8 Things to Learn from a Data Breach Study (Part 1)

Posted by Stefanie Kober Thu, 07 Aug 2014 13:00:00 GMT



Recently, the sophistication of cyber-attacks has grown significantly. Cybercriminals are specializing and sharing intelligence so as to steal sensitive data and disrupt critical business functions. Consequently, the topic of cybercrime has been kept top of mind as the repercussions of a cyberattack are costly and potentially very damaging.   

Key Findings
The study, 2013 Cost of Cyber Crime Study: United States, was conducted by the Ponemon Institute and sponsored by HP Enterprise Security Products.

1.    Cybercrimes are Still Costly for Organizations

The average annual cost of cybercrime per organization was $11.6 million, an increase of 26% over the average cost reported in 2012. Considering this increase in cost, IT security should be a top priority for all organizations, as there is no single failsafe solution to protect against cybercrime.

2.    All Industries are Susceptible to Cybercrime

The average annual cost of cybercrime appears to differ according to industry segment; organizations in financial services, defense, and energy and utilities experience markedly higher crime costs than organizations in retail, hospitality and consumer products. The organizations facing higher security threats are not only at risk for financial loss due to cyber-attack, but are also more vulnerable to phishing attacks that could compromise sensitive customer data such as credit card, bank account and social security numbers.

3.    Denial of Service Attacks, Malicious Code and Web-based Attacks are the Most Costly Cybercrimes

These are responsible for more than 55% of all cybercrime costs to organizations. Denial of Service (DoS) is an attack which renders information or data unavailable to its intended recipients. Organizations using VPNs can mitigate such risks by configuring access control lists, a method of defining access rights according to user (such as a file directory or individual file).
Malicious code is a piece of executable code designed to harm a computer or its information, or prevent normal computer operations. Malicious code can come from various sources, such as the Internet, infected diskettes, files received via electronic mail, and worms that exploit several system vulnerabilities. It could also be introduced via a disgruntled insider, who has physical access to a computer or network.
A multilevel strategy is required to effectively defend against malicious code, including physical security, password management, product selection, configuration and maintenance, user awareness and education, up-to-date anti-virus software for servers, clients, and electronic mail and adequate system backups.       Web-based attacks focus on an application itself, as application vulnerabilities could provide the means for malicious end users to breach a system's protection mechanisms. Generally, such attacks take advantage or gain access to private information or system resources. To mitigate Web-based attacks, firewalls, reverse proxies, and intrusion detection and prevention systems (IDPS) should be used, which actively monitor for attacks and attempt to block or change the environment, thus preventing further attacks from reaching the protected application or system. 

4.    Cyber-attacks Can Be Costly if Not Resolved Rapidly 

The results show a direct and positive relationship between the time required to contain an attack and the organizational cost. The results also demonstrate that both the cost and the time taken to resolve an attack increased from the previous year. Failure to resolve the problem quickly leads to prolonged business disruption and gives competitors a distinct advantage.

Conclusion

The results of the study reveal that no one is immune cyber-attacks, which have the potential to inflict significant financial and reputational damage to the targeted organization. Stay tuned for Part 2 where we shall further discuss the findings of this data breach study and how organizations should protect themselves from becoming a victim of cyber-attacks.
  
Author: Hazel Farrugia

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3 Main Security Concerns as revealed by HOB Remote Access Study

Posted by Tobias Eichenseer Tue, 05 Aug 2014 13:56:00 GMT

Remote access solutions are gaining prevalence as organizations are adopting the mobile workforce strategy, benefitting from increased productivity and reduced expenses. When evaluating and planning a VPN solution, it is essential to understand the security risks that are associated with this technology.

Top 3 Remote Access Security Concerns  
In fall of 2013, HOB conducted a research survey on the state of remote access in the US. Over 200 CTOs and CIOs were polled, and findings revealed three main concerns regarding remote access security issues.

1.    Hackers gaining access to the Network during Employee Remote Access Solutions

Hackers have succeeded in breaking through two-factor authentication and identifying and exploiting vulnerability in a Web application to access an enterprise’s network. Therefore, it is not surprising that 66% of the polled respondents are concerned with hackers gaining access to the network during employee remote access sessions.
Organizations should implement safe and reliable VPNs which provide an adequate level of security, without compromising performance.

2.    Employees accessing the Network through their Personal Devices

Today, mobile devices such as smartphones, laptops and tablets have become an integral part of everyday life. As more organizations implement remote working policies, IT managers have less control over enterprise data from numerous devices. Furthermore, determining which devices are accessing which systems and data has become increasingly difficult.  
The repercussions of data breaches resulting from lost or stolen devices can be severe. In addition, IT managers generally lose data access visibility when multiple personal, unmanaged devices are connecting to the network simultaneously.
This highlights the importance of a comprehensive mobile workforce security policy, which should also include who is responsible for device maintenance and support, and which security measures should be implemented.

3.    Errors by the IT Team leaving the Network open to Intruders


Cyber-attacks are increasing in sophistication and frequency; the costs associated with cyber-attacks are not limited to monetary costs, but also encompass reputational loss and diminished competitive advantage. Security holes unintendedly created by the IT team may potentially lead to the exposure of sensitive enterprise data, financial fraud or even bankruptcy.
The results indicate that enterprises require new strategies in order to combat and prevent advanced cyber-attacks; IT teams should be wary of software and systems use and investigate any suspicious behaviors that are known to be associated with malicious activity.

Conclusion
As organizations make use of remote access to satisfy various business needs, securing the corporate network becomes priority. The findings of this study stress the importance of a robust mobile workforce strategy.

If you would like to learn about the state of remote access in the USA, please download our free eBook “The State of Remote Access in the US”.
 


Author: Hazel Farrugia

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How to Fight Cybercrime

Posted by Tobias Eichenseer Thu, 31 Jul 2014 11:52:00 GMT

Businesses and individuals are increasingly relying on computers and Internet-based networking. They experience several benefits, but also potential risks. When staff or business partners have constant access to internal networks from insecure locations, security is a major concern.

The Rise of Cybercrime
Cyberattacks generally refer to criminal activity involving the use of a computer network, normally conducted via the Internet. Internet users and organizations face increased risk of becoming targets of cyberattacks. An independent research report conducted by Ponemon Institute on organizations located in the United States in 2013 found that the U.S. experienced an increase of 18 percent in successful attacks from the previous year.
Today, criminals have more advanced technology and greater knowledge of cyber security. Attacks may include financial scams, computer hacking, virus attacks and distribution, denial-of-service, theft of an organization’s information assets, posting of sensitive business data on the Internet, and malware.

Risks of Cybercrime
For businesses and corporations, the cost associated with cyberattacks is large. Stolen or deleted corporate data can inflict financial damage on the victim, damage the company’s reputation, and negatively affect people’s livelihoods. The risks are even higher for small companies, since their businesses may rely solely on project files or customer data bases. The same Ponemon Institute study reported that in 2013, the average cost of cybercrime in the U.S. was $11.6 million annually - an increase in cost by 26 percent from the previous year.

Preventing Cyberattacks
Organizations should follow basic guidelines in order to reduce the security threat to their data and devices. To prevent cyberattacks, companies should:

1.    Use a Secure Connection to the Corporate Data
This generally involves implementing a Virtual Private Network (VPN). VPN technology provides protection for information that is being transmitted over the Internet by allowing users to form a virtual “tunnel” to securely enter an internal network to access resources, data and communications.

2.    Store Data Centrally
Centralized storage of data offers protection and increases speed, convenience and efficiency for accessing files. Sharing of files enables rapid and easy access to important data from virtually anywhere in the world. The relative mobility and control of data improves effectiveness of workflow. Another crucial advantage of centralized data is cost. Although it is possible to store and backup data on multiple machines, it is considerably more cost effective to use central storage. For instance, data can be stored on a server within the corporate LAN behind the firewall.

3.    Use Modern Authentication Methods
Authentication is the process by which the parties at either end of a network connection can verify the identity of the other party. Verification is typically based upon something you know (such as passwords), something you have (smart card or tokens), or something you are (biometric techniques, including fingerprint and eye scans). Deployment of modern authentication methods, such as Kerberos authentication protocol, ensures confidentiality through encryption that ensures no one can tamper with data in a Kerberos message. 

4.    Use Reliable, Strong Encryption Technology
Encryption is the process of changing information in a manner that cannot be deciphered by anyone except those holding special knowledge (generally referred to as a "key") that enables them to alter the information back to its original, readable form. A VPN turns the Internet (an unsecure environment) into a secure private network, by providing heavy encryption. In particular, an SSL VPN is best-suited for mobile apps. 
 
5.    Enforce Strong Passwords
Implementation of strong passwords is a basic security procedure, however it is often overlooked.  Complex, hard-to-crack passwords are a simple line of defense against a security breach. Password policies, which offer advice on proper password management, should be in place. Password best practices include:

•    Avoid using dictionary words or common sequences, such as numbers or letters in sequential order or repetitive numbers or letters.
•    Do not use personal information. 
•    Use special characters, such as * and #.  The majority of passwords are case sensitive, therefore, a mixture of both upper case and lower case letters, as well as numbers, should be used.
•    Choose a long password, as passwords become harder to crack with each added character.
•    Create different passwords for different accounts and applications. Therefore, if one password is breached, the security of other accounts is not at risk.
•    Never write down passwords and leave them unattended in a desk drawer or any other obvious place.
•    Never communicate a password by telephone, e-mail or instant messaging
•    Never disclose a password to others, including people who claim to be from customer service.
•    Change passwords whenever there is any doubt that a password may have been compromised.

Conclusion
The growing popularity and convenience of digital networks has led to an increase in cyberattacks; consequently, keeping up to date with the most recent and important concerns facing the organization is in itself a challenge. Organizations can protect their highly sensitive information by following a safety plan and adopting reasonable security practices.
 
If you would like to learn more about VPN technology, and review some tips on critical security aspects, download our free e-book: How Do I Find the Best VPN Solution for My Company?
 

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Why IT Controls are Vital for Your Business

Posted by Tobias Eichenseer Tue, 29 Jul 2014 12:32:00 GMT

Controls are a mode of living. Whether it’s the workplace that requires a key fob or an identification badge, a password to log into the company network, or an access permission to use a copier, there are numerous controls/safeguards that we encounter during the normal course of our everyday lives. 

Defining Control Activities
Control activities are actions taken to minimize risk. A risk is the probability of an event or action having adverse consequences on an organization, such as information assets that are not adequately safeguarded against loss.
Control activities occur throughout the organization and include diverse activities, including approvals, authorizations, verifications, reviews of operating performance, and security of assets.

Internal controls
Internal controls are a fundamental part of any organization’s financial and business policies and procedures. The advantages of internal controls are:

  • Prevention of errors and irregularities; if these do occur, the inaccuracies will be detected in a timely method
  • Protection of employees from being accused of misappropriations, errors or irregularities by clearly outlining responsibilities and tasks

IT Controls
IT controls are a subdivision of internal controls, and refer to policies, procedures and techniques on computer-based systems. IT controls are essential to protect assets, highly sensitive information and customers. IT controls support business management and governance; they also offer general and technical controls over IT infrastructures.

Subdivisions of IT Controls
Generally, IT controls are divided into two main categories:

1.    General Controls
These apply to all system components, processes and data for a specific organization. General control activities are conducted within the IT organization or the technology they support, which can be applied to each system that the organization depends upon. These controls facilitate confidentiality, integrity and availability, contribute to the safeguarding of data, and promote regulatory compliance. General controls make safe reliance on IT systems possible. Examples of such controls include access controls (physical security and logical access) and business continuity controls (disaster recovery and back-up).

2.    Application Controls
These controls are business process controls, and contribute to the efficiency of individual business processes or application systems. Examples of application controls include access authorization, which is essential for security of the corporate network. This prevents users from downloading illegal material or viruses, and may also block unproductive or inappropriate applications. Other examples of application controls include segregation of duties and concurrent update control.

Modern IT Solutions
Virtual private network (VPN) technology enables a secure connection to the organization’s data to be made over insecure connections, such as the Internet, and is essential to providing comprehensive security, safety and flexibility to businesses. Furthermore, advanced VPN technology offers several services which help users maintain access to critical information. VPNs facilitate the implementation of IT controls. For instance, VPNs provide dynamic access portals, whereby network managers can define server access with application publishing in such a way that the user only sees his or her personal, customized portal.

Conclusion

Control activities occur throughout the organization, and IT controls are fundamental to protect information assets and mitigate business risks. Deployment of a modern virtual private network (VPN) technology facilitates the implementation and management of IT controls.

If you would like to learn more about VPN technology, and review some helpful tips on critical security aspects, download our free e-book: How Do I Find the Best VPN Solution for My Company?

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Should You Really Trust Public Cloud Storage Services with Your Valuable Data?

Posted by Tobias Eichenseer Thu, 17 Jul 2014 13:52:00 GMT

Businesses today face a new challenge in the form of data – big data analytics make businesses more efficient, and for many companies, managing large volumes of data (storing, sharing and backing up company files) has become mission critical. In part, this challenge has been overcome by cloud storage services such as DropBox and Google Drive, but how safe are such services?

While there are many exciting uses for cloud storage, using public cloud storage services to store the bulk of your private or corporate data is not advisable.

No Security, No Protection from Deletion or Loss
The notion of storing all or the majority of your files online appears to be a simple and affordable option for everyone. However, there is a catch – none of your data is safe! Almost all of the main cloud storage services refuse to assure the security of any data uploaded to their servers. Until a provider is ready to guarantee the safety of your data, it is not sensible to upload anything of importance. With these solutions, all of the individual or company’s sensitive data is housed on a cloud server that the individual/company has no control over. This is obviously an issue for many organizations.

No Protection from Spying or Termination
One issue is having data deleted or inaccessible, but what if all private documents are scanned and searched through? Transferring documents to a digital/online medium does not indicate that that we should lose all rights to privacy. However, when using cloud storage services, we are losing our privacy.
 
No Permissions and Access Control
More traditional server systems or private cloud deployments allow for extremely fine-grained access control of files by setting up group permissions allowing certain data to be accessible to specific users. Often, groups are set up on servers and folders are shared accordingly, such as “administrators,” “financial,” and “sales”. In this manner, the sales staff cannot access your HR data, and the receptionist cannot read your financial information. Implementing similar permissions on cloud services is not an easy task. Many cloud storage services adopt the philosophy of simplicity, whereby they do not offer more advanced controls such as permissions and access control.  

Other Prevalent Issues to Consider
Apart from the issues outlined above – security, spying and access control – there are several other issues to consider before opting for cloud storage services. Some organizations, businesses and industries may have regulations or by-laws that prevent them from using such services because they handle data that is highly sensitive and requires a high level of protection. Furthermore, these service providers are allowed to change the way that the service operates, unbeknownst to their customers, which can cause issues for organizations who are not prepared for it.       
 
Conclusion
Due to minimal costs involved, these cloud services may appear to be an easy solution to data management, but it is still not worth the risk; for businesses, data loss or theft may result in complications that translate into millions of dollars, and may permanently damage the company’s brand and reputation. Public cloud storage services are an innovative step in cloud computing, but our advice is not to put anything of value in it. Ultimately, security should never be sacrificed for compatibility.

Author: Hazel Farrugia

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5 Best Practices to Boost Remote Worker Productivity

Posted by Stefanie Kober Thu, 10 Jul 2014 10:44:00 GMT



Introduction:
Today, mobile workforces stay connected in and out of the office and use their devices for work and personal purposes. The ultimate goal of a remote working strategy is to increase productivity and reduce costs; indeed, studies by Best Buy, Dow Chemical and many others have proven that teleworkers are 35-40% more productive than their in-office counterparts.

The drafting and implementation of an organization-wide workplace strategy will ensure that end users at all levels of the organization will enjoy a positive experience. The following are five best practices that effectively boost remote workers’ productivity:

1. Maximize Employee Participation
Maximizing employee participation is the first step to maximizing employee productivity. Not all employees benefit equally from remote working; however, without a critical mass of users, the benefits will be limited. IT teams should not restrict solutions, such as mobile workplaces, to only those who “seem” to need it. Remote working allows employees to respond to colleagues and customers faster, therefore IT teams and managers should not deter employees from working anywhere and anytime.

2. Ensure Employees Have the Productivity Tools they Require

Employees should be encouraged to use a wide range of productivity tools which do not pose network security risks. However, if IT teams are uncertain how to handle such employee requests, they generally allow employees to use these tools without providing adequate security, or block the use of the tools entirely. Regardless of the circumstances, IT teams should circumvented security risks by deploying security solutions that allow employees to utilize tools without compromising the network security.

3. Free Use of Personal Apps and Services
Whether the device is personally owned or provided by the company, employees should be able to use their personal apps and services. Blocking an employee from storing their personal information with a cloud service provider is significantly different from ensuring corporate data does not end up in the public cloud. IT teams should focus on controlling data rather than controlling devices.

4. Offer Self-Service Support for Everyday Activities
There is a common notion that mobile devices will result in an increase in support costs – however this is a misconception. Conversely, if the IT teams provide a self-service capability, particularly for routine activities, it usually results in decreased in support costs. IT teams should stop short of supporting personal apps and services, but should invariably offer to assist with supporting business apps.

5. Support Wide Range of Devices
For the mobile workplace program to be widely adopted, the program should support a wide range of devices. Though challenges may arise, such as Android’s variability regarding support for on-device encryption and other enterprise-level security and management controls, the overall benefit is net positive.

The Future of Remote Working
The current trend towards remote working is expected to become even more prevalent in the future. With the right practices and controls in place, employee productivity can be maximized, without putting the security of the network at risk.

If you would like to learn about the advantages and limitations of mobile workplaces, and find out how to develop a strategy for mobile workplaces with the help of VPNs, please download our free eBook “Home Offices Made Easy”.

Author: Hazel Farrugia

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Data Breaches Cost Serious Money

Posted by Tobias Eichenseer Tue, 13 May 2014 10:09:00 GMT

Data breaches are unfortunately becoming an inevitable part of life. In addition to the IT headaches, reputational risk and customer churn associated with a breach, the monetary costs are also a huge concern. 

A data breach typically leads to fraud, which in turn can result in monetary losses from the victim. Furthermore, the FTC can fine a business up to $3,500 per data breach violation and the state may fine the business around $1,100 per record stolen. This means that if 10,000 customer records are stolen from a business, it will cost the most than $11 million. 

Most organizations are willing to help compensate victims and help prevent further fraud with free credit monitoring. However, the obligation to compensate victims can severely dent a business’ budget and may result in closure. 

It’s devastating to be notified that your information has been exposed at the fault of a university, health center or business. What is even more alarming is that there is not much you can do to prevent it as it is up to the organization to protect their data. 

Have you had information stolen as a result of a breach? What were the costs to you or your business? What additional preventative measures should companies take to reduce the risk of breaches and the resulting cost? We are looking forward to your comments!

 

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5 IT Security Trends from RSA 2014

Posted by Tobias Eichenseer Fri, 07 Mar 2014 12:39:00 GMT

As a gold sponsor of RSA 2014, the HOB team was fortunate to be at the epicenter of all things IT security. Not only were we able to showcase our own contributions to the industry, RSA was an opportunity for us to join the conversation of IT security experts discussing trends and debating the future of the industry. 

As part of our RSA recap, we’d like to share 5 trends we observed during the conference:

  • Although an atmosphere created by the exposure of NSA activity, and its subsequent fall-out, is to be expected at any IT security conference, this was especially true at RSA. Prior to the conference, Reuters reported that the RSA organizer was engaged by the NSA and was responsible for creating loopholes for the agency. As a result, several digital security experts declined to attend and speak at RSA. In opposition to this movement, Stephen Colbert, who gave the closing remarks, called Snowden, “practically a war criminal,” and encouraged the American people to take responsibility for their actions:

    "We all deserve credit for this new surveillance state that we live in," he said, "Because we the people voted for the Patriot Act. Democrats and Republicans alike. We voted for the people who voted for it, and then voted for the people who reauthorized it, then voted for the people who re-re-authorized it."

  • Corporate firewalls with authentication services from the past created the notion of corporate security as an island fortress. The more remote the island, the more secure the company. Today, the prevalence of BYOD has created several bridges to that island, and the workforce is eager to make use of these bridges. At RSA, we saw that IT admins are less inclined to manage multiple security vendors and systems.

  • Along this same thread, enforcing security policies in the cloud was also heavily discussed at RSA. Overall, companies were looking for a mix of private, hybrid and public cloud services, whereby some applications remain stored in corporate data centers and others housed in a public cloud.

  • The many security breaches that occurred in 2013 sparked the discussion about which team – admins or hackers – is winning the security match. The several billions being spent on IT security didn’t prevent severe attacks on Target, Neiman Marcus and Snapchat, to name a few, and thousands of people suffered as their personal data was exposed.

  • In order to combat malicious hackers, we saw a trend toward the application of big data to IT security. The use of massive amounts of data could enable the early detection and removal of security breaches.

Which IT security trends did you discover at RSA 2014? Let us know in the comments!

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