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CyberSAR

Protecting Eurasian Civil Society

We live in a time of greatly heightened security awareness, following wave after wave of global malware attacks. However, cyber vulnerability has remained an everyday reality for civil society actors across the Eurasia region. From Central Asia to the southern Balkans, human rights defenders and journalists have been targeted because of their work. While the severity and magnitude of the phenomena vary between countries, such actors nonetheless encounter an array of intrusions into their on- and off-line security.

Cyber breaches can have significant consequences for the day-to-day work and safety of at-risk civil society organizations. Spyware exposes confidential communications, networks and identities. Malware damages data, networks and devices. Staff use of social media and mobile devices can cause significant, unintended information breaches. The loss of confidential information can put programming, staff and partner/beneficiary networks at extreme risk.

In response to these challenges the Cyber Security Audit and Remediation (‘CyberSAR’) project is a two-year effort that offers cutting-edge digital safety research and support for high-risk civil society organizations across the Eurasia region. CyberSAR strives to measurably reduce the cyber vulnerabilities of selected high-risk organizations through a combination of security audits, real-time remediation of threats and risks to communication devices, extended training, and policy support.

The CyberSAR process has 8 steps summarized in the diagram overleaf. These protective measures are provided by highly-experienced CyberSAR experts deployed in the field. The overriding priority is to help beneficiaries protect their data, identities and operations online, and to confidently use communications devices. The project also seeks to generate and disseminate evidence-based research on the Eurasian cyber risk/threat environment for civil society in the region. The project will produce and disseminate real-time cyber security alerts, analytical bulletins and technical advice.

The CyberSAR Security and Remediation Audit Process

  1. PRE-AUDIT SURVEY
    Once your organization has agreed to participate in the audit process we will ask selected staff members to complete a pre-audit survey (either on- or offline). This information will allow the SecDev team to familiarize itself with your organization’s overall digital security and related capacities and priorities.
  2. VULNERABILITY ASSESSMENT
    The VA maps out and examines your organization’s online presence (i.e. through its website and staff use of social media) to determine if private or sensitive information is being exposed which, in the hands of an unfriendly party, could be dangerous. We will provide guidance on how to fix any problems, including through hands-on remediation.
  3. ‘FRIENDLY PHISH’ EXERCISE
    A simulated phishing link with a socially engineered message (completely harmless) will be sent by email to your staff in order to test your organization’s vulnerability to phishing attempts. This will be followed up with hands-on training.
  4. ON-SITE ASSESSMENT & REAL-TIME REMEDIATION
    Our team of digital security experts will visit your organization and conduct an on-site assessment of your digital security practices and procedures. Key easy-to-fix vulnerabilities will be addressed in real-time through hands-on remediation.
  5. POST-AUDIT DISCUSSION
    The site visit will conclude with a verbal briefing of the main findings, highlighting any critical digital security risks and sketching-out follow-up action. We will attempt to provide remediation for any pressing security risks on the spot.
  6. FINAL REPORT AND RECOMMENDATIONS
    Shortly afterwards, the SecDev team will deliver a concise report describing the current state of your organization’s cyber security. It will identify the most important cyber security deficiencies and provide practical recommendations to resolve them as well as a follow-up support/training plan.
  7. POST-AUDIT REMEDIATION & FOLLOW-UP TRAINING
    In the period after the audit, the team will work with you to resolve any cyber security issues highlighted in the report and to train staff to implement good digital practices and develop simple organizational policies. The team will also be on-hand to provide ongoing technical support and advice as any threats emerge.
  8. SIX-MONTH CHECK-IN
    Approximately six months after the initial audit the SecDev team will conduct a follow-up visit to your organization to determine whether key digital security policies and practices are still in place and good digital hygiene is being practised by staff.

For further information about the project please contact the
CyberSAR Senior Program Manager, Matthew Pringle

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