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Posts Tagged with "CYBERSECURITY"

Should You Really Change Your Password Every 90 Days?

 90 day password policies

If you’ve worked a job that requires you to have login credentials, you’re probably familiar with the common “90 day rule” for passwords. The rule being: change your password every 90 days (or 45 days, depending on the workplace). It’s a security best practice that will keep your accounts—and your organization—secure from hackers and nosy coworkers.

The “90 day rule” has been around for years, and no matter how each individual company decides to enforce it (some are encouraged to change it around the three month mark; others receive emails or warnings that count down the days until the current password expires), the outcome remains the same. Employees around the world stop what they’re doing, think up a new, hopefully strong password, and apply it as quickly as possible so they can get back to work.

This is the way it’s always been done. Changing your password makes the network secure and thwarts evildoers, right? And the good outweighs the inconvenience. Why fix what isn’t broken?

Unless it is broken.

Emerging studies from University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and Carleton University report that requiring password changes every 90 days may not actually be the best way to protect your company data and user accounts. In fact, some big organizations are actively starting to question this practice: in 2016, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) put out new guidelines that recommend removing routine password change requirements.

So, should you really change your password every 90 days? There’s no absolute consensus in the IT industry yet, but there are good arguments on both sides. To help keep you informed, we compiled information about each perspective. Here’s what we found:

The “No” Camp

On one side of the ring, we have the “no” camp, the organizations and thought leaders that are talking about how outdated mandatory password rotation policies are. The main theory for the 90 day naysayers? Requiring frequent changes causes users to create weak passwords—or simply slightly modify their current one.

Lorrie Cranor, computer science professor at Carnegie Mellon University, spent a year with the U.S. Federal Trade Commission as a Chief Technologist. During this time, she wrote on the FTC blog: “There is a lot of evidence to suggest that users who are required to change their passwords frequently select weaker passwords to begin with, and then change them in predictable ways that attackers can easily guess.”

Think about the passwords you create. In the frustration of the moment, have you ever created a new password similar to your last one, just with different punctuation or capitals? A majority of users probably have at least once. According to a study by University of North Carolina, Cranor writers, the people whose credentials they had access to “tended to create passwords that followed predictable patterns … such as incrementing a number, changing a letter to a similar-looking symbol…, adding or deleting a special character…, or switching the order of digits or special characters.”

Troy Hunt, author at Pluralsight and Microsoft Regional Director, also addressed the “90 day rule” in our recent project, Cybersecurity Myths Debunked. His thoughts? The myth about password rotation is “really interesting because we have this mix of opinions at the moment where most organizations say ‘you must rotate your password every 90 days in order to keep it secure’ and on the other side you have The National Cyber Security Centre of the British government and NIST saying ‘don't do this because it makes it worse!’ And I love the rationale that they use, it's just so pragmatic: If someone gets your password, they're not going to wait 90 days to use it, they're going to use it now!”

Hunt’s point is an important one. If a hacker has access to your password, changing it to something different is unlikely to be effective.  Chances are, they’ve already peered into your account, maybe even installed a keylogger to cull your future credentials. The fix to a compromised account isn’t to update your password; the fix is to create a unique password for each account, then tighten your security through measures like multi-factor authentication and slow hashing (a hashing algorithm that slows, if not completely thwarts, brute-force attacks against hashed passwords. Many people use Bcrypt for this).

The “Yes” Camp

On the other side of the ring, we have the “yes” camp, the organizations and thought leaders that are talking about how important the “90 day rule” is for IT security. The main theory for the 90 day hype? If you change your password every three months, a hacker that has access to an old password (say through a data breach) won’t be able to use it forever, and won’t be able to use it across your accounts.

Many data breaches have happened over the years. In May 2017, 560 million email credentials were leaked, which included “a collection of data from previous breaches at LinkedIn, Dropbox, LastFM, MySpace, Adobe, Neopets, Tumblr and others,” reports this article from LifeHacker. If you change your passwords frequently and use strong/unique passwords that aren’t similar to your previous ones, your data is likely safe. But if you rarely change your password, have an account with an organization affected by a leak, or use the same password across multiple accounts? Well, you may be out of luck.

As an aside: You can check to see if any of your accounts were leaked in the breach using Have I Been Pwned, a tool created by Troy Hunt that scans for your email account in a list of data that’s been publically released. The results may surprise you, and inspire you to update your account security.

No matter which camp you personally fall in, it’s critical to use almost-impossible-to-crack passwords and enable multi-factor authentication, especially for accounts you have with financial institutions, medical institutions, and email providers. To ease this burden, many thought leaders recommend using a password manager, like LastPass or 1Password, that allows you to create original passwords for your accounts without having to remember them all … or inevitably stick a colorful post-it note under your keyboard (hint: don’t do that).

Do you subscribe to the 90 day rule? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

 


4 Understated Tool Categories for Cloud App Security

how to protect your cloud applications

As more and more organizations migrate their data to the cloud, IT teams discover a new world of useful cloud apps, from cloud-supporting hardware to new software and services that promise to make business processes easy and efficient. However, every cloud app you add to your arsenal needs its own protection, even if the data itself is locked up tight.

Cloud migration also introduces another concern: shadow IT. Moving to the cloud can inspire employees or departments to use software and services that aren’t always approved by the usual channels beforehand. Employees can also use personal technology at work “or niche technology that meets the unique needs of a particular business division and is supposed by a third-party service provider or in-house groups, instead of by corporate IT,” according to TechTarget’s definition of shadow IT. Once these tools (including Dropbox, Google Docs, or instant messaging services) are implemented, it’s not always easy to root them out—but it doesn’t have to be hard to secure them, either.

Whether you’re using IT approved apps or have shadow apps hiding in the corners, always make sure they’re protected. Not sure where to start? Here are four understated tool categories you should use for cloud app security, as well as a few matching products or services that address each one.

DDoS Protection Tools

A DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attack happens when a malicious user or group floods a service with traffic from multiple sources, intending to cripple the business and make it unusable for an extended period of time. When the service goes down, people can’t access it. The situation becomes a complete nightmare for everyone involved.

DDoS attacks can be devastating to an organization’s bottom line. A single successful attack can cost upwards of $2.5 million, and DDoS disruption alone can cost around $100,000 an hour in lost revenue. What’s worse, the number of DDoS attacks per year only continues to rise, with Neustar reporting that a whopping 84% of companies have experienced an attack in the last year, compared to 73% in 2016.

It’s imperative for businesses to take DDoS attacks seriously and implement tools that will thwart their efforts. Here are a couple DDoS protection tools you can use to secure your cloud apps:

AWS Shield

Amazon Web Services offers AWS Shield, “a managed Distributed Denial of Service (DDoS) protection service that safeguards web applications running on AWS.” AWS Shield works with Elastic Load Balancing, Amazon CloudFront, and Amazon Route 53 to detect DDoS attacks and provide automatic mitigation whenever needed.

Do you currently use AWS as your cloud services platform? According to their website, “all AWS customers benefit from the automatic protections of AWS Shield Standard,” which protects your applications from network and transport layer attacks.

aiProtect

Microsoft Azure offers aiProtect Denial of Service Protection, a service that “automates the identification and mitigation of Denial of Service (DoS & DDOS) attacks, while providing detailed reporting necessary to end the attack.” aiProtect can protect your cloud applications by reviewing incoming traffic requests and blocking ones that are suspicious, giving you time to act before the attack takes down your network.

Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) Tools

CASB tools give you the power to retain control of your cloud apps while simultaneously monitoring them for threats and vulnerabilities. TechTarget’s definition of CASB states, “CASBs use auto-discovery to identify cloud applications in use and identify high-risk applications, high risk users and other key risk factors,” which is a great asset for organizations that have shadow apps.

Cloud Access Security Broker services act between an organization and the cloud to make sure all network traffic abides by set security policies. They can provide valuable insights into where data is going, what cloud apps the business uses, what actions users and accounts are taking in their daily work environment, what threats exist in the infrastructure, and more.

Knowing what apps your business uses and what threats they may pose is also an important part of protecting your data, and your cloud processes. Here are a couple CASB tools you can use to secure your cloud apps:

CipherCloud

CipherCloud is a CASB solution that helps “monitor and rate over 15,000 cloud applications, and [the] intuitive drill-down dashboard lets you identify all clouds and block risky apps.” With a tool like CipherCloud implemented, you can assess business risks and vulnerabilities, then address them using available policy actions (notify, quarantine, user self-remediation, etc) without interrupting regular business processes.

Skyhigh

Skyhigh is another popular CASB platform you can implement on a single cross-cloud platform to “gain visibility into cloud usage and risks, meet compliance requirements, enforce security policies, and detect and respond to potential threats.” It offers a variety of key features for governance, threat protection, compliance, and security throughout their solutions and products.

Data Loss Prevention Tools

Are you worried about losing control of your data? Most people are. When you move your data to the cloud instead of having it in your internal network, it’s hard to imagine letting go of your assets—which is why we suggest using a data loss prevention tool. A DLP tool helps you keep control of your data during migration, protects it while it’s at rest in the cloud, and can alert you to any data placed in the cloud that shouldn’t be there.

Knowing exactly where your data is and if it’s vulnerable or not can give back some of the control you need and let you rest easy at night. Here are a couple DLP tools you can use to secure your cloud apps:

McAfee

McAfee Total Protection for Data Loss Prevention “safeguards intellectual property and ensures compliance by protecting sensitive data wherever it lives.” It gives you a detailed look at where your data is being used, allows you to pinpoint and address any leaked data you might have, and uses “flexible file tagging to set up time-saving data security policies based on location and application types.”

Digital Guardian

Digital Guardian’s Data Loss Prevention solution works to protect your assets by tagging sensitive data as classified whenever a user requests it. If the user then attempts to send the data outside of the network or to the cloud, the solution blocks the transmission. Digital Guardian for Data Loss Prevention also automates classification of sensitive data and stops leaks without affecting employee productivity.

Cloud Backup Tools

Backing up company data is often listed as a security best practice, and it’s very true: you should have a plan in place for creating frequent cloud backups. But are you storing your backups off-site, or is everything kept in one place or accessible from the same account?

Code Spaces, a company that once offered source code management tools to developers, met a dismal end at the hands of a hacker, in part because their backups were controlled from the same control panel as their data. “An attacker gained access to the company’s AWS control panel and demanded money in exchange for releasing control back to Code Spaces,” writes Paul Venezia, Senior Contributing Editor at InfoWorld. “Code Spaces had replicated services and backups but those were all apparently controllable from the same panel and, thus, were summarily destroyed [when they tried to take back control].”

Implementing a tool that places your cloud backups off-site is a simple way to save your organization a lot of potential heartache. It may cost time and resources to put every piece in place, but you’ll be two steps ahead of any security disasters you face in the future, as your data will be protected.

Sadly, Code Spaces didn’t have a chance without off-site backups. But you can. Here are a couple backup tools you can use to secure your cloud apps:

Azure Backup

Microsoft Azure’s BaaS solution, Azure Backup, protects your data wherever it’s at rest (the cloud, your data center, your office locations) by providing six offsite backup targets of your applications stored in two different Azure datacenters. Azure Backup can also integrate with Azure Site Recovery, which orchestrates protection and recovery of private clouds.

Asigra Cloud Backup

Asigra Cloud Backup is a cloud-to-cloud backup and recovery service that can help you control the data you’ve entrusted to SaaS and PaaS providers. It “enables you to manage the recoverability of cloud-based application data in multiple ways,” including backing up your cloud environment to the data centers of your choosing, deploying backup policies to cloud app users for consistent protection, and scheduling backup activities from a single interface.

These four tool categories can absolutely kickstart your cloud app protection, but they’re not exhaustive. Is there a tool you use that we missed in this post? Leave it in the comments below!

 


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.

 


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

 


7 Steps to Protect Yourself Against Corporate Spear Phishing

Anyone with an email account is used to spam. It happens one day: you get that first unsolicited email, and then a flood of ads, flash sale offers, and foreign bank transaction requests rushes into your inbox. In that moment, the battle for your virtual sanity begins.

But while spam emails are mostly harmless—you tend to see them from a mile away and respond accordingly—spear phishing emails are dangerous, and they’re harder to detect.

What is Spear Phishing?

In general, phishing is the practice of sending fraudulent emails from what appears to be a trusted sender in your organization, like a family member, bank institution, or business you frequent (eBay or PayPal are two good examples of this). Phishing and spear phishing attacks both follow this practice, but the similarities end with the strategy they use to get your information.

Regular phishing attacks trawl the waters with a wide net, hoping to catch whoever falls for their scam. Spear phishing emails, on the other hand, target users that have specific access to the information hackers want. These users could be accounting employees, executives, or IT professionals.

Spear phishing emails are tailored to look, sound, and feel legitimate. The messages they contain generally include a grab for confidential information, like a link you can follow to change your password, a downloadable attachment, or a request for sensitive employee data. Regardless of what form it takes, if you follow the email’s instructions, your computer and organization are immediately compromised.

Spear Phishing Affects Everyone

The number of spear phishing attacks on organizations climbs every year. Cybersecurity growth has spiked to anticipate these security concerns, but that doesn’t mean companies who follow best practices are protected from a potential attack. Employees can fall victim to these scams without ever realizing something is amiss, and the repercussions of a single instance of infiltration? They’re crippling.

Spear phishing attacks affect a multitude of industries. According to InfoSec Institute, top industries targeted by these attacks in 2014 and 2015 include logistics, retail, public administration, finance, and services. What’s worse, a successful attack can cost a company, on average, $1.6 million. This is no small amount of damage.

Are you confident your business is secure enough to shut down potential phishing attacks? Think again.

In 2014, the Carbanak Breach impacted over 100 financial institutions and cost them around $1 billion. According to Kaspersky Lab, who investigated the breach, “The attackers used spear phishing emails [to infiltrate the bank’s intranet], luring users to open them, infecting machines with malware. A backdoor was installed onto the victim’s PC based on the Carberp malicious code, which, in turn gave the name to the campaign — Carbanak.

Seagate Technology was affected in a similar way in 2016. Through an email that looked like a request from the CEO, all W-2 forms the company had were stolen, compromising Seagate employees in more ways than one. And the heartache could’ve been avoided with a few extra, precautionary steps.

How to Protect Yourself against Spear Phishing

If you’re concerned about the danger of spear phishing attacks or looking for ways to make your environment more secure, we suggest you implement these seven steps in your company. They may help stop a potential attack before it can begin.

1. Keep your systems up-to-date with the latest security patches

Check your operating system frequently for the latest security patch releases. If you’re running Windows, Microsoft is always updating and promoting their security patches, especially if they foresee a new security concern and want to fortify their users. This is also true of unsupported versions, like Windows XP, if there’s enough risk to warrant an update.

Like Microsoft, Apple, Linux, AIX, and VIOS operating systems also have security patches. New ones are released as industries rise to meet and predict new phishing attacks, so keep your systems (both customer-facing and internal systems) up-to-date and install new security patches whenever possible to avoid gaps in protection.

2. Encrypt any sensitive company information you have

File encryption is a good way to protect sensitive company data from prying eyes. With the right tool or solution, the files you send to your systems, cloud environments, trading partners, and remote locations will be secure, making it difficult for outside parties to decrypt your data even if they get their hands on it.

What should you encrypt? Here are just a few examples that limit the amount of damage a spear phishing attack could do to your organization:

  • Hard drives
  • Cloud storage
  • Passwords and security questions
  • Internet activity (using a VPN or masked IP address)
  • External storage (USB drives, external hard drives)
  • Files (business contracts, audit reports, tax documents)

managed file transfer solution can encrypt your files at rest and in transit using modern, secure encryption methods. Good MFT software helps ensure that you stay up-to-date as encryption standards change over time, while making your data transfers simple to manage and audit.

3. Use DMARC technology

You’d think, in this day and age, that emails received from an address you know would be trustworthy. After all, you get emails from AwesomeCoworker@company.com all the time, which means even the suspicious emails are safe to answer. Right? Wrong. Far too often, hackers are able to spoof the FROM field of an actual email address, such as JoeSmithCEO@company.com, and send a message with that address to company employees.

Because these spoofed emails look real and cause successful spear phishing attacks, DMARC (Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance) technology uses Sender Policy Framework (SPF) and DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM) to analyze incoming emails against its database. If the email doesn’t match the record for the sender, DMARC rejects it and submits a report to a specified security admin.

Patrick Peterson is a visionary leader at Agari, a company that prevents cyber attacks and secures email for Fortune 1000 companies. He addressed the growing need for DMARC in a recent data security panel: “A very important aspect in email security is making sure your email provider uses technology like DMARC. It's the only email authentication protocol that ensures spoofed emails do not reach consumers and helps maintain company reputation. Top tier providers like Google, Yahoo, Microsoft and AOL all use it to stop phishing.”

Despite the obvious benefits of using email authentication technologies, DMARC and other protocols like it are not foolproof. Google fell victim to a successful spear phishing attack in May 2017 when hackers sent emails containing fraudulent Google Doc links to Gmail users. Though Google reportedly stopped the attack within an hour, the damage was still felt. Over a million accounts were compromised.

While we still recommend implementing DMARC into your email, consider it but one of many tools you should use to secure your data, users, and company. It’s just safer that way.

4. Implement multi-factor authentication wherever possible

Many businesses have implemented multi-factor authentication (MFA) into their security routine. Some, like Google, allow their customers to turn on MFA as a precautionary measure. Others require clients to enter a sequence of personal details to access their account.

So why not use MFA to protect your data?

Multi-factor authentication is a simple way to ensure anyone who accesses your private data is legitimate. How does it work? It requires at least two pieces of identification, like a login and randomly generated token, that makes it infinitely harder for hackers to compromise your systemseven if they have half the information needed to get in.

If we lived in a perfect world, user passwords and security questions would always be secure. But in reality, employees recycle passwords across multiple websites and overshare personal data on social media, compromising the integrity of their logins and security questions.

So really, implement MFA wherever you canat work and in your personal life. At the very least, it’ll give you an extra layer of protection against spear phishing and other potential data breaches.

5. Make cybersecurity a company focus

Is cybersecurity a focus in your organization? It should be. When security is forefront in your mind and the minds of your employees, better decisions are made and more precautions are taken, enabling you to prevent spear phishing attacks before they become a concern.

Here are a few ideas to get you started:

  • Document and send internal security procedures to your employees.
  • Create a cybersecurity policy and data breach response plan for your organization.
  • Schedule quarterly meetings with key players to review the latest spear phishing attacks in the industry.
  • Identify potential spear-phishing targets, and brief them on the actions they should take if they receive a questionable email.
  • Review employee roles and access regularly, including third party vendors, partners, and those in remote offices. Make adjustments as necessary.

6. Educate your employees and regularly test their knowledge

Over 90% of cyber attacks are successful because of employee error. What’s the common method used in these cyber attacks to compromise data? You guessed it, spear phishing.

Spear phishing emails are rarely transparent. One believable email from a spoofed address is all it takes to gain access to employee credentials and, from there, sensitive company information. But the good news is, human error is avoidable with some training and education.

Talk to your employees about the reality of phishing attacks. Set aside 15 minutes at your next company meeting to educate them on what spear phishing attacks look like, what they do, and any steps they should take if they encounter one. Document a quick guide to internet security and make it available on your network. Even quarterly quizzes with a fun prize for winners can be the motivation needed to build security knowledge.

The more opportunities your employees have to learn about spear phishing and other scams, the better prepared they’ll be if they encounter something suspicious.

7. Confirm suspicious email activity before interacting with it

If you receive a suspicious email from someone you trust, but you’re not sure if it truly came from them, stop by their office, pick up the phone, or send them a separate email.

The two minutes it takes to establish validity is absolutely worth it, no matter the outcome. Best case scenario? The email is legitimate, and you have peace of mind. Worst case scenario? It’s a spear phishing email, but you still have peace of mind, and the person you spoke to can now warn others in the organization of a potential phishing attack.

Spear phishing attacks happen every day. But though they’re a security concern, they don’t have to be a problem if you plan ahead, prepare your organization for attacks, educate your employees, and encrypt your data.

 

Looking for more tips to help you combat cyber threats? Watch our on-demand webinar, where top cybersecurity experts discuss how you can protect your company from data breaches and avoid security risks.

 


Preview of Gartner Security & Risk Management Summit 2017

Four days of security discussions, over seventy five speakers, and six program tracks; these are the numbers exciting cybersecurity professionals around the nation as they prepare to attend this year’s Gartner Security & Risk Management Summit. Taking place from June 12-15 in National Harbour, Maryland, this summit is one of the biggest and most important of the year.

Linoma Software, a HelpSystems company, will be attending this premier gathering of security, risk management, and business continuity management leaders, in order to take in this all too valuable informational experience.

Here are some must-see sessions that we’re looking forward to:

What Can We Expect from the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation?

June 12, 2017 | 10:00 AM – 11:00 AM | Carsten Casper

Are you ready for GDPR compliance? Do you have a timeline in place to implement the required security protocol? The latest cybersecurity compliance regulation out of Europe has companies around the world wondering – does this apply to us? This session will go into full detail about the regulation, as well as what actions IT departments in non-European countries must take to meet compliance regulations.

Forcepoint: Insider Threats: Understanding Intent and Creating Actionable Programs

June 12, 2017 | 11:30 AM – 12:15 PM | Dr. Richard Ford, Meerah Rajavel

In a time where large and harmful security breaches seem to occur as often as the sun rises and sets, companies often struggle to hard to pinpoint where these breaches are coming from and why. A recent study from Crowd Research Partners showed that cybersecurity professionals consider “internal threats” the biggest threat to IT security. This session, presented by Joint Forcepoint Chief Scientist Dr. Richard Ford and CIO Meerah Rajavel, will examine strategies for implementing people-centric protection systems that will prevent bad cyber practices and enable good behaviors to help stop breaches caused by internal threats.

Roundtable: Managing Cloud Service Provider Security

June 12, 2017 | 2:00 PM – 3:00 PM | Jay Heiser

When it comes to the many cloud services that enterprises are confronted with, well, the sky’s the limit (pun intended). The cloud and its many benefits are more relevant than ever, and in this session, speaker Jay Heiser poses the question: who is accountable for managing this risk and ensuring that these cloud providers can be trusted? With such promising discussion, we strongly urge you not to miss this one.

To the Point: How to Respond to PCI DSS v.3.2

June 15, 2017 | 12:00 PM – 12:30 PM | Rajpreet Kaur

The 2018 deadline for compliance to PCI DSS v.3.2 is rapidly approaching. This session will cover information surrounding the various enhancements to the latest PCI DSS version and how to deal with them. Our recent whitepaper breaks down everything new about v.3.2, but we’re certainly interested in hearing what additional details and considerations Rajpreet discusses in this session.

 

We can’t wait to see you at the Gartner Security & Risk Management Summit of 2017! Make sure to come find us in booth 100 or reserve time at the event to chat.


Top Takeaways from the 2017 Cybersecurity Trend Report


Do you ever wish you knew how other businesses are dealing with today’s security threats? The 2017 Cybersecurity Trends Report, recently released by Crowd Research Partners, provides insight into the cybersecurity concerns and priorities of organizations across a wide range of industries.

The report is a comprehensive study revealing current cybersecurity trends in threat management, data protection, cloud security, application security, mobile security, security training and certification, managed security, and more. The 2017 report is based on a survey of more than 1,900 cybersecurity professionals across businesses of all sizes, from those with fewer than 10 employees (7 percent of respondents) to those with over 10,000 (26 percent of respondents). Download the full report here or read on for a few top takeaways.

#1 - Everyone is Worried about Cybersecurity

Security threats are a very real and urgent concern for most companies. Over half (54 percent) of cybersecurity professionals anticipate successful cyberattacks on their organization in the next 12 months. And they aren’t taking that threat lightly. 52 percent are boosting their security budget by an average of 21 percent.

Most professionals are not convinced that they are ready for an attack. 62 percent of respondents were moderately confident to not at all confident in their organization’s overall security posture.

#2 - Lack of Budget is Greatest Barrier to Security

While the majority of organizations are increasing their security budget, finances remain one of the top obstacles to stronger security, with 45 percent of respondents citing lack of budget as a barrier that inhibits the organization from defending against cyber threats.

For this reason, it’s essential that companies spend their money on solutions that give them a solid return on investment. Using free tools and apps where an enterprise-class product is needed can cause a company to fall victim to a cyberattack, while purchasing the most expensive tools on the market can leave you with empty pockets and a long list of features you don’t need.

ROI of MFT calculatorNeed to secure and streamline your file transfers? Maximize your investment with the MFT ROI Calculator.

 

#3 - Internal Threats & Untrained Employees are Biggest Threats

33 percent of cybersecurity professionals are worried about threats coming from within the company. While a malicious employee may hack into sensitive data intentionally, in most cases the more pressing concern is careless or uninformed staff members. A lack of skilled employees tops the list of barriers to both stronger security (45 percent) and to threat management (33 percent).

Whether your insider threats are malicious or careless, solutions with role-based security and auditing are recommended to help mitigate risk of a breach. Role-based security enables organizations to restrict permissions of individual users to only the information and functionality required to do their job, while auditing capabilities provide detailed audit logs of actions taken by each user.

Another top concern is the security of cloud applications, services, and infrastructure. Respondents cited fears including the need to protect against data loss, threats to data privacy, and breaches of confidentiality. To protect sensitive data transferred using a cloud-based solution, experts recommend  verifying that the solution provides end-to-end encryption for protecting files at rest and in transit.

#4 - Encryption is Greatest File Transfer Challenge

The number one concern when it comes to transferring files is security, with 59 percent of survey respondents citing encryption of files as a challenge they face. This is a serious shortcoming given that 67 percent of respondents ranked data encryption as the most effective means for protecting against cybersecurity attacks. It’s critical that any organization transferring files implements a secure managed file transfer solution that streamlines the process of providing various types of encryption like SSL, SSH, AES, and OpenPGP.

Unfortunately, the majority of organizations surveyed are still using inadequate solutions. For example, email is still the most common file transfer method for smaller files, even though unsecured email is both vulnerable to cyberattack and difficult to track for auditing.

Over half of professionals surveyed said that they lack the tools to prove compliance related to transfer of sensitive files. The right enterprise file transfer software simplifies compliance by providing the security features required by major industry regulations, the reports an auditor needs to see, and even tools to help you check if your data transfers are meeting standards.

Learn more about what the 2017 Cybersecurity Trends Report means for your file transfers, or read the full report now.

Download the Cybersecurity Trends Report

cybersecurity trends report