How to Improve Network Security by Breaking It Apart

Cybersecurity and network protection
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“If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.” Despite the continued acceleration of cybercrimes, a shocking number of organizations take this line of thinking when it comes to cybersecurity.

If you have been lucky enough to remain unscathed from the latest wave of sophisticated cyberattacks, you probably assume that your existing security technology is working just fine. However, if you haven’t been breached yet, there’s a very good chance that you eventually will. Or, that you have and you don’t even know it.

Of the countless organizations who have been victim of an attack, most aren’t sure how it occurred or what to do about it. In fact, a recent survey by Bitdefender found that among companies who’ve been breached, three out of four CIOs don’t know how it happened.

This surge of cyberattacks shows no signs of stopping. Two billion records were stolen in the first half of 2017, according to survey by Gemalto — a 164 percent increase over the previous year.

How Cyber Attackers Get In

In 2015, there were about 15.4 billion Internet-connected devices. According to IHS Markit, this number will grow to 30.7 billion in 2020, and 75.4 billion by 2025. While cyber attackers continue to evolve and advance their methods, we are seeing recurring techniques emerge. One of the most common patterns begins with identifying the lowest common denominator, such as a poorly managed device, and working their way to the core of operations to extract information. This means that a company’s cyber resiliency is no better than its weakest link.

The growth of IoT and network connected operational technology (OT) systems, such as ATMs, point-of-sale devices and security cameras, have created opportunities for companies to enhance the customer experience and accelerate innovation, but also open the door to major data vulnerabilities.

Let’s look back to the 2015 attack on the Ukraine’s power grid, which disrupted electricity for more than 230,000 customers. It was later determined that hackers gained access to the utility’s SCADA network and manually switched off power to electrical substations. While security experts found that the control systems at the utility were robust, separated from the control center business networks with strong firewalls, they weren’t secure enough. As a result, hackers were able to hijack employees’ SCADA network credentials to take control and disrupt power to a significant number of Ukrainian residents.

Neutralize Breaches by Taking Network Segmentation to the Next Level

The reality is that there are certain parts of a business which have no reason to be visible to the rest of the world and therefore should not be connected to even a well-defined perimeter. It is time to take network segmentation to the next level — making IT and OT undiscoverable from each other.

This involves completely isolating the OT that supports enterprise operations, which was never intended to be publicly accessible, from vulnerabilities inherent in an IT environment. However, this needs to be done without disruption to the way employees work, giving staff the freedom to perform their functions and access what’s needed to do their jobs well.

At Blue Ridge Networks, we help companies ensure that their networks are protected from vulnerable connected devices. Our LinkGuard platform isolates and contains network environments, creating secure enclaves that ensure the privacy and integrity of all traffic and eliminate the risk of unauthorized access. Only pre-authenticated endpoints are authorized to access the secure enclaves and LinkGuard-enabled endpoints uphold policies to ensure that nothing can leave or enter the secure enclave, avoiding the risk of malware incursion or data theft.

Preventing Cyber Attacks – The Shift Starts from the Top-down

The threat of malicious network attacks is very real, and it is time for companies to decide that falling victim to a breach because of ineffective defenses is simply not an option. Security planning and policies cannot just live in the IT department. A commitment to improved cybersecurity has to start from the top, with board and C-level executives making cyber security a top priority and actively engaging with IT to better understand what’s being done today and where improvements can and should be made. When leadership and IT partner together to improve the company’s security posture, executives can trust IT decision makers to make needed strategic security investments and improvements and in turn, IT can trust that leadership will support it.

Tomorrow is a new day, and with it comes new attack vectors utilized and new companies caught off guard and victimized. Traditional cybersecurity approaches are broken — attackers are all too aware. It’s time to take action and isolate your operational infrastructure to keep it safe from IT vulnerabilities.

Want to learn more? Read our LinkGuard solution brief to find out how you can isolate and contain your network.