With over 15 years of in-depth experience in the cyber security industry, Brian Linder serves as a Threat Prevention Sales Manager and Office of the CTO evangelist for Check Point Software. He also runs a podcast and routinely discusses technology with major media outlets. Brian holds a MS degree in Information Science from Penn State University and majored in computer science as an undergraduate at Drexel University.
In this interview, Brian offers in-depth insights into why the pandemic has advanced the pace of cyber threats, why your employees keep falling for phishing attacks, fresh considerations for CISOs, concepts to share with your C-suite and more. Check out these must-read cyber security steps and strategies.
Describe the opportunity for bad actors among exhausted, distracted, newly remote workers who are trying to come back out of whatever we went into in 2020?
So, there have been many decades leading up to the transformation of the office worker into the remote worker. Companies definitely had a percentage of their people working remotely even before the pandemic. As the pandemic intensified, we ended up with a collection of remote workers who are using all kinds of devices, accessing work platforms from anywhere.
At this point, we’re moving into an era where some companies may be partially returning to the office, but some companies may not be going back at all. But regardless, I think one of the most important things to note is the state of the distracted and fatigued worker.
People are highly distracted on account of the pandemic itself. So, with that has come something we termed “pandemic fatigue”, a term that almost everybody reading this article will inherently understand. It’s a state of either general malaise or distraction around those issues concerning our families, our own health, vaccines, and the uncertainty around what the world will look like in the future. It’s tiring for people. And this translates into a specific cyber security risk.
This specific type of risk manifests in bad actors’ hyper-awareness of this pivotal and unnerving social moment. While the entire pandemic has represented a giant, extended opportunity for enterprising bad actors, they’re particularly interested in capitalizing on distraction, fatigue, and the exhausted remote worker.
Why else are workers distracted and how does this further translate into risk?
For some people working out of their houses, there’s one distraction after another. They’re working alongside their kids, their pets, you name it.
In addition, people are literally so fatigued from the Zooms and the teams meetings and the remote meetings, and the lack of human contact, so they’re seeking out other ways to connect. This mostly occurs on the internet and all of this ends up creating a situation where people are vulnerable to click on things they shouldn’t click on. People are less vigilant than they might otherwise be.
I’ll give you an example. We’ve seen an uptick in online phishing attacks that offer vaccines. During the holiday season we saw an uptick in shopping scams, in shipping scams. And people are more liable to fall prey to these things than usual.
Why is that the case?
Right now, people have a heightened sense of suggestibility, meaning they’re open to the fact that there could be something interesting to click on. People have been online more than ever, they’re leveraging all kinds of online services even more often than ever, and therefore are more likely to click on something they shouldn’t. The bad actors know this and are eager to flood channels with malicious content.
What are your perspectives on how hackers will exploit the post-pandemic landscape?
Now, as we emerge from the pandemic, society is entering a new period of uncertainty. And again, the bad actors will be looking for trends to exploit this. For example, we are all busy trying to get vaccinated. This is especially true for people in the United States, where the situation is improving, but basically getting a vaccine appointment is very difficult and involves clicking on websites, making phone calls over and over, text messaging…whatever it is.
During this period of time, when people visit vaccination-related websites, it might be difficult to discriminate between a legitimate vaccination registration website and one crafted by sophisticated bad actors.
No one knows exactly what’s next. So, as we emerge out of this sort of “tunnel”, it is not at all clear as to where people will end up. So, what we need to do is to take a holistic view of the modern workforce and to develop a cohesive security strategy that encompasses infinite remote work.
How will businesses respond to cyber threats of the future?
Many companies have hired or are trying to hire an expert to manage the behemoth that is cyber security in their workplace environments. Right now, it’s tough to hire the right people, and even if you can hire them, the question is ‘can you afford them?’
When starting out in a new role, CISOs often find a crowded, confusing, disparate collection of various vendor solutions, many of which are provided by different vendors.
Of course, we’re all glad for an ecosystem, because ecosystems stimulate progress and innovation, but from a security standpoint, managing all of these different apps is a nightmare. This is where the rubber meets the road for an organization.
So, now we’re entering this sort of perfect storm where we have more remote workers than we ever had, we have fewer experts that we can hire, as we can’t afford them, people’s budgets are being cut, in some cases because of the pandemic…So, average companies don’t have anywhere near the manpower that they need.
So, they kind of limp along and do the best they can. And then when the breach happens they deal with it reactively. But there’s a better way.
What approach should organizations take instead?
The better way to approach this situation is as follows: Take a look at only at security providers that offer a way to truly reduce the number of security solutions. Number one, get them all into a single portal. Consolidation has to be the ultimate goal. And this has been validated by many CISOs we’ve talked to. I personally have spoken to several.
The bottom line is, consolidation has to be the model for any way to scale because it allows you not only to manage and configure everything in one place, but also to have, if needed, a reaction to an event, all under one consolidated interface. It eliminates the 12 interfaces or eight or six or whatever it is. This is what CISOs need.
What else should business leaders know about remote access?
In a given company, you have company contractors, regular employees, and third party vendors. Because of this, organizations need a zero trust model of access; a way to provide unified and consistent security to all those people; not some of them and not partially.
Beyond that, CISOs are coming to depend on unified security on the backed. They need security that’s validated by vendors. You don’t think about it on the day-to-day, but the functionality of your airbags and the seatbelts in your car have been heavily researched and validated by vendors. Cyber security is the same in this respect; it’s all about making sure that it’s just as good as it can be.
A key criteria for selecting a vendor is to look for one that has not only validated, but also backs up claims via a research arm. This will help you get the best tools. You want a vendor that without-a-doubt provides the industry’s best across all vectors of attack.
Check back for more outstanding insights from Brian Linder next week!