• Cyber Security: Everyone's Job

by guest blogger Chris Roberts

cyber security threatWhat isCyber Security?

Cybersecurity refers to the technologies and processes designed to protect computers, networks, and data from unauthorized access, vulnerabilities, and attacks delivered via the Internet by cyber criminals and mischief makers. The most common of these attacks come not at the point of firewalls but at the weakest link, employees, and the attacks may target the employees themselfs instead of or in addition to the employer. 

Five Common Cyber Threats

If you suspect you may have been a target of any of the threats included here, or have been targeted by any other cyber threat, report it to your security point of contact immediately.

Common cyber threats include:

• Phishing and spear phishing
• Malicious code
• Weak and default passwords
• Unpatched or outdated software vulnerabilities
• Removable media

Phishing and Spear Phishing

The Threat

Phishing is a high-tech scam that uses e-mail to deceive you into disclosing personal information. It puts your personal information and your organization’s information at risk. Spear phishing is a type of targeted phishing that appears to be directed towards a specific individual or group of individuals


The following countermeasures can be taken to guard against phishing and spear phishing:

• Watch out for phishing and spear phishing
• Delete suspicious e-mails
• Contact your system security point of contact with any questions
• Report any potential incidents
• Look for digital signatures
• Configure Intrusion Detection Systems (IDS) to block malicious domains / IP addresses
• Ensure anti-virus software and definitions are up to date

Do not:

• Open suspicious e-mails
• Click on suspicious links or attachments in e-mails
• Call telephone numbers provided in suspicious e-mails
• Disclose any information 

Malicious Code

The Threat

Malicious code is software that does damage and/or creates unwanted behaviors. Malicious code includes:

• Viruses
• Trojan horses
• Worms
• Keyloggers
• Spyware
• Rootkits
• Backdoors


The following countermeasures can be taken to guard against malicious code in email:

• View e-mail messages in plain text
• Do not view e-mail using the preview pane
• Use caution when opening e-mail
• Scan all attachments
• Delete e-mail from senders you do not know
• Turn off automatic downloading

To guard against malicious code in websites:

• Block malicious links / IP addresses
• Block all unnecessary ports at the Firewall and Host
• Disable unused protocols and services
Stay current with all operating system service packs and software patches 

Weak and Default Passwords

The Threat

The use of weak and default passwords creates easily exploitable system vulnerabilities.


The following countermeasures can be taken to guard against password compromise, when creating a password:

• Combine letters, numbers, special characters
• Do not use personal information
• Do not use common phrases or words
• Do not write down your password, memorize it
• Change password according to your organization’s policy
• Enforce account lockout for end-user accounts after a set number of retry attempts
• Do not save your passwords or login credentials in your browser
• NEVER share your password


Unpatched or Outdated Software Vulnerabilities


The Threat


Unpatched or outdated software provides vulnerabilities and opportunities for adversaries to access information systems.




The following countermeasures can be taken to guard against software vulnerabilities:


•    Comply with the measures in your organization’s policies
•    Stay current with patches and updates
•    Conduct frequent computer audits

- Ideally: Daily
- At minimum: Weekly

•    Do not rely on firewalls to protect against all attacks
•    Report intrusion attempts
•    Disconnect computer system temporarily in the event of a severe attack

Removable Media

The Threat

Removable media is any type of storage device that can be added to and removed from a computer while the system is running. Adversaries may use removable media to gain access to your system. Examples of removable media include:

• Thumb drives
• Flash drives
• CDs
• DVDs
• External hard drives


The following countermeasures can be taken to guard against removable media vulnerabilities.

Do not use flash media unless operationally necessary and company-owned
Do not use any personally owned removable flash media on company systems
Do not use company removable flash media on non-company/personal systems
Encrypt all data stored on removable media
Encrypt in accordance with the data's sensitivity level
Use only removable media approved by your organization 

Many of the major security breaches that have made the news in the past couple of years have been the result of an employee who was careless regarding one or more of the above threats. Cyber security is not just the responsibility IT professionals. Every employee must be aware of the threat possibilities, vigilant about any evidence of an attempted breach, and knowledgeable about countermeasures. If you suspect you may have been the target of any of these threats, report it to your security point of contact immediately.

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