Stolen Data: Network Security Can Ensure You’re Not a Target

By on Jan 29, 2014

If you’ve been watching or reading the news in the past few weeks, you’re probably wondering why it seems like the bad guys are out in full force – hacking into business databases and stealing credit card and personal data.  The latest Target attack brought these growing nefarious activities to light when over 40 million customer credit cards and corresponding personal information were infiltrated from the company’s point-of-sale (POS) network.  According to the latest reports, the number of victims in this data breach totaled 110 million affected shoppers.  This is almost one third of the U.S. population.

When you couple this high-profile breach with similar current events about prestigious retailer, Neiman Marcus, and at least three additional well-known US retailers, it becomes clear that something needs to change.  All enterprises, and small businesses alike, must take note:  these are not isolated, unfortunate incidents.  Data breaches like these are becoming the new world order.

While the Target attack was alarming, inconvenient, and confusing for over 110 million American consumers, it was extremely detrimental to Target’s reputation and brand.  But, all is not lost when we can learn from these unfortunate events.  In this new world, it’s becoming extremely clear that businesses must be vigilant in the defense against cybercrime – finding and implementing protection for their own corporate assets and the personal information of their clients, customers and patients.  The question on everyone’s minds, however, is what can we do to evade an infiltration?  How do we stay ahead of the cybercrime evolution intent on stealing our data?

The solution isn’t easy, but it starts with the business network.  Now, in the case of the Target breach, the POS system was vulnerable – but only for a few milliseconds as the credit card information was decrypted so it could be processed and charged.  That’s when the malware struck.  It found a tiny crack in the security and slipped in.  That’s what hackers have become so good at doing – exploiting the vulnerability – and using advanced persistent threats (APTs) as a way to do it.

According to the McAfee White Paper entitled, Combating Advanced Persistent Threats, “APTs use many of the same techniques as traditional attacks, but they differ from common botnets and malware because they target strategic users to gain undetected access to key assets.”  Even more challenging is that they can fly under the radar for long periods of time before an organization even knows it’s under attack.  Organizations must be educated and aware that these threats are prevalent and growing – and know what preventative solutions and remediation options are available.

My team and our network security engineers believe that retailers need to be just as vigilant as other enterprises because the POS is no longer a proprietary system immune to targeted network attacks.  Today, those systems should be secured much like – or even more so – than a traditional enterprise network comprised of desktops, laptops and mobile devices.

We believe that the best defense against data-stealing APTs is comprehensive threat protection, which is essentially an end-to-end security approach that allows the network to identify advanced malware and suspicious traffic designed to infiltrate and exfiltrate data.  In addition to using advanced Web and email protection, organizations of all sizes – including retailers – should consider an intrusion prevention system as well as a network-based advanced malware detection system.

Along with a solid comprehensive threat protection strategy, organizations should also incorporate rigorous security best practices and ongoing education into their security platform as well.  With a solid network security platform, coupled with advanced incident response planning, organizations can confidently safeguard their data and intellectual property against hacks and targeted, insidious attacks.

About the Author


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