CISOs have a much heavier workload as the workforce operates remotely. Source: Shutterstock

CISOs have a much heavier workload as the workforce operates remotely. Source: Shutterstock

How CISOs are responding to a surge in cyber crime

Cybercriminals work by exploiting weaknesses, whether that’s technical flaws, such as cloud misconfigurations, or our own human distractions, concerns or worries.

It was an inevitability then that cyberattacks and cyber threats would see an uptick during the current global crisis.

Indeed, attacks have increased over the last couple of months, with phishing scams particularly surging according to a multitude of different sources.

Even the World Health Organization (WHO) itself hasn’t been spared, as officials revealed that hackers made a live attempt to break into the agency’s systems just over a week ago.

WHO’s chief information security officer (CISO), Flavio Aggio, said that cyberattacks against the agency and its partners have surged since the collective has directed efforts to handle the outbreak.

Although it was a failed attempt, the same thing can happen to any company, especially when most workforces have been pushed to operate remotely.

As we navigate a crisis, the role of CISO has become that much more critical.

On top of the responsibility of managing the shift from premise-based network operation to remote working, and ensuring that organizations can still maintain business as usual, CISOs must also heighten cybersecurity measures.

McKinsey acknowledges this fact all too well. According to the firm, cybercriminals are taking advantage of scattered network operations, growing fear of the virus and vulnerable, unpatched domains.

To help CISOs all over the world better strategize their defenses against a opportunistic attackers, McKinsey laid out some key practices:

# 1 | Testing out response plans

Here’s the thing, when it comes to cybersecurity, it can be almost impossible to eliminate the risks, but businesses can work towards minimizing the impact. The key here is to always be prepared.

Only a few businesses can say that they are prepared to face threats because they have response plans in hand. Similarly, now, CISOs must devise cyberattack response plans that can support remote working settings.

The biggest priority here is ensuring that operations can carry on as usual and customer-facing digital platforms remain secure. So once these plans have been formed, CISOs must diligently test them out to validate their effectiveness and practicality.

# 2 | Remaining vigilant, yet flexible

Working from home also means CISOs will have to understand that not everyone in the workforce can have access to secure networks, VPNs or the right cybersecurity solutions at their disposal.

This also means that sometimes risky moves like file downloads from emails, online data sharing, use of USBs or even unverified app installation can go on without any form of protection – and to some extent, have to be permissible.

A good habit to instill here is to make sure clear guidelines are given out when it comes to sensitive operational methods and how can the workforce make better decisions when it comes to their actions.

While it is understandable that employees cannot go through each risky process with CISOs and wait for their approval or feedback as it is important to get things done quickly, training them to make smarter decisions is still a viable option.

# 3 | Pooling intelligence to gain a better perspective

Consistent monitoring of online application behaviors, activities on the backend of the operating systems, and performance level of end-user devices will be key throughout the pandemic period.

According to McKinsey, it’s also a good idea to keep an eye on collaboration tools, networks for new and novel strains of malware, and data from end-points. Much of these tasks can be automated and even armed with machine intelligence.

Keeping tabs on all this can provide CISOs with a more holistic outlook of the operating system and a better understanding of where risks are highest.

Not only that, having these critical insights can significantly boost security measures and help CISOs’ teams deliver better guidelines to the workforce.

All in all, it’s safe to say to cybersecurity practices have to be strategically enhanced by CISOs if businesses do not want to risk losing data, money and customers’ trust.