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The User Security Triad: A Tactical Approach to Cybersecurity for Small and Medium Businesses

In the realm of cybersecurity, the human element often emerges as the weakest link. Small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs), in their journey towards digital transformation, must recognize and fortify this aspect. The "User Security Triad", a concept born from extensive experience in network protection and incident management, serves as a cornerstone in this endeavor.

I lost count a long time ago of organizations I have helped recover from cyber breaches, because one (or all three) of these practices was not in place. In almost every case, having all three would have been free or incredibly inexpensive. Finally, in almost every case, having all three would have stopped the breach.

With no further ado, I introduce what I call the "User Security Triad".

Ok I lied, one more uhhh, ado. The links in this article are NOT affiliate links. I have no association with these products, but I have thoroughly tested and used them and recommend them in hopes of saving you time and money.

Element One.

Active Directory/Directory Auditing

The Necessity for Regular Audits

Active Directory is the linchpin in managing network permissions and access. Regular AD audits are crucial for identifying misconfigurations, dormant accounts, and excessive permissions, all of which pose significant security risks.

Best Practices for AD Reviews

Effective AD management includes routine cleanup, vigilant monitoring of Group Policy alterations, and meticulous tracking of user account activities. These practices ensure that access rights align with current user roles and responsibilities.

Automating AD Reviews

Utilizing automation tools and scripts can massively enhance the efficiency and accuracy of AD reviews, reducing the likelihood of human error and ensuring a consistent review process. The best part is, there are MANY free tools that can do this for you. Two of my favorites are Forrest Druid and Purple Knight, both free and both incredibly useful for finding directory issues that can lead to a breach.

Element Two.

Universal Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

Understanding MFA

Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA) is a security system that requires more than one method of authentication from independent categories of credentials to verify the user's identity for a login or other transaction. This approach moves beyond the traditional password-only model, which is vulnerable to being guessed, stolen, or cracked through easy to find software. Bottom line, passwords are quickly becoming obsolete.

Benefits of Universal MFA

By requiring multiple forms of verification for system access, it drastically lowers the risk of common cyber-attacks such as phishing and credential stuffing. With modern computing passwords can be easily compromised, so MFA serves as a critical safeguard. It ensures that even if a password is breached, unauthorized users are still barred from accessing sensitive systems and data. This not only enhances overall security but also instills a greater sense of trust among clients and stakeholders, knowing that robust measures are in place to protect their valuable information.

Implementing MFA Across Platforms

The implementation of MFA across various platforms necessitates a strategic approach that harmonizes robust security with user convenience. The key is to integrate MFA in a manner that is both seamless and effective, minimizing disruption to the user experience. This involves selecting the right combination of authentication factors – from SMS codes and email links to biometrics and app-based tokens – that align with the specific needs and capabilities of each platform. Remember, it has to fit within the business and operational model you are working within! If you are looking for a single platform solution that starts at free and scales way beyond the basics for a few bucks per user, I recommend DUO MFA by Cisco, and use it with my clients.

Element Three.

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)

Fundamentals of EDR

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) tools, what we often think of as "anti-virus software" are crucial for real-time threat monitoring and response at the endpoint level. They collect and analyze data to identify security incidents, effectively detecting a range of threats from malware to sophisticated attacks. EDR's role in a security strategy is critical, offering early detection, incident response insights, and aiding in future threat prevention.

Strategic Deployment of EDR Deploying EDR solutions effectively involves ensuring comprehensive threat detection across workstations without compromising system performance. This requires selecting EDR tools that integrate well with existing infrastructure and configuring them to provide effective protection without overwhelming alert generation. The aim is to balance robust security with operational efficiency, and again, not burden your users. Integrating EDR with Other Security Measures One fun trick is to find an EDR that can integrate with your other network elements and security tools or can perform more than just virus protection. Some for example can constantly talk with your firewall or VPN, and deny access to compromised systems, automatically. Others can assist with key compliance controls, such as USB device control and enforcing endpoint encryption. The goal is to maximize the ROI and minimize the user impact. For my clients, I recommend Malwarebytes. There is a free version for home users, and their fully managed (MDR) solution is incredibly affordable and packs key features.

Conclusion: Beyond the Triad

While the User Security Triad lays a solid foundation for defending against user-targeted threats, it is best implemented as part of a broader cybersecurity strategy. That said, it is a great starting point and should be considered the bare minimum for any SMB.

Creating a Unified Defense Strategy

The integration of AD reviews, universal MFA, and workstation EDR forms a comprehensive defense strategy, crucial for preventing unauthorized access and rapidly addressing threats. This multi-layered approach ensures that security is maintained at various levels, from user authentication to endpoint protection.

Policy and Culture

Developing strong policies and fostering a security-aware culture are key to the success of the User Security Triad. It's vital to educate users about security best practices and consistently reinforce the importance of adhering to these protocols.

Implementing the User Security Triad

Implementing the User Security Triad involves careful planning, effective execution, and regular refinement. Businesses should consider practical steps for integrating these security measures, focusing on seamless deployment and continuous improvement.

Challenges and Considerations

While implementing the User Security Triad, businesses may face challenges like user resistance to MFA or the complexities of EDR solutions. Addressing these issues requires clear communication, user training, and choosing user-friendly yet effective security solutions.

The User Security Triad is a foundational element in a broader cybersecurity strategy. It's crucial for businesses to not only implement this triad but also consider additional security measures to build a more comprehensive and resilient defense against cyber threats. If any of these items feel beyond the scope of your comfort zone, please reach out to me at and I will be happy to provide advice.

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