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Helpful Hacking: Being Proactive About Cybersecurity

Written By

Michael Neher

“I am convinced that there are only two types of companies: those that have been hacked and those that will be.”       
-Robert Mueller 

Hacking: When you ponder the term, you may envision a twenty-first-century swashbuckling robin hood, a high-tech thief marauding through stolen data, or simply an individual sitting with a computer (that last one is the correct one). But the questions still stand: what is hacking, who are the hackers, what do you do if you have been hacked, and how can you protect yourself and your business?

For starters, “hacking” generally refers to unauthorized intrusion into a computer or a network. Accordingly, a person engaged in the act of hacking is referred to as a “hacker.” Hackers may seek to modify a system or its security features to achieve an outcome that differs from the original purpose of the system. Furthermore, hackers come not only from outside the walls of your organization but within as well.

Hackers can be broadly grouped into two groups: “White Hats” and “Black Hats.” Think of them as the good guys and the bad guys, respectively. A Black Hat hacker is a person who attempts to find computer security vulnerabilities and exploit them for personal financial gain or other malicious reasons. Conversely, a White Hat hacker is a computer security specialist who breaks into protected systems and networks to test and asses their security. A White Hat hacker, whether a reformed Black Hat or simply a well-versed techie, uses their skills to improve security by exposing vulnerabilities before the Black Hats can detect and exploit them. 

While some companies might be inclined to take the path-of-least-resistance when it comes to data protection and bury their heads in the sand, the news is replete with examples demonstrating cybercriminals are only growing more aggressive and using increasingly complex tactics. Malicious cyber-attacks are becoming increasingly sophisticated, a symptom of cybercriminals increasingly organizing and investing time, talent, and resources into their illegal operations. Malware, ransomware, phishing attacks, and Distributed Denial-of-Service (or DDoS, a cyber-attack in which the perpetrator seeks to make a machine or network resource unavailable to its intended users by temporarily or indefinitely disrupting services of a host connected to the Internet) are just a few of the many tactics you and your company need to be ready to combat. 

For a business entity operating in a data-driven society, now more than ever the need for proactive rather than reactive security measures are integral for long term success and survival. This is especially true for organizations harboring Personally Identifiable Information (PII) such as financial, medical, or personal identifying information from their daily business activities. Perhaps rather than wait around for the hacker and the next data breach, the proactive measure may be to invite the data breach.

Getting Ahead of the Hack

Yes, you read correctly, by having the “good guys” break in first, you can protect yourself from vulnerabilities and head off the “bad guys”; just ask Uber. This common practice, known as Penetration Testing, engages a White Hat hacker, sometimes also referred to as bug bounty hackers or ethical hackers, to intentionally attempt to access a system to identify and resolve potential vulnerabilities. This allows your organization to receive valuable feedback about the security of your network and all of its connected systems, before sensitive data or the administration of services can be compromised by an outsider. Customers can set the rules of engagement with their White Hat professional, setting the parameters of the testing so that the firm knows what may or may not be off-limits. This way, you can have a hacker who is on your side probe your systems for any sort of vulnerabilities or weaknesses that a bad actor might find and exploit. 

By enlisting the services of an ethical hacker for Penetration Testing services, the same tricks and tools used by the bad guys become your strategic advantage. Unfortunately, however, this is not a one-and-done deal. Deciding to engage a professional services firm for Penetration Testing is indeed important and wise; however, this is only one piece of a comprehensive and ongoing security strategy. Truly diligent companies will take continued precautions by employing a combination of hardware, software, policy, industry compliance, training, as well as professional services to constantly evolve their cybersecurity

Because threats and vulnerabilities are constantly evolving and changing, Cybersecurity needs to be top-down, with everyone from the CEO to the mailroom remaining consciously watchful about computers and the internet. Black Hat hackers are looking for the week link they can exploit to gain access to your network. You should enable strong Spam filters and scan all inbound and outbound emails, configure firewalls to block access to any known malicious IP addresses, encrypt all valuable data and make sure your IT team takes the time to regularly vet as well as apply patches to operating systems and software. You should implement a security awareness training program to educate and prepare your employees about phishing, social engineering, and other attacks that they can help to prevent. Test your team by simulating the scams that are being favored by cybercriminals. And finally, highlight the damage to the business and employees if the network was to be compromised. 

Finally, conduct routine annual penetration testing and security assessments! While there is no surefire way to prevent every breach, with the diligent combination of strong technology, people, processes, and planning you can confidently mount a timely cyber defense, thereby minimizing vulnerabilities within your corporate network infrastructure and safeguarding your enterprise and your customers.

With Capsicum at your side, risk assessment, penetration testing, code review, cloud security, threat hunting, and phishing attack simulation are just a few of the services our team of law enforcement and military-trained technology professionals can perform. Our Certified Ethical Hackers (CEH) and Computer Hacking Forensic Investigators (CHFI) provide a top-down assessment which will create a unique security profile for your company by flagging vulnerabilities and anticipating weaknesses within your technical infrastructure and verifying that the policies, procedures, and controls you have in place are truly being enforced.

Moreover, if your business network has already been compromised, we use state-of-the-art forensic techniques to investigate threats quickly and effectively respond, investigate, communicate, preserve, and remediate your cyber breach. Not only are we by your side during an incident, remediate after, but we can also audit and prepare your organization and team on an ongoing basis.   

If you have additional questions regarding any of our services, please do not hesitate to contact us either by phone or email.