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Erik Nachbahr, CISSP

Erik Nachbahr, CISSP President

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How to Build a Human Firewall

Cyberattacks are on the rise. In the first six months of 2019, the number of data breaches has increased by 54% compared to the same period last year. As of July, more than 4.1 billion customer records have been exposed in approximately 3,800 publicly disclosed data breaches.If your dealership hasn’t already been targeted, chances are it will be. What can you do to prevent such attacks?

I’ve written previously about how a layered defense is the best approach. This includes:

Policies, procedures and awareness

Physical security: locks on server rooms

Perimeter security: networks

Host security: computers and servers

Application security

Data security

Cyber liability insurance

Human Firewall

In this blog, I’d like to talk about the last line of defense—the Human Firewall. Its importance cannot be underestimated. Your dealership can have an impenetrable technology defense, but your employees are the weak link and cybercriminals know it.

Most attacks these days don’t even target computer systems, they target employees. In fact, 91% of successful cyberattacks start with a phishing email. Of the 100+ billion spam emails sent out by cybercriminals every day, it’s estimated that one in 200 make it through spam filters and into email inboxes. That’s approximately 11,500,000 spam emails per day.

To ensure that your employees don’t click on these emails, or fall for other scams, you need to build a human firewall. Here are tips to include in your cybersecurity policy.

Provide Security Awareness Training

In states that have passed consumer privacy laws (such as California, New York and Ohio), this is now a legal requirement. Businesses subject to these laws must provide training to their employees.

In a security awareness training program, baseline testing is first used to assess the percentage of employees in your company that click on phishing links. Then, those employees are enrolled into an online training program. Once enrolled, employees are educated with videos, interactive games and training modules. Monthly phishing tests and benchmark reports allow you to gauge progress.

The training teaches employees how to spot suspicious emails, as well as best practices such as not downloading attachments or clicking links in emails, even if sent from a known source, without first verifying the email is legitimate.

The good news is, security awareness training programs are inexpensive and deliver a high ROI. Prior to security awareness training, in an average business 27% of employees open phishing emails. After 90 days of training, the risk drops to 13% and after one year of training, the risk drops to 2%.

Require Password Changes

Employees should create secure passwords for the applications they use and change them every 90 days. Never use the same password for more than one application, and never share or give login ID or password information to anyone. A password manager can help.

Prohibit Visiting Personal Websites at Work

Your corporate security policy should not allow employees to visit social media sites, online shopping or gaming sites at work. This isn’t about forcing employees to be more productive or spying on them; it's about your network security and financial health. Many phishing scams include links to fake websites, and many social media posts will lead unsuspecting individuals to similar sites. Viruses and malware are often disguised in ‘free’ applications or products for download.

Don’t Allow Personal Devices

If your employees are using their personal laptops and/or cellphones at work, that’s trouble waiting to happen. Unprotected mobile apps and web applications are highly vulnerable to cyberattacks. When plugged into your network, these devices can easily spread viruses and malware.

Require Verbal Verification for All Wire Transfers

It’s OK to email wiring instructions, but every wire transfer should require verbal verification over the phone before the money is sent. It’s a common practice now for cybercriminals to pose as a dealer principal, GM, Controller, salesperson or other managers, and send emails to accounting staff with instructions to wire money into an account. I know of several dealerships that have lost a lot of money this way and once the money is wired, there is no way to get it back. In every scenario we’ve seen, a conversation would have immediately thwarted the attack.

Your employees are the last line of defense protecting your dealership from the increasing threat of cyberattacks. To keep your data, bank accounts and reputation safe, build a human firewall with employee training and new cybersecurity policies.

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