Everyone’s pretty spoiled when it comes to imaginative entertainment these days. From 3D blockbusters with CGI that blurs the line between art and reality to increasingly creative works of fiction on bookstore shelves, there’s something for everyone. And yet, it’s hard to beat a good sci-fi thriller—especially the ones in which neon green command prompts are the battlegrounds and basement dwelling nerds are its warriors.
Ironically, this once fictional scenario has quickly become the modern reality facing IT pros around the globe. Technology hacking and cyber espionage are the new norm, as organizations struggle to keep their data private and safe in an increasingly digital world. Without a team of Jason Bournes and your own Treadstone program, how can you make sure your data is truly secure—and how did IT end up in this position in the first place?
Take a trip down memory lane
Let’s tackle that last question first. In fact, let’s travel back in time, say 20 years, to a day when cyber espionage was more likely to be an evocative phrase in a Tom Clancy novel than a legitimate IT concern.
The internet was young and GIFs were still cat-free. Outside of grabbing the latest headlines, there really wasn’t much allure to the World Wide Web. For all intents and purposes, that’s exactly why technology hacking was left to campy movies starring Angelina Jolie. The business world wasn’t yet connected—at least not in the sense that it is today. The same could be said for consumers. Unless you were involved in highly classified government operations or owned more passports than credit cards, high-tech espionage wasn’t on your radar.
Oh, how times have changed. Those same businesses that tiptoed their way onto the internet with papyrus-laden websites are now plunging headfirst into public cloud computing. The result is more efficient, streamlined, and connected business processes. These connections are ultimately the game changer. They serve as the conduit of opportunity for new-age hackers—the same hackers undermining organizations of all types, from small businesses to government entities.
Take a recent Verizon study reported by The Hill. In it, some 2,000 data breaches were analyzed, 300 of which were directly tied to espionage. These data-snooping hackers weren’t just focused on the big fish, either: 25 percent targeted financial institutions, 15 percent went after healthcare, and 12 percent preyed upon the public sector. Out of all those, the majority—at least 60 percent—attacked organizations with less than 1,000 employees. Eye-opening, to say the least.
Step into a new reality
The science fiction of the ’90s has become the new reality. What’s an IT manager to do? Considering that endpoints form the greatest “surface area” of your connected environment, they’re a great place to start. While addressing common areas of concern, like open ports, antivirus software and local firewalls, is a necessary piece of the puzzle, leveraging the same connectedness that leaves them open and vulnerable can provide an incredible advantage.
Endpoint devices that connect to a central “brain” can make checking for security vulnerabilities more efficient and effective. Take HP’s Security Manager Quick Assess tool, for example: With it, you can quickly scan up to 20 HP printers and MFPs against 13 common security settings to produce a report that demonstrates the level of risk within your print environment. The idea is to take every opportunity to consolidate security aspects with connected devices. In doing so, you can both increase the visibility of endpoint security and create an environment where you can take some action in broad strokes. And don’t forget, your users are just an extension of those endpoints. They’re probably curious about technology hacking, too, if they’ve read the headlines recently. Take these opportunities to educate them on the real dangers of cyber espionage and how they can be a part of the solution.
On the one hand, it’s pretty neat that your favorite characters from the sci-fi thrillers of your youth have come to life today. On the other hand, it’s a crummy plot twist when they turn out to be the bad guys pilfering your digital resources. By educating your curious users and connecting your endpoints to centralized management platforms, you and your IT team will be much more equipped to win in this global security war.