Back in 2006, the big problem with email was SPAM. Unwanted messages pushing “healthy pills” and cell phone deals inundated our mailboxes and clogged our Internet connections. At times, over 90% of all email traffic reaching our local servers was unwanted junk. We fought back and, for a long time, won the battle. With tools like Postini (purchased by Google and part of Gmail since 2008), we were able to block spam and email viruses “in the cloud” before they reached our email servers and services. And while spammers became more sophisticated, our technologies were able to keep up.
Over the past year or so, however, we have clearly lost ground. It feels like we are back to square one.
Spam and malware attacks via email are on the rise. This time around, the consequences can be disastrous. Blocking unwanted emails about supplements is still needed, but cryptolocker, ransomware, and destructive malware can destroy your data and your business.
We see a convergence of several factors leading to the increase in successful malware attacks.
The IT Industry Became Complacent
Antivirus and email security vendors wrongly assumed that their existing models of protection were capable of keeping up with new types of threats. For nearly a decade, this assumption held true. Cyber-criminals study and understand how to exploit weaknesses in our existing protections; they build malware that goes undetected by our traditional methods of discovery. Our industry was slow to recognize that systemic changes were needed to stay on top, and ahead, of the game.
We Face New Threats
To stay ahead of anti-virus protections, malware has grown up. A new class of malware, known as Advanced Persistent Threats, exists. On average, APTs sit on systems and networks for more than 4 months before activating. During this time, they periodically test the system security and protections. They learn how to act to avoid detection. While our legacy protections are watching the doors and windows, the threat is hiding under the bed.
Humans Deliver the Goods
Cyber-criminals have learned that human nature is easier to exploit than technology. They now send us messages and present web pages that look and feel valid. We are willing but unknowing accomplices when click links and install malware on our systems from fake emails and web sites. The human instincts to help and trust readily betray us when we are not careful.
We Assume our Vendors do the Work
Both Microsoft and Google tell our customers that their email and other information in the cloud gets backed up. What they do say is that these backups are to maintain service reliability and not to protect us from damage or loss due to application or human error. We hear “data backup” and we assume our protection is greater than the reality. This assumption holds true when we are told about built-in protections against cyber-threats.
We focus on Cost not Value
Cloud computing drives down cost perception faster than it drives down cost. Major cloud players wage periodic price wars. Cloud services like Office 365 and G Suite continually add new capabilities without increasing prices. We do not expect, and do not want, to pay for extras. You are as likely to fall victim to ransomware from a corrupt or hacked web site than by clicking on an email attachment. While nearly all of our customers protect email, fewer than 5% protect web traffic. Web protection is added cost that does not appear to have value until after the cyber attack.
Good News: We Have Solutions
While we have created a bit of a mess, we do have options. Innovative vendors have built new solutions that affordable confront and address the new wave of threats. Using the power of cloud, some vendors have radically improved their solutions while others have taken a step back and built new, strategic solutions. To protect your business, you need to protect your email service and your web browsing.
- Web protection should scan and analyze all web traffic, intended (page you click) and unintended (the auto-start video stream, cookie update, etc.) for all web traffic from any device you use.
- Email protection should pre-screen (open and validate) links and attachments in a sandbox (safe environment) before allowing messages to reach your inbox.
The solutions are affordable, are easy to manage, and can be up and running in no time. A dollar of cost can protect against thousands of dollars loss.
For more information, or a free assessment and set of recommendations for your business, contact us today.