IT Security Concept

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Automated cybersecurity checks make increasingly complex IT security more comprehensible

In IT security, there has been a kind of rabbit and hedgehog race for years between cyber criminals, some of whom are very well organized, and their potential victims. Highly sensitive attack targets on IT infrastructures such as those of financial institutions, public authorities, health care facilities, energy providers, telecommunications service providers, but also large companies have long been a lucrative target for hackers. Due to their relevance for customers or the public and the great extent of damage in the event of incidents, particularly critical targets have high demands on IT security services. In the meantime, numerous solutions are used in such companies to close any attack vectors in the network, cloud environments, mobile devices, servers, endpoints, clients, e-mails or applications. At best, the IT security community uses attack attempts to improve existing solutions or develop new services and tools. For companies that are considered high-profile targets, regular pentests that thoroughly test their IT environment for potential attack scenarios are an integral part of their IT security strategy. But what about less well-equipped mid-sized and small companies?


IT security gap in the corporate landscape

Time is playing into the hands of cybercrime. As the economy continues to digitize, a new "market" presents itself for their well-developed capabilities. Many companies with a much lower level of maturity in IT security than the adversaries hackers have had to deal with so far offers a wide range of potential victims with correspondingly high revenue prospects Any company can be targeted by hackers. In order to siphon them off, hacker gangs pull together human capacity to use broad ransomware campaigns to extort ransoms or steal data sets that they can then monetize through resale. Data theft is often associated with the notion of industrial espionage, which is why some companies think they are an irrelevant target of cyberattacks. Unfortunately, this is a fallacy. In the digital age, data theft can also be a means to an end. For example, hackers can use simple company documents with real contacts and authentic email signatures to set up further fraud campaigns - either targeted or broad-based. Therefore, companies should always consider digitization and the security of their data together.


Increased complexity

Mid-sized companies, as well as small businesses that digitize, face cybercriminals with a multi-layered attack motivation and high skill level.  As a result, a variety of attack vectors are conceivable, and companies must close them from the outset.

Complex IT environments are an additional burdensome factor. Instead of just one antivirus software, a variety of solutions are now required for numerous attack vectors such as cloud environments, mobile devices, network connections, servers, endpoints, clients, emails and applications. Added to this are social engineering attack tactics, in that criminals aim to trick company employees into using their legitimate accounts to exploit a loophole into the IT environment. To manage such a complex set of risks, IT security solutions have been equipped in recent years using artificial intelligence and machine learning technologies. Their ability to recognize certain activity patterns and draw conclusions from them should help detect anomalies early on and strengthen security measures accordingly.

Objective verification of security measures

It is true that intelligent IT security solutions that work proactively and detect threats at an early stage are available in all price categories and are therefore in principle affordable for every company. However, their security assessment is always only self-referential and thus limited. It is entirely possible that there are gaps between the individual security solutions. Although it can be assumed that the solutions used provide complete security, there is no objective verification. This leaves a residue of uncertainty. This is also a tricky situation for IT service providers. Every IT environment has individual circumstances, which is why a certain residual risk remains. How secure their customers are is up to their assessment and, to a good extent, their imagination of possible attack scenarios. Pentesting, which could provide a little more clarity, is only carried out by service providers with the appropriate security expertise and, because of the effort and expense involved, is commissioned by only a few customers at longer intervals.

To shift this prevailing balance of power, which currently tends to favor the hackers, automation can help. Intelligent automation technologies can be used to test the IT environment and the protection layers of the deployed solutions against many possible attack scenarios. Such security scans provide a realistic assessment of the entire solution landscape and show where and how measures need to be strengthened. Depending on the size of the company, the scans can be performed at shorter intervals. This continuous review also gives managers feedback on the effectiveness of the additional measures they have taken, which can increase satisfaction with the work they have done. This gain in control frees up capacity that IT service providers can use to effectively develop companies' IT security strategies. In the long term, this increases their chances of effectively countering cybercrime.

Article by Tom Haak, CEO, Lywand Software 

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