According to the Bitwarden 2023 Password Decisions Survey polling independent IT decision makers across a range of industries, 60% report their organization experienced a cyberattack within the past year. This sobering statistic is yet another proof point for a simple yet valuable notion: all businesses have a vested interest in remaining secure and protecting their sensitive data. Along with being a practical and logistical headache, cyberattacks can cause financial, reputational, and legal damages. In the Cost of a Data Breach 2022 study by IBM and the Ponemon Institute, the estimated average global total cost of data breaches for that year was $4.35 million, with the average US cost standing at $9.44 million.
While these findings are disheartening, companies can take common sense steps toward mitigating the fallout from data breaches by selecting the best cybersecurity tools for your business. Below, we discuss a few cybersecurity technologies - firewall security, AV software, security information and event management (SIEM), and password security - that enable businesses to protect themselves from cyber criminals.
The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) defines firewalls as technologies that “provide protection against outside cyber attackers by shielding your computer or network from malicious or unnecessary network traffic. Firewalls can also prevent malicious software from accessing a computer or network via the internet. Firewalls can be configured to block data from certain locations (i.e., computer network addresses), applications, or ports while allowing relevant and necessary data through.”
Firewall technologies consist of both hardware and software. Prolific companies offering firewall products include Fortinet; Palo Alto Networks; Check Point Software; and Cisco.
While firewall protection may sound all-encompassing, it has limitations, which Cisco candidly acknowledges in a publicly available article. Writes the Cisco team:
“A firewall cannot prevent users or attackers with modems from dialing in to or out of the internal network, thus bypassing the firewall and its protection completely
Firewalls cannot enforce your password policy or prevent misuse of passwords. Your password policy is crucial in this area because it outlines acceptable conduct and sets the ramifications of noncompliance
Firewalls are ineffective against nontechnical security risks such as social engineering
Firewalls cannot stop internal users from accessing websites with malicious code, making user education critical”
A straightforward explanation of antivirus (AV) software comes from the United Kingdom’s National Cyber Security Centre, which defines it as “a program designed to detect and remove viruses and other kinds of malicious software from your computer or laptop.”
The explanation goes on: “Malicious software - known as malware - is code that can harm your computers and laptops, and the data on them. Your devices can become infected by inadvertently downloading malware that's in an attachment linked to a dubious email, or hidden on a USB drive, or even by simply visiting a dodgy website.
Once it's on your computer or laptop, malware can steal your data, encrypt it so you can't access it, or even erase it completely. For this reason it's important that you always use antivirus software, and keep it up to date to protect your data and devices.”
Because malware can wreak havoc, deploying AV software is non-negotiable. Fortunately, there are excellent AV technologies on the market - some of which are very affordable. A recent AV review from technology news website TechRepublic evaluated a number of them and identified (among others) McAfee Total Protection, Kaspersky, Crowdstrike Falcon, and Bitdefender GravityZone as exceptionally strong options for businesses.
According to the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), security information and event management (SIEM) refers to the gathering of security data from information system components and presenting that data as actionable information via a single interface. In layman’s terms? It’s a technology that allows businesses to have a holistic view of security threats and help identify when and where a breach has occurred. The overall goal of utilizing SIEM tools is to help businesses quickly respond to cyberattacks and lessen the overall impact of data breaches. In another TechRepublic review, top SIEM tools reviewed include Splunk Enterprise Security, Datadog Security Monitoring, LogRhythm NextGen, and RSA Witness.
A password manager is an essential component of building the best cybersecurity tech stack for your business. As referenced above, the average cost of a data breach is staggering. According to the same IBM report, data breaches involving lost or stolen credentials cost $150,000 more than the average data breach. While credentials can get lost or stolen for a number of reasons, weak passwords or easily forgotten passwords are particularly susceptible.
Fortunately, there is recourse in the form of password managers, which allow businesses to easily create and manage strong and unique passwords. Password managers obviate the need for a reliance on memory (and people will rely on memory, with the 2023 Bitwarden World Password Day Survey showing that 58% of respondents rely on memory to ‘manage’ their passwords) and give employees the tools they need to generate strong passwords.
A good password manager is one that is encrypted end-to-end, user-friendly, and available cross-platform and across browsers. A good business password manager should enable teams to share passwords among colleagues easily and securely. At no point should any password manager company have the ability to see a user’s vault data.
Another benefit to using password managers is that most of them offer two-factor authentication (2FA), which strengthens user security for websites and applications by utilizing a second method (the first being the password) to verify identity. This verification is typically confirmed via an emailed code, third party authentication app, or hardware key.
While none of the technologies discussed here can stop 100% of cyberattacks 100% of the time - such a technology does not exist - organizations considering the best cybersecurity for business needs would be wise to start with these foundational tools.