The acronym for operations security is OPSEC. A security and risk management procedure called operational security (OPSEC) keeps private data out of the wrong hands. The US military uses this set of procedures to guard against information about their activities being compromised. The private sector has embraced these procedures to find weaknesses in the way they handle data.
Another definition of OPSEC is a method that finds seemingly innocent activities that can unintentionally give sensitive or important data to a cybercriminal. OPSEC encourages IT and security managers to see their operations and systems from the standpoint of a possible attacker. It is both a process and a strategy. It consists of analytical procedures and activities such as social media monitoring, behaviour tracking, and best practices for security. Security managers do OPSEC by viewing every business process from the viewpoint of the adversary. They look into everything, from social media monitoring to employee behaviour, to see how possible hackers can take advantage of weaknesses in the technology, software, and processes used by their company.
What is an Example of Operational Security?
An example of operational security is an organization implementing data classification processes to identify all sensitive data residing in its cloud computing environment. Information found to be sensitive could then be subject to more stringent access controls and end-to-end encryption to protect it from unauthorized use.
How did OPSEC come into the picture?
During the Vietnam War, a U.S. military unit known as Purple Dragon gave rise to OPSEC. The counterintelligence team realized that, even in the absence of intelligence assets to steal data or the ability to decrypt communications, enemies might predict the U.S.’s strategy and tactics. They concluded that the enemy was really receiving intelligence from the U.S. military. “The ability to keep knowledge of our strengths and weaknesses away from hostile forces” was Purple Dragon’s initial definition of OPSEC.
Since then, additional governmental organizations, including the Department of Defense, have included this OPSEC procedure in their attempts to safeguard trade secrets and national security. In addition, companies looking to safeguard client information employ it, as it plays a crucial role in assisting them with risk management, corporate espionage, and information security.
The Five Steps of Operational Security:
It is possible to cleanly group the procedures involved in operational security into five steps:
- Identify the sensitive information you have about your customers, employees, financial accounts, intellectual property, and product research. It is this data that you must concentrate your efforts on safeguarding.
- Determine potential dangers. It would help if you determined the types of hazards associated with each category of information that you consider sensitive. In addition to being cautious of outsiders attempting to obtain your information, you also need to be aware of internal dangers, such as careless staff members and unhappy employees.
- Examine weaknesses and other security flaws. Evaluate the security measures you have in place and identify any gaps or vulnerabilities that could allow someone to access your private information.
- Determine the degree of risk connected to every vulnerability. Sort your vulnerabilities according to importance by taking into account things like the possibility that an attack will occur, the harm that may be done, and the time and effort it would take to recover. The likelihood and severity of an attack will determine how important it is to prioritize risk mitigation.
- Implement preventative actions. Developing and executing a plan to get rid of threats and lessen risks is the final stage of operational security. This can entail changing your technology, drafting new guidelines for handling sensitive information or educating staff members on reasonable security procedures and corporate guidelines. Countermeasures ought to be uncomplicated. Workers must be capable of carrying out the necessary actions on their part.
What is OPSEC in Cybersecurity?
Organizations use operational security, or OPSEC, as a procedure to make sure that private data does not end up in the wrong hands. OPSEC finds activities that appear harmless but might unintentionally expose or leak private or sensitive information to a possible attacker.
IT and security administrators are urged by OPSEC to evaluate their systems and activities from the viewpoint of possible hackers. It involves applying analytical techniques and procedures such as social media and behaviour monitoring, as well as security best practices.
An example of when OPSEC fails:
The creator and administrator of Silk Road, a darknet bazaar that sold guns and drugs and was formerly thought to be the biggest at the time, is Ross Ulbricht. Ulbricht was referred to in Silk Road forums as the “Dread Pirate Roberts.” ULBRICHT made a number of operational security blunders in 2011, one of which was asking candidates to email Rossulbricht at gmail dot com in an attempt to find an “IT pro in the Bitcoin community” in a forum post. Ulbricht is incarcerated for life after committing multiple OPSEC violations that ultimately resulted in his arrest.
Why is the Importance of OPSEC?
OPSEC is significant because it pushes businesses to extensively examine the security threats they confront and identify possible weaknesses that a standard data security strategy would miss. IT and security teams may optimize both technical and non-technical processes with OPSEC security, which also lowers cyber risk and protects against malware-based assaults. The most valuable resource for many firms is data. Enterprises frequently gather and retain a diverse array of confidential data, such as client information, proprietary knowledge, and additional sensitive business data.
Cybercriminals view this data as a primary target due to its worth. Gaining access to and obtaining confidential information for use in further assaults or sales on the Dark Web is the primary goal of many cyber attacks. To stop sensitive or classified data from being accidentally or unintentionally disclosed, an efficient OPSEC program is essential. It helps companies keep information about their upcoming plans, capabilities, and actions private. To do this, though, requires an awareness of the nature of the information, its location, the degree of security it has, the consequences of its compromise, and the organization’s response. OPSEC’s main objective is to improve the security of sensitive data inside a company. It lowers the risk that company data and systems face by proactively detecting and fixing vulnerabilities and creating defenses against possible attackers.
Best Practices for Good OPSEC:
Basics for everyone:
- Choose secure and distinctive passwords. Don’t make passwords using the names of your spouse, children, pets, or other people.
- Keep a password diary or use a password manager.
- Turn on two-factor authentication in your email and social media accounts.
- Update all of your device’s software and apps to the most recent versions.
- Use webcam covers and privacy filters; use encrypted email services like Proton Mail; use encrypted cloud storage like Proton Drive; modify privacy settings on social media sites; use a secure search engine like search.brave.com or startpage.com; activate screen lock when not in use; don’t leave your device unattended.
- In order to securely access public WiFi at coffee shops, hotels, and airports, use a virtual private network, or VPN. Examine the permissions that programs request prior to downloading. Inform yourself, your loved ones, and your friends about online security and privacy.
OPSEC and risk management
In order to spot flaws, OPSEC advises managers to look at operations and projects from the outside, from the viewpoint of rivals or adversaries. Outside enemies are likely to be able to do the same if an organization can obtain its information while posing as an outsider. Finding weaknesses requires routinely doing risk assessments.
The ability to recognize risks and vulnerabilities before they materialize is a critical component of risk management. OPSEC forces managers to conduct thorough investigations into their operations and identify potential points of compromise for sensitive data. Managers can identify vulnerabilities they might have missed and put in place the proper OPSEC procedures to secure sensitive data by viewing operations from the viewpoint of a malicious actor.