People 'n' Issues

How Africa can prepare for cyber attack

June 15th, 2015
Online security is constantly evolving and organisations need to employ advanced tools to reduce security risks. DOROS HADJIZENONOS, Country Manager of Check Point South Africa, explains how organisations can mitigate threats.

Given the ever-increasing sophistication of cybercrime methods, organisations must employ advanced assessment tools and practices to reduce or eliminate security gaps. The first step to a successful security posture is to know what your current security network looks like. It’s hard to strengthen a security foundation when you don’t know where the weaknesses are.

Cyber threats have gained a lot of media attention recently, and the perception that Africa is not likely to experience cyber-attacks is false. Africa has one of the highest number of cyber-attacks, which have mostly targeted government websites in Nigeria, Ghana and Senegal over the recent months.

Basie van Solms, director of the Centre for Cyber Security at the University of Johannesburg, says that South Africa is lagging behind Africa when it comes to adopting a stable cyber security policy and that there is a lack overall of a cyber-security strategy and culture. The South African government has been criticised for not having a decisive policy and control over the growing problem of cyber-crime, which cost the country over R3.4 billion in one year alone.

South African organisations, therefore, have an even greater reason to ensure their networks and data are protected – and it starts with understanding where they’re at. Organisations need to do a comprehensive assessment, which will evaluate the current state of the security network in all areas, from network architecture and security infrastructure and policy, to monitoring capability and incident response readiness. It will identify potential vulnerabilities and highlight gaps in security resources, capabilities and infrastructure. By conducting this evaluation, organisations will generate the information required to design a blueprint for fundamentally secure operations.

Teams should begin by examining the network architecture by looking at ingress and egress points. Specifically, they’ll want to check how many there are, where they are and how they’re used, as well as how they are protected, managed and controlled. Having a complete understanding of ingress and egress points is vital to maintaining the health of the security network.

Next, understand what critical services are required to run day-to-day business operations. Are they protected? What controls are in place to protect their operation? What is the most sensitive data for the organisation? Is this data being protected, and how? What controls are in place to protect access and fidelity? They’ll also need to decide what data should be encrypted while at rest and while in motion, a critical factor in the event of data theft.

Evaluate the segmentation of the network. Is the network segmented? If so, is the network segmented properly to prevent easy access across large portions of the network?

It’s also important to check all of the security controls that are in place. Some key design considerations for all security controls include where they’re deployed, whether they’re in detect or prevent mode, and if they’re set to block known attacks. Teams should also check if the controls are integrated to support the entire security infrastructure and whether they support user identity.

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