finally, network security should include an intrusion detection system (IDS) which analyzes inbound and outbound traffic in order to identify suspicious elements that have passed through the firewall.

Secure Endpoint Devices

A recent cybersecurity study found that roughly 70% of successful cyberattacks begin with a breach of an endpoint device such as a company laptop or cell phone. Endpoint devices are one of the most common targets for cybercriminals as they are often the least protected devices on a network.

Here are some ways of enhancing the security of your endpoints.

  • Enforce a BYOD (Bring Your Device) policy, listing the types of apps the company allows the data that is accessible, and the websites employees can visit with their own devices.
  • Consider investing in an endpoint protection platform (EPP), a solution that records and analyzes endpoint-system-level behaviors, providing contextual information, blocking malicious activity, and suggesting remediation strategies for affected systems.
  • Regularly update network and IoT devices to minimize vulnerabilities, including changing default passwords and updating all hardware, software, and firmware.
  • Create comprehensive policies that establish protocols for accessing, storing, and using data and clearly define who has access to each data classification level.
  • Encrypt all data, secure all connections, and update all web connections to the more secure HTTPS platform.

All devices connected to a network are potential inroads for hackers. Still, endpoint devices are often the first target because the hacker can attack an endpoint without breaching the primary cybersecurity defenses.

Create a Secure Software Development Life Cycle

In today’s digital world, software development has become integral to almost every company’s operations. Whether developing applications, websites, or tools, companies rely on software to enhance their products or services.

However, introducing weaknesses in the code during the software development stage can make the software more vulnerable to attacks. These weaknesses could include bugs that hackers exploit to gain unauthorized access to systems, steal data, or cause other damage.

For that reason, it is essential to develop software with security in mind and to identify and address all potential vulnerabilities from the ground up.

Here are the best practices for secure coding:

  • Use code minification and obfuscation to make it difficult for attackers to access and read your code. Minification removes whitespace and line breaks from your code, while obfuscation turns human-readable code into difficult-to-understand text.
  • To release code safely, avoid taking shortcuts like leaving hardcoded credentials and security tokens as comments.
  • Be cautious using open-source components and libraries with known vulnerabilities, as malicious actors can exploit them. Monitor for new vulnerabilities throughout the development process.
  • Regularly perform secure code reviews and use automated tools to scan for potential vulnerabilities, such as cross-site scripting (XSS) and SQL injection attacks, which exploit weaknesses that fail to distinguish between data and commands.

Keeping code reviewers and writers organizationally separate is a good idea because it creates a system of checks and balances. Code writers may overlook errors due to their bias toward the code they have written. However, code reviewers with a fresh perspective are more likely to identify potential security vulnerabilities.

Separating code writers and reviewers can also help prevent conflict of interest. Pressure to meet deadlines or prioritize functionality over security may lead code writers to cut corners. Conversely, code reviewers can address these issues as they are solely responsible for ensuring security and compliance.

Encourage a Cyber Security Culture

A chain is only as strong as its weakest link, and human error is still one of the leading causes of security incidents. According to the latest research, 82% of cybersecurity breaches are caused by human error, meaning cybersecurity education can eliminate all but the most complex threats.

The overwhelming majority of people have good intentions, and so do most employees. However, some still don’t understand that “1234” isn’t a good password or that a Nigerian prince promising them a large sum of money is suspicious.

To stay ahead of sloppy password use, organizations should mandate and enforce the use of strong passwords. Typically, a strong password is at least 8-12 characters long and includes a mix of uppercase and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters. Employees must also regularly update passwords and refrain from using them across different accounts or services. Passwords must also avoid using common words, phrases, or personal information.

Additionally, train employees to identify and report suspicious activities. For example, a phishing attack relies on an employee clicking on a link or downloading an attachment from an unknown or suspicious source. We at phoenixNAP regularly send simulated phishing emails to develop our employees’ ability to recognize potential threats.

Conclusion

For some company managers, cyber security is a money pit and no more than an afterthought. However, the truth is that security pays dividends in the long run and can save a company from loss of money and reputation that it may never recover from.

With the increasing frequency and complexity of cyber attacks, taking proactive steps to protect your digital assets has become essential to business continuity. By implementing a comprehensive cybersecurity and disaster recovery strategy, you can significantly reduce the risk of an attack but also make recovery more manageable.

Be advised though, cybersecurity is not a one-time effort – it requires ongoing vigilance and adaptation to keep pace with emerging threats.

By Ron Cadwell

Ron Cadwell

Ron Cadwell is the founder and CEO of PhoenixNAP, a global provider of security-focused cloud infrastructure, dedicated servers, colocation, and specialized Infrastructure-as-a-Service solutions. He is an experienced executive in the data center sector, with over 20 years of expertise in establishing successful and long-lasting companies.
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