Why a Layered Security Approach Is Essential for Every Organization Today 

If your organization hasn’t already been afflicted by a breach of your sensitive and possibly proprietary data, count yourself very lucky – for now. The incidence of security breaches and the associated costs have skyrocketed in recent years, particularly since the COVID-19 pandemic. Today’s organizations must take IT security seriously and are wise to take extra steps to safeguard their operations, people and valuable data.

The security threats keep multiplying

There’s a wide range of ever-growing attacks organizations need to watch for and guard against – and not just the people in IT. An organization’s employees, partners and vendors also need to be vigilant to protect themselves from a breach that could halt operations, create severe financial consequences and result in a major loss of reputation, which can affect future business prospects. These threats include:

Accidental (or purposeful) human behavior – If an employee leaves sensitive information on their screen, a password stuck on a computer with a Post-it note, private paperwork on the MFP output tray – or even logs into a device that is not their own for criminal purposes – that information is available to steal and potentially cause serious loss and damage to the business. It’s so important to require systematic password changes and multi-factor authentication to protect devices and access from criminal pursuits.

Guessing passwords – This happens a lot more frequently than it should, hence the need to require regular password changes throughout the organization. Serious security breaches happen because too many employees use passwords that are very easy to guess, including their street name, a pet’s name or even “123456” – the most commonly used password worldwide! 

Malware and viruses – These can be very damaging to any organization because they can spread throughout an organization’s network and beyond. The ultimate goal of one of these attacks is to wipe a computer of all its data – especially harmful for people who work in industries such as healthcare or finance. They arrive via emails, some of which are easy to detect as fake and dangerous, but others can be remarkably realistic looking, as if they’re from a sender the recipient knows and trusts. Again, everyone in an organization should stop and think twice before clicking on any link or attachment in an email if they’re not certain who it’s from. Ideally, content that might be sent as an attachment should be included in the body of an email. 

Phishing attacks – These are also incredibly common. Recent statistics show that about 3.4 billion phishing emails go to inboxes each day – and are becoming increasingly harder to detect. They’re perpetrated by hackers who want to steal passwords and other personal info. The attacks start with an email from a familiar-looking entity that is actually from a third party, aka criminal, requesting to confirm the recipient’s login details. If the recipient takes the bait and goes to what looks like an authentic website and then enters their login info, the hackers can do whatever they want with that information, which can compromise any sensitive information from the recipient – and their company.

Ransomware attacks – This is when a system, computer or phone is taken hostage by bad actors, who will demand money and/or threaten to release sensitive information to the public. The problem here is that even if the ransom is paid, an organization can’t be sure their private data will be returned or won’t be released. These attacks can cost companies up to hundreds of thousands of dollars. These attacks have dramatically increased over recent years, with 72% of businesses worldwide affected so far in 2023. 

Keylogging – Software can be secretly installed internally or remotely to allow cybercriminals to penetrate a user’s computer, at work or at home, and allow malware to record everything the user types, whether or not the actual characters show on their screen. (This is another reason people who work from home need to be extra diligent not to click on unknown attachments or links.)

Distributed Denial-of-Service – An attack of this type generally affects larger companies that are sometimes targeted as a form of protest. The attacks are highly coordinated and launched from multiple sources to make it impossible for the company’s employees to sign into their systems and get to work. And if sites are unreachable due to all the network traffic from the attack, customers are also affected and can’t access a company’s services. The result is a shutdown while the company deals with the attack, and in the meantime, loses what can be a significant amount of business and employee productivity.

The adoption of AI has made security even more difficult

Now that artificial intelligence is rapidly growing in use among many industries and organizations, the security environment has become even more complex. The sophistication of their attacks has grown along with the evolution of computer and IT technology – so cybercriminals will increasingly be using AI in a variety of ways to get valuable information from businesses that they’ll sell for profit. In fact, the web environment of today invites and rewards “blended” attacks that include more than one approach. Criminals have more options for attacks with the proliferation of online connections and the use of unsecured cloud technologies to access a gold mine of valuable data.

Attacks pose especially severe consequences for key industries

Layered security is especially critical for customers operating in healthcare, education, financial and retail environments, where documents, payment details and data privacy must meet security compliance regulations to be protected by law or organizations risk severe penalties and other remediation costs. The latest studies show that the global average data breach cost in 2023 has risen to $4.45M – a 15% increase over the last three years.

In addition, the increase in hybrid workforces over the last few years and the associated types of office, laptop, mobile and remote devices connected to business networks and the internet have made it more important than ever to protect users and a company’s customers from malware and other threats at every endpoint. Sensitive information can be breached at several vulnerable points of access in a company’s network that can then be targeted for hacking by bad actors – externally or internally. Additionally, today there are more web applications than ever because they’re easy to develop and use. But recent studies have found that 60% of internet attacks are specifically targeted to leverage the vulnerabilities in those web applications.

Because new threats appear constantly, and smaller businesses don’t often have expert IT help on staff, businesses can help protect themselves with additional layers of security. IT departments at many organizations may not have the ability to ensure machine security across all devices, so automated security capabilities can significantly reduce risk – including potential security breaches that can happen inside an organization with unauthorized users at an MFP. 

Some companies choose to invest in ethical hacking or penetration testing to find any security loopholes. While those activities can be very informative and can certainly help to safeguard systems and sensitive data following remediation, it’s important to know that there is no single, universal security solution that will guarantee 100 percent protection from cyber crooks. 

That’s why a layered security approach is not only smart, it has become essential to keeping your business operating more safely in today’s threat landscape, no matter what business you are in. 

Here’s what a layered security approach involves

According to the Identity Management Institute, a layered security model is an approach to security that involves using multiple security measures and controls at different levels or layers within a system or network. This is done to create a series of barriers that an attacker has to overcome before accessing systems and stealing sensitive data.

Layered security is also referred to as “multilayered security” or “defense in depth.” Once physical security – locks, access control systems and security cameras, as examples – is established, there are typically four levels in a single system that a layered security plan will include: devices, applications, networks and infrastructure. Any of these layers can be targeted by bad actors. And because there are so many Internet of Things (IoT) devices in offices today, in addition to more people working from home whose devices may not be fully protected, they are also highly susceptible to attacks. Once a device is compromised, an attacker can get into other layers of a company’s system, including stored applications and networks. 

But there is expert help available for layered security.

Typically, MFPs are overlooked when applying a multilayered security approach to a network connected asset. However, being an endpoint device on the network, they require strong endpoint protection.

IT departments often don’t have the ability to ensure MFP security across all devices attached to internal networks and now, more than ever, the cloud, so automated security capabilities can significantly reduce risk.

Tools such as hard drive and solid state drive e-lock passwords, hard drive and solid state drive encryption, automatic deletion of temporary image data, and data overwriting of electronic documents on a timed basis are all useful prevention measures, even for the smallest businesses. Any unauthorized copies can be identified through their date, time and device serial numbers. MFPs can also be installed with enhanced password and security protection, with advanced encryption for data in transit and at rest in the MFP. This level of protection meets industry requirements for HIPAA, FERPA, Sarbanes Oxley, PCI audits and more.

For additional safeguards, software can provide real-time security alerts. There’s also antivirus and malware protection to offer 24/7 device protection, and cloud-based anytime-anywhere protection for monitoring and managing an entire fleet of print devices from a single dashboard to immediately detect security vulnerabilities and ensure industry compliance. 

Advanced protection could include software that provides a consolidated view of a larger organization’s entire print, copy, fax and scan operations across an entire fleet of devices and single sign-on (SSO) multifactor authentication, including biometric authentication. There’s also intelligent workflow automation to ensure that only approved staff have access to the most sensitive information contained in specific devices and documents throughout an organization’s operations.

Last, but possibly most important, is user education for everyone in the organization on best security practices to help identify and prevent potential disasters – because breach after breach has shown that humans are often the weakest link in the security chain. 

Chris Bilello is Vice President, Business Solutions Development, Konica Minolta.