In an age of increasing cybercrime sophistication, businesses should build security from the hardware up

Recent high-profile cyber-attacks in Ireland have heightened the awareness of cyber security amongst Irish companies. Instances of phishing scams, ransomware and malware attacks have exposed the vulnerabilities of information and communication technologies (ICT), elevating cyber security, or lack thereof, to the national agenda.

Perhaps the most notable was the Health Service Executive (HSE) falling victim to the Wannacry virus in 2017, a globally disruptive ransomware which had infected an estimated 230,000 computers across 150 countries. While the HSE managed to avoid serious impact, the possibility of widespread damage, coupled with the apparent ease with which the attack was executed, showed there are still many lessons to be learned when it comes to ICT security.

PwC’s 2017 Global State of Information Security Survey (GSISS) Report suggests businesses are waking up to the threat, revealing that three in five large companies have increased their cybersecurity spending. However, is this additional expenditure going to the right areas? Many businesses believe that heavy investment in network solutions affords them complete protection – but, as recent attacks have shown, software and network security are no longer enough.

Device management as a first line of defence

Understanding the motivations behind cybercrime can allow business leaders to think differently about their organisation as a target for an attack, reinforcing their line of defence with little budgetary impact.

Though most of the recent conversations on enterprise security has focused on network and data infrastructure (understandably, with the rise of cloud computing), companies risk underrating the importance of endpoint device security, which can offer businesses protection against cybercrime from the hardware up.

For example, a laptop is a highly connected device which becomes increasingly vulnerable when connected to open and unsecured wi-fi networks. There are few infrastructure protections with most laptops and, to a motivated hacker, these devices can leak information without the user even knowing. Therefore, choosing a device must be recognised as a security decision that will have a huge impact on a company’s overall line of defence.

At HP, we’re reinventing hardware security by not only preventing breaches, but also by detecting them and enabling recovery from the successful attacks quickly. For instance, our enterprise PCs and printers can now detect and self-heal following BIOS-level attacks. This protects devices beneath the operating system (OS), an increasingly popular method of attack for hackers. New technology allows the device to maintain a gold copy of its BIOS. In the event of an attack at this level, the device recognises if the BIOS has been altered from its original state, automatically restarting if so, and reverting back to the uncorrupted gold copy.

Effective device management for increased efficiency

Effective endpoint management can also help organisations improve security. For many Irish businesses, the management and maintenance of internal IT systems takes up significant resources. In response to this, and in a bid to make security more efficient for businesses, most technology providers have improved their service offering to include new capabilities to provide smart, simplified and unified IT management solutions.

Such unified management solutions extend to both personal computer systems and other devices like scanners, photocopiers and printers. More IT companies are branching out to offer Managed Print Services (MPS) as a solution to all aspects of a business’s printing requirements, allowing organisations to optimise devices in a way that is both cost-effective and efficient. At HP, we are applying the same unified management approach to personal computer systems through our Device as a Service (DaaS) offering. Through DaaS, businesses can leverage HP’s multi-OS device management capabilities, including real-time analytics, insights and proactive management.

Managed services like MPS or DaaS also offer end-to-end lifecycle services and device upgrades, granting businesses access to the latest technology to stay ahead of cyber threats and achieve cyber resilience from the hardware up.

Business leaders, be it in the IT department or in the C-suite, must start recognising the purchase of a PC or printer as an important security decision. Organisations will need to be able to trust and control devices at the edge, and achieve cyber resilience from the hardware up, to ensure they know what’s going on, and that they can recover and regain control in the wake of an attack.

By focusing on endpoint security Irish businesses will ensure their first line of defence – i.e. the day-to-day technology used by employees – is capable of resisting whatever cyber criminals throw at them in the months and years to come.

Gary Tierney, Ireland MD, HP

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