Going Back to Basics

two books beside two chalks

Attacks today seem to follow the same playbook: crack the perimeter, exploit bad internal fundamentals, deploy ransomware, profit. The playbook is the same each time because it continues to work. How do you stay ahead of it?

Organizational response to external breaches is mostly reactive. Wait until a breach makes the news cycle, then dig into intel feeds hoping for a meaty bundle of IOCs to explore. Later, speculate for a few days over how sophisticated the attack was, only to find out that the root cause of the breach was phishing, patching, or a bad password. Finally, internally search out and fix the specific patch or block the phishing email subject line and wait until the cycle repeats. These steps are indeed important, but each time the prevention bulletins come out, they seem to be based more on good security practices than any other element.

What are good security practices? Good (tested) backups, two factor authentication, patching, logging, monitoring, etc. Basically, all the areas covered in a solid cybersecurity plan. Unfortunately, the basics are not always easy, and they are certainly not the coolest technology everyone wants to play with.  Instead of diligent patching, configuration management, and a solid monitoring program, many organizations rely on expensive EDR. Instead of good coding practices, organizations deploy application firewalls. Security has always been about layers, and as attacks have continued to become more complex, layers are what is needed. However, these layers must be built on the implementation of good foundational security practices.

Organizational focus on cleaning things up and getting the basics right will stop many attacks up front.  Assessment of your current gaps and setting a plan for filling them in will also pay dividends. If you are looking for a framework to follow, using the NIST CSF is something that most organizations can easily align to. Start small, be realistic, and keep re-assessing as you work towards a goal. Risks will shift, threats will shift, but if you have a good foundation, adjusting to meet them will not be difficult.