Cybersecurity policies are necessary for any business to avoid becoming cybercrime victims. Cybercrimes continue to rise as cybercriminals get more creative- it’s imperative every business has cybersecurity policies in place that not only are easy to follow but can truly bridge generational gaps.
According to the Insurance Information Institute (III or Triple-I), computer hackers hit at least 30,000 U.S.-based organizations in the mass data breach. On a worldwide scale, there were around 100,000 hacked organizations. Hackers gained access to emails and passwords stored in affected servers. With that information, they could steal other people’s identities, which would lead to other crimes like property theft.
Organizations with solid cybersecurity policies would have protection against these threats. However, the challenge in implementing such policies lies in the vast differences in a company’s workforce. Employees tend to have different working histories and knowledge between them. This gap may affect their comfort level regarding the cybersecurity landscape that evolves constantly.
The goal is to have policies that make sense for everyone in a company, ensuring that everyone is on the same page when it comes to protecting the organization’s data. Here is an overview of the evolution of cybersecurity across generations and the policies you can implement to bridge them together.
Five Generations of Cybersecurity
Knowing the history of cyberattacks can help you understand the importance of adopting new measures to protect companies against them. In general, cyberattacks involve hacking into systems to steal information.
These crimes began with people stealing phone company records. Once the ‘90s rolled around, financial damage due to hacking occurred. Here is a closer look at how hacking looked like in each generation of cybersecurity.
Generation 1: 1980s
Cyberattacks during this era involved floppy disks. Computer savvy individuals would infect computers by manually inserting these devices into them. Viruses during this generation were relatively harmless. Most cases were about teenagers coding viruses for notoriety and attention.
IT security measures against these viruses would have been simpler than today. Companies may have implemented strict policies against people randomly inserting floppy disks into computers. People would have protected their computers physically. This solution makes sense since the cyberthreats of this generation were mostly transferred manually.
Generation 2: Mid-1990s
Computer viruses during this generation were more malicious than the last. They involved rapid-spreading worms that took minutes to spread between computers. While most of these cyberthreats were for notoriety, advanced viruses also caused companies to lose millions of dollars.
These cyberattacks focused on data and network security. Their creators took advantage of faulty cybersecurity measures to get into systems. Firewalls were the primary solution against these threats.
Generation 3: Early 2000s
Cybercriminals moved on from wanting recognition to wanting easy money. They exploited web applications, browsers, and networks to infect PCs. These criminals used multiple internet-connected devices that each ran bots. With that system, they sent spam, attacked websites, and stole identities over the internet.
Preventive measures for such malware likewise evolved. This generation of cybersecurity gave birth to detection tools. Companies would implement such tools to detect network intrusions. Viruses of this era were relatively easy to find and disinfect despite how advanced they have become.
Generation 4: Around 2010
Cyberthreats have become sophisticated and professional by this time. Criminals would embed their malware into emails, documents, and image files that would easily spread across users and computers.
Malware was also smarter during this era. Cybercriminals had gotten more organized and were able to hide because of advanced coding. Most coders came from eastern European countries that target large organizations with more money to steal.
Mafia members also got involved in these schemes. They would conduct nefarious activities, including online extortion to steal information from bookmakers.
All these threats developed cybersecurity policies that involved sandboxing. Such solutions would trap or contain the malware in a smaller system. Their goal was to prevent them from spreading to other networks that would otherwise cause more harm and loss.
Generation 5: Present
Cyberthreats today are broad-scale attacks. They involve combinations of content exploitation (targeting vulnerable systems), phishing (when criminals send messages claiming to be reliable people in an attempt to steal personal information), and ransomware (malicious software that threatens to publish confidential information).
These cyberthreats mainly exist because of the economy based on cybercrime that has developed over time. Cybercriminals have become professionals in navigating networks and systems that they constantly exchange stolen goods and offer illegal services.
Modern cybercrimes are even more user-friendly where inexperienced criminals can get into the “industry.” Criminals can work quickly by purchasing tools that support their nefarious activities. Such tools include access to private social networks with escrow services and pay-for-play malware services for botnet creation.
Cybercriminals are stronger and faster now, requiring cybersecurity policies that can keep up with such activities. Consider implementing the following strategies while keeping everyone in the company up to date with the cyberthreats they face.
Cybersecurity Policies that Work for All Generations
Improve Password Security Policies
Access is a cybercriminal’s primary target across all generations of cybersecurity. Criminals have always found ways to infiltrate computers, from sneaking into computer rooms to slip their infected floppy disks to spreading malware through emails over the internet. They do these actions to steal information. Protecting access to that information should be a priority.
Passwords are the most important factor in granting access to a network. Company passwords must be strong and encrypted to prevent cybercriminals from stealing them to get into their local system. Employees must have equally strong passwords for their different accounts that are connected with their organization.
LastPass is among the many password management companies that offer storage services that keep encrypted passwords secure online. They host vaults that protect your important data. Even LastPass itself cannot view or access the data you store in your vault.
Consider signing up for LastPass or related services to protect your company passwords. You may also want to require your employees to sign up as well. Otherwise, you could assign a company email to your employees to keep things uniform.
Changing passwords can minimize the risk of criminals getting into your account. Although your passwords are safe in digital storage, modern cyberattacks can be difficult to identify. Unless you are a professional, you may be unaware that someone has already gotten access to your account and has been stealing information.
Consider implementing a policy to change company passwords regularly, especially if you keep them in an online database. Changing your password every few months is a standard strategy to keep your information safe.
Update Internal Software and Systems
Updating the software your company uses across its operations can improve your cybersecurity. After the Microsoft Exchange incident that left tens of thousands of U.S. organizations vulnerable to cyberattacks, Microsoft issued emergency patches to prevent more accounts from getting affected.
Patches are updates, which essentially means your system will be different from what hackers are used to. Although the patches did nothing to disinfect compromised systems, this measure still helped protect other users until they could resolve the issue.
Keeping your software updated helps keep hackers out of your system. They would have to learn how to navigate your new system before they can access your encrypted data. You could even have another system update by the time cybercriminals crack the code to your previous software.
Consider scheduling your updates and ensure every system under your company has run the necessary updates. Any system that fails to update becomes a weak link that hackers might exploit.
Physical Backup for Important Data
Although you might think this strategy is antiquated, keeping physical copies of your most valuable information assets can be an excellent cybersecurity measure. Essentially, you would go back to the basics of the first generation of cybersecurity in protecting your data. This method would involve locking information in secure locations where only certain personnel have access.
Consider going through your data and deciding what is the most valuable. Hackers would aim for such data when they get access to your digital storage. Suppose they infect your system with ransomware and threaten to lock you out of your data; having physical copies would save you from this situation.
Conduct Cybersecurity Education Measures
Finally, education is an important policy that every organization must implement. Everyone in your company must stay updated on the risks that your company faces. Consider scheduling cybersecurity courses to help your employees remain well-informed about your cybersecurity policies and strategies against hacks.
This strategy would also bridge employees who may be more familiar with one generation than another. You would be making sure that everyone is on the same page, so no one on your team falls victim to the ever-changing landscape of cybersecurity.
Your Business, Your Team
Cybersecurity policies have evolved throughout IT generations. These updates adapt to the constant change in the technological landscape. As such, people may be more familiar with strategies that make sense for one generation over another, leaving them confused about the best ways to protect company information.
However, the factor that remains constant across every generation is the fact that cybersecurity risks depend on access. You want to protect access to your systems as much as possible. Securing your company’s passwords may be the best strategy that would make sense for everyone in your organization.
Although limiting access to company information is the main point of cybersecurity, some employees may remain confused and oblivious to the growing cyber threats. They may be unaware of the creative ways hackers navigate systems. Consider implementing educational courses for your company to keep everyone updated on these risks.