Why invest in cybersecurity: A cautionary and real life story

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By Wes Stillman, Chief Innovation Officer, Swizznet

While you may not think of construction companies as cybersecurity targets, construction-related cyber breaches experienced a 545 percent increase from 2019 to 2020, according to the 2021 Data Breach Outlook Study by Kroll, a risk consulting firm. 

More than other industries, construction companies have excelled at working at remote jobsites but moving office work to work-from-home settings during the pandemic has created new challenges. Among the most common and most dangerous are phishing email scams and unprompted or suspicious requests for login credentials are real. Both have the potential to devastate businesses and individuals in very short order. 

We wanted to share a real-life example with a construction firm client of how quickly bad actors can move and the type of response that’s needed to address it.

A massive business failure for our client was avoided because we understood the sophistication level of the bad actors and flagged their activity, ultimately containing their actions and thwarting their intentions within minutes.

Here’s what happened

As part of our ongoing and active monitoring protocols, our team recently spotted suspicious activity occurring inside a client’s private server. It appeared as if an employee had logged on from an unusual IP address and their behavior was outside of their normal usage patterns.

Within 60 seconds, our AI-enabled technology identified the aberrant, atypical actions, allowing our experts to assess what was going on and act immediately. Within minutes, our experts verified this was a bad actor using stolen credentials that were not protected by multifactor authentication (MFA). MFA requires at least two forms of identity verification to get access to a system.

Once the suspicious activity was discovered and confirmed, our team contained the attack by isolating our client’s server and taking it offline.

For the next 60 minutes, the multi-step process of containment, removal, and recovery kicked into overdrive.

Only after we were fully satisfied that the client’s systems were ‘clean’ did we re-enable access to the server so that the client could continue access as usual. All users at this client were urged to change all of their passwords to all of their accounts immediately.

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The takeaway

Even though this client had not engaged us to manage their end devices and did not have MFA in place, we were able to save the firm by taking the client’s server offline for a few hours during their business day to address this attempted attack.

True, the disruption may have seemed inconvenient at the time. But in this case, it was a necessary and critical part of the remediation process that included salvaging and protecting the client’s systems, and restoring them back to their pre-intrusion state.

That said, with end device management and MFA in place, the employee’s ID credentials would not have been compromised and this situation would not have happened.

Some final thoughts on staying secure

  • Implement MFA and end device management – used in combination, these tools can prevent most cybersecurity attacks.
  • Don’t click on any links or attachments inside phishing emails. Doing so instantly compromises the email account and puts the firm’s IT network into the hands of a criminal or criminal network.
  • Never upload or offer your credentials unless you are expecting to access a known system. When in doubt, don’t enter anything in and call your IT support team.
  • Pay attention to the senders of inbound emails. “Spoofed” email addresses look similar enough to a legitimate address and can trick the unsuspecting receiver into giving away access or information to a cyberthief.
  • Have your IT support team implement a cybersecurity training and testing program for your entire organization on data protection and cybersecurity protocols.

When it comes to cybersecurity and data protection, businesses can’t be too careful. Cybersecurity is an ongoing 24/7 process, and it only takes a few short minutes for a hacker to infiltrate a system and cause irreparable damage. 

Want to learn more about MFA and our other managed IT services? Email Swizznet Inside Sales or call us at 855-611-2911 X1.

Wes Stillman
Wes Stillman

Swizznet is a cloud-based hosting solutions company for small- and medium-sized businesses and is a Sage Partner Cloud Strategic Hosting Provider for the commercial real estate industry. We help construction and real estate firms help transition to the cloud by providing industry-leading tools, expertise and resources.


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