The cyber landscape is ever-evolving. Organizations have started moving their resources to the cloud excessively to scale up their deliverables. The hybrid work culture and BYOD policies have made an organization’s network increasingly perimeter-less. With organizations adopting different policies to increase operational efficiency, SOCs scramble to ensure security in the network. As for attackers who are opportunists by nature, the hybrid work model introduces a lot of opportunities.

To make things worse, most organizations fail to identify stale devices and accounts in their network while migrating to the cloud. These stale accounts, if not addressed, can become vulnerabilities leveraged by attackers to obtain illicit access to an organization’s network.

What is cyber fouling?

Cyber fouling occurs when an organization’s network accumulates unused account or devices that could lead to a vulnerability. Similar to landfills that attract scavenging birds, stale accounts and stale devices in a network can tempt attackers to pursue a cyberattack against your infrastructure.

  • Unused identities

Many organizations follow a proper process for decommissioning an employee’s device and account. However, 58% of organizations have more than 1,000 inactive user accounts, according to Varonis. Although inactive, these accounts still pose a risk. If an attacker manages to get their hands on one of these accounts, which typically are not or are rarely monitored, a cyberattack can result. 

  • Unused devices

Similar to user accounts, unused devices in a network can attract cyberattackers. For instance, an attacker can leverage unused network devices, such as routers, firewalls, etc., to either launch a DoS attack, or to keep a tab on the network activities.

Cleaning up the cyber mess 

It’s vital for any organization to clean up their cyberspace frequently, to avoid being compromised. For instance, every organization must have a proper offboarding process when an employee leaves. Their systems should be properly decommissioned and their accounts should be removed from the organization. Further, it is essential to ensure that any permissions or privileges associated with the account have been revoked.

Maintaining cyber hygiene is also essential to ensure the security of an organization’s network. Here are some best practices to help an organization keep their environment secure.

  1. Monitor the network continuously: One of the fundamentals for ensuring security of an organization’s network is to audit the network continuously and identify security incidents. However, doing this manually can be a tiresome task. Deploying a SIEM solution with the right features can help automate the process of detecting and responding to security incidents.

  2. Cleanup unused and inactive accounts: Identifying and addressing security vulnerabilities are key to reducing the number of entry points for attackers. This is critical, especially when there’s a continuous massing of unused devices and user accounts in an organization’s network.

  3. Establish a strong authentication mechanism: Authentication is essential to verify the identities of users. Establishing 2FA or MFA can help ensure that attackers cannot access the organization’s network using compromised user credentials. Establishing zero trust architecture can help reduce the possibilities of unauthenticated access.

  4. Conduct security audits regularly: Conducting security audits can help gain better visibility into the security loopholes of an organization’s network. Regular audits help organizations understand their current security posture and devise security strategies accordingly.

  1. Monitor related party interactions: Every organization will indulge in business with third-parties at some point in time. This increases the perimeter of an organization by a certain extent. Monitoring related-party interactions ensure that an organization stays vigilant of third-party activities.

  2. Ensure compliance: Complying with regulatory standards requires organizations to meet certain basic security requirements. Thus, by complying with these security standards, organizations can evade fines and ensure that their network is secured from attackers.

  3. Have a backup plan: No matter how strong an organization’s security posture is, it’s important to have a backup plan for if and when an attack happens. It is advisable to have multiple backups for critical and business-sensitive data.

In a nutshell, cyber fouling can lead to attracting unwanted attention to an organization’s network. It is important to practice cyber hygiene and clean up the network regularly to avoid intrusions from cyber scavengers.

Raghav Iyer
Sr. Product Marketing Specialist