‘The number of cybercriminal attacks has increased dramatically in recent months.’ This header was true in 2011 is true in 2021 and will probably be true 10 years from now. The reason for the dramatic increase this time is mostly related to the remote work phenomenon. Employees are fed up with the pandemic and less careful. They often connect to corporate systems from home, poorly secured devices, leaving the door wide open for bad actors and putting organizations at risk. So how can an employee make sure he or she is doing enough to defend themselves against such attacks and make sure they won’t be the reason why the company will get compromised?

Summer holidays is a great time for cybercriminals

Organizations versus cyberattacks

More and more often, there’s a bad actor behind employee credentials. A person who is not authorized to access data and is using stolen login and password to do so. So how can an employee effectively protect him or herself against data theft? Logins and passwords are compromised, stolen and sold all the time. So the most important thing to avoid problems is to make sure that a hacker won’t be able to access data even with the compromised username and password. To do so, applications need to be secured with something more than just a password. This extra layer of protection is called strong authentication or multi-factor authentication (MFA).

- Today, cybercriminal attacks are meticulous and are most often based on the use of a stolen identity - says Tomasz Kowalski, president and co-founder of Secfense.
- Enhanced protection when logging in, i.e. the use of multi-factor authentication (MFA) involving additional verification, e.g. entering a code sent to a personal phone or scanning a fingerprint, increases the effectiveness of security up to 90% - he adds.

Does the password matter at all?

There are many tutorials out there that explain how a secure password should be built - what combination of letters and numbers and characters it must consist of, and what is its minimum. The reality shows that even a complicated combination of numbers and letters doesn't matter anymore. Any password - sooner or later - can be stolen. Is it with the help of malware that a computer or smartphone user installs by clicking on a fake link, or through classic phishing scam.

Password-based security is no longer enough. It is necessary to strengthen it with the second factor. When the verification in the form of strong authentication is installed, the password doesn’t matter any more. It can be very simple, because without additional authentication, it will not let anyone in anyway.
- Each of us should use MFA to prevent unauthorized persons from accessing mailboxes or websites that one can access through Google or Facebook identities - adds Tomasz Kowalski.

Summer holidays is a great time for cybercriminals. Employees are not that preconscious and can fall into a scam way easier. We have to beware of fake emails in which cybercriminals pretend to be hotels and websites offering attractive and cheap accommodation. According to a recent report from Phish Labs called "Threat trends & intelligence", today there are almost 50% more cyberattacks than at the same time last year.

There are companies that managed to stay away from this trend and secure their employees against phishing scams and credential based attacks. Google corporation for example, at the beginning of 2017 introduced two-factor authentication (based on cryptographic keys in the U2F standard) for 85,000 employees throughout the organization and thus eliminated the problems caused by phishing emails.

- Multi-factor authentication is becoming the new golden standard of security as it protects users not only from cybercriminals, but from themselves. People are still the weakest link in security, therefore it is necessary to introduce solutions that will support our activities on the Internet. Especially during the holiday relaxation - adds Tomasz Kowalski.
Cyber criminals will refer to what is now in the center of your attention during summer time.

Key principles

Gartner predicts that in 2021, enterprises that their employees to work remotely without using MFA may experience five times more account takeover incidents than those using MFA. This is why most data security departments in big organizations are focused right now on introducing or scaling strong authentication.

But what can an individual employee do to make sure he or she will not compromise company data?

  • Never trust, always verify, so the basic principle of zero trust security. The difference between trusted and untrusted networks is a fiction, so stop believing that what's behind your firewall is safe.
  • Protect your e-mail inbox. If you organization offers it, use MFA to protect your mailbox. It is worth using it in order not to lose the privacy of your e-mail or access websites to which you log in using your Google or Facebook credentials.
  • Never open suspicious emails. Never click on links from unknown senders, check domains and addresses from which emails come from. Cyber criminals will refer to what is now in the center of your attention during summer time - accommodation, hotels, cheap flights. Do not fall for limited offers, last places, cheap tickets, etc.
  • Do not trust call center agents. Even those who call from "your bank". If a bank calls you just hang up and call again. If the caller was legitimate this previous call should be registered in the system so the agent you talk to will know what it was about. Never install any applications suggested by the caller on your smartphone.
  • Pay attention to the social engineering techniques. The cyber criminal will try to scare you, warn you, rush you and persuade you at all costs. If you are not sure - just hang up the phone and call back.
  • Check if your company has appropriate security procedures in place. Suggest implementing MFA on all applications and systems. Only then can you feel safe working from home or any location in the world.
  • Avoid unsecured wi-fi networks. If you must, then do not perform operations on a bank account or one that contains sensitive data. If you're connecting to a corporate network, VPN is necessary but not enough. VPN needs to always go hand in hand with two-factor authentication. Research shows that as much as 34% of attacks take place within an organization's network.

Zero trust

The pandemic and the phenomenon of remote work have significantly shifted the boundaries of data security - both for individual users as well as organizations. Companies in the current situation must focus on securing their employees in all locations including homes, cafes or other places from which they connect to the network in order to perform their job-related duties.

We need to be aware of the threats lurking on the Internet and never think that losing data on the internet does not concern us. Let’s keep our guard and keep educating ourselves and follow the rules. Don’t let yourself fall into a trap of a routine and do not get carried away by holiday chillout. This is what cyber thieves are waiting for.