Equifax doesn’t have a great looking future ahead of it, with hundreds of millions likely lost due to their large-scale data breach. For everyone that’s not Equifax, however, this is a great wakeup call to evaluate your current cybersecurity practices and determine what your current risk profile looks like.
Cover Your Basics
The biggest takeaway from the Equifax data breach is that they weren’t covering cybersecurity basics. A breach earlier in 2017 compromised employee tax records, and occurred due to an admin/admin username and password combo to the software. The most recent breach that involves more than 100 million consumers happened due to a software exploit that the developer patched back in March.
You can immediately address the biggest mistakes that Equifax made by following these cybersecurity best practices:
- Keep all operating systems, software and firmware updated with the latest security patches. If you have difficulties keeping up with this schedule, look into automating time-consuming processes, reducing the number of applications you use in your organization, and consider working with managed service providers to add more IT resources.
- Ensure that everyone in IT security is following standardized practices. It’s not enough to have solid processes in place. You need to ensure that they’re actually adhered to at all time, even if they end up being more cumbersome to the organization.
- Build a culture of cybersecurity. While the Equifax breach didn’t occur due to end-user vulnerabilities, this is an incredibly common attack surface. Train everyone in your organization on security practices that they should be using during their job duties. Securing workstations and BYOD smartphones and tablets, learning how to recognize phishing attempts, and making sure that everyone is buying-in to the changes are all important factors.
- Review the password policy in your organization and make sure that everything is changed from default passwords. It doesn’t matter how inaccessible a server or network resource appears, if you leave something set with a default login you leave a huge hole open.
Proactively Seek Out Security Holes
Don’t wait until you’ve been breached to start looking into potential attack surfaces. Penetration tests, security audits, and other measures help protect you against the low hanging fruit that’s often found in any organization. If you don’t check-in on a regular basis, standards will start to slip and you’ll put yourself in a position where you’re just waiting for an intrusion.
Have a Reporting Plan in Place
Another issue that Equifax ran into was delaying notification of the data breach. They waited more than a month after discovery to inform consumers, which can have a devastating impact given how much personal information is now available. The risks of identity theft increased significantly, and consumers were not able to take appropriate action early on in the process.
Put together a plan that dictates how you handle reporting in the event of a data breach. You don’t want to try to figure out a strategy in the middle of a disaster, especially if you need to act quickly to limit the damage.
Act Quickly to Prevent Repeat Attacks
Once one hacker has figured out a way into your network, others may soon follow. Equifax may have suffered subsequent breaches, either through the same compromised areas or by opportunists looking for a chaotic environment to work in.
Act as quickly as possible to secure your systems and fix the original exploit before anyone else can use it to wreak havoc. You might not be able to undo the initial damage, but you can prevent incidents from occurring shortly after the first breach.
It’s not hard to avoid being like Equifax since they made almost every mistake in the cybersecurity book. When you keep up with the basics and have strategies in place to cover the most common situations in a breach, you can keep yourself one step ahead of most of your competition.