Security Breach at a Professional Services Firm
In the professional services world, a 25-person business consulting firm in our portfolio might not seem like an obvious target for cyber attackers. With a culture of trust and a belief in the relative security of being “too small to be a target,” they only had basic security measures in place. This included antivirus software, a corporate-grade firewall, and air-gapped server backups.
Their perceived immunity to cyber threats was shattered when user clicked a malicious link and downloaded an attachment. A few days later, the entire network was encrypted. Their operations were disrupted, and days of work were lost. Luckily, thanks to the air-gapped backups, we were able to restore the servers within half a day. Additionally, we rebuilt each workstation from scratch, and with a dedicated team, had them up and running by the end of the day.
This cyber attack was a wake-up call and marked the turning point in the firm’s approach to cybersecurity. They understood that being “too small” does not mean being safe. On the contrary, small businesses can be appealing targets precisely because their security measures often aren’t as robust as those of larger corporations.
This incident led to a radical overhaul of the firm’s security posture. We introduced them to our “Onset Red” classification — a structured, thorough set of security practices inspired by the NIST 800-171 guidelines but tailored for our clients. We deployed a modified set of Group Policy Objects (GPOs) based on those provided by the DoD Cyber Exchange and implemented other key aspects of NIST 800-171. Additionally, we addressed other potential attack vectors and disaster scenarios, implementing strategies to mitigate these risks and plans to recover if they materialized.
There were initial apprehensions about the cost and perceived impact on workflow. But experiencing a ransomware attack that brought down the entire company rapidly changed their opinions. The firm came to understand that investing in robust cybersecurity measures is far less costly than recovering from a successful attack.
The benefits of the transition to “Onset Red” were immediate and significant. Since its implementation, the firm has not experienced any major security incidents, and the number of support calls we receive from them has decreased significantly. Moreover, the firm’s enhanced security credentials are likely to increase trust and confidence among their clients, underscoring their commitment to protecting sensitive data.
This case study serves as a stark reminder that cybersecurity is not a luxury but a necessity for businesses of all sizes. It also highlights the value of proactive measures and the role managed IT services can play in ensuring businesses are well-protected against evolving cyber threats. In the world of IT, being “too small” is never a reason to compromise on security.
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