Distraction Equals Vulnerability

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Published in The Business News on September 27th, 2021.

For the past couple summers, the debate over in-person vs. at home schooling has been a constant topic. Everyone seems to have an opinion, but no one has a one-size-fits-all answer. Some will argue safety from the virus.

Others focus on the mental wellbeing of children. From my standpoint, it seems like they are all right-ish, but finding a balance is a nearly impossible task, and a constant distraction for school decision makers.

As that battle wages on, hackers have begun to target schools. Why? Because they are distracted. The all-consuming task of finding the right solution, has left educational institutions vulnerable. Surely the people deciding the best course for children, teachers and families, are not the same people protecting the technology infrastructure, right. Right; that has to be right.

Although, the person tasked with protecting the infrastructure isn’t likely the sole person who can make all decisions, they have a boss. That boss is not going to prioritize the computers and networks, while a thousand parents are complaining from one side of the fence, or another. That boss is distracted. The IT staff will do their best, but they need buy in from the top.

Everyone is distracted

Schools are only one of many, distracted and at-risk institutions. Hospital systems are working to keep up. Government agencies are focused on fighting the pandemic, helping the unemployed and providing businesses with what they need to keep afloat.

Obviously, those businesses are distracted as well… they can’t hire, they can’t get materials and equipment, fluctuating sales…trying to stay afloat. Everyone is distracted. Hackers see this environment, as a pick pocket sees a street magic show. Opportunity.

Social media doesn’t help. We’re all so preoccupied, arguing the politics of a pandemic, that we’ve forgotten to live our lives, appreciate our friends and families and take precautions. We are completely occupied with a spoon-fed, mostly false narrative by all sides and isles, that we stopped taking care of ourselves. What was important in 2019, is still important, whether we pay attention to it or not. In many cases, it’s even more important.

What are we going to do about it?

There are things we can do to secure our data and protect ourselves, that will not take a lot of time or money. Good backups, multi-factor authentication, dark-web monitoring and cyber-awareness training are at the top of that list. I just spoke with our insurance broker this morning and those protections, are the things that big cyber insurance companies are looking for.

IT companies, like HawkPoint, work in tandem with cyber insurance companies and cyber enhancement services. We can secure your data but, as long as you have employees, nothing is ever truly secure. Employees click on things that they shouldn’t, and they too get distracted, so they fall for expertly manufactured campaigns, designed specifically to trick people.

Employees will always be the biggest security risk in a company and no IT provider, whether internal or external, can fully protect you, through support alone. That’s where good cyber policies and systems come into play. Like a good disaster recovery plan, we all work together to prevent disasters, not just recover from them.

Nothing is as bad as it seems

Your network isn’t as bad as you’ve been told, and you don’t have to spend a fortune to protect yourself. However, you do have to protect yourself. One day soon, the pandemic will be all over and we will have a whole new batch of things to worry about. My advice: put down your phone and take a look long look at the real world around you. You have real world work to do. Start with the five things I mentioned above, plus one more:

  1. Offsite Data Backups
  2. Multi-Factor Authentication
  3. Dark Web Monitoring
  4. Cyber Awareness Training for Employees
  5. Cyber Insurance
  6. Secure network infrastructure.

Similar to antivirus, a modern firewall is still amongst the best things you can do to secure your data and ensure your business is operational. Items one through five are relatively new. While they are as important as six, they do not replace the need for six, a good ole’ firewall.

This has been a tough couple of years. No one blames you for feeling frustrated. You’re not alone in feeling numb or for wanting to hide under a rock until all this craziness passes. Most of what is going on around you, is out of your control and is being sensationalized anyway. Accept that and look to the things that you can do to protect yourself and your business.