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Develop strategy against cyberthreats

Takeaways from WannaCry attack: update systems, change security mindset and get experts involved


The WannaCry attack has had a colossal impact on organisations around the world, infecting over 200,000 computers.

The attack has also served as a wake-up call about security.

Working closely with businesses, we've had a unique insight into the impact of WannaCry at Tata Communications.

Here are three key lessons.


UPDATE, UPDATE, UPDATE

The impact of the WannaCry ransomware should have been minimal because Microsoft rolled out a patch for the vulnerability on March 14.

But internal estimates at Tata suggest that only 10 per cent to 15 per cent of businesses around the world had implemented it. Most businesses were unprotected and had to fight the attack with emergency patching.

We often see information technology departments needing to wait for approval before they can issue critical patches.

Chief financial officers may be unwilling to sign off on updates because it risks downtime during critical periods, such as the end of a financial quarter.

Delaying a security update may provide a short-term benefit, but as WannaCry showed, doing so leaves you vulnerable.


EVOLVE SECURITY MINDSET

We are seeing companies adapting their business models to re-invent themselves in the era of digital disruption. This principle needs to be applied to how they handle security internally.

Investing in the best infrastructure is the foundation of any security strategy.

But once infrastructure is put in place, many organisations fall back into the outdated practice of "incident response". This spells disaster in the digital era where issues can arise and snowball by the minute.

The answer is to move towards a "continuous response" mindset. This can be achieved by investing in detection and predictive tools and services to gain a 360-degree overview of your defences and address weaknesses as soon as possible.

The digital transformation that many organisations are undergoing represents a chance to harness new technology.

I can't stress enough the importance of adaptability for this to work. You need to have the latest information on vulnerabilities at your fingertips, which will allow you to make informed decisions and increase security.


TRUST THE EXPERTS

It is almost impossible for businesses to navigate the security minefield alone. It has become essential to seek out the expertise of a managed security services provider for two reasons.

Working with a security provider can help you develop a solid preventative strategy. The firm can provide sustained monitoring solutions and advice on how and when to release the latest patches into the systems.

Secondly, a security provider can give invaluable support during a crisis. As soon as word of an attack spreads, the provider would be on hand with an emergency help desk and would proactively reach out to customers to help patch their systems. This will go a long way towards mitigating follow-up attacks.

Security is not a perfect science. You won't be able to thwart every cyber attack, but much like chess, implementing a good strategy will always swing the odds in your favour.

The writer is senior vice-president of global product management and data centre services at Tata Communications. This article was published in The Business Times on Wednesday.

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