The service desk is one of the most crucial elements of IT service delivery in an organization. If employees or customers face any difficulty, they’re the first point of contact to resolve the issue. An efficient service desk is a must-have for enhanced user experience. But if left unsecured, they can also present the biggest weakness to your organization’s cybersecurity.
Why do you need to secure your service desk?
In every organization, the service desk is the interface between the IT teams delivering the services and the end-users using them. The service desk also tends to be the first line of defense in case of a cyber attack. Being closely connected with the end-users and constantly monitoring the organization’s security infrastructure, the service desk team is likely to identify a threat first and take steps to mitigate it.
As such the service desk has access to workstations, mobile devices, routers, and servers, as well as the complete digital workplace system and the data associated with it. Therefore the service desk will be a valuable attack surface for potential bad actors targeting an organization.
The absence of robust cybersecurity measures can put this customer data and even customer devices at risk. Customers are becoming increasingly aware of data security and a data breach can significantly affect the organization’s reputation.
With organizations all over the world shifting to remote work, the service desk plays a crucial role in ensuring employees have the right tools to carry out their activities. And if the service desk becomes unavailable, it can bring the entire organization to a sudden stop.
The shift to remote/hybrid work and the widespread deployment of IoT and mobile devices have made organizations vulnerable, with some implementing return to office strategies and others looking to stay remote, or a mixture of both. The pandemic also saw more organizations moving towards a complete digital transformation, with a 2020 survey reporting that 94.5% of respondents were prioritizing digital transformation as a major cybersecurity initiative.
Besides the damages to the company’s assets, the organization may face further financial damage from a successful cyber attack. The organization may lose customers or clients as well as future business if the reputation takes a hit. And over the last couple of years, ransomware attacks that hold a company’s assets to ransom have been on the rise.
And on top of this, regulatory authorities may impose fines if the service desk is found to be non-compliant with industry regulations.
How can you ensure your service desk is compliant with industry security regulations?
To ensure that your service desk is compliant with the industry regulations, the first step is to identify the regulations that apply to your industry. Aside from the overall security regulations such as General Data Protection Act and ISO certifications, get a complete understanding of the industry-specific rules. For example, if you’re into fintech, PCI compliance may apply to you, and if you process patient data, HIPAA may apply to you.
The next step is to get an independent audit and find out the compliance weak spots in your IT service management (ITSM). This can help you understand where you stand in terms of various laws and regulations; where you need to make changes and help you assess your risks.
The next step is to develop a comprehensive plan to be compliant. Identify the changes need and assign ownership to team members. Make sure that every ITSM activity is documented and included in the compliance strategy.
The next step is to implement the plan. Restrict access to critical assets and make sure that customer data is stored and processed as required by the regulations. Ensure that the assets are maintained regularly and get security updates and patches. Implement mechanisms to ensure that all changes are thoroughly vetted to ensure regulatory compliance.
Once the compliance plan is implemented, develop mechanisms for regular audits and to ensure that the processes stay compliant.
But compliance doesn’t equal security. Here’s what you need to secure your IT service desk.
Five most important factors to ensure a secure service desk
1. Two-factor authentication
This is probably the easiest thing you can implement to make your service desk secure. Passwords are often the weakest point for attackers to target; most people use easy-to-remember simple passwords, and even the strongest passwords are only as good as the people who use them.
As an organization, you can (should) encourage your employees to use strong passwords and password managers, but even then they’re vulnerable to phishing or brute-force attacks. Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) of the US government have listed single-factor authentication as one of the three main risky cybersecurity behaviors. A 2021 report from Verizon found out that almost 61% of data breaches involved stolen credentials. And research suggests that with the tools hackers have now, password strengths don’t matter.
Two-factor authentication is an important part of any service desk tool, such as InvGate Service Desk. It adds an extra layer of protection to the service desk. Even if attackers gain access to passwords or credentials, the service desk would be safe. According to Microsoft, multi-factor authentication can block 99.9% of automated cyber-attacks.
2. Develop a robust cybersecurity strategy
To effectively secure your service desk, you need a strong cybersecurity strategy. Most organizations rely on a reactive cybersecurity strategy, responding to incidents and mitigating the damage. But you need a combination of proactive and reactive strategies to effectively mitigate cyber threats.
To cope with the threats associated with a distributed workforce and ransomware, most experts these days are recommending a zero-trust cybersecurity model.
Traditionally, the security approach was to verify or authenticate an entity just once; once they are authenticated and within the organization’s network they were trusted and given complete access. But this approach meant that if an attacker gained access to one system, they could move laterally through the entire network of the organization and create a lot of damage. And since the service desk is integrated with most systems of the organization, this approach can make the organization highly vulnerable.
With zero trust, the idea is to contain threats by not trusting entities even within the organization’s network. Entities are granted access only as needed, and they have to be verified again if they want to proceed further or access a different section. With this approach, even if a bad actor found a vulnerability and gained access to a section, the damage is limited.
3. Build a cybersecurity culture
Even with the best tools and cybersecurity experts, if you don’t invest in your team, it can be your biggest threat. Particularly in distributed organizations, team members can be vulnerable to social engineering attacks. For example, hackers have developed prompt bombing techniques to overcome multifactor authentication; the user is sent repeated multifactor authentication requests, in the hope that they will accidentally accept one of them.
To prevent such attacks, it's important to build a culture of cybersecurity at work and raise awareness among your team about potential cybersecurity threats and the consequences of a cyber-attack. Encourage healthy password habits and healthy cybersecurity behaviors among your employees.
4. Block unauthorized tools in the digital workplace
With the rapid digital transformation initiatives happening across the globe, shadow IT is one of the rising threats that organizations are facing. Employees often use tools that are not approved by the service desk to carry out their daily activities. These tools present unknown risks to the organization; even if they’re safe, their data collection and storage policies may not be aligned with your organization’s.
While the goal should be to eliminate unauthorized tools, it's important to understand why shadow IT happens. Employees aren’t knowingly putting the organization at risk; they just want to do their jobs better. Therefore instead of banning these tools or instituting penalties, it’s best to ensure the service desk processes requests for new tools quickly and ensure that the employees have the tools to do their job.
5. Use automation
With the wide range of threats that organizations face these days, it's simply not possible to find out and defend against them manually. With a robust service desk solution, you can automate threat management to a large extent.
You can also use automation to ensure that the devices get the latest security patches and software updates on time and ensure that the assets are functioning within the organization’s security policies.
Frequently asked questions
What is two-factor authentication?
Two-factor authentication is a combination of any two methods to verify the identity of a user. For example, to gain access to a website a user may be asked to enter their user name and password. If they’re correct, the website will send an OTP to their phone. The user can enter the website only once they enter the OTP. This is in contrast to single-factor authentication which uses only one verification method (commonly password).
Why is two-factor authentication necessary to secure a service desk?
Passwords alone are not enough to keep the service desk secure. More than half the security breaches happen due to stolen credentials. Even with strong and secure password habits, passwords alone present significant security risks.
What is meant by cybersecurity culture?
A cybersecurity culture essentially makes secure practices part of the organizational culture. Employees are encouraged and empowered to keep security a priority in their daily activities. The goal is to raise awareness about cybersecurity risks and prevent accidental cybersecurity issues.