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  • If it seems as if the cyber-security landscape just keeps getting more threatening, you're not imagining things. For example, in February, Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles paid 40 bitcoins—about $17,000—to unlock its computer systems after a ransomware attack shut down its IT systems for nearly two weeks. How can organizations prepare for and respond to cyber-attacks? One promising method involves sharing information and intelligence. A study of 500 cyber-security professionals conducted by Intel Security, the 2016 "McAfee Labs Threats Report," found that ransomware is rampant, and mobile malware is growing. Yet, the use of defense tools such as information sharing and cyber-threat intelligence (CTI) can pay big dividends. Unfortunately, "High-value CTI must overcome the barriers of organizational policies, regulatory restrictions, risks associated with attribution, trust and a lack of implementation knowledge before its potential can be fully realized," said Vincent Weafer, vice president of Intel Security's McAfee Labs group. "Given the determination demonstrated by cyber-criminals, CTI sharing will become an important tool in tilting the cyber-security balance of power in favor of defenders."

  • Over the last few years, cyber-security vulnerabilities and threats have grown rapidly, and addressing them has become infinitely more complex. At this point, it is obvious that it's not a question of whether a breach will occur, but when. Inboxes, Web pages, databases and more are all under heavy assault. Worse, a breach has growing economic consequences for companies large and small. It can damage a brand's image and can also hemorrhage money. A recent report from SailPoint, "2016 Market Pulse Survey: Weak Security Practices Leave Organizations Exposed," paints a disturbing picture of the current situation. The study of 1,000 office workers globally found that a shocking number of them are willing to steal and sell passwords to third-party organizations (in many cases, for less than $1,000). Another problem is that organizations are slow to cut off systems access when an employee leaves. In addition, shadow IT, which may circumvent security controls, is rampant. According to the report, "No company is safe from attacks, and the method by which information is taken is slowly changing. The commonality across almost every breach is that hackers are now targeting the weakest link in the security infrastructure: people." Here's a look at some of the report's key findings.

  • The boundaries of cyber-warfare are expanding, but with few of the restrictions that apply to conventional warfare. And justifications for cyber-war are murky.

  • There’s a huge gap in cyber-security insurance policies: They provide little or no protection against the physical damage to systems caused by malware attacks.

  • The main force for American cyber-defense, according to General Michael Hayden, has to be the private sector, with the government acting in a supporting role.

  • By now, it's fairly apparent that locking down enterprise data and systems requires more than state-of-the-art tools. Strong cyber-security protections also revolve around knowledge, skills and communication. A recently released study from Dell, "Dell Data Security Survey," offers some interesting but unsettling insights into enterprise security strategies—including areas in which business and IT leaders are failing. The report, which polled 1,302 business and IT decision-makers across seven countries, found that while the C-suite recognizes the benefits of data security, organizations continue to struggle with developing programs that incorporate security without detracting from other business initiatives. In fact, even with tools that address data security needs, enterprise decision-makers report gaps. "These findings suggest that the C-level has to be more engaged when it comes to integrating data security strategies into their business," said Steve Lalla, vice president of Commercial Client Software & Solutions for Dell. "Security programs must enable employees to be both secure and productive," adds Brett Hansen, executive director, Dell's Data Security Solutions.

  • Since it is possible for cyber-criminals to create a synthetic person, businesses must be able to differentiate between synthetic and true-party identities.

  • In a world in which IT security is more important than ever, software patches are playing an increasingly important role as companies look to plug holes in their applications before the bad guys can exploit them. Naturally, one would assume that after decades of perfecting the practice, the patch release and deployment process would be relatively seamless by now. Not so fast, though: It turns out that companies are struggling to manage the speed and complexity of patch releases, and, to make matters worse, many of those responsible for patching can't distinguish this activity from remediating vulnerabilities. That's the top takeaway from a recent study, "Combating Patch Fatigue," conducted jointly by Dimension Research and security vendor Tripwire. "The relationship between patches and vulnerabilities is far more complex than most people think," said Tim Erlin, director of IT risk and security strategist for Tripwire. "There can be confusion between patches and upgrades. Or patches and upgrades may address different, but overlapping sets of vulnerabilities. As the complexity of patch management continues to evolve, it has become more difficult for enterprise patch management teams to achieve and maintain a fully patched state."  

  • A seemingly endless barrage of cyber-attacks and other digital threats is taking its toll on the IT security professionals who are charged with protecting the enterprise. Despite increasingly sophisticated security solutions, the number of breaches continues to grow, and the dangers are multiplying. For security practitioners, the pressure, stress and hazards are enormous. As the recently released "2016 Security Pressures Report" from Trustwave points out: "Security professionals are often overwrought with trying to ensure that every potential threat vector is sealed off—all while working with a diminishing pool of available in-house resources." The study of 1,400 global IT and security professionals found that the pressure on practitioners is growing, a cyber-security skills gap is becoming worse, and assembling the right strategy and collection of solutions is more difficult than ever. Consequently, the things security professionals most fear as a result of a breach are damage to the company's reputation and finances, and losing their job. Here are some of the key findings from the report.

  • Spear-phishing attacks have evolved into impersonation attacks, which are often called 'whaling' because they attempt to harpoon the 'big fish' in the company.