Ransomware attacks have witnessed a staggering surge of nearly 500% since the commencement of the COVID-19 pandemic, highlighting the urgent need for Australian businesses to reassess their IT infrastructure and bolster their security measures. This will enable them to enhance their defences against meticulously targeted cyber-attacks. To determine whether your business requires a security reassessment, here are seven indicators that your IT infrastructure is susceptible to a cyber-attack:

1. Outdated software and hardware
2. Weak passwords
3. Lack of employee training
4. Insufficient network segmentation
5. Lack of patching
6. Lack of back-up and recovery plans
7. Data encryption

Outdated software and hardware

One of the primary methods utilized by hackers to infiltrate a network involves leveraging End of Life (EOL) and End of Service (EOS) hardware and software. EOL and EOS refer to situations where vendors cease providing support for a particular software, resulting in the discontinuation of updates and security patches beyond a specified date. As cyber-attacks continue to evolve and become increasingly targeted, failure to keep hardware and software up to date with rapid changes creates vulnerabilities within the IT infrastructure. For instance, among the approximately 230,000 globally infected computers, it was reported that 98% were running an unpatched version of Windows 7. As Windows 8 was released, the support and patching for Windows 7 naturally diminished, leading some businesses to delay the update due to their busy day-to-day operations. This delay in adopting updated software and hardware exposes businesses to successful attacks.

Organizations must prioritize and proactively manage their software and hardware upgrades. It is imperative to have a dedicated IT team that remains vigilant in conducting regular compliance checks to ensure the company remains ahead of the curve.

Weak passwords

Were you aware that ‘123456’ ranked among the top 10 most common passwords worldwide? According to research conducted by Cyber News Investigation, a total of 15,212,645,925 passwords were analysed, with only 2,217,015,490 of them being unique. Weak and easily guessable passwords pose the quickest and simplest route for cyber-attacks to breach a business’s IT infrastructure. A notable example occurred in 2012 when Dropbox experienced a security breach due to an employee reusing a password at work, resulting in the theft and online sale of 68 million user credentials to malicious hackers. Various companies, including Yahoo, LinkedIn, Adobe, and Equifax, have also faced similar breaches due to inadequate password security protocols.

It is crucial for passwords to be complex, incorporating uppercase and lowercase letters, special characters, and numbers, while avoiding dictionary words. Additionally, it is important to encourage employees not to reuse passwords across multiple sites. Here are some steps that businesses can take to ensure their employees use strong and secure passwords:

  • Employee education
  • Don’t share passwords
  • Get a password manager
  • Change password regularly through business wide policies
  • Make passwords stronger
  • Use two factor authentication

Lack of employee training

Effective training and awareness programs tailored to specific demographics are crucial to prevent successful cyber-attacks. Without such programs, employees may lack the knowledge and skills needed to identify and report potential cyber threats. According to IBM, human error accounts for more than 85% of cyber breaches, making people the primary gateway to such attacks. Employees with low levels of cyber security awareness are particularly susceptible to clicking on malicious links or opening attachments in phishing emails.

In 2020, Marriott Hotels & Resort experienced an internal compromise where hackers accessed two employee passwords, resulting in unauthorized access to 5.2 million private records. Unfortunately, it took two months for Marriott’s cybersecurity systems to detect the breach, highlighting the importance of regular regulatory compliance and cyber security training to prevent such incidents from occurring. With third-party assessments and consultation such as Oreta’s Cyber Training and Awareness solution, Marriott Hotel & Resorts could have reduced the chances of the breach overall.

Insufficient network segmentation

The outbreak of COVID-19 has brought about significant changes in the working landscape, with 50% of companies in Australia adopting hybrid work models. This shift to remote work introduces new challenges, as employees connect to their own unprotected networks, increasing the likelihood of successful cyber-attacks. One vulnerability arises from having a flat network, which provides a large attack surface. When an organization’s network lacks appropriate segmentation, a single compromised device can grant a hacker access to the entire system.

However, by dividing a large network into smaller sub-networks through network segmentation, the attack surface is reduced. This segmentation isolates network traffic within the sub-networks, impeding lateral movement. If a network perimeter is breached, the sub-networks act as barriers, preventing attackers from spreading laterally throughout the entire network. With cyber-attacks growing increasingly sophisticated, network segmentation becomes a vital measure to limit the impact of an attack by making it more challenging for cyber criminals to navigate through your network.

Lack of patching

Over time, it is often necessary to update and test the vulnerabilities of most downloaded software. Security patches are designed to address security gaps that were initially overlooked when the software was launched. It is alarming that approximately 95% of cyber-attacks specifically target unpatched vulnerabilities. Patching plays a crucial role because these vulnerabilities can be exploited by cyber criminals to gain unauthorized access, steal sensitive information, or disrupt operations. By promptly applying patches, organizations can minimize downtime, reduce their exposure to threats, and enhance their overall security posture. On the other hand, neglecting to apply patches can have severe consequences for organizations, including data breaches, system failures, damage to reputation, and financial loss.

Lack of back-up and recovery plans

Data serves as the lifeblood of any organization, underscoring the critical need for businesses to have a comprehensive backup and recovery plan in place. Such a plan ensures operational continuity in the face of unexpected events, which can range from natural disasters and human errors to cyber-attacks. According to the 2020 Cost of a Data Breach Report by IBM and the Ponemon Institute, Australia ranked 13th out of 18 countries in terms of total data breach costs.

Without a backup and recovery plan, organizations lack a clear understanding of recovery times (recovery time objective or RTO) and recovery points (recovery point objective or RPO), both of which are crucial in the event of an attack. RTO represents the maximum acceptable downtime for an application, computer, network, or system following an unforeseen disaster, failure, or similar event. On the other hand, RPO defines the acceptable period within which an enterprise’s operations must be restored following a disruptive event.

Failing to proactively plan for these contingencies exposes businesses to greater losses and long-term consequences, including diminished customer loyalty and damage to brand reputation. Therefore, having a backup and recovery plan in place is essential for safeguarding against potential disruptions and minimizing the impact on the organization.

Data encryption

According to recent statistics from the Office of the Australian Information Commissioner (OAIC), there have been five data breaches in 2022 that have affected one million Australians. This highlights the increasing volume of sensitive data being shared and stored, making encryption a paramount concern for businesses. Encryption plays a vital role in safeguarding sensitive data against unauthorized access, ensuring confidentiality, and meeting regulatory requirements. While no security method is foolproof, data encryption is a crucial component in securing an organization’s data both during transmission and at rest.

Cyber-attacks pose a significant threat to businesses and organizations of all sizes, with cybercriminals showing no discrimination. Recognizing the signs of vulnerability in your IT infrastructure can help you take proactive measures to protect your systems and sensitive data. By identifying weaknesses, implementing robust security measures, and training employees in security best practices, you can reduce the risk of a cyber-attack and mitigate potential damages. It is essential to stay informed about the latest threats and security trends, regularly review, test, and update security plans such as Incident Response Plans (IRP), Business Continuity Plans (BCP), and Disaster Recovery Plans (DRP). Remaining vigilant is key to ensuring the ongoing protection of your IT infrastructure.

If you want to be proactive rather than risking on having to be reactive with your security, contact us now and have a no obligation chat with out security team.

Find out more on Oreta’s cyber security services here.