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7 Cloud Security Best Practices for Amazon Web Services

AWS cloud security best practices

Temporary and permanent storage of data in the cloud has grown in popularity over the years. Companies like Land O’Lakes and Boeing moved their information to the cloud last year to simplify the technology they used. Video-streaming behemoth Netflix finished their journey to the cloud in early 2016 after seven years of moving systems and customer services to Amazon Web Services (AWS).

What inspired this change from on-premises storage to the cloud? Ease of use and implementation, the cost-effectiveness of the cloud over having to maintain physical servers, and worldwide access to cloud storage without being dependent on a single network or location are just a few of the positives that encourage companies to migrate. Some cloud providers, like AWS, can even scale in either direction to support growing business needs—meaning you only pay for what you use.

This transition to the cloud brings a new set of security risks to the table, though. According to Digital Guardian, you lose some control over sensitive company data once you put it in the cloud, since that data is transferred to the cloud provider, versus stored on-premises. To prevent interception of data while stored or transferred within the cloud, companies should ensure they are encrypting files during storage and transit using a managed file transfer solution like GoAnywhere MFT. The cloud also allows personal devices to connect to and interact with data, and this has its own positives (flexibility in cloud use) and negatives (compromised information if a connected device is stolen or hacked).

Amazon Web Services markets itself as a “secure cloud services platform, offering compute power, database storage, content delivery and other functionality to help businesses scale and grow.” As companies move to AWS for their cloud storage needs, they’ll have the opportunity to increase their productivity and reliability as long as they maintain best practices for cloud security.

If you’re getting ready to move your data to Amazon Web Services or already have, here are seven best practices for AWS we recommend to get the most out of your cloud security.

1. Document your AWS processes and procedures, then keep them updated

Imagine you have a very specific file structure set up in the cloud, complete with categorical folders that are protected by different levels of permission. You know that all company sales data should go in a specific folder, but a coworker, though meaning well, doesn’t know and decides to transfer sales data to a different, unprotected folder. Chaos ensues.

To avoid this type of confusion, create consistent cloud practices everyone can follow. Document your AWS processes and procedures. Store them in a common space that the organization can access, like a shared drive on the internal network. And update the document every time something changes in your cloud approach to help coworkers, stakeholders, third party vendors, and trading partners remain on the same page.

2. Use AWS CloudTrail to track your AWS usage

Understanding what actions users take in the cloud is an important step toward keeping your data secure and in the hands of those you trust. Use an AWS service like Amazon CloudTrail to anticipate and prevent security vulnerabilities in the cloud through “governance, compliance, operational auditing, and risk auditing of your AWS account”.

AWS CloudTrail can do the following tasks, and more:

  • Create API call history logs
  • Record when objects or data are created, read, or modified
  • Calculate and give you risk reports on your cloud storage account
  • Determine who makes changes to your cloud storage infrastructure
  • Track who logs in to your accounts (including successful and failed login attempts)

3. Complete risk assessments as often as possible

Even though the cloud is run by Amazon Web Services, both AWS and your organization are responsible for making sure nothing falls through the cracks. This includes maintaining “adequate governance over the entire IT control environment regardless of how IT is deployed” and having “an understanding of required compliance objectives and requirements,” among other things.

AWS completes and publishes risk assessments for their services, and you should do the same for the data you’ve stored in the cloud. Each time you give a new key player (including third party vendors and trading partners) access to your AWS cloud storage, walk through the following steps:

  1. Review the risks you currently know about and ensure they’re still being addressed
  2. Identify and add new risk scenarios to your list. Plan for how to tackle them
  3. Identify the key players who have access to AWS and ensure they’re following standard security hygiene
  4. Assess your AWS account. Make sure your settings, policies, and security are still relevant
  5. Consider the steps you should take next to manage your data and prevent future risk

Remember, risk assessment is an ongoing process that allows you to find and address security concerns in your infrastructure. Since storing data in the cloud takes away some of your control over sensitive company information by not being on-premises, it’s vital you complete assessments often to keep on top of potential security gaps and vulnerabilities.

4. Follow standard security hygiene for host and guest systems

Practicing standard security hygiene is one of the easiest ways to keep your data protected. These habits should become second nature, just like washing your hands or brushing your teeth, and will benefit you immensely without requiring much time or resources.

Enable multi-factor authentication for all accounts

Amazon Web Service’s MFA requires a user to provide two pieces of information to prove they’re authentic. The first piece is knowledge (something you know, your login credentials), the second is possession (something you have, an authentication code sent to an AWS MFA enabled device). Just enable multi-factor authentication for your AWS accounts to get an immediate boost in security.

Remove privileges from defunct accounts

When an employee, trading partner, or third party vendor leaves the relationship, clean out their account and delete any privileges they were given. This removes the temptation for a renegade player—or a hacker guessing at passwords and emails—to return at a later date and compromise sensitive company information.

Disable password-only access for guests

Even guest accounts should use multi-factor authentication wherever possible, even if they have limited authorities and privileges.

5. Manage and review AWS accounts, users, groups, and roles

Every so often, we recommend you review your AWS accounts, users, groups, and roles to gain a proper overview of the privileges and permissions they have. Are any of these stagnant or similar to other setups? Consider combining them. Are any of them no longer necessary? Limit the clutter. The less overlap there is, the better.

Administrators of Amazon Web Services accounts should pay special attention to the permissions listed for their S3 buckets. Several different types of access can be given to users, including list, upload, delete, view, and edit. A bucket can also be set to viewable for AWS account holders or anonymous users, which may cause high risk depending on the files in the bucket, so make sure to review your S3 buckets and permissions to avoid potential security pitfalls.

The bottom line? Provide your accounts, users, groups, and roles with the least amount of privileges they need to function. If someone needs temporary access, it’s better to add them in as they’re required and remove them right after to avoid information falling into the wrong hands.

6. Protect your access and encryption keys

If you’re using AWS to store your data in the cloud, you’re bound to have access keys and encryption keys. Access keys help AWS verify your identity against your login attempt and give you access to the resources you’ve been given. Users with different access keys may not be able to see the same things you do, so it’s imperative you keep your keys safe.

Similarly, encryption keys are used to encrypt and decrypt data. Since they unlock sensitive information, keep them separate from your data. This best practice is especially important for companies who need to comply with regulations like HIPAA, FISMA, and PCI DSS. “Essentially, the compliance requirements all say the same thing,” writes Luke Probasco for Pantheon, “encryption keys should never reside in the same environment or server as the encrypted data. This is a technical way of saying, don’t leave your key under the doormat a hacker walks in over.”

Here are just a few ways to keep your access and encryption keys safe:

  • Periodically delete any unused keys
  • Use temporary access keys instead of permanent ones wherever possible. This way, if an attacker compromises an account or discovers a user’s credentials, their access will be time-sensitive
  • Watch the encryption key life cycle and make sure new ones are properly saved and secured
  • Create procedures for worst case scenarios in the event a key is lost or tampered with

An easy way to protect your keys is to use AWS Key Management Services, the service Amazon offers that “makes it easy for you to create and control the encryption keys used to encrypt your data.” AWS KMS even integrates with AWS CloudTrail, Amazon’s log auditing service, so you can view logs of your key usage.

7. Secure your data at rest and in transit

When moving data between your network and the cloud, always encrypt your files and protect your communication using SFTP, FTPS, or SCP. Furthermore, keep them encrypted even when they’re at rest, sitting in an AWS S3 bucket or on a server. You can choose to encrypt single files or entire folders depending on your needs.

A managed file transfer solution can encrypt your files both ways using modern encryption methods. Good MFT software will help you stay up-to-date as encryption standards change over time, while also making sure your data transfers are easy to manage and audit.

GoAnywhere MFT, our managed file transfer solution, integrates with Amazon Web Services in a variety of ways. To learn how GoAnywhere MFT can meet your cloud needs, check out our Amazon EC2 platform page or request a demo.

 


Can HIPAA Certified Solutions Really Guarantee Compliance?

achieving HIPAA compliance

When searching for a new healthcare solution to meet your organization’s needs, it’s easy to see the labels “HIPAA Certified” or “HIPAA Compliant” and believe your bases are covered. After all, “HIPAA Certified” means the product or application follows HIPAA’s privacy rules and has everything in place to protect your health and patient information, right?

Unfortunately, no. While such a certification could be useful for organizations in the future, giving them peace of mind during the stressful process of shopping for new solutions, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Resources (HSS) “does not contemplate certification of HIPAA compliance, nor does it authorize any third party to provide an “official” certification,” reports this recent article from HealthData Management. This means businesses that tout their products as compliant or certified can do so—but can’t enforce the claim as legally true.

If you see a solution that’s labeled “HIPAA Certified,” you can still consider it as a viable option, just do so carefully. Businesses often use these terms as a simple way to say “we meet all of HIPAA’s rules and regulations in our given field, and we can help you take steps toward full compliance.” But they can’t guarantee their product will make you compliant, and ultimately the responsibility to become and remain compliant rests on you and your organization.

Rob Reinhardt, owner of Tame Your Practice, a company that provides consulting to mental health and wellness professionals, says this of “HIPAA Certified” solutions: “You cannot maintain HIPAA compliance by simply “only purchasing HIPAA compliant stuff.” Only Covered Entities and Business Associates can be compliant. They do so by following all of the requirements of HIPAA and HITECH, which are extensive.” Covered Entities are health care providers, like doctors and psychologists, health plans, like health insurance companies or government plans, or health care clearinghouses. Business Associates are people or businesses that help Covered Entities carry out their daily functions.

Are you shopping for a solution that will support your business processes and bring you one step closer to full HIPAA compliance? To make the search less painful, here are a couple tips we recommend following when vetting potential companies.

1. Read the Fine Print

When you come across a product that is labeled certified or compliant, read the fine print to see exactly what they’re offering you. Make sure they clearly list what they’ll do to help your organization achieve HIPAA compliance, and be wary of  any company that hides this information or won’t give it to you. We also recommend you think carefully before purchasing software from a business that’s been declared HIPAA compliant by a third party. Just because someone else says they’re compliant doesn’t mean they are.

2. Ask the Right Questions

Go into the conversation or demo with a list of questions you need answered. Here are a few we recommend to get you started:

  • Do you have a clear outline of how your product will help me become HIPAA compliant?
  • Do you have a HIPAA compliance checklist I can see?
  • How does the product encrypt sensitive data?
  • Can it run audit reports of data access and movement?
  • What level of expertise does your business have with HIPAA and HITECH?
  • Do you have a HIPAA specialist on staff that I could talk to?

In the end, finding a solution that matches your needs shouldn’t be difficult. It should be easy. Just remember: the right solution will help you in your journey to HIPAA compliance, not guarantee it. Only you can do that—by making sure your organization meets all HIPAA regulations.

Looking for a managed file transfer solution that can help your organization meet several key HIPAA and HITECH requirements via a managed, centralized, and auditable environment? Our solution, GoAnywhere MFT, may be right for you.

To learn more, download our white paper, How Managed File Transfer Addresses HIPAA Requirements for ePHI, or view our HIPAA and HITECH solutions brief.

 


Why You Should Implement a Third Party Vendor Assessment Program

  third party vendor assessment program

Third party vendors are incredibly useful. They allow businesses to automate certain processes they can’t do themselves, like implement payroll services to compensate employees, and bridge gaps in their technology. But while the money, time, and brainpower freed up by outsourcing tasks is a huge positive, third party vendors have their downsides. There must be a mutual agreement between all parties involved regarding security best practices. And sadly, that’s rarely a main focus, causing high risk to creep in where you least expect it.

As security concerns skyrocket, with data breaches happening to organizations of all sizes in all industries, IT and security teams are searching for ways to be proactive in their cybersecurity plans. Security awareness programs and carefully documented policies are a good start. But there’s no better way to prevent future security vulnerabilities than by starting with one of the biggest risks a company can have: careless outside players.

READ MORE: The Benefit of Empowered Employees: Why a Good Security Awareness Program Matters

“Security breaches attributed to third-party partners are increasing,” explains Paul Dusini, Information Assurance Manager at business management consulting company NuHarbor Security. “The number of data breaches attributed to third-party vendors increased by 22% since 2015.” And such frequency only continues to rise.

“Security breaches attributed to third-party partners are increasing. The number of data breaches attributed to third-party vendors increased by 22% since 2015.”

In fact, one of the biggest data breaches of this decade, Target Corporation in 2013, was thanks to unsecure third party vendors. A recent news report from American Banker states that “hackers first breached one of the retailers’ heating and air conditioning vendors, and from there, through a billing system, broke into Target’s servers to steal data on 40 million credit and debit cards and personally identifiable information of 70 million shoppers.”

Why aren’t third party vendors reviewed more often to prevent these kind of breaches? Shockingly, third party vendors are often considered an afterthought, since they provide services to an organization without being a part of their daily business goals. “Only 52% of companies have security standards for third-parties,” NuHarbor Security writes, yet an average of 90 vendors touch company data on a weekly basis. That’s a large number of players and access points a hacker could use to steal information—and part of the reason why third party vendors should be taken more seriously.

The good news is, organizations don’t have to quit third party vendors all together, a feat that’s likely impossible in this day and age anyway. Even better, data breaches and other vulnerabilities through third party vendors can be avoided.

Third Party Vendor Assessment Programs

Kathryn Anderson of Backbone Consultants has worked alongside many businesses, giving her the unique ability to observe how their IT teams practice data security and obtain valuable insight into where they regularly have security gaps. One of the best ways to close these gaps, she urges, is to start with third party vendors … and implement a third party vendor assessment program to minimize risk.

READ MORE: Introducing Kathryn Anderson of Backbone Consultants

I have helped grow 3rd party risk programs at multiple organizations across different industries,” Anderson explained in an interview with us. “From a compliance standpoint, third party (and fourth party) risk is becoming a key area for auditors. The reason why is that it’s high risk having third parties, parties that are under different cultures and employee policies, allowed access to your information by providing you with services. So it’s understanding and vetting those third parties that’s blowing up right now—for a very good reason.”

Implementing a third party vendor assessment program is an important step toward properly addressing third party risk and keeping it the way it should be: low and under control. Part of the work, Anderson said, could include creating a questionnaire for vendors based on the services they’re providing, using IT governance and risk management frameworks, discussing the value of the program with your organization, and sitting in on any approval meetings departments have for the new applications or cloud-based services they want to use.

Unfortunately, while these programs have a plethora of benefits that lessen the possibility of security vulnerabilities, they aren’t always easy to get off the ground. But the time and resources it takes to look at an organization and “figure out what you should really care about, what matters, and what are the triggers that say ‘this is a high risk vendor,’” she said, come with incredible benefits. And it can be done with a culture shift and proper stakeholder buy-in.

“The program is not about people sitting in the back corner looking at logs to identify anomalous activity in your environment, it’s being part of the business. Because security is a business risk. It’s not an IT risk,” Anderson explained, discussing how important it is get key players to want to work with you and your program. A vendor assessment program enables security to integrate with the rest of the organization and help it (rather than hinder it) achieve business goals in a safe and positive manner.

“The program is not about people sitting in the back corner looking at logs to identify anomalous activity in your environment, it’s being part of the business. Because security is a business risk. It’s not an IT risk."

“Security shouldn’t be a ‘no’ group. It should be a proactive partner. If the company has some sort of business need, it’s not up to security to say no,” she continued. “They can offer suggestions on how a desired vendor can improve their controls, identify gaps, or point out vendors that have better security controls, but IT and security should not be a ‘no’ group.”

In fact, Anderson said, a third party vendor assessment program is an ally in the quest for company success, not an obstacle to be overcome. “IT and security are like the security on a race car. The business is going super fast around the track, and it’s our job to make sure the airbags work and that they have a parachute. If anything, we put the security in place so they can go faster. We should be an enabler, not a road block.”

How to Implement a Third Party Assessment Program

If you’re ready to implement a third party assessment program in your organization, here are four steps you can take to get started.

#1. Identify Your Third Party Vendors

Organizations often don’t have a firm understanding of every third party vendor they use. Different departments use different vendors to get their work done. For example, Marketing uses an application to streamline their design goals or Development uses a web service to track project hours. Identifying these vendors and making a list of who you’re using pieces together the big picture, and leads to step 2.

#2. Review Your Current Third Party Vendors

Once you have a list of the third party vendors you’re using, review them to make sure they are up to standard. Do they have good cybersecurity practices? Are they accessing internal networks, and are those access points secure and monitored? How strict is their access; are they only allowed into the areas they need? Is the way they handle your data secure? Have there been odd discrepancies in the way they’ve worked with your organization, such as delays, inconsistent staffing, or spotty communication?

These areas of review can help you determine what level of risk your company currently faces. Then, you can make informed decisions on whether to keep these vendors, terminate the relationship, or discuss ways they should improve their controls.

#3. Create a Questionnaire for Potential Vendors

As Anderson suggested, using a questionnaire that addresses the specific services offered by a vendor (so asking a point-of-sale vendor retail-related questions) gives you insight into areas of weakness or concern before you create a relationship with them.

Ask questions like:

  • What sort of information will you need access to?
  • Do you have updated security policies and procedures in place?
  • Are you compliant with privacy laws/regulations regarding confidentiality and customer data? If so, which ones?
  • How often do you update your OS security?
  • What sort of controls do you have in place to secure your data?
  • What security software do you use to scan for viruses?

You can find several example third party vendor questionnaires online and use them to create your own.

#4. Assess which Meetings You Should Attend (then Attend Them)

With the beginnings of a third party vendor assessment program in place, you should start to anticipate the third party vendors that are added to your organization. If certain departments hold review meetings to discuss which vendors they should add to their arsenal, ask to sit in on them and speak up if you detect any problems or red flags that might cause high risk.

Just remember, security should be a proactive partner, not a nay sayer. The point of a third party vendor assessment program is to close vulnerability gaps and work with the organization to meet business goals and needs, not police what they can and cannot use.

These four steps serve as great starting points in creating a preliminary vendor assessment program, but they’re not all-inclusive. If you want to take your planning further, consider contacting a certified cybersecurity consultant. They’ll work with you to produce a detailed risk assessment for your organization, including reviews of your overall third party risk, reviews of proposed and existing contracts, and execution of a dynamic risk assessment questionnaire. Contact Backbone Consultants for more information on how they can help you implement a third party vendor assessment and decrease your security risk.

Want to hear more from Kathryn Anderson? Watch our on-demand webinar, Lessons from the Field: 7 Steps to Proactive Cybersecurity. It should interest those who want to learn how to implement a third party vendor assessment program or manage resources in their organization.

 


6 Experts Debunk Common Cybersecurity Myths

Cybersecurity warrior protecting dataThe life of a cybersecurity professional looks a lot like the plot of a Greek mythology action movie. We spend years preparing for an attack by an unknown creature, basing our strategy on tales passed down from cybersecurity warriors before us. DDoS attacks are waged by the mythical Hydra with multiple heads attacking from every angle; phishing emails are released, disguised as alluring calls from beautiful Sirens.

Along with these aggressions come the myths of how best to defend against such attacks. Which is why HelpSystems set out to debunk some of the most popular cybersecurity myths that exist today.

We asked six uniquely-qualified security experts from around the world to debunk their favorite IT security myths.

Read their intriguing answers in Cybersecurity Myths Debunked.

cybersecurity experts

 

Cybersecurity Myths Busted eBook


The Benefits of Empowered Employees: Why a Good Security Awareness Program Matters

 employee security awareness program

Every organization dreams of how they’d like to implement cybersecurity. It’s perfect in its execution: requirements would be met or exceeded, employees would be fully educated on security risks, and data would never be threatened by renegade phishing scams or careless user errors. But sadly, faced with time and resource constraints, it can be difficult for busy organizations to do more than just check the “high importance” boxes (like creating a data breach response plan and solid networking practices). Especially if today’s ever-changing security needs are hard to keep up with as it is.

Kathryn Anderson of Backbone Consultants argues that this struggle to maintain and surmount cybersecurity needs is exactly why businesses should find time to implement a security awareness program. As a security advocate with over a decade of industry experience, Anderson is passionate about risk and governance. And through her experience, she gained powerful insights on how to inspire awareness, responsibility, and empowerment in an entire organization.

READ MORE: Introducing Kathryn Anderson of Backbone Consultants

Anderson started pushing for employee awareness in her Senior Information Security Specialist role at a Fortune 500 consumer food company. Her manager had already put some groundwork in place, but she was fully responsible for developing a security awareness program that would impact new employees, near-retirees, and everyone in between.

Why spend so much time on employee education? “It’s a way to get people to care,” Anderson said during a recent interview with us, “and to be empowered.” She believes that security should be a part of employee job responsibilities from the moment they start their first day of work. But more importantly, it should be part of their responsibilities in everyday life—not just when they’re on the clock.

So Anderson used her security awareness program to shift the culture at the consumer food company, starting with a focus on modern cybersecurity risks and scams. “I brought in an email phishing tool. Based on the type of security events we were seeing and the questions I received, it was clear that the opportunity at our company and our highest risk area was phishing emails for employees,” Anderson explained. “What was super cool about the anti-phishing program I created was that it actually empowered our employees. Security became part of their job responsibilities and not just something that a bunch of nerds in the back were working on to keep them safe.”

“Security became part of their job responsibilities and not just something that a bunch of nerds in the back were working on to keep them safe.”

Several great program initiatives kept the momentum going. A fake phishing email sent internally encouraged coworker-to-coworker discussion that filled marketing meetings, finance meetings, and office spaces with excited security chatter. Employees started asking how they could help protect company data during their daily routine and discussing their role in the overall success of the company. It was a huge, and exciting, change from the initial belief that only IT and security were expected to be proactive in keeping data safe.

While Anderson’s work inspired employees to own their part in the consumer food company’s security practices, she also made it a point to talk about the importance of following the same rules at home. “Through the security program, we really focused on how you can help protect your family and keep your personal information safe,” she said. “So one tool that companies can also use is understanding that your employees are holistic beings; they’re not just people who are in the office from 9 to 5.”

The call for organizations to cultivate a vested interest in employee safety is not new. Brad Beatty, Lead Security Engineer at Enterprise Holdings, shared his thoughts on LinkedIn, writing “I had a vested interest in the success of those around me and the company I worked for because I was treated like family. I propose that by empowering employees … those employees will arise to the occasion and not only become your strongest business asset, but your strongest cyber security defense.”

Likewise, Darran Rolls, CTO and CISO at SailPoint, also wrote about employee empowerment: “[Cybersecurity pitfalls don’t] stop with employees. Friends and family are also targets. Because of this, it’s important that employees emphasize the importance of cybersecurity awareness with those closest to them and follow best practices outside of the workplace.”

So, what did the Fortune 500 consumer foods company do? With Anderson leading the initiative, they started having frequent conversations with their employees on how to protect data outside of work. They talked about how to stay protected during tax season, even though it had nothing to do with company data. And by putting time and effort into their employees’ personal lives, employees responded by practicing good security ethics everywhere they went—which ultimately helped lessen the opportunity for user error, both inside and outside of the workplace.

“There’s a lot of synergies between security and personal security. It’s an opportunity for people in my field to reach out and have conversations with everyday people they encounter, like at the library, or at parties. When you start talking about dual authentication at parties, everyone loves you and you’re always welcome back,” Anderson said. “You might even get a second dessert!” she added, laughing.

Are you focused on building a cybersecurity culture for your employees? If not, now is the time. The resources you’ll expend to create a strong security awareness program for your organization will be more than worth the good that follows.

Want to hear more from Kathryn Anderson? Watch our on-demand webinar, Lessons from the Field: 7 Steps to Proactive Cybersecurity. It should interest those who want to learn how to implement a security awareness program or manage resources in their organization.

 


10 Easy Ways to Protect Your Data at Work

In a recent survey of UK workers, over half the employees who participated across 1,000 organizations admitted that they open suspicious email attachments. More than 80% also said they open strange attachments if the sender appears to be someone they know, and “one in five said the business they work for has no policy on how to handle email attachments, or they have not been made aware of it.”

Organizations that operate without a clear cut security awareness plan (for emails, file transfers, or even internet use) open themselves up to huge security risks—risks that are easily preventable with a bit of training and forethought but sadly, often overlooked.

If this sounds like your workplace, never fear. Even without a policy to follow, there are ways you can implement security practices in your current role and workspace to protect yourself, your information, and your company’s data from prying eyes and malicious scams.

Here are 10 easy ways to promote security in your role, without needing permission to do so.

1. Never download unapproved software

That free screen capture application or photo editing software may seem tempting, but don’t download it without approval from your IT department. Free software is rife with malicious code, which can introduce malware, ransomware, and other threats to your computer and company network.

If you aren’t sure whether the software is safe to download, contact IT. And when you’re on your personal computer, check trusted online resources, such as forums or software review websites, for information on the application you want. Most times, if it’s not safe, you can find an alternative application that is.

2. Send files (in and out of network) securely

If you need to send a file to someone in your network or out on the remote network, always make sure to send it securely. Use a managed file transfer solution to protect sensitive company data. And instead of using FTP, email, or other unsecured methods to transfer files, use a secure protocol like SFTP or Open PGP to encrypt the information.

3. Don’t send sensitive information in emails or online messages

Email and online messaging are incredibly fast and convenient methods of sending information to someone, but they’re not secure. A single spear phishing email or instant message containing a bad link can give hackers access to the information on your computer. And if you send sensitive information through messages and your workspace is compromised, you’re doing the work for them. Hackers won’t have to go far to retrieve your private data.

It’s important to also remember that emails and online messages can be forwarded with just a click of the mouse or intercepted during transmission. Once that username/password combination, credit card number, or completed W-2 form is out of your hands, renegade employees can forward the information just about anywhere. So instead of transmitting data across the network, cut out the middleman. Identify situations where you can deliver the information directly, whether by a phone call or in person. Can’t do that? Send the data via an encrypted folder-to-folder transfer or through a secure form with a link and password.

4. Follow security best practices for application passwords

Changing your password every 60-180 days is a standard industry procedure. Even if it gets annoying, following this simple practice can limit the access hackers might already have (for those who come in and quietly monitor business processes without making any sudden moves) by cutting them off after a specific amount of time.

However, when employees do change their passwords, they often rift off their original password, like adding an extra number or switching out the capital letters. In fact, 19% of work professionals use a weak password to protect their data, according to a recent report. And unfortunately, people also use the same password across multiple websites, which is a huge security risk. If hackers access one account, they can access them all.

With all the data breaches happening today, it’s important that you create strong passwords, use a different one for each account, and change them every so often, at work and at home. Your personal data is just as important as company data—and remember, anyone can have their information stolen.

5. Clarify sender intentions if you receive a questionable email or attachment

In general, it’s a good practice to approach your inbox with a critical eye. Be wary of every attachment you don’t recognize or didn’t anticipate, even from senders you trust, and follow up in person, over the phone, or in a separate email thread if you aren’t sure about the contents.

This may add extra time to your day, but it’s worth your thought and attention. Phishing and spear phishing emails are one of the top ways hackers gain access to company accounts. To learn more about phishing attacks, check out our recent blog post: 7 Ways to Protect against Corporate Spear Phishing.

6. Install computer updates whenever they’re available

Depending on what operating system you use, updates and security patches can be frequently available. Microsoft, for example, ships new updates for Windows on the second Tuesday of every month (you can find a list here). Apple’s updates come a little more sporadically but are still shipped often enough to help maintain OS security.

Installing these updates and patches is an important part of keeping your system up-to-date with the latest security concerns and improvements. Some companies automate this process, installing updates in the background so you don’t have to. If you’re not sure whether this applies to you, check with your IT department.

7. Avoid using external flash drives to transfer information

Despite how common it is to use USB flash drives (it seems they’re handed out like candy these days), they’re not secure.  These tiny thumb drives can be loaded with malware or reformatted with tampered firmware (the USBs permanent software). So unless you know where the USB has been before it was delivered into your hands, it’s best not to use it.

But why not just wipe it clean, you might ask? “You can give [the USB] to your IT security people, they scan it, delete some files, and give it back to you telling you it’s ‘clean,’ [but] the cleaning process doesn’t even touch the files [in the firmware],” said security researcher Karsten Nohl in an interview with Wired. Once the firmware has been affected, it’s difficult, if not impossible, for most people to find the corruption and remove it.

Then there’s the obvious danger with USB drives: not being able to control where they go, or who has access to the files, once it leaves your hands. Even if it’s tucked away in your desk, can you be sure no one will take it when you’re not looking, or that extra copies won’t be made of the file while someone else uses it? No. Better safe than sorry.

8. Lock your computer whenever you step away from your desk

This is a seriously simple step you can take to mitigate risk in your workspace. Anytime you leave your desk, even to grab a cup of coffee or hit the bathroom, you should lock your computer. This may not prevent external hackers from stealing sensitive company data, but it can deter renegade employees or “visiting guests” from snooping through your information while you’re away.

If you’re worried you’ll forget in the rush of an ever-busy workday, most computers allow you to set a default lock whenever your session has been inactive for x amount of minutes. Ask your IT department how to configure this, then set it to an amount of time that creates a balance between security and usability. Ten to fifteen minutes is usually adequate (unless otherwise already set by your organization).

9. Ensure your connection is secure if doing work from home

If you’re able to work from home, make sure you set up a secure connection that meets your company’s standards before accessing any sensitive information, including email and user accounts. Avoid working on devices that haven’t been approved by the IT department, such as personal phones or laptops that might be compromised with malware or questionable software. And always use protected WiFi, as open WiFi connections (especially ones in public places) are vulnerable to packet sniffer programs that can read and steal transmitted data.

10. Make security a topic for discussion in your role, department, and organization

Last, but certainly not least, be an advocate for security in your organization. If you recognize the need to protect your data and your company’s data, others will start to recognize it too. Ask leadership or the IT department if they plan to create a security awareness program or document their policies for internal reference. Share what you learn with your coworkers, or bring them into the conversation by asking them how they handle security in their own role. And apply what you do at work in your personal life, because your data is important too.

For further information on how to protect your data at work, check out our blog post on email security: Top Email Security Challenges and How to Solve Them.

 

 


USPS Eliminates FTP, Requires Secure File Transfers via SFTP, AS2 or PDX

Early this year, the United States Postal Service (USPS) announced the elimination of FTP (File Transfer Protocol) from their business practices and policies—a change that strengthens the security of their data transmissions and addresses recent audit findings.

What does this mean for you? The change is still in transition for now, but after August 31, 2017, mailers and shippers will need to send data to the USPS using one of the following secure communication methods: PDX (Parcel Data Exchange), SFTP (Secure File Transfer Protocol), or AS2 (Applicability Statement 2). This applies to SSF, EMM, BPOD, DEXTRO, and ERR files.

Any of these approved methods will work. The USPS lists PDX as preferred, allowing business customers and third-party vendors to use PDX through their web application. But for those who can’t or don’t want to switch to PDX, SFTP or AS2 are just as secure, cost-friendly, and easy to implement.

Are you in the market for a solution that supports SFTP and AS2 protocols? GoAnywhere MFT offers both of these in a managed file transfer solution that’s affordable and intuitive. Connect to Secure FTP servers (including SFTP, FTPS, and SCP) for protected communication, or send AS2 messages with multiple file attachments. However you want to do it, we’ve got you covered.

To see how GoAnywhere MFT can meet these new USPS policies and save your organization money in the process, request a demo.

 


How Does MFT Work?

Compared to using a variety of standalone  FTP and SFTP tools and scripts, managed file transfer (MFT) technology allows professionals to streamline how data is transferred. Managed file transfers help organizations send and receive files in their cloud and private networks, create and control workflows, automate file transfers, and centralize management from a single system.

The why behind using an MFT solution makes sense. It reduces costs, improves the quality of your data transmissions, and helps you meet stringent data security compliance requirements. It also simplifies your system-to-system, user-to-system, and user-to-user file transfers—and keeps security at the forefront of everything it does.

The what of a MFT solution is fairly straightforward. Managed file transfer solutions are a type of software that use industry-standard network protocols and encryption methods to streamline the management of company data. What does “managed” in managed file transfer mean? It refers to how the solution can automate and transfer your data across your organization, network, systems, applications, trading partners, and cloud environments from a single, central interface.

So we know the what and why of MFT solutions, but we haven’t discussed the how of MFT solutions. How do managed file transfers work, and how do they affect you?

Step One: Original File is Sent from the MFT Program or Plugin

Say you need to send a confidential document to someone in a remote office. Maybe it’s a seasonal restaurant menu for another retail location, maybe it’s an audit report for a trading partner, or maybe it’s a financial document for a homeowner. Whatever the scenario, you can send the file to a third party by using an MFT solution.

The file’s journey from you to your recipient can start in many ways. You can:

  • Securely send the file through a MFT email plugin
  • Send it through a web client (access to the MFT solution from a browser)
  • Automatically sendit directly through the managed file transfer workflow
  • Place a file in a dedicated folder that the recipient can connect to securely for download

Whatever method you choose to send your file, MFT ensures the data is transferred quickly and securely.

Step Two: Your MFT Solution Encrypts the File

After you send the email, upload the file to your browser, or drop it in a monitored folder, your MFT solution receives the data and secures it in a few different ways. MFT can encrypt your files using FIPS 140-2 compliance AES ciphers or the Open PGP standard, among others. To protect your file transmissions, MFT can use SFTP, SCP, FTPS, AS2, and HTTPS protocols to encrypt the data you send. And an MFT solution like GoAnywhere MFT allows you to zip compress files before transmission.

Once your data is properly protected, you can also use your MFT solution to schedule file transfers, translate sent and received data to popular formats like Excel, XML, and JSON, update and pull files from monitored folders, and more.

Step Three: Encrypted File is Delivered to the Recipient & Decrypted

When the file leaves the MFT server, it is sent to whatever location you indicated for the recipient, whether that be a designated folder on a server, email address, or so on. The recipient at the remote office can then grab the file, decrypt it, and even translate it as needed.

For peace of mind, MFT solutions often include audit logs that store and track crucial audit information. This helps with PCI DSS and HIPAA compliance, but it also allows you to track the movement and activity of the file that occur once it leaves you, so you never have to wonder if the transfer was successful, if it failed, or whether or not the file was even opened.

If the recipient has a file to send you, they can repeat the process, starting the journey all over again!

 

Still curious about MFT solutions and if they’re right for your business?
You can learn more about the benefits of an MFT solution in our FREE whitepaper:

Beyond FTP: Securing and Managing File Transfers

 

 

 

 

 


Introducing Kathryn Anderson from Backbone Consultants

July is fast approaching, and with it our latest webinar on cybersecurity, Lessons from the Field: 7 Steps to Proactive Cybersecurity. This engaging, hour long session will cover seven lessons organizations should use to build security awareness and protect sensitive company data.

Who’s speaking? Expect powerful discussion between Bob Erdman, Security Product Manager at HelpSystems, and a very exciting guest speaker—Kathryn Anderson of Backbone Consultants.

Meet Kathryn Anderson

Kathryn Anderson is a Senior Manager of IT Risk and Compliance. She comes to Backbone Consultants—and our webinar—with over a decade of relevant business and security knowledge.

As part of her role in IT Risk and Compliance at Backbone Consultants, she consults with businesses on needs they have and identifies security opportunities they may not realize they have. She helps them “understand what their risks are as an organization from a reputation standpoint, from a financial standpoint, from an operations standpoint, and find those opportunities they may not be looking at.” By studying the whole picture, she can give each company a complete overview of their institution and make suggestions for improvement.

We recently had the opportunity to sit down with Kathryn Anderson and learn about her background and security goals. “I started my career in Identity and Access Management. I fell into it and found, very quickly, that I absolutely loved it,” Anderson told us. “There are so many components of security that help organizations and their customers keep data safe, which is what attracted me to security as I delved into the Identity and Access Management part of it.”

Anderson’s first introduction to security was at TCF Bank, where she worked in an Identity and Access Management role doing user attestations and term and transfer lists. As her responsibilities evolved, she began to identify areas where the security department could use tools to automate business processes, like employee termination from central applications.

Finding these opportunities for improvement helped Anderson understand the importance of developing strong cybersecurity practices. “The purpose of this job really has a lot of value. If you have a system ID that’s just sitting out there and isn’t being used, and a terminated employee has access to some sort of information, it could put your data at risk. Understanding what security was helped elevate my career path,” she said.

After seven years at TCF Bank, Anderson accepted a position in Risk and Governance at General Mills, where she spent a majority of her time developing programs on Security Awareness and Third Party Vendor Assessment. She focused on security education, too, ensuring General Mills employees not only understood security best practices, but also felt empowered to protect data at work and at home.

Kathryn Anderson’s passion and interest in business security makes her a valuable guest speaker, and we’re excited to hear more from her in the upcoming weeks. She’ll also share her thoughts on the importance of proactive cybersecurity during our July 26 webinar. The event is open to everyone, but it should especially interest those who want to learn how to implement a security awareness program or manage resources in their organization.

About Backbone Consultants

Located in Minnesota, Backbone Consultants has provided clients with end to end cybersecurity services and compliance since 2008. Their services include IT audit and compliance, cybersecurity, data privacy, and technical training. Comprised of a strong professional team, Backbone Consultants work with companies to tackle business needs and identify areas of improvement in how they develop and manage their IT assets.

You can learn more about Backbone Consultants at their website.

Webinar Details

July 28 Update: Even though the webinar has passed, you don't have to miss out! Watch our on-demand webinar recording now.

Lessons from the Field: 7 Steps to Proactive Cybersecurity

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

11 am - 12 pm CT