17 July 2014

ESET champions two-factor authentication for SMB security

Security specialist ESET has warned that small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are easy prey for cybercriminals, as personal data can be stolen from them relatively easily. A recent study from Javelin Strategy & Research notes that stolen personal data is driving a multi-billion dollar industry.

"Cybercrime has evolved greatly over the last 30 years. It started with viruses and evolved to hacking and malware. Today, identity theft is one of the most damaging threats to businesses in the region," said Lukas Raska, COO of ESET Asia. "All it takes is a single breach to bring an entire business to its knees and cause a huge inconvenience for those who have trusted businesses to keep their data safe."

"More and more we are seeing SMBs being targeted by this kind of attack," said Parvinder Walia, Director at ESET APAC. "There are a number of reasons for this. Firstly, unlike their larger counterparts, SMBs generally have lower budgets for cybersecurity, making them a lot easier to penetrate for today's sophisticated and often well-funded attacker. They are also less likely to have personnel whose key role is to protect that data. SMB websites are also often less secure, making them an easy access point for cybercriminals."

Recent research from Verizon has revealed that two-thirds (67%) of breaches investigated occurred in smaller organisations (fewer than 100 employees), which were often small, independent franchises of larger firms.
"It might look like hackers have a lot less to gain from hacking small businesses; however, in many cases, SMBs are in fact low hanging fruit, offering an easier and quicker way to access a much larger pool of vendors, partners, customers and more," said Walia.

Two-factor authentication, also known as 2FA, is a dual-step verification process that requires users to input not only a password and username (something known) but also a one-time code from devices such as mobile phones or secure tokens (something owned).

While a strong password may go some way in resisting brute-force attacks, one-time passwords generated by a 2FA system are randomly generated and cannot be predicted or reused, effectively adding another layer of protection during login.

"Given the limitations of password-only systems for SMBs, 2FA is presently the most ideal option for SMBs to reduce the risk of having their data stolen without the need to break the bank. Unlike large, complex and costly security architecture, 2FA serves as a scalable and cost-effective way to protect SMBs and their customers from identity and data theft," added Walia.

"2FA remains one of the most cost effective options for SMBs and other businesses, to protect against the loss of critical personal data that can lead to identity theft. The real cost of each breach is immeasurable, especially when there is loss of intellectual property, damage to the brand or disruption to the business. It's also critical however for businesses to make sure they have the correct organisational structures and protocols in place to further enhance security levels, no matter the size of their organisation," agreed Raska.

Walia noted that there is no 'magic bullet' against attacks, however. He recommends that SMBs exercise additional precautions in combination with 2FA in order to minimise the likelihood of a data breach, including:

* Making sure employees, partners and vendors, who are an organisations' front line in security, are aware of the relevant protocols in keeping their network secure, including the responsible use of social media and enterprise applications 
* Installing an effective endpoint security system that includes antivirus and anti-spyware software and a robust endpoint encryption solution that scrambles data on USB and optical media, emails, attachments and laptop hard drives 
* Empowering a member of staff to take charge of data protection as part of their role 
* Ensuring that all security software is up-to-date