The Complete Cybersecurity Consulting Guide

The Complete Cybersecurity Consulting Guide

There are security and cybersecurity essential skills necessary for employers and project managers to protect their assets and intellectual property. Suppose you or your business do not possess such skills. In that case, you should rely on a cybersecurity consulting company as cybercrime has grown into a huge liability that ends up costing businesses millions of dollars annually. The increase in sophistication and frequency of data breaches is continually challenging organizations’ cyber mitigation and risk management teams. Sophisticated cyber criminals put business-critical information, intellectual property, and personally identifiable information at risk.With news continuously breaking about new ways malicious hackers manage to breach the various businesses’ defenses, the best time to improve your company’s cybersecurity strategy and prevent any cyber threats from harming your business is today. This guide aims to inform you about the complete cybersecurity consulting process, including the duties of cybersecurity consultants and cybersecurity specialists, as well as cybersecurity threats and ways cybersecurity experts can help you mitigate the risk while improving security.

What Are Cybersecurity Consulting Services?

The cybersecurity industry consists of various sectors, including cybersecurity consulting. Cybersecurity consulting provides several types of services within their scope of work. Let us start by explaining what cybersecurity is before we move onto which services cybersecurity consulting can provide for your business, and why they are critical to your business’s safety and security.

Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity includes various defenses from malicious attacks – such as defending computers, servers, systems, data, and networks. It is also known as information technology or electronic information security. The term cybersecurity can be applied in various contexts, from mobile computing to businesses; and it can be divided into several distinct categories:

Network security: This is the practice of defending a computer network from malicious attacks, regardless of whether it was the target of intruders or noticed by opportunistic malware.

Application security: This practice primarilyfocuses on preventing risk to software and devices since compromised applications or devices can be used to provide access to the data they were protecting. To be as successful as possible, this practice begins in the design stage. Information security: This practice is concerned with protecting data privacy and integrity, whether in storage or transit.

Operational security: This practice covers the processes and decision-making concerning the way data assets are handled and protected. Some of the processes decide which permissions are given to users for network access and on the procedures that determine where data would be stored or shared.

Disaster recovery and business continuity: This practice defines how an organization responds to a cybersecurity incident or any other incident that caused a loss of data or operations. Disaster recovery dictates how the organization will restore its data and processes to the same operating capacity as before the incident. Business continuity dictates how the organization will operate without specific resources that may have been lost in the incident.

End-user education: This practice is concerned with the human factor – the most unpredictable cybersecurity factor. Failing to follow good security practices means that any person can accidentally introduce a virus to an otherwise secure system. This is the exact reason why end-user education exists. It serves to teach the users how to, for example, delete suspicious email attachments, not install USB drives from unknown sources, as well as other essential lessons vital for the security of any business.

What Do Cybersecurity Services Entail?

As we have seen, cybersecurity covers a large playing field. With that in mind, cybersecurity consultants are to perform various tasks within that field, where they are expected to play multiple roles to single out the weaknesses in the system and figure out how to strengthen that system to prevent hackers from exploiting discovered vulnerabilities. To be more precise, cybersecurity consulting provides every company with a proper strategy to prevent or eliminate attacks on their systems and data implemented on all their websites, enterprise applications, and in new product development. It is a fact that most businesses do implement the basics of cybersecurity protection, such as firewalls and antivirus software. However, these tactics have been consistently proven ineffective against more sophisticated attacks, and the prevention of security breaches is critical to protecting profits and company reputations. This brings us to our next point:

Why are Cybersecurity Consulting Services Important?

It is simple – the more you know about your vulnerabilities and security controls, the more you can strengthen your organization with practical governance procedures, risk, and compliance. Cybersecurity consulting services aid with insight into a business’s security management by assessing its sensitive data, applications, and critical infrastructures. They work with the business to define and implement the right strategy, target operating model, governance procedures, risk, and compliance structure. This ensures that the security design and operations support the business’s strategic objectives and business continuity.

Assessment of sensitive data, applications, and critical infrastructures is mainly done by penetration testers and  ethical hackers who examine your network devices’ security by implementing various penetration testing techniques. This serves to determine the exact level of the network security and risk analysis of the possible impact of incidents. Additionally, the cybersecurity consultant is expected to provide clients with ongoing cybersecurity features to protect their systems, employees, and customers – updating and upgrading the security procedures as required by the context and circumstances. Essentially, this means that a comprehensive understanding of the latest threats, procedures, and facilities is crucially important.

We can sum up a cybersecurity consultant’s role into two distinct categories: 1.) to defend from threats and mitigate risk, and 2.) to improve security. 

Threats

There are several types of threats countered by cybersecurity specialists. To better understand the cybersecurity consultant role, we will now explore the most common methods that threaten cybersecurity.

Malware

One of the most common cybersecurity threats is malware, an abbreviation for ‘malicious software.’ Malware is software created by a hacker or a cybercriminal to disrupt or damage a person’s device. It is most often spread through unsolicited email attachments or downloads that looked legitimate. There are several different types of malware, including but not limited to:

Virus: This is a self-replicating program that attaches itself to non-corrupt files and uses them to spread throughout the computer system, infecting other files with malicious code.

Trojans: This is a type of malware disguised as legitimate software. It serves to trick users into downloading a Trojan onto their devices, where it causes damage or collects data.

Spyware: This type of program secretly notes what a user is doing for the cybercriminal to make use of that information. The most common example of spyware usage is stealing credit card information.

A SQL (Structured Language Query) Injection

A structured language query injection is a type of cyber-attack used to steal from and control a database. Cybercriminals exploit vulnerabilities in data-driven applications, which allows them to insert malicious code into a database using a malicious SQL statement – the so-called SQL injection. This serves to give them access to the database and the sensitive information contained in it.

Phishing

One of the ways phishing targets victims is through emails, phone, or text asking for sensitive information that appear to be from a legitimate company. These kinds of attacks are most often used to deceive people into handing over personal information, such as credit card data. Additionally, it is worth noting that phishing is a form of social engineering.

DOS (Denial-Of-Service) attacks

A denial-of-service attack, most commonly mentioned as DDOS (distributed denial of service attack), is a type of attack where cybercriminals prevent a system from fulfilling legitimate requests by overwhelming the networks and servers with traffic. This action renders the system unusable, thus preventing an organization from carrying out its vital functions.

Latest cyber threats

Now that we have covered the most common types let us look at some of the most recent cyber threats.

Dridex malware: In December 2019, the leader of an organized cyber-criminal group that took part in global Dridex malware attacks was brought in. Dridex is a financial Trojan, affecting victims since 2014. It functions by infecting computers through phishing emails or existing malware. It can steal passwords, banking details, and other personal data, which has caused massive financial losses for both businesses and individuals alike.

Emotet malware: In late 2019, a widespread global cyber threat in Emotet malware was discovered and announced. It is a sophisticated Trojan that can steal data and load other malware onto the victim’s device. It thrived thanks to the unsophisticated passwords – which is a powerful reminder of the importance of proper cybersecurity measures.

Defense from Cyber Threats

As opposed to malicious hackers, who use their knowledge to harm, ethical hackers are often parts of cybersecurity teams. They carry out risk assessments by attempting to breach the defenses of their employer. After that procedure is done, they note all their findings – from potential breaches to possible improvements to the current cybersecurity system. With that in mind, let us look over the two of the most critical elements of comprehensive cybersecurity defense: cyber threat risk analysis and defensive engagement of the threat.

Cyber threat intelligence analysis: This serves to provide practical information and threat detection signatures, usually by direct risk assessment. That makes them more durable than current virus definitions. Once the information is obtained, cybersecurity professionals can use it to better the cyber defenses and upgrade the ways to anticipate, detect, prevent, and respond to any possible kind of cyber attack.

One of the ways used to obtain the needed information is following the ‘cyber kill chain’:

  1. Reconnaissance: This is the first step, when the victim is chosen.
  2. Weaponization: Depending on the target and the attacker’s intention, the attacker creates malware that can either abuse zero-day exploits (new, undetected vulnerabilities) or focus on a combination of different, already known weaknesses.
  3. Delivery: This step involves transmitting the weapon to the target.
  4. Exploitation: This is when the malware’s program code is triggered to start the action.
  5. Installation: Here, the malware creates an access point for the attacker – also known as ‘the backdoor.’
  6. Command and Control: The malware provides the attacker access into the targeted system.
  7. Actions on Objective: Once the attacker gains continued access, they finally fulfill their intention, ranging from encryption for ransom to data destruction.

Using this cyber attack lifecycle, accompanied by classic intelligence analysis, cyber threat analysts can develop a framework to understand and anticipate malicious cyber attackers’ moves.

Defensive engagement of the threat: This element is critical in the prevention or detection of future attacks. During the early stages of the cyber kill chain, before the attacker establishes a backdoor, defenders have an opportunity to recognize and mitigate threats. The later stages employ reactive measures of incident response and mission assurance.

Cyber analysts must proactively search for cyber attack indicators to prevent attacks successfully, whether they be pending, active, or successful. A retrospective analysis combined with the correlation of threat characteristics observed across the cyber kill chain can help develop early warning signs. However, as this is a ‘learn from the past’ approach, it can put the organizations at significant risk. This is especially applicable if the response is intentionally deferred to learn of the cyber attacker’s actions after the Exploitation phase.

Security Improvements

The cybersecurity consultant’s role is focused on protection – therefore, detecting threats is only a part of their job. Working in this role also involves executing strategic services related to the client’s cybersecurity.

Security improvements begin with finding the most efficient way to protect the system, networks, software, data, and information systems against any potential attacks. That is done by conducting a security assessment by a cybersecurity professional who implements vulnerability testing, risk analyses, and security checks. Additionally, cybersecurity consultants and security managers are expected to perform relevant research on cybersecurity criteria, security systems, and validation procedures to provide up-to-date recommendations and strategies for the design of security architecture. For example, advice may include introducing additional authentication protocols for increased security, such as two-factor authentication.

The cybersecurity administrator is responsible for installing, administering, and troubleshooting the security solutions that were adopted after the risk analyses. Moreover, they are also responsible for creating write-up security policies and training documents about security procedures for their colleagues.

The cybersecurity consultants’ duties also include facilitating meetings with IT departments when they are required to fix specific cybersecurity problems, calculation of accurate cost estimates, and categorization of integration issues for IT project teams. As the technologies change and malicious hackers evolve, cybersecurity consultants must remain up to date on security standards in the industry and other security-related concepts to deliver the best security program to the team. This also includes providing technical reports and official papers related to test findings, continuous professional supervision and guidance, and updating and upgrading security systems as required.

If you decide to rely on a professional with experience in cybersecurity by hiring independent consultants, you need to ensure that their knowledge and strategies are up to industry standards. Outdated strategies can do more harm than good. With The i4 Group, you can be sure that strategies are designed with your business in mind and supported by industry standard products like AppGate, Forcepoint, Netskope, Okta, Fortinet, Cylance, and Blackberry (and more!) that will reduce or even eliminate cyber attacks.