Marvel has earned billions of dollars over the course of a decade by intricately fabricating a weave of storylines and characters that all lead up to a defining moment with the latest cinematic release of Avengers: Endgame. The film follows the Avengers’ attempt to defeat Thanos and the powers of the Infinity Gauntlet, which is powered by 6 unique stones. These stones are unique in their abilities and powerful on their own, but they never see their true potential until brought together.
In my attempt to bring popular culture into the realm of incident response, this is my latest challenge. How can I make cybersecurity, a complicated and ever-growing subject, simple? Well, Marvel already did the hard work of building a concept—I’m just going to plug in terminology.
I want you to take a step back and imagine your organization. Imagine all of the cybersecurity threats that face it every day. How many do you know of? How many have you had in the last few days, weeks or months?
Cybersecurity is not a single item of action. You cannot tackle it with a single tool or person alone. Cybersecurity, in its full-fledged form, is the infinity gauntlet: alone, just an impressive looking empty shell of a glove. Only by finding and using the 6 infinity stones does the infinity gauntlet become a weapon capable of saving the universe, or in this case your organization.
In the movies, there are 6 infinity stones, each with their own special abilities. Cybersecurity has the same number of key components that allow it to function.
Environment (Space Stone)
The space stone in the movies allowed the user access to anywhere in the universe. Your goal, when it comes to cybersecurity, is to limit that access. By controlling where users are allowed to go, you minimize accidental errors and identify strange behavior.
The first key component of cybersecurity is getting control of your technological environment. This is the area in which all of your data will be stored, accessed, shared and potentially breached. Getting control of this environment involves segmenting portions of your network.
Segmentation ensures that if a single computer is breached, it will not be allowed into the vital aspects of your organization. It’s also important to only permit certain applications to be installed per user-defined role in the organization. You can also assign group policies that do not give every user the same rights and only designate the highest level administrative rights to select individuals who are in charge of the cybersecurity of your network.
Vigilance (Time Stone)
In Infinity War, the time stone was responsible for permitting control of the flow of time and foreseeing the past and future. A similar principle applies to the cybersecurity aspect of vigilance. By being proactive prior to an incident, you will have unlocked the ability to go back and track the path of how the breach began, including the steps that were taken, and revert back to a point in time prior to the breach to re-secure your network.
In tandem with establishing your cybersecurity environment, it’s important to stay vigilant of that environment. The first way to start on this road of vigilance is to have logging permitted on key servers, if not all of them. This way, if any activity were to come into question, you’d have a reference to look back on without having to directly interfere with the machine and potentially make a bad situation worse.
A way to minimize the extensive logging to be done and assist in your efforts is to install alerts for any activity that is not permitted. For example, if users are only allowed to run Internet Explorer, any activity by Google Chrome or Mozilla Firefox should flag an alert.
Tools (Reality Stone)
The reality stone within the movies fulfills the wishes of its wielder, regardless of science—even permitting access to other worlds. Within cybersecurity, the role of your tools is similar. For the IT professional, the structure, journey and destination of the organization are formed around the tools used in its creation. From the first decision of what operating system to use, each tool should be documented and considered in the overall cybersecurity plan.
Working on your cybersecurity posture will always require tools, and as such, the specific set of tools that you choose will be to your benefit or detriment. Examples of beneficial tools are those that make your task of vigilance easier, providing automated monitoring of the environment and producing logs of anomalous activity for your review.
Tools also include the type of email software you intend to use and whether it is more or less cybersecurity-friendly based on your budget and organizational constraints. If an incident were to occur, how easily could the email server be acquired? Remember: these tools should make your tasks easier, not take the place of your duties.
Culture (Soul Stone)
The soul stone’s power is to control the will of people. In a cybersecurity context, your culture should influence your members to be on alert for threats to the organization—and not just through spam emails.
The greatest tool anyone can have in their arsenal is support for their efforts. For most teams, it is a constant struggle to explain to department heads about the threats posed by lack of cybersecurity awareness, the lack of funding and tools available to keep the organization running smoothly. These discussions create tension; a civil war that internally distracts from the real impending threats. Having an organization that promotes and actively engages in improving cybersecurity is priceless. It naturally helps generate awareness by keeping the topic in the forefront of employees’ minds.
Education (Mind Stone)
The mind stone allows the user to communicate mentally through either thoughts or dreams. In context, essentially, it is promoting the cybersecurity message to your organization with frequent reminders, activities and talking points, so it is never forgotten or overlooked.
Along with support for your efforts should be the ability to spread knowledge about what exactly the organization is supporting. This includes training for your everyday users on how to spot cybersecurity threats such as phishing emails with false senders, disguised links and others. Additionally, your organization should provide training for administrative personnel on how to respond to the latest cybersecurity threats. Updates on the cybersecurity health of the organization are also important, including the number of events vs. incidents encountered in a period of time. These updates should help to provide awareness and promote suggestions based on those resolutions to improve effectiveness. This training should be packaged with all new hire training items and be a routine feature of your organizations continued learning. This will aid in keeping everyone up to date on the latest schemes and issues to look out for.
Resources (Power Stone)
The power stone enhances the strength of the other stones, just as a dedicated team of professionals in an organization enhances the success and credibility of the company. The power in an organization comes from the people that keep it running. Likewise, the same principle applies for cybersecurity. Having a reliable set of experienced personnel on hand or a call away is invaluable to a cybersecurity plan. It alleviates pressure on other lesser experienced members of the organization and provides legal precedent if notifications to clients ended up being necessary.
A third-party professional opinion can be extremely useful when a breach of security is concerned. This is especially the case if your organization is small and does not have all the tools and resources available to handle an incident response. Contractors could be contacted on a per incident basis and even backed by insurance companies. For more information on potential options, read more about our Outsourced vISO!
As you can see, there are many factors that play into cybersecurity. Each one is imperative in its own right but is brought to its fullest potential in combination with the other factors. Together, these tools can be the greatest weapon against cybersecurity threats, but they will need to be wielded by a confident team and used correctly; otherwise they will have a nil or negative effect. With this information, you should be able to harness your own infinity gauntlet of cybersecurity to face the threats to your organization.
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