White House Urges Companies to Prepare for Cyberattacks

Deputy National Security Advisor Responds to Growing National Security Threats

June 22, 2021
The White House in Washington, D.C. during the summer
A White House memo emphasized the importance of strong cybersecurity protections for companies and government agencies.

The White House issued a strongly worded memo earlier this month about the need for companies to protect themselves from ransomware. The memo was sent from Anne Neuberger, Deputy Assistant to the President and Deputy National Security Adviser for Cyber and Emerging Technology, and Lander College of Arts and Sciences (LAS) alumnus. The document was issued in response to the recent spate of high-profile ransomware hacks and offered some first step best practices for organizations to protect themselves.

“All organizations must recognize that no company is safe from being targeted by ransomware, regardless of size or location,” the memo stated. “Under President Biden’s leadership, the Federal Government is stepping up to do its’ part, working with like-minded partners around the world to disrupt and deter ransomware actors. These efforts include disrupting ransomware networks, working with international partners to hold countries that harbor ransomware actors accountable, developing cohesive and consistent policies towards ransom payments and enabling rapid tracing and interdiction of virtual currency proceeds.”

Touro College Illinois Cybersecurity Program Director Joe Giordano praised the memo. “The Neuberger memo is right on target, and if organizations adhere to her best practice recommendations, they can begin to close the door on these attacks,” he said. “Vigilance, thoroughness, best practices, proven technology, exercised plans and procedures, and taking cybersecurity seriously are what is needed now.”

Five Cybersecurity Best Practices

In the memo, Neuberger highlights the most crucial best practices businesses should follow:

Backing Up Data and Keeping Backups Offline

Keeping backups offline and testing them regularly is vital as ransomware operators typically encrypt or delete backups. In case of a ransomware attack, having an offline backup ensures that your organization can easily bring systems back online.

Update and Patching Systems Promptly

Maintaining and updating the security of operating systems and firmware can prevent many bad actors from accessing unpatched security loopholes. The memo advises the use of a centralized patch management system.

Test Incident Response Plan

“There’s nothing that shows the gap in plans more than testing,” the memo explains. Businesses should ask core questions to complete an incident response plan. Can a business continue without access to certain systems? How long? If a business system was turned offline, what happens to other operations?

Using a Third-Party to Test Security Team’s Work

Having a third party test the security of your system is a surefire way to find your system’s vulnerabilities. “Many ransomware criminals are aggressive and sophisticated and will find the equivalent of unlocked doors,” the memo states.

Segmenting Networks

The memo notes that recent ransomware operations have shifted from stealing data to operation disruption. By separating business and manufacturing/production operations, companies can limit internet access to networks, identity connections, and develop workarounds in case of a hack, ensuring that if the worst-case scenario ransomware attack occurs, critical functions can continue unimpeded.

A Dire Need for Cybersecurity Efforts

There are two key components necessary to address this issue. One is that companies need to take cybersecurity seriously and invest in it with adequate resources. Secondly, there needs to be more highly educated cybersecurity experts ready to address the scourge of ransomware attacks we’re currently facing.

Unlike some other STEM fields, a cybersecurity bootcamp and certification is sometimes all that’s needed to get started in the field. But of course, completing a graduate certificate program is one of the best ways to qualify for relevant job opportunities. The Touro College Illinois graduate certificate program in cybersecurity for healthcare addresses the critical needs of the sector. We can prepare you with the cybersecurity knowledge that’s relevant today, and help you join this growing field.