What is a supply chain early warning system and how does it improve your cybersecurity?

supply chain early warning

89% of businesses have experienced a supply chain risk event in the past five years. Discover how a supply chain early warning system can help you reduce risk and stay one step ahead.

What is a supply chain early warning system?

A supply chain early warning system (EWS) identifies potential security threats in your supply chain, based on a combination of internal and external data. After analysing the data, the system notifies decision-makers and suggests measures to mitigate the threat or minimise the impact. Together with your cybersecurity tools, processes, and policies, it helps to protect your business against third-party threats.

In the past, supply chain early warning systems focussed on far-reaching external factors that could disrupt business operations. For example, natural disasters, critical component shortages, or industrial action. But, due to the growing threat of supply chain attacks, today’s systems play a crucial role in protecting businesses against cybercriminals.

Supply chain attacks increased by 633% in 2022.

– Sonatype, Stats of the Software Supply Chain

5 supply chain cybersecurity risks an early warning system detects

Supply chain attacks surpassed traditional malware-based exploits by more than 40% in 2022, according to the Identity Theft Resource Center’s annual Data Breach Report. In the past twelve months, supply chain attacks impacted over 10 million people representing 1,734 entities.

What makes them so difficult to detect, let alone stop, is the diverse array of delivery methods. Of the numerous supply chain risks to be aware of, these are among the most common.

Worried about the threat posed by supply chain attacks? Read our guide to protecting your business.

1. Watering hole attacks

The hacker inserts malicious software into a website that receives a lot of traffic from the target business or businesses. When someone visits the compromised site, the malware infiltrates the visitor’s defences to gain access to their systems or data. Watering hole attacks are difficult to detect and boast a higher-than-average success rate.

2. Compromised software development tools

The hacker compromises a supplier’s software development tools, infrastructure, or processes. This leaves any resulting applications built from them vulnerable to zero-day security exploits, putting end-users at risk.

3. Compromised website builders

The hacker compromises a supplier’s website via its website builder. Typically, the hacker installs malicious software or a redirect script into the target site, which sends users to a malicious clone of the website when they visit the URL.

4. Stolen product certificates

The hacker steals an official product certificate, which enables them to distribute malicious software and applications under the guise of legitimate products. 

5. Third-party data store breaches

The hacker infiltrates a third-party data centre, for example, via a botnet. Once inside, they can steal sensitive business or customer information which they can then:

  • Sell for profit on the dark web
  • Ransom back to the victim
  • Release to the public
  • Delete or corrupt

How do early warning systems protect you against supply chain threats?

Detect and respond to network vulnerabilities

Most businesses only realise a hacker has compromised their network when they spot suspicious activity. For example, when a network client scans the internet. But at this point, the damage may already be done. An early warning system proactively monitors your network for vulnerabilities and malware, giving you time to repair any breaches before hackers can exploit them.  

Identify and assess cyber risks

An effective supply chain early warning system raises your awareness of external cybersecurity threats that may impact your business. When your system identifies a potentially harmful event or attacker, it notifies relevant stakeholders. This helps you:

  • Quickly spot and assess risks
  • Proactively monitor emerging threats or incidents
  • Prepare your defences to minimise or mitigate the impact on your business

Raise stakeholder awareness

By keeping stakeholders informed of current and emerging threats, early warning systems help to raise awareness of your supply chain risks. Over time, you’ll understand what to look out for and where to invest your cybersecurity budget to protect against online threats. 

Forewarned is forearmed

A supply chain early warning system adds another layer of defence to your cybersecurity. It gives you a clear view of your risk landscape, so you can detect and respond to online threats more effectively.

However, you don’t necessarily need a specialist tool to dramatically improve your supply chain security. Cyber Essentials certification can help you get the basics in place. Meanwhile, a generalist security tool like CyberSmart Active Protect can give you early warning of vulnerabilities within your own organisation, mitigating many of the risks your business faces. Likewise, following the NCSC’s guidance on mapping your supply chain can also help better protect your organisation.

You can’t always control the security of your suppliers or partners, but by getting the fundamentals down, you can minimise your risk.

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CyberSmart joins Kickstart’s new accelerator

Another week, another good news story at CyberSmart. We’ve joined Kickstart’s new accelerator. Here’s what it all means.

What is Kickstart? 

Kickstart is one of Europe’s largest innovation platforms. It helps start-ups in a variety of sectors from FinTech to food and retail to innovate and scale sustainably. 

Since its founding in 2015, Kickstart has helped create over 220 commercial partnerships and supported 323 start-ups. 

What does the accelerator involve? 

Companies selected for the accelerator take part in a ten-week programme. It’s designed to breed commercial partnerships and encourage collaboration between start-ups and Kickstart’s partners. Its partners include AXA, Co-op, Swisscom, La Mobilière, PostFinance, Sanitas, The City of Zurich, Canton de Vaud, Credit Suisse, Galenica, CSS Insurance and others.

What does this mean for CyberSmart?

We’re delighted to be picked for the accelerator’s InsurTech cohort. Not only did we beat some strong competition, with applications coming from 58 countries, but we’re also set to work alongside some of the biggest names in the FinTech and InsurTech industries. 

This represents a massive opportunity for us. We’ll learn from and collaborate with some of the best. And, it’ll help us generate new ideas, refine our current products, and reach more small businesses than ever before.

All in all, it’s another step in our journey to protect every small business from cyber threats. Stay tuned for what comes next.

Protecting your business on a budget is tricky. Calling in the experts or investing in the latest tools is expensive. So what can you do? CyberSmart Active Protect secures your business around the clock with no need for costly consultants, tools or an in-house team. Try it today.

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Double delight as CyberSmart scoops two awards

We love an awards ceremony at CyberSmart. It’s a chance to wear long-neglected formal wear, snaffle a free dinner, and meet up with the people that make cybersecurity such a great industry to work in.

However, what we love even more than the glitz and glamour is winning. So imagine our delight when we were nominated for the 2022 SC Awards Europe and CompTIA Spotlight Awards and took home a gong at each. 

What were the awards?

The SC Awards Europe, run by SC Media UK, is one of the most prestigious events in the cybersecurity industry’s calendar. It aims to recognise and reward products and services that continue to stand out from the crowd, exceeding customer expectations to help defeat imminent threats and cybersecurity attacks.

The nominees and winners of these awards usually, read like a who’s who of the cybersecurity sector. So we were very happy to be nominated, particularly as we narrowly missed out on an award last year.

The Computing Technology Industry Association (CompTIA) is a global leader in the training and upskilling of IT professionals. And, it’s one of the leading voices in our sector. Perhaps unsurprisingly, this makes the organisation’s annual awards ceremony a must-attend within the cybersecurity industry. 

What did we win? 

We won both the CompTIA UK Innovative Vendor Spotlight Award and SC Awards Europe’s Best SME Security Solution award.

We’re incredibly proud to win two such prestigious awards, especially amongst such impressive competition. We’d also like to say congratulations to all the other nominees and winners.

What comes next? 

Although we’re always thrilled to win awards, our work is far from done. We won’t stop until every small business has the knowledge and protection to keep themselves safe from cyberattacks.

As we write this, SMEs are being targeted like never before and there are still too many without adequate protection. And these awards, while proving we’re on the right track, only spur us on to help more small businesses.

To find out more about what drives us, read our latest guide, The State of UK SME Cybersecurity. It’s full of useful insights on the risks small businesses face and what can be done to counter them. Get your copy here.

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What is a zero-day attack?

zero-day attack

Provided you’ve read any cybersecurity story in the media recently, you’ve probably come across the phrase ‘zero-day attack’ before. It’s often dropped into reports by journalists with little explanation of what it means or why you should worry about it. So, in the interest of clearing up some confusion, here’s everything you need to know. 

What does ‘zero-day’ mean?

Usually, software companies and developers will periodically fix flaws in their products. However, there are some rare instances where this doesn’t happen and a flaw goes unnoticed.

The term ‘zero-day’ refers to those security vulnerabilities that fall through the cracks. It’s neat shorthand for developers having only just discovered the flaw and limited time (zero days) to fix it.

A zero-day attack happens when the bad guys get there first and hackers exploit the flaw before the developers discover it. 

How do zero-day attacks work? 

All software, no matter how robust initially, develops vulnerabilities over time. It could be that the software was built with vulnerabilities that weren’t anticipated at the time or it might be that a new cyber threat has emerged since it was created.

Whatever the reason, the fix is usually simple. Developers create a patch, release it in an update to users, and the vulnerability is dealt with. Think of it as being a bit like your mum fixing your school trousers after you fell over in the playground for the umpteenth time.

Unfortunately, this doesn’t always happen and hackers get there first. And, as long as the vulnerability goes undetected, cybercriminals can write and implement code to exploit it. This could allow them to steal confidential data, launch social engineering attacks, or even release malware onto users computers. 

This can go on for as long as the vulnerability remains undetected; sometimes days or even months. What’s more, even when the flaw has been fixed and an update released, it may take some time before every user updates their device. After all, an update is only as good as the number of users who download it. 

How do you know when a zero-day attack has happened?

A zero-day attack is particularly dangerous because the only people who know about it are the cybercriminals themselves. This allows them to pick their moment, either attacking instantly or biding their time.

Because vulnerabilities come in many shapes and sizes from problems with password security to broken algorithms, they can be very hard to detect. Often, a business won’t know there’s anything wrong until the vulnerability has been identified.

Nevertheless, there are some telltale signs. You might see sudden surges in unexpected traffic, odd behaviour from software you’re using, or suspicious scanning activity. 

Are there any famous examples?

Incidents involving zero-day vulnerabilities are more common than you might think. Only days ago (early Feb 2022), it was revealed that three critical flaws in the code for a WordPress plugin threatened 30,000 websites worldwide. Fortunately, on this occasion, WordPress appear to have got there before the bad guys, but there are plenty of examples when businesses weren’t so lucky.

Zoom, 2020

In this instance, hackers found a vulnerability in the popular video conferencing platform Zoom. It allowed cybercriminals to remotely take over the computer of anyone using Zoom and running an older version of Windows.

Microsoft Word, 2017

In a horribly alarming twist, this attack used a vulnerability in Microsoft Word to steal users banking login data.  Users who opened seemingly normal Microsoft Word documents unwittingly installed malware on their device that was able to collect banking login credentials. 

Apple iOS, 2020

Apple is generally famous for its impregnable security (remember the old myth that Apple Macs couldn’t get viruses?). However, in 2020, hackers did discover a vulnerability in its iOS mobile operating system. This flaw allowed cybercriminals to remotely access and control unlucky users iPhones.

What can you do to protect your business?

Update your software regularly

The easiest way to protect your business against zero-day attacks is to regularly patch your software and operating systems. It shouldn’t take you more than a couple of minutes each month. All it requires is that you check now and then for any new updates to tools and software you use. Or, if you want an even easier solution, simply turn on auto-updates in your device’s settings, and you won’t even have to think about it.

Use a firewall and anti-malware

Firewalls and anti-malware tools are the first line of defence for most cybersecurity threats and zero-day attacks are no different. Good firewalls and anti-malware can thwart some zero-day attacks the minute they enter your system. 

Limit the number of applications you use

Most businesses already do this to some extent, software costs money after all. However, when it comes to protecting your business against zero-day threats a simple maxim applies: the less software you have, the smaller the number of potential vulnerabilities. So try to use only the software and tools your business really needs. 

Educate your team 

Most zero-day attacks capitalise on human error in some way. So educating your employees on good security practices and habits can help reduce the risk of a successful zero-day attack. For more on how to go about this, check out our blog on security training

Protecting your business on a budget is tricky. Calling in the experts or investing in the latest tools is expensive. So what can you do? CyberSmart Active Protect secures your business around the clock with no need for costly consultants, tools or an in-house team. Try it today.

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CyberSmart scoops two Security Excellence Awards

security excellence awards

Awards season is in full flow and it’s already been a successful one for CyberSmart, as we scooped two awards at Computing’s Security Excellence Awards 2021.

What are the Security Excellence Awards? 

Computing’s Security Excellence Awards celebrate the achievements of the tech industry’s leading security companies, products and personalities. Or, as they put it, ‘the ones who keep the rest of the industry operating’.

This year has been a particularly tough year for anyone working in cybersecurity. Remote and hybrid working have become commonplace, nation-state and ransomware attacks are on the rise, and a society that previously gave little thought to cybersecurity has suddenly been forced to start thinking about it in a big way.

These awards are a well overdue celebration of the best of a turbulent year. 

What did CyberSmart win?

We’re delighted to have won two awards, one for CyberSmart as a business, and the other for our SME-focused product, CyberSmart Active Protect. Here’s a little explanation of each award: 

Security Vendor of the Year – SMEs

“SMEs are often forced to make do with ageing infrastructure and legacy systems, and may be unable to defend themselves against new threats. This prize will go to the company that can best aid SMEs in their constant battle to avoid becoming the ‘low-hanging fruit’ of cybersecurity.”

SME Security Solution Award

“SMEs are prime targets to malicious agents, with small teams and often similar budgets. The cost of large and expensive security offerings can make SMEs feel priced out of the market, so in this category, we’re looking at affordable services that still offer the range and scope of security coverage any larger organisation typically enjoys.”

What does this mean for CyberSmart? 

First of all, we’re thrilled to have won these two awards, particularly as both focus on SMEs. Since our founding, we’ve made it our mission to make cybersecurity simpler and more affordable for SMEs. So, to be recognised at an awards ceremony for doing exactly that is proof we’re on the right track.

However, our work is far from done. SMEs are being targeted like never before and there are still too many without adequate protection. While welcome, these awards only add fuel to our fire for 2022 and beyond.

Protecting your business on a budget is tricky. Calling in the experts or investing in the latest tools is expensive. So what can you do? CyberSmart Active Protect secures your business around the clock with no need for costly consultants, tools or an in-house team. Try it today.

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What is a cybersecurity policy and why do you need one?

Cybersecurity policy

You’ve likely heard the term ‘cybersecurity policy’ before. But what is it? And why does your company need one? 

What do we mean by ‘policy’? 

A ‘policy’, in cybersecurity terms, is a set of principles that guide decisions within an organisation. These principles can inform the decisions senior management make or guide employees in their day-to-day activities. A great example of the latter is a password policy.

What is the purpose of a policy?

A well-crafted policy can help your organisation achieve its goals, say reducing the risk of phishing attacks or compliance with Cyber Essentials. Any policy worth its salt should outline what employees should or shouldn’t do, offer directions on best practices, and guidance for decision making. 

Why are policies so important? 

According to research,  90% of security breaches occur through human error. However, improving your cybersecurity isn’t about blaming employees for their all-too-human mistakes. It’s about giving your people the tools and knowledge to better protect themselves.

According to research,  90% of security breaches occur through human error

This is where policies come in. Policies and procedures provide a roadmap for day-to-day operations. They ensure compliance with laws and regulations, offer guidance,  and even help employees make better decisions. After all, if your people don’t know which behaviours are harmful, they can’t correct them.

But clear, readily available policies have benefits beyond merely reducing the likelihood of a successful security breach. Here are just a few.

Improved efficiency 

Sometimes clear policies are all that stand between a business and organised chaos. Sure, everyone’s working, but are they all pulling in the same direction? Or adhering to company values?

When everyone is following policies and procedures, a business will generally run smoothly. Management structures and teams operate as they’re meant to while mistakes and hiccups in processes can be quickly identified and addressed. 

What’s more, when everyone understands what’s expected of them and goals are clearly defined, time and resources are managed more efficiently. And this will ultimately help you meet targets and grow. 

Better customer service 

There’s nothing more frustrating than receiving wildly different service from two separate interactions with the same organisation. It could be your utility provider, GP surgery or bank, but we’ve all experienced the irritation it causes. 

Having clear, easy-to-follow policies in place is a sure-fire way to stop your business from providing erratic customer service. When policies are followed, tasks are performed correctly and every customer receives the same high level of service – enhancing your business’s reputation to boot. 

A safer workplace 

Workplace accidents and incidents are far less likely to happen if everyone’s working to the same standards and principles. This not only reduces liability risk for your business but also cuts downtime and disruption. And, even if the worst does happen, you’ll weather it much better with a clear procedure on how to deal with it. 

How can CyberSmart help? 

We’ve discussed why policies are important but now comes the tricky bit. How do you ensure that everyone in your business has access to the policies they need to work safely? And, more important still, how do you make sure they read them?

CyberSmart Policy Manager allows you to digitally upload and share policies straight to staff’s devices through our platform, CyberSmart Active Protect. Policies can easily be uploaded through the CyberSmart Dashboard and made available to your users instantly. 

What’s more, you can be sure your employees read them. Our Dashboard provides you with a digital audit trail of when policies have been read and agreed upon. 

But what if you’re unsure of where to start when creating a new policy? Well, we’ve got you covered there too. We’ve put together a handy set of templates to help you get started. These are free to download from your CyberSmart Dashboard and easily modified to suit your business. Our policy templates include: 

  •  Data Classification policy 
  •  Cyber Essentials policy 
  •  Data Protection policy 
  •  IT Access policy 
  •  Security Awareness and Training Guidelines policy 
  •  Work From Home Covid-19 policy

We also offer a GDPR policy pack as part of our IASME and GDPR certification.

And that’s all there is to know about policies. They’re a simple tool, but one that provides an important first line of defence for your business against cyber threats. Hopefully, this blog has armed you with all the knowledge you need, but if you have any questions please get in touch, our team are always happy to help.

Looking to improve your cybersecurity but not sure where to begin? Start by getting certified in Cyber Essentials, the UK government scheme that covers all the fundamentals of cyber hygiene.

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