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How to help your clients through security concerns and challenges

How to help your clients through security concerns and challenges

Another year and more cybersecurity statistics. The risks are real and exacerbated by a worsening shortage of skills needed to protect organisations against attacks. That’s a bleak prediction for the immediate future as AI enters the fray to help power more sophisticated attacks that can include anything from deepfake attacks to intelligent malware. Despite the near incessant media coverage, many business owners and key decision-makers remain unaware of the persistent threats to their organisations.


Communication from service providers is a key component of customer safety as well as the overall security of the network and system. After all, uneducated and unprepared staff present an easy way in for attackers. It’s therefore essential to learn how to communicate effectively with customers about their digital security. That starts in your own organisation with an understanding of the tools threat actors use in their attacks.

Understanding Security Concerns

For the most part, the tools attackers have been using for the past few years have largely remained the same. Some of the most popular include:

  • Malware – Malicious software designed to damage or disrupt systems, or gain unauthorised access to computer systems.
  • Phishing – Attackers send fraudulent communications, often via email, pretending to be from reputable sources to steal sensitive information.
  • Ransomware – A type of malware that encrypts the victim’s files, with the attacker demanding payment for the decryption key.
  • Insider threats – Security risks that originate from within the targeted organisation, often involving employees or contractors who misuse their access to harm the organisation’s information systems or data.

At the same time, new variants of each of these are popping up all over the place. Unlike traditional malware, there’s now also fileless malware (also called living off the land or LOLbins), polymorphic malware (which changes its code or signature with every infection), and metamorphic malware (which rewrites itself entirely before infection). Ransomware, meanwhile, has seen the emergence of Ransomware-as-a-Service (RaaS), which enables anyone with enough money to launch attacks despite no technical skills. Phishing now includes vishing (phishing using voice calls) and smishing (phishing with SMS text messages).

Attacks themselves are evolving and increasing in sophistication and can include anything from diverse attack vectors where an attacker might use different tools or methods in one attack, to the use of AI and machine learning (ML), and even exploiting IoT vulnerabilities.

Educating Clients on Security Risks

Effective communication about these cybersecurity risks requires adjusting the complexity and technicality of the message to match the client’s understanding. This is done on the level of the client’s technical knowledge which is often easily gauged through initial discussions. Where clients have limited technical knowledge, it’s important to simplify where possible. Use layman’s terms to explain complex cybersecurity concepts, and avoid using tech jargon – it might sound impressive, but a barrage of acronyms will simply diminish comprehension. For example, instead of saying “phishing attempts exploit the SMTP protocol’s lack of authentication,” you could say “phishing emails trick you by pretending to be from someone you trust.” These explanations can be enhanced with visual aids such as diagrams, charts, and infographics that can also simplify complex concepts and clarify how threats work or how security measures protect their assets.

Assessing Client Vulnerabilities

To protect against attacks, a continuous assessment of client vulnerabilities – checking systems, networks, and procedures for weaknesses that could be exploited – is a must. ‘Continuous’ because that is both the nature of online attacks and the pace at which threats evolve – a point worth emphasising in conversations with clients. Suffering under the misconception that security is ‘set and forget’ can eventually come at cost.

For both big and small organisations the process starts with security audits and risk assessments that evaluate client software and hardware, and that scrutinises human processes (often regarded as the biggest security vulnerability in any organisation). These assessments should also help prioritise risks based on their likelihood, potential impact, and available resources. Luckily, the tools needed to accomplish these tasks have also evolved over time. Here are some of the most commonly used to evaluate networks and systems for vulnerabilities:

Vulnerability scanning

Vulnerability scanning tools have become affordable over the years, with top-tier tools now accessible to site owners operating on limited budgets. This includes the PCI DSS external vulnerability scan, for example, which is capable of scanning for various security issues, including improperly configured firewalls, potential malware threats, and vulnerabilities related to remote access. Importantly, this service is platform-agnostic; it can be applied to different server and website platforms (e.g. WordPress, Joomla, Umbraco, or a custom-built site).

Penetration Testing

As far as vulnerability assessments go, penetration testing is the gold standard  – given that the team(s) running the pen tests are skilled in their craft. Penetration testing simulates real-world attack scenarios to identify weaknesses and assess the effectiveness of existing security measures. The process involves gathering information about the target (information can also be provided in some cases), identifying potential entry points, attempting breach attempts, and reporting the findings. The ultimate goal of penetration testing is to uncover security vulnerabilities before malicious attackers do, providing critical insights needed to fortify defences, and so enhancing the overall security posture against potential threats.

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems

Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) systems are comprehensive security platforms that provide real-time analysis of security alerts generated by applications and network hardware. SIEMs collect, store, analyse, and report on log data and security events. They also integrate outputs from multiple sources, looking for patterns of behaviour that may indicate a security threat or breach. By aggregating data from disparate systems, SIEMs enable organisations to detect incidents that might otherwise go unnoticed. This facilitates rapid response to limit potential damage. SIEM systems typically also support compliance reporting and incident investigation by retaining historical data on security incidents.

What To Do Next

Cybersecurity threats are becoming more frequent and more sophisticated. It’s up to technical service providers to bridge the gap between clients, and evolving digital threats, and be prepared to protect their networks, systems, and information. This should also include the implementation of assessment tools capable of proactively identifying and shoring up vulnerabilities, with vulnerability scanning, penetration testing, and SIEM among the most widely used. While cybersecurity challenges are indeed daunting, a well-informed, vigilant, and proactive approach can significantly mitigate risks, safeguarding the integrity and trustworthiness of organisations.

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