5 Essential Cyber Security Strategies You Need to Know

Securing your business has taken on a whole new meaning with the different opportunities cyber thieves have as the internet and technology overall continues to evolve. Cyber threats are real in case you’re unaware of the financial impact of cyber hacking.

According to Cybersecurity Ventures, the cost of cybercrime in 2015 was an estimated $3 trillion. The analysis by Cybersecurity Ventures projects potential cybercrime costs of $6 trillion by as early as 2021 worldwide. Cybercriminals are working harder than ever as shown by the 230,000 new malware samples produced each day in 2015. Different damages tied to cybercrime efforts can include but are not limited to:

Fraud
Reputational harm
Deletion of hacked data and systems
Lost productivity
Theft of intellectual property
The good news is that, although these cyber threats are real and costly to your enterprise’s safety and security, your business doesn’t need to take the damages. Your organization will need to go through an IT Transformation by being proactive and vigilant. Here are five different cyber security strategies you need to implement in order to keep your business safe and secure:

Create a security system: Unlike traditional administrative structures where operations and enforcement of rules are handled from the top-down, creating a security system using your human capital will need to be organized from the bottom-up. This security system to protect your enterprise starts by securing devices your employees use in your business. Work on creating a culture of accountability so everyone will communicate with systems don’t seem to being working as intended.

Increase your employee skillset: Your cybersecurity is only as strong as its weakest link. Regularly train your team on the latest IT best practices. Help them understand that their efforts are critical to protecting company assets and that it’s in their best interest to increase their IT knowledge base regardless of whether they’re a software developer or a marketing specialist. While it may be expensive upfront, paying for coding boot camps for your employees is a worthwhile investment.

Backup your data: Just like the best YouTubers constantly create backups of video footage they record, you need to constantly backup your organization’s data. Always backup your data, files and any electronic information that is vital to your business as well as the most recent drafts/iterations of projects your team is working on.

Put the cloud to work: Although the cloud still has its risks, you are less likely to lose critical data by saving data to the cloud. Using the cloud for data storage is an economical option for small to mid-sized businesses. As smaller businesses scale and grow as result of increased sales, cloud storage and cloud security tools can scale with the business. Cloud options are continuously improving so your business can be sure to always have the latest options for storage and cyber security.

Invest in your IT infrastructure: Install antivirus programs and firewalls on your computers. Firewalls will discourage the average cybercriminal seeking to do damage your company. Regularly update your computer security systems. Don’t be shy when it comes to investing in your IT infrastructure.

This IT transformation to secure your business will take work and time but the transformation is worth it. To recap what we just covered: create a security system, increase your employee skillset, backup your data, put the cloud to work and consistently invest in your IT infrastructure. As you work to evolve and improve your IT security systems, you will be doing your best to protect your company’s data.

Rick Delgado is a business technology consultant for several Fortune 500 companies. He is also a frequent contributor to news outlets such as Wired, Tech Page One, and Cloud Tweaks. Rick enjoys writing about the intersection of business and new innovative technologies.

HOW GADGETS THREATEN THE CYBER SECURITY OF YOUR BUSINESS

The Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend is now bridging the gap between personal gadgets and office devices. But, what risks does this trend pose to your company’s cyber security? Read this post to find out.

Let’s face it: employers and employees alike are always looking for more ways to make work easier. It’s not about laziness, rather efficiency, as the “work smarter, not harder” adage comes to mind. Working smart means anticipating industry changes and turning them to your advantage. Essentially, this adaptability is what the Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) trend is all about.

These days, everyone’s got their own smartphones, tablets, laptops, and other mobile devices. While companies used to bar these personal gadgets from office use, the trend has now shifted. In fact, according to a study done by IT research company Gartner, half of the employers will probably encourage their staff to bring their own devices for work use by 2017. While BYOD is expected to provide convenience, increased productivity, and boost morale for employees, it has become the common source of IT security breaches.

Read on as we discuss how gadgets that employees bring in the office can threaten your cyber security and what you can do to protect your company.

IDENTIFYING THE THREATS

Identifying the Threats

While BYOD presents many advantages for employers, there are also risks involved in the practice. Allowing the employees to bring their devices and connect it to the company network leaves your system vulnerable to attacks. And nope, we’re not even talking about hackers yet. The blow that may deal your IT security great damage may be caused by a stolen or lost device.

You may have your internal network strictly monitored, but what about your employee’s gadgets? Devices that are brought in and out of the company are more prone to loss or theft. Verizon’s 2016 Data Breach Investigations Report found 9,701 reports of physical theft and loss out of the 100,000 incidents they’ve studied; 56 of those were positive for a data breach.

Imagine this scenario: Jim from Sales brings in his personal laptop to work, which he uses to compile spreadsheets of the company’s clients and their details. He takes his afternoon break at a nearby coffee shop, bringing his laptop with him to catch up on the latest Game of Thrones episode. He uses the bathroom for just a minute, he comes back, and then he sees his laptop gone. It doesn’t take Sherlock to figure out that it’s been stolen, and now, those client spreadsheets that are supposed to be confidential are not so anymore.

BYOD risks also include opening up your network to viruses and cyber attacks, especially if your employee – whose device is connected to the company network – installs malware or becomes a victim of a phishing scam. These create a gaping hole in your otherwise secure internal network, making you vulnerable to hackers.

BEST PRACTICES

The solution to these threats isn’t to scrap your BYOD system altogether. You wouldn’t do your company any favors by missing out on a great innovation.

What you should do to lessen, if not completely eliminate, BYOD risks is to follow the best practices. Here are some practices you and your employees should strictly observe.

Know your IT infrastructure and those connected to it.
The best way to counter BYOD risks is through strengthened IT solutions. This means knowing your IT infrastructure in and out, keeping security software up-to-date, and locating weak points in your network so it can be reinforced.

Drill proper usage and storage of devices among employees.
Alongside improving your IT security, make sure that employees are informed on how they should use and store the personal gadgets that they bring in company premises. Remind them not to be complacent of their mobile devices, even inside the office.Follow our IT security checklist to keep employees, and even you, well-informed to protect the company from data breaches.

Employ data encryption or remote wiping option.

Make sure that data which passes through your network to the employee’s personal device and vice versa are encrypted. Moreover, have a system wherein your IT can remotely wipe out data on a lost or stolen gadget. This prevents sensitive company information from falling into the wrong hands.

KEEP YOUR DATA SAFE

Mobility is an important aspect in any modern workplace, and more so in the IT industry. Through BYOD, your employees can seamlessly transition their personal devices from personal use to work purposes.

While there are indeed threats in this approach, these can all be reduced through strengthened IT security and by following best practices. So, grab your gadgets and start working today without any worries of a cyber attack.

Author bio: Vladimir Ramos is General Manager of AIM Corporate Solutions. AIM Corporate Solutions, Inc. (ACSI) provides IT security services and outsourcing services as well as selected and proven IT-related products for various industries.

Small Business Internet Security – Tips to Prevent Cyber Criminals From Stealing Your Data

For many small businesses, the opportunities offered by the digital space are endless since it is the one place they can compete with larger organizations on almost equal footing. However, the entry of many of these businesses to the online space has also increased the number of cyber attacks directed at them.

While large companies can rely on a large number of technical support in house and from consultants outside, for a small business, the responsibility is usually left to you the owner and one or two other people not necessarily experts on cyber security.

This includes the sales, purchases, loans, wages and salary, and most of the things about money and other transactions online. The good thing is with some actions; you can prevent cyber attacks directed at your business.

Here are Four Important Tips to Implement into Your Small Businesses:

1) Use a Genuine Operation System and Keep It Updated

Small businesses should avoid the temptation of using pirated OS, however, cost saving that may seem. Genuine OS come with defending systems that are regularly updated and supported by the companies that make them. Pirated systems are already compromised and cannot be updated to match the security concerns of the day. Outdated systems are the most vulnerable to hackers.

2) Encryption of Information and All Full Computer Encryption

All the information the company has online should be encrypted. This includes customers’ information and all databases stored by the company in cloud storage, emails and more. There are many services and software that can help you encrypt this information such that only the intended recipient and those with the right administrative rights can access.

Even a computer or laptop offline contains massive amounts of valuable information. This can be cloned by someone with a few minutes’ access to the computer. Cloned hard drives can be mined for sensitive information if the data in there is not encrypted

3) Make Use of a Password Manager and Two-Step Verification Process

A password manager ensures concrete passwords are used by all employees in the company. It also ensures no one password is used across many devices and accounts increasing the risk and scope of a breach.

For sensitive accounts including those you make purchases online with, a two-step verification helps further avoid hackers gaining access and control of your accounts.

4) Come Up with a Policy and a Contingency Plan

However, small your operation you will need clear guidelines for you and your employees to follow with regards to cyber security. Educate them on the risks and have an action plan on what to do should a breach or attack happen.

4 BEST WAYS TO CYBER-SECURE YOUR BUSINESS

You are reading a guest blog post by Monika Tudja.

As a business-owner, you wouldn’t leave the door of your office open at the end of the day. And you wouldn’t leave the key to office lying on the pavement outside either.

Why not? Well because no-one wants someone to get inside and help themselves to whatever they want from your company of course. But these days, thieves don’t need to get through your front door; they need to break into your server and your cloud storage service.

This is where your businesses most valuable assets are kept these days. This is where customer and client data is stored; this is where all your financial details are kept, and this is where the majority of your work and intellectual property is retained.

The hardware in your office is trivial in comparison to what can be stolen by a cyber-criminal from the comfort of their own home. Yet despite this, all too often, businesses are leaving access to this data wide open, for any half-decent cyber criminal to get at.

Depicting cyber-criminals as being masked computer geeks opportunistically searching for companies with lax security provisions is a naïve perception too. The majority of cyber-crimes are either committed by current or former employees or caused as a result of staff carelessness or error.

Once a company realizes that it has to take steps to protect itself online, the next question they ask is what exactly those steps should be. This step can put a lot of businesses of exploring the matter because there is so much information out there about how businesses should protect against cybercrime. And what is more, much of it is contradictory or conflicting and leave those without an understanding of the issues completely lost.

In this article, I am looking to cut through the chaff and bring you a concise guide to the 4 best ways to cyber-secure your business. I am leveraging my years of experience working in the cyber-security industry to pick the very best tips that I have come across for readers of Chop Dawg, and you can find out what those tips are below:

1. Strict Corporate Cyber-Security Rules

All businesses should have a clearly defined set of cyber-security rules that all of their staff, from the CEO to the tea lady, are expected to follow.

These should include guidance on software to use, how to access company services both in the office and remotely, and procedures to follow in the event of a cyber-attack or data breach.

Just developing the rules is not enough, though. It is imperative that they are communicated to staff in a clear and concise way, and a structure is put in place to ensure they are being followed.

Getting staff to follow procedures can get a company a long way down the path to cybersecurity on its own and it is well worth the effort to get it right.

2. Proper Staff Training

Having the rules is important, but ensuring the staff has the appropriate level of training is also important.

Training can help staff to understand the risks and some of the terminology involved as well as understand the rules you have put in place and how to apply them.

There are numerous different companies out there that offer staff cyber-security training, but if you don’t want to invest in one of them, the Government offer free cyber-security e-learning courses that businesses can use for all their staff. These are tailored for different professions and for no financial cost and just a short time commitment, you can ensure your staff is clued up.

3. Invest in the right software

Effective cyber-protection means making use of some of the great tools that are currently available on the market. But this doesn’t have to cost you the earth. There are plenty of budget options available, many of which are pretty much as effective as their more expensive cousins.

a. Message Encryption:

If you use an online messaging service for internal or external communication, you want to be sure that it is encrypted. There are plenty of encrypted options out there, but for my money, the best, and perhaps most well-known is still Signal.

b. Firewall:

An effective firewall is vital to protect your business network from external attacks. They are commonplace now on domestic machines and should be on corporate networks too. There are plenty of good options on the market. Fortinet is my pick.

c. A VPN:

A Virtual Private Network is also an essential investment. These encrypt all your online activity and, by rerouting all your traffic via an external server, they also reader users anonymous online.

This means that any engagement they have with your corporate data, whether in the office, on the road, or at home, is completely secure. They also offer a number of other perks too, including allowing traveling workers to access geo-restricted and censored content no matter where in the world they are.

4. Regular Safe Back-ups

Lastly, when you have got the right software in place, be sure to back it up regularly. These backups will update the security settings and so give your software the best possible chance of fighting off the latest technology being used by hackers.

If you can, set backups to run automatically. If not, then be sure to check and run them at least once a day.

About the writer of this guest blog post: Monika Tudja is the Head of business development at Fried.com, a website dedicated to educating individuals on how to protect their online privacy through comprehensive guides and tutorials. She is passionate about online privacy, cybersecurity and maintaining a “free web” for the entire globe.

5 Predictions for Cyber Security in 2017

By: David Masson, Canada Country Manager, Darktrace

It was speculated 2016 would see even more cybersecurity activity than 2015 and it did not disappoint. Consider the the 500 million accounts swiped from Yahoo, the University of Calgary ransomware attack, or the Casino Rama cyberattack. Not to mention the IoT-powered botnets launching record-breaking DDoS (distributed-denial-of-service) attacks that brought down major parts of the internet.

This year’s cyber-attack headlines offer just a glimpse of a cyber war between hackers and IT security that is being waged every day. More than anything, they are indications and proof of hackers’ ability to break into any given network if they really want to. In light of this, here are Darktrace’scyber security predictions for 2017.

Attackers Will Not Just Steal Data — They Will Change It
Today’s most savvy attackers are moving away from pure data theft and website hacking to attacks that have a more subtle target: data integrity. Attackers will use their ability to hack information systems not just to make a quick buck, but also to cause long-term, reputational damage to individuals or groups through the erosion of trust in the data itself.

The scenario is worrying for industries that rely heavily on public trust. A lab that can’t vouch for the accuracy of medical test results, or a bank that has had account balances tampered with, are examples of organizations at risk. Governments may also fall to such attacks, as critical data sources are altered, and public distrust in national institutions rises.

These “trust attacks” can also be expected to disrupt the financial markets. For instance, falsifying market information to cause ill-informed investments. We’ve already glimpsed the potential of disrupted mergers and acquisitions through cyber-attacks. Is it a coincidence that the disclosure of the Yahoo hack happened while Verizon was in the process of acquiring the company?

Moreover, these attacks even have the power to sway public opinion. But an even graver risk is the possibility that a nation-state or other sophisticated group could go beyond leaking emails to manipulating them in order to create a false impressions. A public figure could be made out to have done something illegal or dishonorable, even if it is not the case.

While some of the recent breaches may seem stranger than fiction, tomorrow’s cyber-attacks will make it harder than ever to parse fact from fiction.

More Attacks (and Latent Threats) Will Come From Insiders
Insiders are often the source of the most dangerous attacks, which are harder to detect as they leverage legitimate user credentials. Insiders can do huge damage because they have knowledge and access to sensitive information and networks. A disgruntled employee looking to do damage can find their best bet in a cyber-attack.

Insider threats, however, are not just members of staff with a chip on their shoulder. Non-malicious insiders are just as much of a vulnerability. How many times have you clicked on a link without checking the actual email address? Or side-stepped security policy in order to get the job done quicker, In 2017, we can no longer reasonably expect 100 percent of our employees and network users to be impervious to cyber-threats—they just won’t make the right decision every time.

Organizations need to combat this insider threat by gaining visibility into their internal systems, rather than trying to reinforce their network perimeter. We don’t expect our skin to protect us from all viruses, we shouldn’t expect our firewall to stop all advanced cyber-threats.

Just in the past year, immune system defene techniques have caught a number of insider threats including, an employee deliberately exfiltrating a customer database, a week before handing in his notice; a games developer sending source code to his home email address so that he could work remotely over the weekend; a system administrator uploading network information to their home broadband router—the list goes on.

In 2017, we are going to see more insider threats. But at the same time, due to the increasing sophistication of external hackers, we are also going to have a harder time distinguishing between insiders and external attackers who have hijacked legitimate user credentials.

The Internet of Things Will Become the Internet of Vulnerabilities
According to Gartner, 13.5 billion connected things will be in use in 2020, with more than half of major new business processes incorporating some element of IoT. Yet these smart devices are insecure in many cases, offering a big opportunity for hackers.

The most innovative corporate hacks involving connected things happened in 2016. In the breach of DNS service Dyn in October, the Mirai malware spread rapidly across an unprecedented number of devices including webcams and digital video recorders. But many hacks of IoT devices this year have gone unreported, including those of printers, air conditioning units, video conferencing cameras, and even a coffee machine.

While many of these attacks used IoT devices as stepping stones, sometimes the target is the device itself. One of the most shocking threats we found this year was a compromised fingerprint scanner that controlled the entrance to a major manufacturing plant. Attackers were caught in the process of changing biometric data with their own fingerprints, in order to gain physical access.

In another attack, the videoconferencing unit at a sports company was hacked, and audio files were being transferred back to an unknown server in another continent. Want to be a fly on the wall in a Fortune 500 company’s boardroom? Try hacking the video camera.

Consumer Devices Will Be Held for (Cyber) Ransom
Ransomware, like Cryptolocker, has plagued companies around the world—experts estimate that these attacks have increased fivefold in 2016 alone. They encrypt critical files at a speed that is virtually impossible to keep up with and leave companies facing hefty fees for their release.

Hospitals have suffered particularly at the hands of ransomware attacks. They are prime targets, as they have become digital jungles full of everything, from life-saving medical equipment and critical patient records to patient devices and staff computers—all with cyber defences that have failed to keep pace, like The Ottawa Hospital. The result is organizations that pay up. While The Ottawa Hospital didn’t end up paying a ransome, other hospitals like the Hollywood Presbyterian Medical Center in Los Angeles paid the equivalent of $17,000 in Bitcoin, and even educational intitutions like the Calgary University have paid off hackers.

In 2017, we will start to see the beginning of a new type of extortion on a micro level, as consumers are targeted across a range of connected objects. Imagine getting home and turning on your smart TV only to find that cybercriminals are running a ransomware attack on your device. Would you pay $50 to regain access? Or what if the new GPS system in your car got hacked when you were late for a meeting—how much would you pay to unlock it?

Artificial Intelligence Will Go Dark
Artificial intelligence (AI) is exciting for many reasons—self-driving cars, virtual assistants, better weather forecasting, and more. But AI will also be used by attackers to wield highly sophisticated and persistent attacks, attacks that blend into the noise of busy networks.

We have already seen the first glimpses of these attacks. Polymorphic malware, which changes its attributes mid-attack to evade detection, has reinforced the obsoleteness of signature-based detection methods. Additionally, the next generation of attacks that uses AI-powered, customized code to emulate the behaviours of specific users so accurately as to fool even skilled security personnel is now emerging.

In 2017, we can expect AI to be applied to all stages of a cyber-attacker’s mission. This includes the ability to craft sophisticated and bespoke phishing campaigns that will successfully dupe even the most threat-conscious employee.

Next year’s attacker can see more than your social media profile. They’ll know that your 10 a.m. meeting with your supplier is being held at their new headquarters. At 9:15 a.m., an email with the subject line “Directions to our office” arrives in your inbox, apparently from the person that you are meeting, as you get off the train—do you click the map link in the email?

Rethinking cyber security

This adaptation of Microsoft’s David Iuduciani’s original post at the CFIB blog talks about how cyber security has changed in recent years and offers three strategic imperatives to consider.

We live in an increasing interconnected world. The sheer number of active devices, applications, and overall volume of data collected and exchanged in the cloud can boggle the mind. And while modern technology benefits individuals and businesses in so many ways, all this new technology can prove challenging to keep up with, especially when it comes to security.

Questions we hear all the time
How much cybercrime happens in Canada?

Do cyber criminals target small businesses?

Are cloud services more secure than what we have?

If you store my data, do you share it with anyone else?

What about Canadian privacy laws?

We all use phones—how can we secure them?

Business people ask questions like these for good reason. Newer cloud technologies and connectivity via the Internet create unprecedented opportunities, but can also complicate security.

Canada’s cyber security landscape

So, what’s it like out there? Per Ipsos, cyber security matters to Canadian business owners. In that survey, 23 percent of small/mid-size business owners report that they are certain they were the victim of a cyber-attack. And another 32 percent suspect they might have been breached.

Expect more news of cyber attacks

Cyber security incidents will now require more transparent reporting, which means more stories of breaches in the media spotlight that can erode trust and damage brands. All told, these attacks pose a clear and significant reputational, not just operational, business risk.

Adapting to a new landscape

Canadian business owners need to adapt their cybersecurity practices to manage the emergence of new threats. These practices should accommodate a contemporary IT environment, which includes all kinds of smart phones and other devices accessing the same network.

The old world versus the new

In the old world…
Businesses had complete control over their users, their devices, the applications on these devices, and the data being collected and exchanged on a network. In theory, businesses could build a security perimeter (AKA firewall) around their entire IT ecosystem.

But in the new world

Users have multiple devices on the go and will use those devices in the workplace. And, to further complicate things, we will often mix business and pleasure by using cloud-based applications on those devices for both business functions and personal stuff.

Modern security must account for user identities, devices, apps, and data—all residing outside the traditional IT security perimeter.

Three things you can do
So, what can businesses do to modernize their security strategy? Start by prioritizing these three activities:

Understand your current security approach. How secure are your business assets (i.e. intellectual property, customer information, etc.) today? What are your most mission-critical assets that you need to protect? What impact could a cyberattack have on your business?

Start thinking about your security strategy left to right. Think about what you need to do as a business to protect yourself—all the way from your users to the data layer. Try to map out your entire IT ecosystem and identify vulnerabilities.

Leverage cloud vendors with security expertise. Do not rely on a security platform alone. Collaborate with a cloud vendor offering the right people and processes to manage your security, ensure privacy, enable compliance, and report on your security health.
Ultimately, your goal should be to a develop and implement a total technology strategy that gives you peace of mind and makes you feel protected, managed, and respected.

Practical Steps to Cyber Security for Law Firms

On average, 4,000 ransomware attacks occurred per day in 2016, according to a report from the FBI. Diving deeper, ransomware attacks on businesses have become more frequent as well. Between January and September 2016, ransomware attacks on business increased from once every two minutes to once every 40 seconds according to Kaspersky.

Over the last 12 months the levels of cyber activity continue to increase month on month, as have the sophistication of attacks, but in the last 4 days alone the volumes of malicious activity have increased 400% over the previous month.

To minimise a law firm’s vulnerability and risk of data loss, strategies such as Anti-Virus, Anti-Malware, scanning agents, Data backup, Data encryption, DDOS and regular security patching must be considered as a combination. Any ‘weak link’ in operating systems and secure networks presents an increased level of being compromised. Poorly maintained legacy systems are potentially most at risk.

Cyber-attacks can happen if you are in the cloud and/or on premise. The recent cyber-attack, which currently impacted over 100 countries, would have been prevented by a security patch being installed. When an attack occurs, there are various outcomes all of which have an unquantifiable risk to the business.

Below I have laid out some basic, but important, suggestions to help minimise the risk of these types of attacks in the future:
Apply security updates

Ensure that the latest security updates are applied to all IT Assets. There are tools that can be used to check successful installation and warn on any unprotected IT Assets. The current cyber-attack could have been avoided if the security updates had been applied this is an important and valuable investment.
Renew operating systems on desktops and server systems
Older machines running Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003 are not covered by Microsoft security updates, although Microsoft are taking the highly unusual step of providing a security update to protect these systems for this specific vulnerability. Customers running Windows 10 were not targeted by the recent cyber-attacks on Friday.

Assess your cloud provider

For cloud users, ensure your provider proactively manages cloud security by implementing security updates and monitoring for potential threats 24/7. Some providers have specialist engineering teams that are proactively monitoring to look for unusual activity and where required act to prevent any breach. For example, Peppermint’s cloud partner, Pulsant, has invested over £500,000 in the last 12 months in enhanced tools, processes, monitoring activities, detection, training and above all expert staff. There is a dedicated security team with deep and multiple skills sets, whom are dedicated to monitoring, assessing, managing and mitigating threats for our customers.

Pulsant operate with the following security accreditations
CSA Star Alliance
Cyber Security Essentials
Cyber Security Essentials+
In this team, we have staff who are certified Black Hats, Ethical Hackers, SecDevOps, Metasploit Masters and Adaptive Penetration Testers working actively alongside CESG and other members of the UK Cyber Crime agencies. Leveraging the extensive experience our teams both have in protecting customers from upwards of 2,000+ malicious incidents every month.

Train your staff in IT security basics

I can’t overly stress the importance of basic IT Security training. With the increased amount of information consumed by people today, in Email and Social media, all of which are points of attack. The weakest point in the security loop is typically the human.

We are duped into clicking on links that we deem safe from friends and colleagues. This provides an activation point for hackers to exploit weaknesses in their computer systems. This along with not being up to date on security updates provide the hacker the ability to take control and cause havoc like we have just seen last week. The nature of the connected world, and dependency on IT, means we all need to take security very seriously.

Consider moving to a fully managed email system
As an example, Peppermint use advanced firewall services and Office 365 to host their email. By using services like this we take benefit of features that are checking for malicious website links. These services are continuously checking for viruses and malware embedded within them to provide additional levels of protection for human based activation of these threats. The benefit of using this service or similar is that unusual activity across many organisations emails can quickly detect and prevent malware being able to make any impact. I would suggest ensuring your systems are fully monitored and that these services equally have features enabled to prevent such attacks like Windows Defender SmartScreen and perimeter based solutions on your firewall to place as many doors as possible to prevent these hackers getting through.

Make regular backups

It is imperative that you have a comprehensive backup plan in place and, more to the point, it is important to audit what is backed up and ensure restore tests are done frequently to ensure they are reliable. One common mistake is not ensuring all required resources are backed up and ensure people don’t store information on their local machines.

Leverage the benefits of the cloud where possible
Local machines are rarely included in a backup plan and a device lost to ransomware or other localised attack would be unrecoverable if not backed up. It is important to inform people to ensure they always use cloud storage and or server based storage. If the user works offline then the use of active sync technologies to sync devices when they reconnect to the network is another good practice to ensure these devices are appropriately included in the backup policy.

In the Peppermint Cloud, we use a fully managed cloud backup solution for our administrative systems and it is tested regularly to ensure we can restore systems. Our cloud solution also has another comprehensive backup solution with a retention policy for production data to provide class leading backup managed by Peppermint and Pulsant.

Continue to check and validate your security policies
I can’t stress the importance of continuously validating and checking on the current policies you may have in place on any major event like this.

It is a challenge to keep in front of the knowledge and know about all the issues, upgrades, patches, version controls, amends in security best practise. Often these changes require constant investment in new infrastructure and software to take advantage of the new updates and upgrades and this may not have happened due to time pressure or investment reasons. Now is a good time to review this position as a priority.

Whilst these eight steps will never completely remove the risk of a cyber-attack, putting these basics in place certainly minimise the risk and are a valuable safety net. At Peppermint, we believe partnering with a highly-accredited cloud expert, in Pulsant, combined with advising our customers to diligently apply updates, train staff and make colleagues aware of the potential threats, will all help create a safer environment.

Useful links for follow up information:

Microsoft Response

Customer Guidance for WannaCrypt attacks

Microsoft Technical Reference

https://technet.microsoft.com/en-us/library/security/ms17-010.aspx

The Evolution of Cyber Security

Cyber threats are evolving and so must your defences

A guest post by Mike Bainbridge

Digital transformation is not a new subject. Technology driven evolution of business to develop more efficient ways of interacting with customers and produce products is fuelling business change. As organisations transform, security must be an integral part of the process. Using cloud, mobile apps and allowing employees to use a number of devices means the threat footprint is larger than before. Gone are the days when you could configure a network perimeter firewall and the job was done. As our world becomes virtual and varied, the way we protect ourselves is changing too. However, don’t be fooled into thinking that security is lagging behind. Technology is transforming the SecOps (security operations) industry too. There are a growing number of innovative products and services to help fill the gap and keep you one step ahead.

So, how do you start building your defences? The critical resource to focus on is data. The first step is to understand what data you have which might be valuable to a hacker. Business data has become a commodity, so anything which could have a resale value is a target. This might be intellectual property or valuable customer data. Someone trying to defame a company can request a ransom or threaten to make a hack public. The loss of confidence and brand impact are harder to measure in terms of cost, but as we’ve witnessed from some high-profile security breaches in the last few years, they can have a serious impact. Changing your mind-set and thinking like the hackers is how many modern security experts start planning a defensive strategy. Understanding how you archive, store and protect your data is a vital first step. New regulations are on the way (see GDPR) which make an information audit necessary, so taking this first step will save you effort later down the road.

Potential attackers can come from any corner of the globe. This mobile and active threat is agile, smart and will use any trick or tactic to compromise an exploit. However, there is some good news. Just as corporate data is now the target, it can be used to combat the threat. Smart Security Operations Centres (SOC) are being built and in order to be more effective, they are sharing knowledge with each other. Data on threats, bad actors, exploits and vulnerabilities is available and constantly changing. This network of intelligence means the time taken to identify and isolate a threat is decreasing. Investment in AI and machine learning means that data can be analysed from a wider range of sources and with greater accuracy. As the attackers are getting smarter, so are the defences which can be deployed against them.

As has always been the case, the weakest link is usually the human one. Trusting your employees with access to company networks means they are susceptible to targeted attacks. The need to remember passwords and change them regularly means an inherent and well documented weakness. What is easy for us to remember is typically easy to crack. This is where a smarter approach will soon start to replace the typical challenge/response we are used to. By scoring the risk profile of access to an application or service, authentication services can learn our habits and make the process seamless. For example, if you are trying to access your email account, from your work laptop, while plugged into the office network at your desk, the chances are low that this is someone who is trying to steal data. The risk profile would be scored as low risk and you’d be granted access to the application as normal. However, if you are on an unknown remote network, using a new device and trying to access the accounting software which isn’t part of your job role, this would be scored as high risk. You might then have to supply a biometric (fingerprint or facial scan) confirmation or perhaps be required to use a two-factor response. This intelligent method of authentication aims to make the user experience better, while still ensuring a high-level of security is maintained.

This new approach to problem solving and delivering a seamless end user experience is at the heart of many new security innovations. Just as disruptions in retail, customer service, logistics, medicine and transport are changing our lives, in the background the technology on which these transformations are taking place is protected in a new and exciting way. This is not to say you can take it for granted it is still certainly a worthwhile investment having an internal security capability. The popularity of the CISO (Chief Information Security Officer) to the executive of many large companies highlights how important cyber security has become. There is a common quote which states that if a hacker is determined to steal your data then you can’t stop them. I don’t believe this is true. With the right approach and a forward-thinking mentality, security doesn’t have to cripple a company with policy and complex processes. You don’t have to make life harder for the user. By applying common sense, it is possible to build a strategy which can evolve as a company transforms. Technology is enabling us to work with customers in so many exciting ways if we think in the same terms when securing our data, then security doesn’t have to be a constraint.

Mike Bainbridge is a technology evangelist demystifying the complex world of digital technology partners, cloud platforms and industry trends. He helps businesses realise their digital potential and become more successful online.

WOMEN IN CYBER SECURITY, THE CHALLENGES AND OPPORTUNITIES

Interesting guest post by Raluca Saceanu Marketing Manager & ISO Quality Manager. Recently published a research article in the Journal of Business Research. Marketing Events Speaker.

Cyber security is a hot topic globally at the moment, we hear about a new breach almost every week, if not every day. With the dramatic surge in advanced threats and malware, the emergence of infosec professionals hasn’t kept up with the changes in cybersecurity. It’s certainly an area where more and more technology companies require skilled resources. Companies are not only lacking skilled resources, but there is a certain gender gap that’s still surfacing. For example, we are hiring at the moment at Smarttech for a number of positions and we’ve received numerous CVs from all over the world. Out of all the applications, unfortunately only one woman applied. You’d always find me talking to Ronan, our CEO, about the fact that we’d love to hire more women engineers, but none of them are applying.

The first and foremost issue obviously lies in the education gender gap. In Ireland the proportion of women pursuing science, math and IT courses is 37.5% and the proportion of women employed in science, research, engineering and technology is at less than 25%. So, solving the gender gap in cybersecurity could help fix skill shortage.

What is it like to be working in cybersecurity, as a woman?

Whether you are responsible for marketing, IT or general cyber security consultancy, IT security is a pretty exciting sector to be working in. From my own experience, doing research on the latest threats, on the most sophisticated attacks and trying to articulate these findings into to the outside world is very challenging, but in a positive way. You need a combination of skills in tech, communication and business, and a keen interest in cybersecurity. I spend most of my time reading about hacking tools, the dark web and the fraudulent motivations. I work very closely with my colleagues in the research and development department to learn about all the ways we can help our clients safeguard their business. It is a good environment and i have never experienced any type of sexist remarks during my role.

How do women begin their career in technology?

I would love to see more women pursuing tech degrees, particularly cyber security, forensics, software development etc. In Cork alone, we have got computer science degrees that students can pursue. If they are interested in working in an IT environment, particularly in cyber security, it is a good idea to register for at least an introduction to cybersecurity course throughout their studies, irrespective of their major.

Gone are the days with the prevalent misconception that technology is only for men. The first change that needs to happen is a perception change, women’s perception of a career in technology. For example, feeling intimidated by the required qualifications. Panelists were recently discussing this at the Women in Cybersecurity at the Microsoft Innovation and Policy Centre in Washington and relating it to the impostor syndrome (chronic feelings of inadequacy and self-doubt that persist even when unjustified). It’s time to realise that gender has nothing to do with a person’s ability to understand tech and computer science.

Mumbai Teen Dropped Out Of School. At 23, He’s A Cyber Security Expert

In a day and age when college cut-offs have sky rocketed and students try their best to achieve the highest possible percentages in school, this success story of a highscool dropout is a must read. A post shared on the Humans of Bombay Facebook page tells the inspiring story of Trishneet Arora who dropped out of school in class eight and went on to become a cyber-security expert. At 23, he runs his own company with offices in India and Dubai.

In the post, Mr Arora talks about growing up with a love for gadgets and computers. “My father became worried when he saw me being on the computer for hours on end- he tried putting a password but by the end of the day I had figured out a way to bypass it. Eventually he moved from being annoyed to impressed and ended up buying me a new system,” he says on Facebook. Soon he became the go-to person for all computer-related issues for his neighbours.

“Given that I was so consumed by this world of computers… I failed the 8th standard,” he says. “I just didn’t understand History and Geography,” he adds.

Seeing his love for computers, his parents allowed him to drop out of school to pursue his passion.

“I started with small projects – fixing computers and cleaning up software and at the age of 19, I received my first big cheque of 60,000 Rupees,” he says. He saved his money to ultimately start his own company.

Mr Arora describes himself as an ethical hacker who hacks people’s systems to point out flaws in their cyber security.

“I’m currently the IT advisor to the Punjab State and have held training sessions for the CBI, Punjab State and Crime Branch. Our clients vary from Reliance to government officials and we’ve recently expanded to have offices in 4 cities in India and 1 in Dubai,” he says.

But that’s not all. Mr Arora has some huge aspirations for himself. He hopes to soon build a billion dollar cyber security company.

That’s not all. Mr Arora attributes much of his success to his parents. “I think I’m here today because when I failed, my parent’s didn’t scream or force me to take more tuitions – they understood me and let me be. I’m not saying education isn’t important – all I’m saying is how you choose to learn can vary and that failing at school, doesn’t mean you’re a failure,” he says.

Since being shared some eight hours before writing this, the post has collected over 14,000 reactions and 1,400 shares on Facebook. Read Trishneet Arora’s post in its entirety below:

“A role model indeed… as much for the kids and more so for the parents!” says one commenter on Facebook. “Well today I have an exam. So thanks for the encouragement that last sentence of yours “failing in school doesn’t mean you’re a failure” is motivation goals ! I hope you make it to the billions don’t lose hope and continue working as hard as you are currently,” says another.