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3 Pillars of an Effective Cyber Intelligence Strategy

Cyber intelligence has always been crucial, but recent developments have made getting accurate and timely information on potential cybersecurity threats even more urgent.

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Although there have been many positive developments in workplace practices over the past year — like the increase in work-from-home policies and other flexible work arrangements — one of the largest downsides has been the increase in hacks, ransomware attacks and other cybersecurity problems. It's affecting businesses of all sizes.

There is a wide range of reasons for this, but a key one is the inaccessibility of traditional IT teams. Employees have resorted to taking DIY approaches to fix security issues and maintaining their work devices. This opens up cybersecurity vulnerabilities for hackers to exploit. The rise in cryptocurrencies has also made it easier for ransomware attackers to vanish with payments. Even though in 2020, victims paid more than $406 million in cryptocurrency to attackers —and the figure is likely to be as high this year, according to Bloomberg — not all hope is not. With the right cyber intelligence strategy in place and proper implementation, you’ll be able to minimize the harm to your business.

Related: Every Small Business Owner Should Know How to Fend Off Cyber Attacks

Staff/partner engagement 

This is where the work must start. Cyber Threat Intelligence is the information that businesses gather on cybersecurity threats, attempts and successful attacks with which they can improve the business’ situational awareness and response to all sorts of cybersecurity threats including malware, ransomware attacks, insider exploits, espionage, hacktivism, cybercrime and other emerging threats. Although the word “cybercrime” conjures images of a man in a dark hoodie and sunglasses typing furiously on a computer to break past software defenses, the reality is that most attacks boil down to exploiting human behaviors in what is known as social engineering

This can range from phishing emails to fake customer service calls. The crucial thing here is to ensure that everyone who has any degree of access to your business’ computer systems is trained thoroughly on identifying, documenting, escalating and neutralizing cybersecurity threats. This can be achieved through training and tests for staff, including the provision of a detailed manual for what to do in any situation. For vendors and other companies, you must conduct thorough cybersecurity due diligence to ensure that they have adequate protections in place to prevent attacks that could be used to compromise your systems. 

Related: How to Keep Your Company Safe From Cyber Attacks

Collect and analyze data

Often, a seemingly innocuous anomaly can be the precursor to a full-scale attack that might lead to your company being held for ransom. It could even be something as small as a suspicious email and attachment which an employee checked and then deleted. To be sure that you are covering all your bases, the manual and training that you give to your employees must mandate them to report any anomalies they notice, giving you a full-picture view so you can then take the necessary remedial actions.

Apart from getting information from your staff, it’s important to also be plugged into other sources of information such as cybersecurity databases run by the government and private organizations. Do your homework when selecting a cybersecurity vendor. Make sure the vendor can help you recover from any losses such as in a ransomware attack. As mentioned earlier, cybercriminals are now extremely sophisticated at hiding their identities and stolen assets. Still, providers like CNC Intelligence have developed techniques to use the data collected from clients and other sources to identify the beneficial owners of the criminal scheme and locate recoverable assets with high accuracy. 

Related: Fighting Ransomware In the Age of Covid

Collaborate with other industry players

Nowadays, there are industry ISACs (Information Sharing and Analysis Centre) in most sectors of the economy, where the officers responsible for their companies’ cybersecurity interact and share information and strategies to mitigate common threats. It’s crucial to be an active participant in these forums because they essentially multiply your opportunities to become aware of an emerging threat or attack pattern before it arrives at your door. The criminals collaborate too, as can be seen from the “malware supermarkets” and tutorials on black hat forums. Cybersecurity experts who share tactics will be able to dip into a collective knowledge pool as necessary when combating a threat, thus increasing the chances of success. 

If your company happens to be in an industry or location where there are no thriving cyber intelligence exchange forums, consider taking the lead to establish one. Engage with other companies’ reps and agree on parameters for the exchange of information such that everyone would benefit without putting proprietary information at risk. The benefits for all participants will justify the effort.

Ademola Alex Adekunbi

Written By

Entrepreneur Leadership Network Contributor

Kunbi is a lawyer based in Lagos and is focused on the tech industry, advising startups on regulatory compliance, market-entry and investment (PE and VC). He is also the founder of Tech Law Info, a website to provide founders with essential legal information and resources.