As the nation moves closer to the 2020 election, election campaigns are gearing up to get their voters’ attention. However, these political efforts may also be attracting attention from malicious cyber attackers. Experts agree that many political campaigns are lacking when it comes to cybersecurity best practices, and failure to keep pace with modern security needs is a growing problem.
Keeping systems secure against possible election hacking should be a priority for candidates and their campaigns. For attackers, political campaigns are easy targets for a number of reasons. The combination of a fast-paced environment, rapid growth and budget constraints can impede the development of good cyber hygiene practices. With modern cybersecurity tools and services, political campaigns can achieve a greater level of security and help reduce their risks.
Cyber Hygiene for Election Campaigns
Around 70 percent of all data breaches originate on an endpoint, and 80 percent of all data breaches involve a known vulnerability. Unpatched endpoints are a clear risk to any organization’s cybersecurity, including an election campaign. Implementing a patch management routine is considered a core element of good cyber hygiene practices.
Many election campaigns face challenges when it comes to adhering to cyber hygiene best practices, such as dealing with rapid expansion and tight budget constraints. Defending Digital Campaigns (DDC) is a non-profit organization dedicated to providing election campaigns with access to the cybersecurity tools, services and other resources they need to safeguard against cyber threats.
Many companies, like Automox, have teamed up with DDC to help election campaigns achieve a greater level of cybersecurity. As an automated, cloud-native patch management platform, Automox provides users with full endpoint visibility, as well as the ability to track and patch remote devices. The cross-platform patch management tool makes it possible for users to patch for multiple operating systems as well as third-party applications, and offers extensibility and scalability to meet the needs of rapidly growing operations.
Endpoint Hardening for Better Cyber Hygiene
Insufficient cyber hygiene practices can leave doors wide open to attackers. Unprotected endpoints are regarded as “low-hanging fruit,” even for novice attackers. An estimated 80 percent of all data breaches involve the exploitation of a known vulnerability and election endpoints will be no different.
Because of this, endpoints are an area of particular concern for political campaign security. While many efforts are focused on password security and safeguarding against phishing emails, endpoints are popular targets for attackers and should be secured. Endpoints are end-user devices, such as laptops, desktops and tablets. Some devices are roaming or remote endpoints, which means they may be off-site or off-network. These are all devices that campaign staffers may find themselves using regularly and patching these endpoints is a necessary step in cyber hygiene best practices.
Patching endpoints on a regular basis is one of the key elements of good cyber hygiene. Deploying patches, or security updates, helps minimize the attack surface and reduces the risk of a cyber vulnerability getting exploited.
Cyber hygiene best practices also dictate that organizations should have a complete inventory of everything on their systems -- from roaming devices to third party applications. Knowing what needs to be protected is essential for maintaining cyber hygiene best practices, and is a critical element of a good patch management and endpoint hardening routine.
Why Are Remote Endpoints at Risk?
In political campaigns, it’s common for staffers to rely on their own personal devices (like laptops) to get work done. These endpoints are constantly on the move, going from campaign headquarters and to local events, and then back to staffers’ homes. Devices that are getting used remotely are known as roaming or remote endpoints. With current events as they are, election campaigns are increasingly shifting to virtual spaces to get work done. Whether staffers are collaborating online or working on digital ad campaigns, the election campaign sphere is changing shape. As election campaigns shift into digital environments and remote work, they may need to reevaluate their cybersecurity efforts and how they manage endpoints.
Remote or roaming endpoints present a unique challenge to IT staff, particularly if visibility over these endpoints is limited. In general, endpoints are a common target for attackers; cyber vulnerabilities in OS or third party software that go unpatched are low-hanging fruit, even for novice attackers. Without full endpoint visibility, IT staffers may not be able to accurately assess the security status of an endpoint -- or worse, they may not even know it exists. This means that critical vulnerabilities can go unresolved, leaving the door wide open for exploitation.
In addition to limitations in visibility, remote endpoints may not be getting updated as often as required. Currently, VPN is the most common choice for authenticating and securing remote devices. However, VPNs are often limited in their ability to handle sudden increases in traffic and may not have the bandwidth necessary to handle the needs of a fully remote campaign program, for example. Ultimately, this can lead to disruptions in users’ ability to connect -- and potentially, enough frustration that staffers start refusing to use the VPN regularly. If that’s the case, their devices may not be receiving necessary security updates on a regular basis.
Managing Remote Endpoints with Cloud-Based Tools
A VPN, or virtual private network, has long been the standard for managing remote devices and connecting remote workers to their organizations’ infrastructure. A VPN gives organizations the ability to extend a private network over a public network, ensuring that traffic stays encrypted. This legacy option provides a strong, but limited, way for organizations to authenticate users and give them access to private infrastructure.
However, VPNs have their drawbacks. The digital landscape has changed significantly since VPNs made their debut, and the needs of the remote workforce have shifted. While secure, VPNs are limited by bandwidth. These limitations can cause slow connections and during times when the remote workforce is expanding rapidly, VPN will certainly be put to the test. In some cases, remote workers may not be able to connect to the VPN at all and this can lead to a tremendous amount of frustration. VPNs are also known for being costly, requiring both licensing fees and friction fees.
Relying on VPN to provide remote devices with necessary security updates can be challenging; slow connections can frustrate remote workers to the point where they delay connecting their devices to the VPN for as long as possible. If VPN is your chosen route of deploying updates, remote or roaming endpoints might not be receiving patches in a timely manner. Applying patches quickly is a tenet of cyber hygiene best practices. Attackers can weaponize a new vulnerability in as little as seven days and zero-day vulnerabilities have already been weaponized at the time of disclosure.
Cloud-based cyber hygiene tools, like Automox, make it possible for organizations to patch remote or roaming endpoints without a VPN. Cloud-native solutions are more cost-effective and can meet the security needs of organizations (and election campaigns) of any size.
Why Choose an Automated Cyber Hygiene Solution?
Automated cyber hygiene tools like Automox provide users with a high-performance alternative to legacy security options at a fraction of the cost. With Automox, users can create an inventory of all the devices on their systems, have full visibility over remote or roaming endpoints, deploy patches and remediate vulnerabilities -- all from a single dashboard. The cross-platform patching solution can also patch across multiple operating systems, as well as third party applications.
Legacy options, like VPN and on-premise patching platforms, are limited in their ability to meet the needs of the modern workforce. These solutions are dinosaurs in today’s digital landscape, and while they have their place, they may not always be the best fit. On-premise patching solutions, for example, often have limitations when it comes to patching remote devices or alternative operating systems. These limitations can impede the patching process, and can also make it difficult to track the patch status of endpoints.
Cloud-native, automated cyber hygiene solutions like Automox can streamline the process of managing and securing endpoints, no matter where they’re located. Modern cybersecurity solutions can help campaigns safeguard against potential cyber threats by meeting their security needs with less hassle and without overbearing costs.
About Automox Automated Patch Management
Facing growing threats and a rapidly expanding attack surface, understaffed and alert-fatigued organizations need more efficient ways to eliminate their exposure to vulnerabilities. Automox is a modern cyber hygiene platform that closes the aperture of attack by more than 80% with just half the effort of traditional solutions.
Cloud-native and globally available, Automox enforces OS & third-party patch management, security configurations, and custom scripting across Windows, macOS, and Linux from a single intuitive console. IT and SecOps can quickly gain control and share visibility of on-prem, remote and virtual endpoints without the need to deploy costly infrastructure.
Experience modern, cloud-native patch management today with a 15-day free trial of Automox and start recapturing more than half the time you're currently spending on managing your attack surface. Automox dramatically reduces corporate risk while raising operational efficiency to deliver best-in-class security outcomes, faster and with fewer resources.