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The two most important ways to defend against security threats
By Roger A. Grimes – CSO – February 7, 2018
Patching and security training programs will thwart attacks more effectively than anything else. You’re already doing them. Here’s how to do them better.
An average of 5,000 to 7,000 new computer security threats are announced each year. That’s as many as 19 every day. The rate at which new threats appear make it difficult to decide which ones require your attention. It might surprise you that, while your competitors waste money on high-tech, expensive, and sometimes exotic defenses, you can get far more value by concentrating on just two things you already do. You can spend less money and nothing you do otherwise will provide a better defense.
The two things you need to do better are not a secret. You already know you need to do them. You know from your own experience that what I’m saying is true. The data in favor of doing them is overwhelming. Still, most companies don’t do them well enough.
Change your security focus
Most computer security defenders focus on the wrong things. They focus on specific threats and what they did after hackers broke in, not how they broke in. There may be hundreds of thousands of unique software vulnerabilities and hundreds of millions of unique malware families, but they all share about a dozen different ways that they initially exploited an environment, including:
- Unpatched software
- Social engineering
- Password attacks
- Physical attacks
- User errors
- Denial of service
Focusing on and reducing these root exploitation causes will help you significantly defeat hackers and malware.
If you want to minimize computer security risk the fastest, identify the biggest root exploitation causes in your company that allow threats to do the most damage to your environment. Stop the biggest root cause and you stop every threat that uses that root cause.
So, what are the biggest root exploitation causes in most environments? Unpatched software and social engineering.
Without a doubt, these two root causes are responsible for the most successful and damaging attacks in most companies and have been for decades. One of these root exploitation methods has likely been behind any big attack that has made news in the mainstream media. In my experience, when a company of any size or even the military suffers a big attack, it’s can be traced to one of those two root causes.
Your company’s experience may vary, and if it does, you can ignore this article. The biggest problems for the majority of readers are unpatched software and social engineering. If they fix those two things, it will do more to decrease security risk than all the other things they could do combined.