spector, Author at Spector

IT for Finance: How to Use Technology for Financial Services Success

(title: IT for Finance - how to use technology to achieve financial services success) Dark skinned woman with curly hair sitting in front of computer with smartphone and notebook in table
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Technology has been acting as the backbone of business infrastructure for most industries today. That is no different for the financial services industry. IT for finance professionals and businesses has been a vital component for several reasons.

Specialist providers of IT for finance companies are in charge of ensuring that everything runs smoothly for the team, protecting them from cybersecurity threats and ensuring the sensitive data handled by these firms is kept safe. Finance businesses also count on technology partners for technical support and procuring the equipment and tools they need to get their work done.

Nowadays, these functions are relatively commonplace in an IT-finance partnership but remain of utmost importance to the continued operations of businesses. However, the benefits that can be obtained from the strategic use of technology don’t end there. Firms can take advantage of their partners’ expertise and create a competitive advantage by strategically employing IT for finance.

That’s the topic we’ll be exploring in this article. Read on, and if you’d like 1:1 advice, Book a call with us!

What does success look like for financial services companies?

Our experience with financial services companies has given us a good idea of what success means for successful players in this industry. Businesses are not just looking for growth and profit but are also keen on improving investor relations, increasing efficiency, profitability and cash liquidity. In an industry heavily categorised by mergers and acquisitions, it’s essential that companies are on top of their numbers and able to demonstrate a good performance and growth trajectory.

Plus, developing business capabilities is seen as vital for long-term growth. Businesses are pursuing market expertise status and using that as a lever to increase visibility and trust. Beyond that, other business capabilities highly sought are effective data security and building a strong work environment to retain and attract talent.

Each of these business and financial outcomes can be subdivided into multiple goals, and technology could impact almost all of them. If you can strategically manage IT for finance, tech may push you forward. If not, the areas in which tech is lacking could easily drag you down.

Top ways IT for finance professionals can help achieve these outcomes

Specialist IT for finance can boost your business in many ways. Beyond security and support, tech could significantly impact your operations, compliance and your team performance. We’ve written articles about each of these topics, focusing mainly on the perspective of a financial services firm:

All of these points can be analysed to help you achieve your business outcomes. Apart from them, tech can also directly assist with the following matters:

Increased efficiency

IT for finance has proven to have an incredible impact on efficiency, which generally reflects directly on growth and profit. Tech can help you streamline and automate business processes and speed up time-consuming tasks. You can virtually simplify your business activities with the right set of tools and free up time and headspace for your workforce.

That way, your team will be able to focus on tasks that add more value to your business and increase face time with customers.

Streamlining and simplifying processes is also necessary when thinking about scaling your business. That way, when you save time due to an efficient process, you are not just doing that once but actually profiting from this efficiency every time the task is replicated. Several of the most common tasks in business today can be automated or facilitated – especially the most repetitive ones.

Even tasks that require human input can benefit from automation tools. They can help with alerting, communication, producing documents and reports, templating, generating proposals, obtaining signatures and more!

Increased knowledge of business understanding

To adequately use tech to improve your processes, you need to have a solid understanding of the most critical tasks and the ones that can be improved. You must conduct an in-depth analysis of your business operations to understand the bottlenecks, inefficiencies and lags that are disrupting your team and hurting your numbers.

A firm like ours, offering services to strategically develop IT for finance, can assist with that. We have found that teams are often aware of their main issues but fail to define the best solution simply because they’re unfamiliar with all the possibilities.

Once you understand the parts that can be improved and begin to make them more efficient, you’ll have a solid understanding of your core business activities and how each moving part in your process is connected. This is also crucial when defining which pieces of tech, equipment and data your team would need to continue operating – as these are the ones that should be prioritised by security and disaster recovery efforts.

With these things in mind, your business can become much more efficient and resilient. You’ll be more accurate when procuring, hiring, scaling and improving your operations.

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Increase Trust from Clients and Investors

These benefits are not something that’ll remain restricted to your inner circle, but they can be noticed by most people who interact with your company. A customer can immediately tell apart an efficient and well-oiled process from a clunky or messy experience.

By increasing your overall maturity and developing IT for finance, you’re improving the everyday experience for employees, customers, partners and investors. It’s a simple, effective way to increase trust and bring your business to a higher standard by adjusting your environment and routine.

IT for Finance Beyond the Basics – Bringing your business tech to the next level 

Most businesses still treat technology as a secondary support function inside their business, even though it acts as the backbone of most companies today. It has the potential to bring significant gains and assist your business in many ways if you know how to make the most of it and go beyond the basics.

The majority of partnerships between finance organisations and technology firms are based on technical support and cybersecurity – which are indeed essential – but don’t attempt to leverage tech to achieve their business and financial outcomes. That’s where you should reach beyond!

By treating IT as a strategic function inside the business, you can establish what you want from technology and how it will assist you in getting there. Integrating tech into your business processes and embracing digital transformation are not simple tasks and require planning and dedication. If not done correctly, it won’t have the desired effect.

Before investing in the new shiny objects ahead of you, make sure you have a solid understanding of what your business needs and how it’ll develop in the long term. We can help you build a plan and support you along the way – we’ve been doing that for 20 years.

Book a Call to talk to our specialists and discuss your business needs and current pains. We’ll provide a tailored solution to solve any issues and prepare your business for long-term growth.

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Preparing for the Worst: Why should you care about Business Continuity Planning

Why Should you Care about Business Continuity Planning
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No one wants to think about bad things happening, but they do — so it’s vital that you and your business are prepared. At the moment of a disaster, you need to be able to carry on with minimal interruption. Your company’s business continuity plan should include the best way to handle any anticipated or unforeseen catastrophe that might strike your business and keep you from functioning. How would you respond if a fire, flood, a cyberattack or other distressing event were to occur? Having a concrete and well-thought-out plan can ensure minimal panic and a speedy recovery for you and your employees.

Business continuity planning isn’t a magic bullet to ensure everything always goes as planned. It’s a tool you can use when things go wrong, giving you a solid foundation of strategic plans and preparedness to resist any unexpected storms that may arise. And eventually, at least one thing will surface — even the best companies experience a crisis, but those that are best-prepared aren’t fazed by it — they know exactly what needs to be done.

Read: How Backups and Disaster Recovery protect SMEs

This is why businesses should be writing their plans for how they’ll respond during unexpected events occurring within their organisations. By undertaking careful planning and exercising these plans repeatedly, we can learn to anticipate problems before they occur and make the best out of a bad situation when they do happen.

Don’t take any chances with business continuity; don’t wait until it’s too late! This article will cover the basics of what you need to get started with your business continuity plan.

What to consider when building your business continuity plan?

A Business Continuity Plan covers much more than technology despite mainly being discussed between managed services providers. Most people immediately associate business continuity with Backups and Disaster Recovery, which are, in fact, crucial components of your BCP – but don’t represent all of it!

Read on to learn what you need to begin crafting your business continuity plan.

Business Impact Analysis

A Business Impact Analysis (BIA) is one of the first steps your company should consider. A Business Impact Analysis is a review of all Business-Critical Operations, risk assessing them in the event of a worst-case scenario. 

A Business Impact Analysis should be implemented by the Management Structure within an organisation and should include senior management and representatives from all business departments.

The easiest way to assess the risk to your business is to identify critical functions and supporting assets in your organisation. Once a company has identified its business-critical assets, the next step is to ensure their availability and continued ability to run. Learn how to understand and calculate your organisational risks.

Preparing your People

It’s up to your people to bring your business back into action! A Business Continuity Coordinator should be nominated to lead this effort, and all employees should be trained or at least made aware of the Business Continuity Process. It is the responsibility of senior management within the organisation to ensure the training and education of all employees are complete.

Read: Navigating backups and training in unprecedented times

Outlining your Processes

What happens in the event of an emergency? What procedures should your staff follow? In the event of your organisation having to close due to an emergency, there should be procedures and guidelines available to all staff to let them know what to do. That way, if something goes wrong, your company can act as one unified body without hesitation or confusion.

Documentation such as an Incident Response Plan, Business Continuity Plan and a Continuity of Operations Plan is what people will be searching for at this time.

Your employees should know where these documents are located, whether on a local file server or hosted in the Cloud. We call this a disaster recovery war chest.

Dark Web Monitoring

Implementing the right technology

Lastly, you need to make sure your technology infrastructure is prepared to allow people to operate in case of a disaster. This means having a plan in case your data and your devices are compromised!

We recommend having backups on-site and on the Cloud to safeguard your data. That should cover you if anything happens to your server or if you are hit by a ransomware attack. When considering backup and recovery solutions, think about your desired Recovery Time Objective and Recovery Point Objective – RTO and RPO – which will determine how fast you can recover and how much data you can afford to lose. Remember to test these backups and check if they are functioning correctly and within your objectives!

Read: Backup Strategies to Prevent Data Loss

Having your data available is pointless if your staff can’t access it. Will people be able to work from their homes? Does every employee have access to a laptop or home PC? If so, does each computer comply with the company’s network access policy? And finally, does the device have a VPN set up to gain access to business applications and data remotely?

It is also highly advisable to move critical files to cloud-based storage, such as Egnyte or SharePoint. This will allow access to these files from anywhere and on any device without the need for complex VPNs. 

Putting Business Continuity into Practice

Having a robust Business Continuity Plan in place will allow you to be prepared for every major risk factor that could potentially affect your organisation. A Business Continuity Plan should be able to address situations like fire, floods, physical invasions and the vast number of Cyber Security risks – which could be just as disastrous for a company.

One of any such disasters could cause anything from financial damage to a vital failure leading to business closure.

Now that you know the importance of these procedures, you can prepare your plan and avoid the incoming damage posed by external threats. It’s always recommended to have a specialist by your side when developing your strategy to ensure you’re not missing any critical details. Plus, this expertise will save you time and effort in defining the best recovery solutions.

Count on us to help you build your Business Continuity Plan! We help our clients define their backup and recovery objectives. We monitor backups in real-time to identify issues and review client backup reports daily. Issues are escalated and remediated by our certified support engineers. We will certify that everything is working for when you need them the most. Book a Call today to speak to our team and learn all the ways we can support your business infrastructure.

Many thanks for reading! To learn more about Business Technology, read our blogs and follow us on Social Media by clicking below.

Using technology to boost team performance

Using technology to boost team performance
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Whichever business you’re in, you probably need people to conduct your core activities. People are the most valuable assets, and most companies exist simply because of their team’s collective knowledge and expertise. Acknowledging this is important, but more than that is creating an environment that enables your people to perform well and feel satisfied. That can’t be left to chance, and technology should play a role in this process. This article discusses how you can use technology to boost team performance.

After all, technology probably has a significant impact on your business operations and resilience. Your tech infrastructure affects your organisation daily, but did you ever stop to think about how it affects your team? Tech allows your people to be more efficient and collaborate in ways not possible before. 

With the right strategy, your business could attract and retain the best people – allowing them to perform at their top level. Is your tech doing enough to motivate your team, or is it bringing headaches to them? Keep reading to learn about how we can use technology to boost team performance.

Better Communication and Collaboration = Better Teamwork

The first and most obvious way a business can use technology to boost team engagement is by facilitating communication and collaboration. Sometimes these might seem trivial, but their impact on the work environment can be immediately felt.

The pandemic made it clear how tech allows teams to communicate seamlessly in multiple environments. Using video calls and instant messaging applications became the norm for most businesses. VoIP – which is essentially phone over the internet – was also popularised as a viable mechanism to have people in different addresses connected to the same landline. Companies that didn’t use these became virtually inaccessible during the pandemic. Even after restrictions were eased, organisations kept utilising these tools to save time and money.

Collaboration tools can also allow your team to do much more. Modern file sharing solutions allow people to simultaneously edit documents and sync them together – avoiding past issues with multiple file versions and redundancy. Tools such as SharePoint enable team members to access files and leave comments and feedback before forwarding them to customers.

And all of that can be done while remaining compliant with data security standards. Access to specific folders can be exclusive to certain departments or individuals with higher clearance. Security does not need to be compromised to allow efficiency – as we explain in the article Access Control.

Work from anywhere, hire from everywhere 

Remote working became the norm during the pandemic, and most companies have learned to embrace it. Now employees have become more demanding, and allowing them to work remotely has positively affected their satisfaction, work-life balance, and retention.

But remote work is not only positive for employees, and it enables companies to take advantage of the talent that was previously out of reach. With it, businesses can access a global workforce and pick from the best candidates regardless of where they are located.

There are plenty of tools and aspects to be considered when talking about remote work, and most business owners have minimal knowledge of what’s available to them. Tools such as Microsoft Teams have several valuable capabilities. Read our Guide to Remote Working to understand more elements within this topic and learn some helpful tips. Alternatively, get in touch to learn more about what could be applied to your business.

Having remote working capacity has become a considerable competitive advantage when recruiting. This is another clear example of how businesses can use technology to boost team engagement. You can use it to attract more talent and give your people plenty of flexibility to retain them.

More time to work on what matters

Business technology brings much-needed efficiency to the table. Tasks that would take days can be done in minutes, and a single individual can do projects that would require a whole team. Once you have an in-depth understanding of your processes and bottlenecks, you can identify where you can improve and use technology to boost team performance.

Tech can speed up or automate multiple time-consuming tasks and allow your team to be more efficient. Tasks such as producing reports or getting signatures to close deals can now be done with a few clicks and save time. They can then dedicate extra time to tasks that generate more value and have more face-time with customers.

Depending on your industry, there are different ways to improve processes and become more efficient. We recommend talking to a specialist technology provider in your industry to hear what they have to say.

Switching IT Support Providers

Training and onboarding your team

Your company can also use technology to boost team education and qualifications. Keeping your people up to date with market trends and developments is vital to maintaining best practices and reaching your goals, so why not facilitate this process using tech?

Specialised education can be delivered remotely, allowing people to learn and develop wherever they are. You can set a training programme so they can develop at their own pace or establish a training routine for them to follow. These methods allow companies to access and deliver enterprise-level content from anywhere globally.

Read: Navigating Backups and Training During Unprecedented Times

The same logic can be applied to your onboarding processes, streamlining the learning path for new employees and teaching them how to best utilise tools and systems they’ll need daily. Expect more than just a series of videos; there are several interactive training programmes available today, with some even including exams, projects and assignments to allow people to show what they’ve learned.

Finding the best ways how to use technology to boost team performance

Your employees are predominantly responsible for your business’ success, so it’s crucial to get them to operate at their best. Management and organisational culture will have a major impact on them, but so does the technology in which they handle their tasks and collaborate.

Every business can be improved in a different manner, and a specialist partner will be able to provide tailored advice to your particular industry. Seeking expert assistance means you’ll have an adequate strategy and knows where to go and how to prioritise. You’ll be saving time and money by using the exact tools that’ll have the best impact potential in your business.

If you’re looking for a partner to lend you a hand, Book a Discovery Call. We’ve been in business for two decades and have worked with hundreds of customers in multiple industries. Our team knows what is needed for business in professional services, financial services, manufacturing, healthcare, and more. We’ll be happy to talk, understand your needs and offer a solution.

Many thanks for reading! To learn more about Business Technology, read our blogs and follow us on Social Media by clicking below.

 

4 Benefits of Applying Technology in GRC for Financial Services

technology GRC for financial services - man walking down stairs
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Financial services companies rely heavily on a consistent approach to handle Governance, Risk and Compliance (GRC). Businesses in this space have a lot to lose if this aspect of the organisation is not carefully minded, so there is no room for errors. Tech plays an important role and can assist in this process – but most businesses are not utilising it to its full potential. This article will go through some of the benefits of applying technology in GRC for financial services companies.

Read: How can IT Support Financial Services Operations?

Achieving a mature level of compliance is easier than it looks if you know how to navigate this subject. Tech can provide the consistency required for GRC while automating specific processes and facilitating time-consuming tasks. This should enable your business to transform GRC into a competitive advantage, giving you the confidence to undertake audits, increase valuation and face organisational challenges.

Our team can provide you with the tools and methods to improve your maturity step by step. If you’re looking for specialised assistance, Book a free Discovery Call! We can handle the heavy lifting with full visibility while you focus on your priorities. 

Benefit #1 – Increased Maturity due to Regulatory Compliance

The first benefit you should think of when implementing technology in GRC for financial services consists of the operational and relationship improvements you can obtain by achieving a higher level of regulatory compliance. This may sound obvious to some, but it’s relevant across all levels of the organisation.

Having a seal of approval from an auditor, a global standard or certification demonstrates that you are running a well-oiled machine and able to confidently deliver on operational best practices. Reaching this standard is not for everyone, and you have to earn it. This shows a great sign of maturity and transmits trust to employees, partners and customers.

Read: How a ‘Compliance First’ Mindset Limits Liabilities for SMBs

This reflects into more confidence from investors and brands, as well as in your own operational ability. Which, in turn, could also reflect in more referrals from your stakeholders. A high level of organisational maturity stimulates a better approach in several areas of your business.

Benefit #2 – Improved Information security

Information security is vital for financial services, and in this day and age, this information lives in your servers. This means that to comply with regulations and manage risks, your business must have a robust cyber security strategy in place.

Implementing the best-in-class technology for GRC for financial services will ensure your data remains safe and protect you from ever-growing cybersecurity threats. Standards such as ISO27001 provide clear guidelines and expectations from an organisation, which result in a high level of protection against cybercriminals.

Read: Understanding Cybercrime against Financial Services Companies

Having such tools in place should make it easier to comply with regulations such as the GDPR, which can impose hefty fines on an organisation if they fail to protect customers’ data. For a financial services business, falling for a cyberattack could expose particular vulnerabilities and cause tremendous reputational damage. Knowing how to utilise technology in GRC for financial services is key to managing this risk.

Benefit #3 – Increase Valuation

One of the benefits of treating GRC as a competitive advantage is an increase in valuation. This is a big deal for financial services companies, as organisations in this space are constantly involved in mergers and acquisitions. Having a mature business with technology supporting GRC means you’ll have more evidence to present and more tools to help you achieve your KPIs.

Read: Why are Regular Risk Assessments non-negotiable for Financial Services?

Ideally, when thinking about business valuation, you’re looking for records such as working capital and accounts receivable turnover. Technology in GRC for financial services could provide detailed reports with confidence and increase efficiency for other metrics. Your business could have an improved budget creation cycle time and faster invoice turnaround. Additionally, you can probably expect a better payroll/headcount ratio, considering the time and effort needed from your employees may be significantly improved.

Testing backups for peace of mind

Benefit #4 – Develop your Brand Image

All of these benefits will impact your brand image towards stakeholders. It’s easier to trust a mature company with due diligence and processes in place – and people are very good at spotting if that’s made up!

The maturity that comes from utilising technology in GRC for financial services can be translated into a better reputation and generate trust from investors and partners. This means more referrals and more organic growth. Trust can effectively increase your portfolio, just as the lack of confidence can severely impact your income.

How to Implement Technology in GRC for Financial Services?

Now that the benefits of implementing technology in GRC for financial services, you might be looking for the next step to do it. We have a good deal of content explaining how to handle technology risk for financial services, but the best way forward is to seek specialised assistance and establish the next steps with someone who understands the challenges ahead.

Utilising technology in GRC is the way forward, but implementing this tech and securing it involves a strategic approach tailored to your business needs. Depending on your current level of maturity and how your processes are structured, your business may need more or fewer inputs to achieve its desired outcomes. 

We have in-depth knowledge of utilising technology to develop GRC for financial services, and our team is here to help. Our structured approach to compliance means you’ll no longer fear audits. Plus, you’ll be able to reap the benefits mentioned rather sooner than later. Book a Discovery Call for a free, no-commitment chat with our specialists, who’ll look to understand your needs and propose the best solution.

Thanks for reading! For more exclusive content, read our blogs and follow us on Social Media!

 

What Should you Look For in IT Support for Manufacturing?

What should you look for IT Support for Manufacturing - woman sitting working at computer inside a factory background
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How to decide on the best provider when it comes to IT support for manufacturing businesses? If you are unhappy with your current provider or looking to hire one for the first time, you’ve come to the right place. This article will provide you with practical and straightforward advice to pick the best IT partner based on the main priorities and needs shared by the manufacturing industry.

Manufacturing pros don’t tend to be super knowledgeable about the technical details of how an IT support firm operates. To make matters worse, most IT support companies mention much technical jargon and are not very good at differentiating themselves.

Read: Understanding Cybercrime Against Manufacturing Companies

Best-in-class IT support for manufacturing will ensure you can operate at peak performance, secure your staff and avoid downtime. Plus, a specialist partner will discuss your long term technology strategy and help you plan for and implement new pieces of equipment and software. 

Now that you’ll learn these tips, you can pick a partner who takes your business seriously. Book a call with us, and our team of specialists will be happy to provide you with a tailored solution.

#1 Make sure they offer Proactive Managed Services for Manufacturing

First, you should always consider a provider who offers proactive IT services. This differs from a break-fix contract and will ensure you pick among the most committed firms delivering IT support for manufacturing.

Proactive services mean that your managed services provider will continually monitor your network, installing security updates and fixing issues before they can cause trouble. This is the new standard for most IT support companies, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding this practice in a reliable partner.

#2 Learn About their Downtime statistics and incidents in the past few years

When looking for IT support for manufacturing firms, this is probably the main item you’re looking for: uptime. You want your business to be operational at all times, and several processes in your routine are probably reliant on technology. Issuing invoices, making payments, procuring, and communicating with suppliers and customers are only some of the crucial activities that might halt your productivity if not functional.

Read: Downtime Calculator: How much does downtime cost your business?

If you are handling the responsibility to ensure your technology is operational, you should confirm that this IT support firm has proper procedures and can keep downtime to a minimum. This will reflect on how prone your business is to IT outages and cyberattacks. 

Additionally, it shows how efficient their project management team is when a piece of technology needs to be upgraded or implemented. IT support for manufacturing should always strive to avoid downtime, so you can expect maximum performance even when moving to a new site or tackling significant change in your operations.

#3 Learn about their Business Continuity Plan and Disaster Recovery Strategy

Another aspect that will significantly contribute to avoiding downtime and ensuring your business remains operational is developing a Business Continuity plan, with a robust Backup and Disaster Recovery strategy.

Business Continuity planning is key to achieving organisational resilience, a business’s capacity to survive amidst unexpected events. That includes natural disasters such as fire and floods and cyber attacks, theft, or other human damage. The business continuity plan consists of a thorough analysis of your primary vulnerabilities and risks, along with their appropriate contingencies and ownership.

Read: How Backup and Disaster Recovery Protect SMEs

Disaster Recovery handles the most common solution to these events, including backups. These strategies and plans are vital when discussing IT support for manufacturing. They’ll ensure your business can recover quickly in case of any disasters or events, allowing you to maintain maximum uptime and efficiency.

When questioning a firm to handle your IT support for manufacturing, ask how they conduct this process and about their past incidents. If a potential IT partner tells you they are not concerned about this because they trust their security or didn’t have incidents in the past, beware!

Read: Monitor, Test, Restore – Making sure that your backups are ready

Security incidents are bound to occur since the human factor is always present, and criminals are continually trying to devise new tactics to breach your defences. Therefore, recovery is essential for security and vital for avoiding downtime.

Server Management Monitoring Support

#4 Find IT support partners with existing manufacturing customers 

Last but not least, it’s always a good idea to look for IT partners working with Manufacturing companies. These firms already know the main challenges faced by this industry and will be ready to offer tried-and-tested solutions to assist you.

An IT support provider with no previous experience with manufacturing would undoubtedly lack a few things, as this industry requires practical knowledge and maximum efficiency. You don’t want a partner who’ll still be figuring out the best technologies and methods to implement them – you want them to hit the ground running. Ask about their customers and give them a ring to learn about their experience.

Read our Case Study with Fairco, one of our manufacturing customers

Long-standing customers are one of the best signs you could look to find. If they’ve been happy for many years, their standards of uptime and productivity must have been met. Customers with multiple sites or in different locations also show signs of versatility. We currently work with manufacturing firms in Ireland and the UK, which have been counting on us every day for many years now.

Now that you have these practical tips on finding the best IT support for manufacturing, you’re in a better place to make a decision. We still have this Complete Checklist to ask if you’re looking to dive deeper into the technical aspects. Otherwise, you can Book a Call and talk to our team about your specific needs.

Our specialists can give you a tailored solution and will not push you into a sale. It’s a no-commitment call, which will provide you with all the information you need to make a decision. If you’re still not sure, read our Case Study from one of our manufacturing customers.

Thanks for reading! For more exclusive content, read our blogs and follow us on Social Media!

 

How can IT support Financial Services Operations?

IT Support Financial Services Dublin - Finance documents, coffee and calculator
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Financial services and IT are vital areas for most businesses and each other. Companies in these industries tend to work well together and rely on each other for their specialities. However, many organisations still don’t understand the whole scope of how should IT support financial services operations – and still operate on a break-fix contract with their tech providers.

IT fix is the most basic service offered by managed services providers (MSPs). This article explains how you can get more value from your provider and turn your technology into a fundamental business enabler. Tech can have a significant impact on financial services operations, so mark the advice you’ll find below and chat with your provider on how you can strengthen your relationship and find more value for your business.

Read: What should you look for in an IT partner for Financial Services?

Should your MSP not have the expertise in leveraging IT and supporting financial services operations, we’ll be happy to assist. Book a call to speak to our team and learn about the tailored solutions we can offer your business.

In what ways can IT support financial services operations?

Technology can and should impact multiple activities within your financial services organisation, including but not limited to compliance, resilience and security. In this article, we’re focusing on operations, hence the question: in what ways can IT support financial services operations?

Business operations have been wildly transformed in the past two decades with the popularity of personal computers and the internet. Today, one individual can do more by himself than ever before, thanks to how tasks have been optimised and automated. This is one of the ways how IT supports financial services operations: by increasing efficiency and speed. Which, in turn, will generate better results in less time.

Read: Understanding Cybercrime against financial services companies

Reducing costs and expenses is another highly valued pillar in financial services operations, and tech plays an essential role in that. We’ll now dive deeper into these points and detail how IT supports financial services.

Increasing Financial Services Operations Efficiency with Technology

Increasing efficiency is much easier said than done and requires an in-depth understanding of your business processes and bottlenecks. However, a quick analysis of how your team operates could provide valuable insight into this area. Tech is already playing a role in your business, and your team is probably utilising it in their daily routine for years. This means they have a good picture of what is working well and what feels like it could be improved. 

Short delays across the day may not seem meaningful, but they matter a lot in the broad picture of financial services operations. Plus, they could be a sign that something is not functioning well and might cause more significant problems in the future. If your systems fail, your business will be facing several costs associated with downtime, including damage to your reputation. Hence, a specialist MSP should look to increase the speed of your transactions and service, which will directly translate to your team working faster.

Read: Is technology affecting your productivity?

Avoiding downtime is an important role that should be taken seriously by your MSP. When looking for IT support for financial services, this is undoubtedly one of the first benefits you’ll find. The provider should ensure uptime by verifying that your tech is operating satisfactorily and having an engaged Helpdesk to assist when something comes up. If incident response times are low, your staff can quickly resume working if they face any IT speed bumps.

Business continuity and resilience are also vital for financial services operations, as they’ll ensure your business remains operating in case of an unexpected event. This is also a key area when understanding how should IT support financial services operations. It involves registering and detailing your most relevant assets, analysing your main risks & vulnerabilities and defining a plan to address them and act if you can’t avoid them. This process is vital in preventing downtime, and a specialist provider will be able to assist you with it.

Read: Why are regular risk assessments non-negotiable for financial services?

If your technology infrastructure runs smoothly and allows you to work with no downtime and slowness, you’re off to a good start. But it gets better, as the right tech solutions should give you the capacity to scale. Increasing your number of staff and getting them in the loop can be done quickly, and teams can work from anywhere securely with only a few gadgets.

Scaling can also be done for your customers to reach the appropriate targets through training, updates, and service delivery. If a critical closing date for the fiscal year is coming, you can quickly notify customers and prospects. Signing contracts, procuring, and even auditing can be much facilitated by tech.

If your interactions with tech are quick and efficient, your interactions with customers will likely be too. This can create an overall better experience and satisfaction for both your teams and the people they engage with. Next, we’ll discuss how tech can be leveraged to reduce expenses in financial services operations.

IT Cyber Security Audit

Reducing Financial Services Operations Expense with Technology

Increasing efficiency is by itself a form of cost reduction since you’ll need less time and person-hours to get work done, and your team will have more time to tackle more projects. That being said, there are several less obvious ways in which technology can reduce operational costs.

In our experience, many financial services organisations are still struggling with legacy systems, which are challenging to support, implement, sync and update. Businesses are also dealing with multiple tools to handle routine work activities, some of which don’t integrate well and hinder productivity.

Read: Cyber Liability Insurance for Financial Services – is it worth it?

An MSP that specialises in financial services operations should assist you in standardising your tech stack and setting up the most efficient tools to get the job done. By streamlining your tech, you’ll have an easier task performing most daily operations and onboarding new staff. It’ll also be easier to support and update your technology stack, which is vital for security and efficiency.

The last thing we’ll mention today about how should IT support financial services operations is by streamlining your processes. When auditing your tech infrastructure and identifying your assets and risks, you’ll have a unique opportunity to review everything in your current process that can be improved. Your tech partner then must develop solutions to act upon your issues and help your business perform as it should.

Read: Why you should conduct a technology audit for your business?

The right set of tools can help your team collaborate, communicate and achieve your business outcomes. A specialised partner with in-depth knowledge of your industry probably has several suggestions on improving your business maturity, reducing costs, and being more efficient overall.

Leveraging Tech to Support Financial Services Operations 

Finding a specialist partner enables you to do more than fixing any piece of tech that might be malfunctioning. By leveraging technology to improve your daily operations, your business can reap several benefits and become more agile, versatile and resilient.

Not only can IT support financial services operations, but it can also be used to improve compliance, security and as a booster to help you reach your desired business outcomes. It’s important to remember that as your business invests more in tech, it’s vital to secure it and implement it correctly.

To do that and more, you’ll be better off hiring a specialist technology partner. One that can assist you in understanding exactly how tech can best serve your business and minimise all risks associated with it. Our team will be happy to hear you and propose a tailored solution. Book a Free Discovery Call and learn how we can assist.

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Understanding Cybercrime Against Manufacturing Companies

Understanding Cybercrime against manufacturing - factory environment with machines and man in his 60s with uniform at the centre
Photo by Sam Moghadam Khamseh on Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
Every year is a new record year for cybercrime. This nefarious industry has been growing non-stop for over a decade and now is among the most profitable activities globally. What’s the picture if we’re discussing specifically cybercrime against manufacturing companies? It doesn’t seem to be getting any better, and understanding why this is happening is vital in reversing this scenario.

Companies today rely on technology more than ever. We use it for our daily activities, communications, payments, and our most complex projects and operations. If you think about it, even tasks such as procuring, taking orders and communicating with suppliers, partners, and vendors rely on technology and connectivity. Still, most companies in the manufacturing industry act as if tech is just an extra cost to their business and tend to be hesitant when investing in their own security.

This article will explain why criminals are targeting this industry and how cybercrime against manufacturing occurs, so we can act and stop hackers in their tracks. Read on and get in touch if you need specialised assistance.

What you need to know about Cybercrime against Manufacturing Companies

Criminals have their own reasons for targeting particular industries, but analysing the patterns of attacks and the victims’ behaviours shows a clear picture of why this happens. The main targets usually are businesses in the financial services and healthcare spaces, which we have already discussed in other articles, which you can find below:

Understanding Cybercrime against Financial Services Companies
Understanding Cybercrime against Healthcare Organisations

So, how frequent is cybercrime against manufacturing companies? Several large companies in this industry have already become targets. The pace at which crime advances shows that it’s only a matter of time for every manufacturing business with at least one device connected to the internet to become a target. It’s no longer a matter of “if” you become a target but “when”.

We’ll go by the main reasons why manufacturing is a common target for cybercriminals and explain the most typical threats associated with each of them.

Low Cybersecurity Maturity

The first reason why cybercrime against manufacturing companies is increasingly common is the low cybersecurity maturity of most companies in this industry. As mentioned before, there’s a belief from some businesses in this space that cybercrime can’t hurt them. They think that because most of their staff is not sitting directly in front of a computer, they are less susceptible to a cyberattack.

Unfortunately, that is not true, and because of that belief, business owners decide not to invest enough in cybersecurity and leave several vulnerabilities exposed. Cybercriminals are taking advantage of that since they can quickly get in and take whatever they want with little effort.

Lower defences and lack of awareness about cyber threats mean that an attack of any kind is much more likely to succeed, and the damage potential is much higher. For that same reason, small and medium companies in several verticals are being targeted.

Costly Downtime

Manufacturing businesses must be efficient, and the production flow can’t stop. We know this, and criminals do too. The cost of a delay in production could be catastrophic and spiral into lost deals, customers and business relationships.

Cybercriminals take advantage of this by locking businesses out of their machines, using a malicious software known as Ransomware. Once they breach into your network, they begin encrypting your files and spreading through devices, even infecting backups that are connected to the network. Then everybody is locked out, and the only way to access your files and equipment is to pay a ransom.

Read: What Should you do if your Business is targeted by Ransomware

Imagine being locked out of your machines during a busy time of the year! Most manufacturing businesses can’t afford to be halted for long, so they tend to pay up the ransom. This nefarious cybercrime against manufacturing can be easily avoidable with a solid business continuity and disaster recovery plan, which should include Cloud or offsite backups. However, depending on your recovery strategy, you might still lose some time and data trying to recover your latest files.

Read: Navigating Backups and Training During Unprecedented Times

Customer Scenarios Applied Technology

Reliance on Multiple Suppliers

Another aspect that criminals often try to explore when targeting businesses in this space is the relationship with suppliers. You’re probably constantly dealing with external suppliers, which makes the entire network of relationships a potential target. A criminal might be able to infiltrate your business through a breach in your suppliers’ defence, or they could use your vulnerabilities to go after your suppliers.

There are several threats associated with supply chain management, and we’ve discussed the topic in other articles, such as How to Effectively Manage Supply Chain Risks. We advise you to get informed on the subject and share these recommendations with partners and suppliers, as your security is just as strong as the weakest link.

Read: Recommended Best Practices for a Secure Supply Chain

The volume of transactions in this industry is yet another reason why cybercrime against manufacturing companies is viable. This enables criminals to come up with multiple ways of committing fraud, such as invoice fraud and the CEO and CFO Fraud, which could potentially steal a substantial sum of money from yourself and your stakeholders.

Getting technology on your side 

You are already using technology to conduct all sorts of activities in your business. Now that you know of potential risks, you have the choice to act upon them or to allow your vulnerabilities to come bite you later.

By investing in your technology, you can avoid the cyber threats mentioned above and make sure that your business is supported by tech and not hindered by it. Whether your tools and machines are responsive, connected and updated or not will significantly impact your daily experience and efficiency.

Book a free discovery call to talk to us and learn how we can best assist your business. A specialist provider can leverage technology to improve your performance, reduce downtime and protect you from cyber threats. Cybercrime against manufacturing companies is a serious issue, and it shouldn’t be ignored. If the worse does come to happen, we can help you get back up and running in no time, avoiding reputational and financial losses.

We have happy manufacturing customers in both Ireland and the UK, and we’re familiar with the challenges faced by this industry and the business outcomes you may be looking for. Wait no longer; get in touch today! 

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Challenges when Building an Agile Business

Challenges when building an agile business - people looking at computer screen thinking
Photo by Lala Azizli on Unsplash

Reading Time: 5 Minutes
Building an agile business is not easy, but it’s worth it. Organisational agility is one of the most sought-after characteristics of a business today, and this tendency doesn’t show signs of slowing down. In a market environment continually developing and incorporating new technology, agile companies and teams have had a great degree of success. Their ability to adapt and pivot quickly has made them highly competitive and resilient.

Read: Building Organisational Agility and Resilience for SMEs

For an SME, there is no good reason not to work towards building an agile business. The organisational structure and culture tend to be more fluid than in an enterprise, and there are many advantages that companies can enjoy. An agile SME has the potential to be more flexible, more innovative and more efficient. The team will have an easier time prototyping, experimenting and transitioning to new projects. These qualities can mean the difference for an SME to survive in a competitive market.

So if you’re thinking about building an agile business, you’re on the right track. This article covers some of the challenges business owners face when trying to implement an agile mindset, along with some recommendations to avoid them. Read on and get in touch if you’d like specialised help from our team.

Challenges when building an agile business 

Most of the challenges SMEs struggle with when building an agile business are related to organisational culture – the established behaviour and conventions present at work. Because an agile company proposes a new way of doing things, the old way must be transformed, and old habits are replaced with new ones. These are some of the obstacles you may need to clear:

Resistance to Change 

Building an agile business requires effort and buy-in from all influential people in the company. This could be a major challenge for a company with an established culture and longtime employees. People who are satisfied with their current roles, responsibilities and the overall “way of doing things” can often be resistant to change, which is a considerable obstacle to implementing an agile mindset.

Read: Best Practices in Change Management for SMEs

Organisational politics and social dynamics play a big part in this. Therefore it is essential to study how this change will affect your business and prepare people’s expectations and get them on board as soon as possible. The change will have much more effect if it’s coming from several influential people in the business, rather than just the C-board.

Risk-Averse Culture

In a risk-averse culture, the resistance could be even higher. Agile businesses are known to reduce the time spent on the planning phase to improve testing and execution. Risk-averse individuals and companies will typically require all the information they can get before making a decision, which differs from the agile mindset. To get your team to be more comfortable with risks, they must understand that failure is not punishable and that experimentation is encouraged in your business.

Slow Decision Making

When building an agile business, your team needs to be free to make some decisions on the fly and have a certain level of autonomy. If every decision has to be approved and taken to management, this will inevitably slow things down and undermine your adaptability.

Empowering teams to make decisions seems to be the way forward. Jeff Bezos, the founder of Amazon, has great advice for leaders trying to figure this out. He says every business decision can be categorised as a decision “type 1” or “type 2”. 

A type 1 decision is one that will be irreversible, and requires strategic planning, investing and a significant amount of effort to implement. A type 2 decision is easily reversible and can be implemented quickly, with little budget and effort. Most business leaders treat every decision as a type 1 decision and should learn to identify type 2 decisions and leave them to their teams. This article explains this decision-making style with more detail.

Departmental Conflicts

Departments in a business could have different priorities, and that creates friction and hardens the implementation of an agile methodology – among many other things. If your sales team is told to sell to anyone whatever it costs, your customer service department may have to deal with several unhappy customers and resent the sales department.

Read: Your biggest cybersecurity risk – Your Employees

People should be operating towards a shared goal in the business and should not be afraid to collaborate and contribute to each other’s work. This is key when building an agile business, and any information silos between departments must be dismounted.

Lack of Strategic Fit

If a specific individual or unit in the company is solely responsible for innovation, they can become disconnected from the central business and lose sight of the company’s vision and mission over time. When this happens, the innovation team may start to define its purpose in ways incompatible with the main business, which is why innovation should be decentralised and incentivised for all employees.

Key Steps to Start Building an Agile Business 

You’ve learned about the obstacles you may face when building an agile business, so it’s time to explore the practical steps to turn this dream into reality. This is by no means a comprehensive guide, and different agile methodologies may have their own processes. These insights come from this article published by IESE Business School and hopefully will provide more clarity to make your decisions.

Sensing

This alludes to an organisation’s ability to detect, identify and assess the opportunities and challenges presented by changing conditions and support informed decision making. 

For example, if there is rapid technological development in a sector or the impact of consumer and social factors is difficult to predict, it’s essential to effectively “sense” exactly when there’s a need for change and where innovation or adaptation is most needed.

Shifting

Shifting is the ability of an organisation to adapt internally to fit the demands of its external environment, like a supply chain crisis. Agile companies can shift their resources and their outdated working methods when needed. The most flexible organisations are those with this type of agility.

Securing

Securing refers to the ability of a company to mobilise the resources required, both internally and externally, to capitalise on opportunities. As the company grows, this may become even more challenging. 

Although large firms are endowed with many assets, they often struggle to support new initiatives while staying focused on today’s critical issues. As a result, they either tend to limit access to resources or dilute the impact of their changes by starting on too many competing initiatives.

Taking a Shortcut: Partnering with a Specialised MSP

Building an agile business may not be easy, but it can get more manageable with the right help. Hiring a specialist allows you to avoid some of the most common pitfalls and access valuable tools to facilitate collaboration and innovation.

Technology plays a vital part in an agile business, as it will allow your team to gain speed, efficiency and track your activities to be continuously improving. Our team knows the best tools for file sharing, integrating apps and accessing cloud resources. You’ll be ready to access world-class technology while our security tools keep you safe from cyber threats.

Book a call today to talk to our engineers! Our team will be happy to understand your needs and offer a tailored solution.

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Building Organisational Agility and Resilience for SMEs

Building Organisational agility and resilience for SMEs - man preparing to start race
Photo by Braden Collum on Unsplash

Reading Time: 6 Minutes
Small and Medium Businesses face many challenges to remain competitive and operational in the market. Some companies are able to thrive, grow and reach their goals, while others have a hard time tackling the threats and obstacles that inevitably show up. The main differences between companies that succeed and those that don’t are based on these two words: agility and resilience. This article will dive into the importance of organisational agility and resilience for SMEs.

Recommended Read: How to Become a Resilient Organisation

Both of these qualities affect not just the results obtained by a business, but they have significant implications on how these companies operate and how their culture is shaped. These concepts can increase a business’ chance to succeed and survive, especially given the uncertainty of the business environment today.

For a company to survive, it needs to adapt quickly to drastic changes in the industry, and it needs to have contingency plans to prepare for the worst. Keep reading to learn more about how organisational agility and resilience for SMEs can provide these essential capacities for your business.

What is the difference between Organisational Agility and Resilience for SMEs?

Organisational agility and resilience are increasingly relevant qualities in today’s business environment. Companies could remain with the same structure for decades in the traditional business world, iterating on their processes with caution and patience. Technological advance has made it so that products quickly become obsolete, and the relationship with customers and brands has been significantly altered.

This has led to the popularity of the productive mindsets feeding successful companies. The first one mentioned is organisational agility, and it consists of the business’ capacity to sense market trends and changes and adapt to maintain its relevance. An agile company is flexible and not overly attached to a specific target audience, product or service. It’ll understand what is more relevant for a particular moment and develop the skills and services needed for that situation.

An agile organisation can surf the market waves and change directions when needed. What about a resilient organisation? How do these concepts complement each other, and how do they differ?

Read: How can Cyber Resilience Protect SMEs in Ireland?

In short, a resilient business understands its core activities very well and has learned how to ensure they will remain operational. This means having an in-depth knowledge of potential threats and risks, a strategy to minimise those risks, and a plan to act if they come to be.

So a resilient organisation might not be as fast as an agile business. And the agile one may not have all recommended contingencies to avoid a disaster. Both might enable a company to survive and thrive, focusing on different approaches. The good news is: they are not mutually exclusive. Ideally, a successful organisation will have the capacity to be agile while also being aware of its risks and able to avoid them. It all begins with some changes in your workplace, which we’ll discuss in the next section.

How can your SME be more Resilient and Agile? 

How to improve organisational agility and resilience for SMEs? An organisation can be agile and resilient simultaneously, and to develop these qualities, a business must go beyond hiring a new management tool. These changes will require business owners to review their current structure based on the following three pillars: People, Process and Technology.

People

Customers and workers are vital to the value creation process in agile organisations. You need to provide them with tools and methods to acquire high-quality data and promote interactions that lead to valuable collaboration.

Beyond systems, your hiring practices must prioritise stable and flexible personality types. This means hiring those who are comfortable with change and can leverage change to better themselves and eventually the company. People are just as critical as processes in your organisation’s ability to be agile and resilient.

Related: Your Biggest Cybersecurity Risk: Your Employees

For instance, dividing positions by novelty versus repetition is a good idea (i.e., tasks with little to no context and which require a lot of research versus well-documented duties with a playbook).

Companies that use both work styles and appropriately cross-train their employees to take on both are usually better equipped to deal with changing market situations. And all of this should have a significant impact on your workplace culture.

If your people are equipped with an agile mindset, they’re likely to be seeking changes in your processes and technology to create a better workflow.

Benefits of Teams

In terms of resilience, accountability and training have a powerful impact on preparing your team for tricky situations. If building an asset or risk register, it’s essential to have someone responsible for each element and aware of what to do about it.

Improving your employees’ resiliency helps your organisation become more agile. Fear of failure makes it difficult for people to accept feedback, take responsibility for problems and make decisions. Businesses should work towards creating an environment that reduces fear by cultivating a positive company culture that encourages risk-taking and accepts failure. 

When your employees are confident in their resiliency, they can concentrate more on absorbing new information and appreciating its potential utility rather than worrying about how they’ll react or pass on the blame if the news isn’t favourable. 

Processes

Agile businesses can adjust in response to new information about customers’ changing needs and the business environment quickly without creating employee resistance or resentment. The ability to transform insights into innovation requires effective collaboration, creative intelligence, and the ability to learn in new and meaningful ways. 

It’s a good idea to plan ahead, but it’s also advisable to leave room for unexpected changes. Find the right combination for you. A process can be 70% planned and 30% improvised but knowing your typical mix ahead of time makes it easier to react quickly when the situation demands it.

To take your processes through the path of agility, answer the following questions:

  • How does your company assess agility? Is this working well, or do you need to broaden the definition to include departments other than IT?
  • Categorise the work you’ve done in the last 12 months (what percentage of it was planned versus ad hoc?)
  • Are the right people in the appropriate positions?
  • What slowed previous attempts to pivot quickly?

On the same note, it’s vital to understand which processes and activities are most important for the organisation to establish resilience. Knowing this, you can list the most likely and impactful threats that could disturb these activities and think of ways to prevent them.

Technology

When handled properly, technology can substantially support your people and processes. However, you must make sure that the technology you use helps your business adapt to changes quickly. Otherwise, it could be the biggest hindrance in your journey towards agility.

Most of the work done by businesses today relies on technology, so when it is not working effectively, it tends to have a significant negative impact on productivity and focus. Just think about how meaningful the Cloud is to companies and how it can be affected by a slow internet connection.

Technology is also crucial in handling resilience, as we’ve explained in the article Organisational Resilience starts with Cyber Resilience. Most of the tools you’ll utilise to protect your business from cyber threats will fit this category, along with backup and disaster recovery tools.

In this context, technology acts as much more than a support function but rather as an essential component enabling business growth and efficiency.

Getting a Hand from a Specialist

Now that you’ve learned how important is organisational agility and resilience for SMEs, you might want to begin improving your capacities right away. And you should! By following some of the tips above, you may begin the shift your business needs to thrive.

Nonetheless, you don’t have to do it all by yourself. Especially when defining the best tools and technology to support your business’ development. That’s when we come in to assist.

Our team has in-depth knowledge of the dangerous cyber threats and knows how to prepare and deal with them. We’re also proficient in setting up and supporting most of the tools you might need to improve your processes and become more agile.

We can assist you in building a strategic technology plan, so you know exactly where you want to get and can get there with our support every step of the way.

If you want to learn more, look at our IT Strategy and Cloud Services pages. Our team will be happy to discuss your needs and provide tailored advice in a no-commitment Discovery Call. Book a call today, and let’s leverage the power of technology to bring your business to the next level!

Best Practices in Change Management for SMEs

Best Practices Change Management for SMEs. Description: black woman sitting on table talking to white man sitting on chair.
Photo by Tezos on Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
Changing is hard. We as individuals tend to be very resistant to change. As organisations, this picture gets much worse, which is why the topic of change management for SMEs has been gaining much popularity over the last decade. Business leaders realise that if they want to have adaptable organisations, they must be ready to manage change in a structured and consistent manner.

Organisational change comes in many forms. Changes in the business’ workflow, structure, culture and technology could happen for several internal or external reasons. Maybe you want your business to be more competitive and agile. Or you could be looking to improve communications and add more value to customers. Or perhaps you’re being forced to change because the competitors are doing it, and you may fall behind if you don’t.

Read: Refreshing your Business Technology in 2022

Whatever the case is, that’s where these best practices in Change Management for SMEs may be handy. This article will give you a better idea of what it takes to prepare your organisation for change, address resistance and ensure a smooth implementation.

Why is Change Management for SMEs so Important? 

Change management for SMEs is becoming such a popular topic because of the challenges involved and the risks associated with poor change management. As mentioned in the beginning, people are resistant to change. Experienced managers and specialised employees may not want to adopt a new tool because they already know so much about the one currently used.

The same happens with structural changes or cultural changes since a significant part of the team may be well used to the current structure or culture. Changes at this level could mean new responsibilities, a shift in the power balance or new work dynamics. And whoever’s happy with the current state may not want to go through the learning process again – and those people tend to have a good level of influence over coworkers. At the end of the day, if the team doesn’t adopt a proposed change, it won’t produce the desired outcome.

Read: A Resilient Organisation Starts with Cyber Resilience – Here’s Why

The risks associated with poor change management for SMEs are immense. If a company is unable to implement change, it won’t be able to innovate and adapt at an adequate pace. This means organisational resilience is directly influenced by change management.

Change may be voluntary or not, but the capacity to change has to exist. We have countless examples of global enterprises that did not adapt to a market change and failed. Kodak and Blockbuster are two examples that were unable to adapt to new markets and technologies and crumbled. 

Recommended: How can Cyber Resilience Protects SMEs in Ireland?

These changes did not come overnight, but they also could’ve! Events such as wars and even the Covid 19 pandemic have affected several industries and closed millions of businesses across the globe. Organisations that were resilient and ready to embrace change were able to adapt quickly and survive amidst the crisis.

Thus, efficient change management for SMEs is simply vital. It’s crucial to get the team on board and enable the company to be resilient and adaptable. The only constant in today’s business world is change, and businesses that can’t change are doomed to fail. The following section will discuss five stages that a company should go through when implementing changes. These will help you better understand the impact you’re looking for and promote acceptance from your team!

Careers Spector

Best Practices in Change Management for SMEs (five stages)

1. Identify

Most change management strategies recognise that identifying what to improve creates a solid foundation for clarity, ease of execution and success.

Since most changes are made to improve a process, a technology or a result, identifying the objective and clarifying goals is crucial. This also involves selecting the resources and individuals capable of facilitating and leading the initiative.

Recommended: Why Should you Conduct a Technology Audit for your Business?

Start by asking the following questions to gain a better understanding of your core mission:

  • What are you changing?
  • Why is this change occurring?
  • Which systems and processes might be affected?
  • How would this affect employees, customers and others?

2. Evaluate

Change evaluation attempts to analyse crucial transformations before letting those changes integrate into usual operations.

Here are a few suggestions for the evaluation stage:

  • Define how various internal and external user groups will be affected. 
  • Determine the processes that need to be modified and the individuals who oversee them. 
  • Examine technology mapping and dependencies to ensure you understand the implications of pulling specific systems offline for updates.

3. Manage

These are the areas that require your attention:

  • Before detailing your change management strategy, meet with appropriate team leaders to discuss your plan and solicit their views. Then ask them to meet with their teams to discuss these changes and obtain feedback from the employees.
  • List and connect with relevant process owners and provide them with implementation deadlines. Make sure people are accountable and turn them into agents of change.
  • Know which platforms and technologies will be affected by upcoming changes. Remember to gather emergency contacts to tackle unforeseen mishaps.

4. Create

After completing the previous steps, create a change management strategy and draft an expected implementation timeframe.

The change management strategy must be comprehensive to act as a roadmap defining the concrete steps your organisation will have to take to implement the change management process. This is crucial to avoid disrupting workflows and assist your team in navigating this change.

5. Implement 

Once all key stakeholders have approved the change management strategy, it’s time to put the changes into effect. This frequently requires cross-team collaboration and, on occasion, the support of third parties such as technology suppliers, consultants or a managed service provider (MSP).

Preparing your Business for Technological Change 

Technological changes can happen very fast and profoundly impact your organisation. They could affect your workflow, the way people interact and even the core activities of your business. Hence the importance of having a comprehensive technology strategy that will lay the foundation for business growth and prepare it for the changes you may face.

Learn More About IT Strategy and Planning

If you are planning to refresh and update your technology, this is an excellent opportunity to think things through for a moment before implementing something new. Picking the right piece of tech and handling these transitions may be tricky if you are not being assisted by a specialist team. Get in touch, and we’ll be happy to advise on the practical steps for your next tech project. And if you need an extra pair of hands, count on us!

Many thanks for reading! To learn more about Business Technology, read our blogs and follow us on Social Media by clicking below.

Understanding Cybercrime Against Healthcare Organisations

Cybercrime against healthcare organisations - doctors in surgery room next to several computers and medical equipment
Photo by Piron Guillaume on Unsplash

Reading Time: 5 Minutes
Cybercrime is a growing issue affecting most industries and organisations today. It’s a widespread threat that affects most of us, but since 2015 healthcare has become one of the primary industries targeted by cybercriminals. In this article, we’ll explore why cybercrime against healthcare is such a big issue, discuss some of the high-profile attacks we’ve seen in recent years and provide advice on how you can protect your practice.

Cybercrime against healthcare organisations as a topic is often discussed, as seen in these articles by Forbes, Securiwiser and Hospital Careers.

The knowledge found in this article will help you take action and improve your practice’s cybersecurity. However, to make sure your data is compliant and secure, it’s always best to talk to a specialist technology partner. Read on, and don’t hesitate to get in touch if you’re looking for tailored solutions or have any questions for our engineers.

High-Profile Cyberattacks against healthcare

Cybercrime against healthcare organisations is common at every level, ranging from small local clinics to some of the world’s most well-established institutions. In the past five years, the world has been shocked by how some cyber attacks managed to shut down respectful organisations.

In 2017 the UK’s NHS was struck by the WannaCry attack. This piece of malware infected over 230,000 computers across 150 countries in only one day. There and then, the world learned about the dangers of ransomware.

In 2018 hackers breached the Singapore government’s health database with a targeted cyber-attack, accessing the data of 1.5 million patients.

And in 2021, we all heard about the ransomware attack at the HSE. We cover it in more detail in this article.

These are only some of the most famous and reported cases, but there have been thousands of attacks on smaller organisations. The point is that criminals are continually targeting healthcare institutions, and it’s not expected that they’ll go away anytime soon.

Why are Cybercriminals targeting healthcare organisations?

There are many reasons why cybercrime against healthcare organisations is continually increasing in frequency. The number one reason is the value of the data held by institutions in this space. 

Patients’ data is highly sensitive as it contains social security and identification digits that could be exploited by criminals – as we’ll explain later in this article. They could steal and sell this data to other criminals and make money even if they didn’t cause direct financial damage to the organisations.

But that’s not usually the case! Criminals know that this is business-critical data, and most healthcare practices wouldn’t be able to operate without their data and technology. So when they do breach into an organisation in this space, they’ll do their best to lock their systems and data to disrupt operations. Picture an entire hospital virtually unable to function because of this. Frightening! Especially for the board executives, who are willing to pay whatever is asked to get back on track as quickly as possible.

Healthcare is considered critical infrastructure, just like water and electricity, making it highly attractive to criminals. The difference is that healthcare providers have more exploitable vulnerabilities than other infrastructure agents.

Cybercrime against healthcare continues to thrive because of these vulnerabilities. Medical devices, for one, usually are not developed with security in mind and are not frequently patched with security updates. A criminal may learn how to exploit one of these devices with much more ease than an up to date laptop, for example, and use it to breach the network. IoT devices, such as wearables and fitness trackers also contribute to this risk.

Operations at healthcare providers are often decentralised, which creates more openings for criminals. There could be several users in different access levels, multiple networks, platforms, accounts, suppliers and devices – and if only one of these is compromised, the risk for a cyber attack is genuine!

Now you understand why cybercrime against healthcare organisations continues to lead the charts. Next, we’ll explore some of the most common risks and basic steps you can take to improve your overall security.

Understanding The Most Dangerous Cybercrime Against Healthcare

Cybercrime comes in many shapes and forms, but these are some of the most common and dangerous threats posed to healthcare organisations. We’ll briefly go over each of them, and you may find more details and information in their dedicated links.

Ransomware

Ransomware is a nefarious type of malware that encrypts your data and then demands a ransom payment in cryptocurrencies, such as Bitcoin, to allow people to access it. It can spread to other devices in your network and even lock your backup disks. Once active, it can be extremely tough to stop. 

The best way to prevent it is to have separate backup copies in remote locations. Learn all about this type of crime in our Complete Guide: Ransomware – how it happens and how to stop it.

Data Breach

A Data Breach happens when a criminal is able to access a company’s private data, be it regarding their customers, partners, projects, suppliers or employees. They will then sell that data online to other criminals or whoever’s interested, such as your competitors. Very often, companies will not even notice their data was stolen. 

When they do notice, it’s probably because criminals have also encrypted that data with ransomware or because they’ve used the data to perform identity theft, which we’ll cover next. To learn how Ransomware connects with Data Breach, read Ransomware Equals a Data Breach.

Identity Theft

This nefarious crime is the continuation of the cybercrime lifecycle. Just as there are criminals selling data, there are others buying data to exploit it – and Identity Theft is the way to profit from someone’s data. Criminals can utilise your information to open bank accounts, acquire loans, health insurance, transfer parking bills, and much more.

Today, most people would have their complete file online, with detailed information about their lives, families, jobs, and purchase preferences. Read our Complete Guide on Identity Theft to understand how this crime happens and learn how to protect your online identity.

Protecting your Healthcare Practice

You’ve learned a lot today, and now it’s time to begin addressing these cyber risks and vulnerabilities, ensuring your practice is secure, and you can rest free of concerns. Cybercrime against healthcare organisations is a grave matter that can and should be addressed immediately.

We recommend you get started by understanding and listing your valuable assets and risks. With a comprehensive asset register and risk register, you’ll have a good idea of what needs to be protected and what are your priorities when investing in cybersecurity.

The next step is to ensure that your devices and data are secured and adequate to best practices, such as up to date patches and regular reviewing and monitoring. Your network should also be configured adequately, and any security gaps detected must be closed as soon as possible.

It’s also of vital importance to train your staff and users to identify cybercrime and have a security-first approach to prevent social engineering attacks and frauds. User training is critical, and we have many more resources here.

Addressing these vulnerabilities and identifying many others is not an easy task, but it’s essential for your business’ continued success. Hiring a specialist technology partner can help and make this much more manageable. Spector works with established healthcare institutions, including clinics, hospitals and product providers, handling their technical, security and compliance needs. If you are looking for assistance, book a call with one of our experts, and we’ll be happy to talk.

Thanks for reading. To learn more about Cyber Security, read our dedicated blogs and follow us on Social Media by clicking below.

Cyber Liability Insurance for Financial Services – Is it Worth It?

building hallway - cyber liability insurance for financial services
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Reading Time: 5 Minutes
Having insurance for businesses is nothing new. If you’ve invested your money and time into a venture, you want to minimise all chances of failure, build resilience and ensure it’ll survive amidst disasters. And you’re likely willing to pay a decent amount of money for this. So why would it be any different in the case of Cyber Liability Insurance for Financial Services companies?

Cybercrime today has the potential to completely disrupt a business and cause massive damage in very little time. Plus, the odds of becoming a target are only getting higher, pushing this type of threat to be much more common than natural disasters or physical theft. It is estimated that an astounding 60% of businesses close their doors within two years following a severe cyber attack.

Related Article: Beginner’s Guide to Cyber Liability Insurance for Business

So if you’re still wondering if cyber liability insurance for financial services is worth your money, the short answer is a resounding yes. This article will dive into the essential details, including our recommendations on types of coverage and the best insurance carriers. We’ll also provide a few more reasons you should consider hiring insurance – which will help if you’re trying to convince your Board. 

Read on, and feel free to get in touch if you have any questions!

What is Cyber Liability Insurance, and what does it cover?

Cyber Liability Insurance is a type of private insurance dedicated to covering the financial losses caused by a cyber incident or event, such as a data breach. This type of insurance usually is not included in a general insurance policy, so you must purchase it separately.

A cyber attack could have several financial repercussions, and a good cyber liability policy should cover most of them. Here are a few expenses that a business would have to manage following a severe data breach incident:

  • Cost of downtime
  • Cost of investigation
  • Cost of recovering data
  • Cost of legal procedures
  • Cost of notifying stakeholders about the incident
  • Cost of restoring the personal identities of those affected

Make sure to verify precisely what is covered by your policy before agreeing to it, as they may differ depending on the provider. If you’re in the Financial Services space and do not hold cyber liability insurance, you’d have to deal with all these costs – while dealing with the reputational damage derived from the breach.

Besides financial compensation, the insurance provider commonly offers support and guidance to businesses when dealing with cyberattacks. Plus, they’ll help you investigate and understand how the crime happened in the first place to ensure it doesn’t happen again.

Why Should you Consider Cyber Liability Insurance for Financial Services Companies?

Cyber Liability Insurance for Financial Services is a must today, as it should be for any businesses that deal with personally identifiable information (PII). Cybercriminals are continually looking for ways to steal data, especially the type of data held by finance organisations. That’s why these businesses and professionals are amongst the most frequent cybercrime targets!

Read: Potential Risks that Insider Threats Pose to PII

If you represent a business operating in finance, you’ll likely already be protected by a robust cyber security suite for all reasons mentioned above. Having these layers of defence should make you feel safer when browsing the web, checking emails and communicating with suppliers. You should also have an IT and security partner who provides multi-factor authentication, an impenetrable firewall and continuous monitoring of your network – so what are the odds of actual damage from cybercrime?

Hopefully, if all of these mechanisms are in place, the odds are slim. Slim, but never none

Read: Understanding Cybercrime Against Financial Services Companies

No security strategy can be considered completely flawless, as the scenario we operate today is ever-changing and unbelievably complex. Several vulnerabilities can’t be completely eliminated, as businesses require people to be online and interact with others. Threats based on social engineering, such as phishing and CEO/CFO Fraud, continue to happen despite the security tools employed. Internal risks associated with negligent or malicious employees require training above tools.

Risk can be mitigated, but having a contingency plan in case all goes wrong is just as important as your security solutions. That’s why we always recommend having a Business Continuity Plan and a Disaster Recovery Strategy. Learn more about it here: How Backup and Disaster Recovery Protect SMEs?

The same logic applies to Cyber Liability Insurance for Financial Services companies. It’ll provide security and peace of mind if a cyberattack succeeds in breaching through your defences. It’s the very last line of defence, the one you never want to utilise – as it means your data has already been stolen – but one that you won’t regret having in this situation.

Top Cyber Liability Insurance Carriers & Type of Coverage

Finding the right cyber liability insurance provider is not easy. While most general insurance providers offer broad liability coverage, they don’t always provide comprehensive cyber liability coverage. Choosing an insurance provider rated ‘A’ or higher by the most reputable insurance rating agency is always ideal.

The following insurance carriers are worth considering:

  • Hiscox
  • Chubb 
  • AIG 
  • Travelers
  • AXA XL 
  • AmTrust Financial 
  • Co-Operators

What about coverage? Not all insurance is the same, and you need to know what to look for. Make sure your cyber liability insurance has the following essential coverages:

First-party coverage:

  • Network security and privacy liability: Covers breach response costs like forensic investigations, public relations, credit monitoring, legal fees and fines/penalties.
  • Business interruption losses and extra expenses: Covers lost revenue and added costs to continue business.
  • Digital data recovery and cyber extortion expenses: Covers losses such as ransom paid due to ransomware.

Third-party coverage:

  • Cyber liability: Covers claims of lawsuit expenses resulting from breaches in client systems or networks.
  • Media liability: Covers claims of libel, copyright/trademark infringement, etc., resulting from media use.

Cybercrime coverage:

  • Covers losses from digital theft of money or securities and social engineering fraud

Ready to Get Started?

But remember, just committing to a policy is not enough. You will also have to verify that all boxes are ticked and that your business is compliant with the agreement to make sure your contract is always valid and will, therefore, pay out in the event of an issue.

Suppose your business is not following the recommended procedures for cyber security or doesn’t have the correct efforts in place. In that case, you’re facing the risk of cybercrime and not having the desired coverage. Be sure not to fall in that limbo!

A trusted IT and security partner could simplify this process. If you feel that you’re not receiving adequate care in terms of service, security, compliance or risk management, we can help. Beyond the best security tools available in the market, our team can assist you in training your employees, building a business continuity plan, preparing your disaster recovery strategy and much more. Our goal is to help companies become more resilient and efficient amongst the uncertainties of today’s world.

Get in touch so we can learn about your situation and assist in turning technology into a fundamental enabler for your business. We’ll carefully listen to your needs before proposing a tailored solution based on our many years of experience working with successful financial services firms.

Thanks for reading. To learn more about Cyber Security, read our dedicated blogs and follow us on Social Media with the buttons below.

Zero-Trust Security for Financial Services Companies – Why is it Crucial?

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Reading Time: 3 Minutes
Cybercrime is not only a problem for the future – it’s a problem that businesses face today. And the path forward in tackling this challenge is Zero-Trust security. In this article, you’ll learn how to get started with Zero-Trust Security for Financial Services companies and why is it such a big deal.

Recommended Read: How can SMEs Apply Zero Trust Cyber Security Practices

This is an approach that is potentially game-changing for businesses of all sizes. It could drastically limit the damage potential of an attack and increase the effectiveness of your security suite with relatively little effort. Better than a new technology, Zero-Trust security is about a change in the mindset that enables cybercrime as it is. Keep reading, and you’ll understand why.

What is Zero-Trust Security?

Zero-Trust Security consists of a security approach that limits privileges for all users to the minimum required to operate effectively. This means that nothing within or outside the organisation will have access to any of your assets or network before verification.

The concept was introduced in 2010 by John Kindervag, a former Forrester analyst. It has since gained wide acclaim and approval as a trusted framework for cybersecurity. In simple terms, it could be resumed by the motto: “Never trust, always verify.”

Any security suite will limit access to external actors – as most of the threats are coming from outside – but most of them will not monitor users already within your organisation so closely. That means if a criminal does succeed in breaching your defences, he’ll have mostly free access to your assets and can begin causing damage immediately. 

Related Article: Identity Management and Access Control

In a Zero-Trust scenario, each user, application and device can only access the data and tools they need to get their work done. So a person dealing with your operations will not have access to your financial department, and a photo-editing app won’t have access to your backup tools. 

This limits hackers’ damage potential and ensures your business remains solid even after a security breach. In a world where criminals are constantly looking for exploits in the most common platforms and applications, the Zero-Trust approach is more than welcome.

Why is Zero-Trust Security Vital for Financial Services?

Cybercrime is a problem for businesses of all industries, but it has become a major concern for Financial Services companies. Organisations in this field are amongst the top targets for criminals, and this trend doesn’t show signs of slowing down. Zero-Trust for financial services companies arrives as a needed solution to strengthen existing security layers.

ReadUnderstanding Cybercrime for Financial Services Companies

Finance professionals and companies are advised to invest in the highest security standard and have strict policies and procedures in place. Sadly, even with the best tools in the market, people are still vulnerable to cyber threats. Social engineering attacks, internal breaches (intentional or not) and carefully constructed frauds are happening every day.

Cybercrime today works largely in the following manner: a hacker finds a breach into a network or an account, enabling him to monitor the user and install his shady tools. He can then steal the user’s data and take control of the target. Infiltration requires only a backdoor, which most users can open. By limiting the reach of any potential breach, we can stop the criminal before he can act.

Zero-Trust Security for Financial Services has become crucial in this scenario. In an industry where every data breach can have serious repercussions, there’s no room for error and no privilege should be granted. Security procedures must be taken seriously for data security and compliance reasons. 

Read: Why is Data Security Vital for SMEs in 2022?

In the event of an audit or a data breach, Zero-Trust serves as a strong indicator that the company was taking adequate steps to reinforce security. Providing evidence of this approach may be well-perceived by an auditor.

How to Apply Zero-Trust Security in your Business?

Adopting Zero Trust Security within your business does not mean throwing away your existing security tools and technologies. In fact, according to NIST, Zero-Trust Security must incorporate existing security tools and technologies more systematically.

Build an effective Zero Trust model that encompasses governance policies — like giving users only the access needed to complete their tasks — and technologies such as:

  1. Multifactor authentication
  2. Identity and access management
  3. Risk management
  4. Analytics 
  5. Encryption
  6. Orchestration 
  7. Scoring 
  8. File-system permissions

Having a specialist provider by your side will allow you to implement this approach and improve your overall security posture. Establishing limits for users and applications require an in-depth knowledge of how a Financial Services company operates. A team of experts will advise you on leveraging your technology strategically, allowing for maximum efficiency, protection and growth.

Our team will be happy to assist. Just get in touch,and we’ll be delighted to talk about how we can support your technology, security and compliance efforts.

Why is Data Security Vital for SMEs in 2022?

Data Security for SMEs
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Reading Time: 6 Minutes
Data Security for SMEs has become a widely discussed topic over the last decade. Before, small and medium organisations would not be so dependent on technology and hadn’t had much to offer criminals. This made most business owners in the SME space keep a low guard regarding cybercrime and underestimate the impact of this threat.

Today we operate in a different reality: where small and medium organisations are the primary targets of cybercrime. Despite that, many of these businesses still don’t take cyber security as seriously as they should. We rarely find businesses without insurance and a secure lock in their doors, but we constantly see companies without a proper cybersecurity strategy. 

Related Article: Cybersecurity: What every business owner should know

The odds of being struck by cybercrime today are higher than of a physical invasion or a natural disaster – such as fire or flood. It’s no longer a matter of if you become a target, but when. And being prepared for this moment can mean the world for an SME. This is why we’re raising awareness of this threat and spreading the word about the importance of data security for SMEs. Read on to learn more!

Why are cyber criminals targeting SMEs?

There are many reasons why data security for SMEs is becoming such a big deal. The overall cybercrime scene has been growing at an alarming rate over the years – and it gained even more power with the Covid 19 pandemic.

Businesses are today more reliant on technology than ever before. Even companies that don’t sell their products/services online still need technology to process payments, manage their customers or handle procurement. And each of these channels opens new doors for criminals.

Read: How Backup and Disaster Recovery Protects SMEs

Cybercriminals have multiple ways to profit from stealing data or disrupting a business’ operations. But why not focus on the wealthiest enterprises? 

Large organisations could mean more money for criminals, but they also have much stronger defences in place. It takes a considerable amount of work to disrupt and steal from an enterprise, and the risks are also higher. They tend to have robust cyber security solutions in place, with teams of professionals continually closing any gaps. If a crime does occur, banks are much faster to track and recover the money when it is moved in large amounts.

Cybercriminals have then realised that data security for small and medium companies was basically non-existent. They could get in and out without being noticed and take whatever they wanted, with no risks. Hackers could shut down a company and demand a ransom to resume operations – and so many companies have suffered from these tragic attacks.

Fortunately, companies are now learning the importance of an adequate cyber security strategy and readying their defences. If you’re still not convinced of the relevance of data security for SMEs, let’s discuss the most prominent risks faced by businesses today.

Most Significant Data Security Risks for SMEs

Cybercrime poses risks to every business that relies on technology. They can affect your operations, staff, or even your suppliers and partners. Nevertheless, the most common target criminals seek today is your data. This is why data security for SMEs is such a big deal, even if you don’t believe this data has much use for anyone else. We’ll discuss some of the ways a criminal can harm your business by stealing your data:

Business Damage – Operations and Downtime

Most cyberattacks today do not cause direct financial damage! This means that the majority of attacks will not directly steal money from your account but will still disrupt your business in significant ways. The first loss you’ll probably incur is the downtime trying to recover your data and systems – which, should you not have a reliable business continuity plan, could take very long!

If the data stolen possesses high value in your industry, you should expect criminals seeking to sell it to your competitors. If not your competitors, they will definitely sell it on the dark web. It’s a hard-to-reach part of the internet where all sorts of shady transactions occur. When your data becomes available in such a place, you immediately become a target for Identity Theft – which we’ll explain below.

Cyber Security Assessment

Identity Theft 

Identity Theft is one of the most prolific cybercrimes of the decade, and we have several pieces of content dedicated to it. Read The What, How and Why of Identity Theft for a detailed explanation or download our Full Guide.

In short, Identity Theft consists of stealing and using a person’s identity for nefarious purposes. The thief will use the information obtained about someone to pretend to be that person. They usually do it to trick coworkers or financial institutions and get money on the victim’s behalf. With the right information, they could open credit lines, bank accounts, health insurance, among others, in someone’s name and take advantage of them.

This crime can cause tremendous headaches for everyone involved. If your data is stolen, criminals might be able to steal the identity of your employees, customers, partners and stakeholders! Worse, they’ll likely use this data against yourself and the ones around you. Don’t waste time and learn how to Protect Yourself from Identity Theft.

Reputational Damage

You’ve learned about the importance of Data Security for SMEs and some of the ways your data can be used against you. The following implications should become more evident, despite being indirect consequences of a cyberattack, such as reputational damage.

Today, businesses that suffer a data breach in Europe and several countries worldwide are required to report that breach. This causes several implications, but it acts mainly as a security procedure that’ll allow people and organisations to protect their accounts before cybercriminals can exploit them. Therefore, a company that is breached due to a cyberattack must admit that it was breached and provide as much detail as possible about when and how the breach occurred.

This shines a light on the fact that the company could not protect their data and raises questions about the organisation’s competency. Depending on the industry, such mistake could be lethal. Customers are less likely to forgive such flaws in the business of finance or IT, for example – as we discuss in the article Why are Regular Risk Assessments non-negotiable for Financial Services Companies. And if the breaches are recurrent, every new report brings the organisation’s reputation further down.

Governance and Compliance Fines

The last risk regarding data security for SMEs that we’ll discuss in this article are the fines that could be charged if a business does not take the necessary steps to protect their data. Depending on your industry and location, you could be subject to several fines and penalties.

The most famous of such regulations in Europe is the GDPR, which implies fees ranging from €20 million to 4% of the annual turnover – whichever is higher! There are known cases of businesses that were fined in recent years. For an SME, these values could be much higher than you’d expect to lose in a cyberattack, so there is even more reason to take this seriously.

Read: Governance, Risk & Compliance Fines and Regulations

Auditors are increasingly discussing cyber security postures and investigating breaches, so it’s best to have a robust strategy in place and avoid any headaches in such cases! 

Protect your SME from Cybercrime

We hope you’ve learned how vital is data security for SMEs in 2022. It’s an increasingly relevant topic, and every trend indicates it’ll continue to grow in importance as years go by and the economy develops. Protecting your data means protecting your business from cybercrime and ensuring your organisation is resilient against such threats.

Read: How can Cyber Resilience Protect SMEs in Ireland?

To secure your company, you’ll need specialised tools and procedures. Having the bare minimum is no longer enough! You’ll need a robust security solution with multiple layers of protection. Your employees should be trained and informed, and your business must have a business continuity plan in place, with a tried-and-tested disaster recovery strategy.

Sorting these things by yourself may not be easy, so consider hiring a specialist IT partner like us to smoothen this process. Our team will be happy to talk, understand your needs and offer a tailored solution. We’ve been working with SMEs in several industries since 2002. Read our Case Studies or Book a Call to learn more!

Thanks for reading. To learn more about Cyber Security, read our dedicated blogs and follow us on Social Media with the buttons below.

What Should you Look For in an IT Partner for Financial Services?

IT Support team gathering at a meeting
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Reading Time: 4 Minutes
Having an IT partner for financial services companies is nothing new in this day and age. Organisations have realised that it makes good business sense to focus on your core activities and outsource specialities according to your needs. Just as many companies are ready to outsource their finances to a specialist, the same is true to having an IT Support provider.

Once that is established, we can move on to the hard part: how to choose the best IT partner for a financial services company? What criteria should you use to evaluate each provider and how to be sure they’ll treat your business with the care demanded?

Recommended Read: 7 Questions to Ask When Assessing MSPs

We’re well aware that many IT support companies tend to position themselves similarly, so we’ll give you the knowledge to pick and choose amidst the crowd. Read on to understand what type of company will best serve you and ensure your business remains secure and efficient.

#1 Make Sure They Offer Proactive Managed Services for Finance

Starting with the basics, the first crucial piece of service you’re looking for is proactive. This differs from a break-fix contract and will ensure you’re picking amongst the most committed IT partners for financial Services.

Proactive services mean that your managed services provider will be continually monitoring your network, installing security updates and fixing issues before they begin to cause trouble. This is the new standard for most IT support companies, so you shouldn’t have a problem finding this practice in a reliable partner.

#2 Learn About Their Information Security Standards

As you must know, a robust cyber security solution for financial services is a must. Cybercriminals are constantly targetting businesses in this industry. Having multiple layers of protection and training your employees is no longer optional, and your technology partner should be aware of that.

A good way to know how serious a company is about their cyber security practices is to look into the standards and frameworks they pursue. We tend to recommend them even to our customers, as it outlines clear targets and steps a business should follow to improve their cybersecurity posture.

A standard such as ISO27001 demonstrates a high level of information security and compliance – the level you’d expect from a trustworthy provider. The NIST Cyber Security Framework is another benchmark that could be used, as it covers a business’ security posture in-depth. Again, both of these could be pursued by your own business to reach a rock-solid security strategy.

Read: ISO 27001 vs NIST – why choose one?

Other useful benchmarking points would be the likes of Cyber Essentials– a certification required to work with the UK government – and GDPR. The latter has been widely discussed over previous years, but many companies still haven’t taken adequate measures to address it. Finding a partner that has achieved a high standard of service will ensure your business is also operating at that measure and will minimise risk accordingly. Learn more about Compliance and Cybersecurity Standards.

ISO27001 Lead Audit

#3 Choose IT Partners that are also Compliance and Audit Specialists

One of the reasons it’s hard to find specialist IT support for the Finance Industry is because it always stands among the most tightly regulated. Audits are frequent, and all details must be on point to avoid massive headaches. Having a partner that understands that is a major differential for companies in this space.

Spector is different from most IT partners in this aspect, as we take governance, risk and compliance very seriously. Our speciality in Risk Management covers much more than the average cyber security suite, and we’re continually assuring compliance and gathering evidence for the eventual audit. Our Compliance Solutions have received excellent feedback and are the perfect complement for businesses operating in highly regulated industries.

Read: The Role of Compliance in Cybersecurity

When looking for IT Support for Financial Services companies, don’t forget about the ever-growing risk associated with technology. Pick a partner who understands their role in the grand scheme of things and knows how to provide maximum value both in the day to day services and in the long term.

#4 Find IT Partners with Existing Financial Services Customers

Last but not least, it’s always a good idea to look for IT partners working with Financial Services companies. These firms already know the main challenges faced by this industry and will be ready to offer tried-and-tested solutions to assist you.

An MSP with no previous experience with financial services would undoubtedly lack a few things, as this industry requires expert knowledge and has no room for error. Make sure to ask about their customers and give them a ring to learn about their experience.

We’ve learned about the technologies commonly used by professionals in this space and their main issues. We’ve even figured out better alternatives for some of them! After several years of practical experience, we became able to offer strategic advice for finance businesses and transform the role of technology in their business.

After all, technology should always be an enabler! If it’s causing more pain than anything else in your business, it’s time for a change. So use the tips mentioned in this article to find the ideal IT partner for your Financial Services business. While doing that, get in touch! We’ll be happy to talk and learn more about your needs. Our team will ensure maximum satisfaction while providing a smooth transition. 

Should you be looking for more criteria to help you pick in between different providers, download our complete Checklist and go through the items with your potential providers. We hope this content helps you make the best choice!

Understanding Cybercrime Against Financial Services Companies

Workbook for financial services professionals
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Reading Time: 8 Minutes
In today’s world, cybercrime is one of the biggest threats facing businesses, and that is especially true for Financial Services companies. The first step to avoid and handle this threat is understanding it well and having the correct tools to mitigate it. This article will give you a bit of both, focusing on what you as a business person must know and avoiding the technical jargon.

We have other articles focused on cybercrime and Financial services companies, some of which can be seen right below. If you’re looking for specialised assistance, please don’t hesitate to get in touch.

Read:
Why are Risk Assessments non-negotiable for Financial Services Companies?
Making Cyber Security Awareness Second Nature

Why is Cybercrime Such a Big Deal for Businesses Today

We live in an era where technology connects and drives the world, so it only makes sense that crime would also eventually migrate from the physical world into the digital realm. Wherever there are people, businesses and money, criminals will find a way in. And unfortunately, technology has been a powerful enabler for people with nefarious purposes.

Cybercrime is an increasingly big deal for several reasons. The sheer proportion of cybercrime makes it so that it is much more likely today to be struck by a cyberattack than to face a natural disaster or a recession. And when global events or tragedies do happen, criminals have shown they’re also willing to take advantage of it, as we’ve seen in the tremendous rise in cybercrime during the Covid 19 pandemic. Numbers are so high because of the low risk posed to cybercriminals and the scalability of attacks due to their advanced tools. Most of these tools are also sold online, so even people without advanced technical knowledge can become cybercriminals.

The fact that companies – especially SMEs – are not yet adequately protected increases the impact of cybercrime. Depending on the severity, a cyberattack could end your business. That is, if you’re not prepared, which if you’re reading this article, will not be the case!

Most organisations don’t see the need to invest in cyber security and believe that having Antivirus software is enough. This is not true for any industry that relies on technology. Businesses need to step up and invest in a solution that will cover all their vulnerabilities, including email protection, network monitoring and user training. For Financial services companies facing cybercrime, this standard must be even higher! Learn why in the next section.

Protect Corporate Data

Why do Financial Services Companies Require a Higher Standard of Protection?

Cybercrime against Financial Services companies is even more of a big deal than against most industries. Businesses and individuals who deal with finance are continually among the primary targets, and that shows no sign of changing in the future.

Criminals can benefit in many ways from a company, from stealing their data to using their computing powers to mine cryptocurrency. In fact, most cybercrimes do not cause direct financial damage. Still, if they can go directly after the money, why wouldn’t they? Even if they can only steal data from your customers, that data may include payment and bank account details, which is a goldmine they can exploit.

That’s the main reason why cybercrime against financial services companies is always on the rise. And it by itself is enough reason to be extra careful against criminals. Moreover, there are also relevant points to be made about compliance and the damage potential faced by these firms.

Compliance Requirements

Because the finance industry deals with such sensitive information and handles a significant amount of money, regulations are tighter and better enforced than in most fields. Today, most compliance regulations are also concerned with the cyber integrity of these firms and will verify that their processes and numbers are secured in their physical and digital workplace.

So if a breach does occur, a business in finance will not only deal with the damage caused by the attack itself but will also be judged to establish if it had done enough to prevent such attack in the first place. And if the answer is no, the company may have to pay fines and offer compensation for their customers and stakeholders. Companies that do not take cybersecurity seriously could be doubling their losses and facing tremendous risk.

Link: Compliance Standards: Is your Business Ready for HIPAA and PCI-DSS?

This serves as another powerful stimulus for financial services companies to have an adequate cyber security suite, with multiple layers of protection in place. Doing that will ensure the company is resilient against cybercrime and audits.

High Damage Potential

Financial services companies get no slack when it comes to cybercrime. Any minor attack or breach has the potential to cause enormous damage to the organisation and its stakeholders. A company operating in another industry may not worry too much over a data leak, for example, if it doesn’t store sensitive and financial information. That is not the case for people and businesses handling finance.

Every hack and attack is significant, so there’s no room for error. And if something does occur and word goes around, reputational damage could be catastrophic. People don’t want anything less than safe when talking about their finance. For these reasons, having a robust cyber security strategy is vital for a financial services business.

Common Types of Cybercrime Against Financial Services Companies

As mentioned in the beginning, the first step to avoiding these threats is learning how they work. These are the most common types of cybercrime employed against Financial Services companies:

Phishing & Social Engineering

This is a common technique used by criminals which can bypass many security tools. It involves tricking the user into clicking a malicious link or downloading a file using social engineering. A well-written text containing some doses of persuasion and urgency could easily fool an unaware user. Once the person falls for the bait, the criminal may open a backdoor into the user’s machine and install more dangerous malware.

Read: How to Spot a Suspicious Email and Stop Phishing

The majority of Phishing attacks are sent en mass to stolen email lists containing large groups of people and companies. Still, the most effective attempts are the ones that go after a specific individual in a company, typically called Spear-Phishing or Whale-Phishing, depending on the position of the target. These targeted attacks usually involve a fair dose of research into the individual’s personal and professional life so that the messaging can be specially crafted for maximum chance of success.

Criminals in the past have gained access to accounts and sat quietly, patiently obtaining as much information as possible before finally striking. Professionals and companies who deal with finance should never underestimate this sophisticated social engineering practice. The best way to stop Phishing in its tracks is to train your users and hire an Email Protection suite.

Once a Phishing attack is successful, the criminal may take control of the user’s computer and spread its roots over the network. This is what we’ll discuss in the next point.

Unauthorised Access in Your Network

A cybercriminal may be able to infiltrate your network in many different ways, and Phishing is just one of them. They may enter through employees’ personal devices that had been infected, via unprotected networks or even USB sticks carrying malware.

After getting in, they’ll have access to the most critical files and data your company possess. Once your data has been stolen, they’ll continue to find ways to profit from your vulnerability. Their tools can quickly spread all over your network, providing them with real-time monitoring and giving them the ability to control your machines remotely.

Detecting their movements will be incredibly difficult if your business does not have access control and monitoring capabilities. Unless they want to be noticed – typically when it’s too late! That’s when cybercriminals lock people from their machines and ask for a ransom to retrieve their data – a crime known as ransomware.

We have a complete guide on ransomware, which you can find here: What is Ransomware and How to Avoid It – The Complete Guide. It is a scary situation if you have no preparations in place. If you do, you need to call your IT partners, shut it all down and run a backup from before the invasion. Ideally, your partner will likely have detected the invaders before they even strike. As usual, the point of this article is not to be scaremongering but emphasising the importance of being ready before cyber crime strikes.

Data Breach

You must have heard at least a few times that “Data is the new gold”, and hackers definitely see it like that. Whenever a criminal has access to your data and files, you’ll find a Data Breach. They steal data in the first place to profit from it by selling it online. The dark web holds a hidden marketplace for criminals, where this type of data is readily available. At times, they may also choose to sell your data straight to your competitors. 

Whichever type of data it is, you don’t want it falling into the wrong hands – particularly when you operate in the Financial Services space. This data may be used for criminals to go after your customers and stakeholders and hurt them in many ways. Using stolen information, criminals can perpetrate Identity Theft and pose as others to obtain financial gains. This is much more common than it seems, and we have a complete guide detailing how it happens and how to avoid it here: The Essential Guide to Avoiding Identity Theft.

On most occasions, companies don’t even realise their data has been stolen, and when they do, it could take months before finding out. If you do detect a data breach, make sure to inform everyone who’s been affected so they can take the appropriate procedures and secure their accounts as soon as possible.

Testing backups for peace of mind

Supply Chain Risks

The last common type of cybercrime against Financial Services companies we’ll mention today relates to supply chain risks. These are becoming increasingly common and will happen when criminals control an account in a supplier’s environment. They will then take advantage of the trust in the relationship between stakeholders to obtain financial gain. They can do that by generating a fake invoice or even requesting to change payment details to a bogus account.

It could affect your business in both ways: when criminals pretend to be coming from your company and trick your suppliers or when they pretend to be your suppliers to trick you. This risk is substantial because it means your personnel can’t lower their guard even when your network is secure. And you have limited influence over your partner’s security posture, so having strict payment policies and procedures in place is vital to avoid this threat.

We have a few articles talking about this risk with more detail, listed below:

How to Effectively Manage Supply Chain Risks
Recommended Best Practices for a Secure Supply Chain
The Top Supply Chain Vulnerability: People

Avoiding Cybercrime

Now that you have a good overview of what cybercrime against financial services companies looks like, you’ll be better prepared to deal with it. There’s a vast number of tools and methods your business can use to improve your security posture. The best way to remain updated and secure is to hire a Managed Services Provider as your technology partner.

That way, you’ll be updated about new threats and ensure that the best tools are at your service. If you’re looking for a specialised firm that will be happy to assist, look no further. Spector has a team of experts with in-depth knowledge about Financial Services and their security and compliance needs. We’ll listen to your concerns and propose a tailored solution to suit your requirements. Book a Call today!

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Why are regular risks assessments non-negotiable for Financial Services?

Why are regular risk assessments non negotiable for financial services
Photo by Headway on Unsplash

Reading Time: 7 Minutes
No business today is completely safe from cyber threats, and more companies are waking up to this reality now than ever before. Financial services are no exception – in fact, this industry is one of the main targets sought by cybercriminals. With cyberattacks surging due to widespread remote work and increased online interactions during the pandemic, we can see how this trend continues to grow further. It’s no wonder cybersecurity investment in 2020 grew to reach almost €50 Billion and kept on rising in 2021.

While 58% of IT leaders and practitioners consider improving IT security their topmost priority, nearly 53% of them find cybersecurity and data protection to be among their biggest challenges as well. That’s mainly because cybersecurity is not a one-and-done exercise. Your business might be safe now but could be unsafe the very next minute. Securing your business’ mission-critical data and the data of your invaluable customers requires undeterred effort sustained over time. While there are several pieces to this puzzle, the most important one, considering today’s threat landscape, is ongoing risk management.

Recommended Read: Building an Asset and Risk Register to Manage Technology Risk

Through the course of this blog, you will understand the definition of a cybersecurity risk assessment and why, as a financial services organisation, you must undertake and monitor them regularly. By doing it, you’ll be able to keep your business’ cybersecurity posture abreast with ever-evolving cyber threats. After reading this article, we hope you realise how installing cybersecurity solutions alone isn’t enough to counter cyber attacks unless you make ongoing risk management an operational standard for your business.

Understanding Cybersecurity Risk Assessment

In rudimentary terms, a cybersecurity risk assessment refers to the act of understanding, managing, controlling and mitigating cybersecurity risks across your business’ infrastructure.

The NIST Cyber Security Framework states that the purpose of cybersecurity risk assessments is to “identify, estimate and prioritise risk to organisational operations, assets, individuals, other organisations and the Nation, resulting from the operation and use of information systems.”

The primary purpose of a cybersecurity risk assessment is to help key decision-makers make informed decisions to tackle prevalent and imminent risks.

What are the steps involved when conducting a risk assessment for Financial Services companies?

The risk management process will generally follow the same structure regardless of industry, but the time needed for each stage and the depth of investigation necessary may vary. 

Related Read: First Step to Compliance – a thorough and accurate risk assessment

In short, you’ll want to identify your valuable information assets, assess your security posture and gauge threats to your assets. This is the step-by-step process:

Step 1 – Determine the Value of each Information Asset

After listing all information and technology assets, you can then begin to determine the value of each of them. Define which are essential for your business and which are less meaningful, as this will be necessary for your next step. Keep in mind that any piece of financial data or policy document may be considered vital for financial services organisations, as losing it could trigger compliance violations and cause economic damage. To help in this first step, download our Asset Register at the link below:

Download our Asset Register Sample

Step 2 – Prioritise Assets

Now that you know which assets are vital for your business, it’s time to define priorities. By learning your most important assets, you can begin safeguarding them first, allocating resources accordingly. As we explain in this article, prioritising is key in IT risk management.

Step 3 – Identify Threats

After identifying your most important assets, it’s time to think about threats. List everything that could harm your business, from natural disasters to systems failures and human activities. If you already have a technology provider offering support, they should be aware of multiple threats you may not have considered, so use their expertise! When listing and evaluating threats, consider the insights from this article: Understanding and calculating organisational risk

Step 4 – Assess Vulnerabilities

A vulnerability is any weakness that a threat can exploit to breach your business security and wreak havoc. These are the manifestation of the risks we are trying to manage, so take your time understanding their scope and likelihood of happening.

Web Protection

Step 5 – Analyse Existing Controls

Analyse the tools, policies and procedures already in place to minimise or eliminate the probability of a threat. Have an in-depth look at your cybersecurity solutions to determine what is being covered and what is not. You may find you have overlapping tools – which could potentially damage their functionality.

Step 6 – Document the Entire Process

It is both a best practice and a mandate under several regulations to ensure that the entire risk assessment is thoroughly documented. It’ll also be helpful in audits and when switching providers.

Step 7 – Repeat Regularly

Ideally, a cybersecurity risk assessment must answer the following questions:

  • What are your business’ critical IT assets?
  • What type of breach would have a substantial impact on your business?
  • What are the relevant threats to your business and their sources?
  • What are the internal and external security vulnerabilities?
  • What would be the impact if any of the vulnerabilities were exploited?
  • What is the probability of a vulnerability being exploited?
  • What cyberattacks or security threats could impact your business’ ability to function?

The answers to these questions will help you keep track of security risks and mitigate them before disaster strikes. Now, let’s dig a bit deeper into how this process benefits your business.

Secure Remote Working

Why Should Financial Services Organisations Conduct Risk Assessments Regularly

For Financial Services organisations, ongoing risk management should be an operational standard. Conducting a risk assessment once will provide you with a direction to move forward, but you’ll only really know how well you are handling vulnerabilities if you continue to monitor potential threats and check on your assets.

If there’s any change in your asset register or the threat landscape – which is ever-changing – your outdated assessment won’t be providing accurate information, which in turn may lead to incorrect business decisions. Plus, if you don’t know what threats may be lurking, you won’t know how to best react and respond to them, which increase their potential to cause harm.

Here are some of the reasons why you just can’t keep this crucial business decision on the backburner anymore:

Reason 1: Changes in Business Scope and Activities

Companies are changing faster than ever before. Your business may develop new services, start new projects, or even pivot entirely in a short period. With every new change, there might be new assets worth protecting and new threats worth noticing. Again, the Covid pandemic is the perfect example, as most organisations suffered a tremendous shift in their operations overnight and failed to recognise the new threats that came along.

Reason 2: Evolving Cybercrime

Just as your activities may be changing, cybercriminals will constantly develop new methods and strategies to steal your money and data. New types of malware and scams come up every year, and we must keep up.

An ongoing risk management strategy will help you keep threats, both prevalent and imminent, at a safe distance from your business – especially ones you usually do not monitor regularly.

Reason 3: Improving Cybersecurity Posture

Since Financial Services are some of the main targets sought by criminals, companies in this space must be at the top of their game. Ongoing risk management will certainly help at that! By discovering threats and vulnerabilities and actively trying to minimise them, your business will be on the right path to improve overall security. You’ll be identifying your gaps, working to bridge them and remaining vigilant in the process,

Reason 4: Enhanced Operational Efficiency and Improved Organisational Knowledge

Knowing your security vulnerabilities and gaps across the business will help you keep a keen eye on important aspects that your business must improve on. Having more organisational knowledge enables you to do a better job when allocating budget and focus on whatever is most important first – both in terms of security and efficiency. 

Reason 5: Reduction of Long-Term Costs

Identifying potential vulnerabilities and mitigating them in time can help you prevent or reduce security incidents, which in turn would save your business a significant amount of money and potential reputational damage.

Reason 6: Avoid Regulatory Compliance Issues

Financial Services companies have to comply with multiple regulations, many of which have strict policies regarding data protection and processing. By managing your risks regularly, you’ll put up a formidable defence against cyberthreats and automatically avoid hassles concerning complying with regulatory standards such as HIPAA, PCI DSSGDPR, etc. And you’ll have plenty of evidence to provide when an auditor comes, which is vital for a successful audit, as we explain in the blog: Before the Audit – Gathering Evidence to Demonstrate Compliance.

Getting Started with your Risk Management Approach

Now that you understand the importance of regular risk assessments and how they should be done, we can move on to the practical side. You can begin downloading our sample Risk Register at the link below:

Download our Risk Register Template

Our first recommendation to tackle risk management is to use a framework like NIST. It’ll provide you with a simple and effective understanding of where you are and what needs improvement. We have a detailed article about it here: A Guide to NIST for Financial Services Organisations.

The very next step after conducting your risk assessment is to develop an Action Plan to address your technology risk. This plan will define your priorities and serve as a guide for your organisation.

These resources are simple enough for a non-technical individual to follow, but you’ll most likely have a better result if working with a specialist. We have in-depth expertise in GRC (governance, risk and compliance), cybersecurity and the challenges faced by Financial Services companies today. Feel free to get in touch, and we’ll be happy to lift this weight from your shoulders.

 

 

Why Is Phishing Getting More Frequent

Why is Phishing becoming more frequent
Photo by Stephen Momot on Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
Phishing is a social engineering attack used to obtain sensitive information, such as login credentials and payment details, from users. It happens when an attacker, posing as a trusted source, misleads a victim into clicking on a malicious link or downloading a spam file sent over email, text messages, phone calls or social media. Phishing is considered a social engineering attack because it happens via an open communication channel. This way, criminals won’t need to fight the cyber security suite head-on but rather trick the user into opening a backdoor for them.

If you fall into this trap, you could end up with malware, system slowdowns and sensitive data loss, among other things. Once a criminal opens a backdoor, he has access to your machine. They can easily steal your data and try to infect the entire network. 

Related Article: Top Tips to Identity a Suspicious Email

The term phishing is one of the most reviled in today’s digital landscape and is a significant concern for executives. It’s no surprise that the word is frowned upon when the attack vector is responsible for more than 20% of data breaches.

These attacks can be severely damaging for people and businesses. While individuals are affected by illicit purchases, financial fraud or identity theft, a company that is the victim of such an attack, in most cases, suffers severe financial losses as well as a loss of market share, reputation and stakeholder trust.

An unfortunate reality regarding phishing is that the attack vector is becoming more sophisticated and frequent with each passing day. In this article, we’ll explain the main reasons for this and provide some insight into avoiding this threat.

Why phishing attacks are becoming more frequent

Remote/hybrid workforce

Over the last year and a half, a significant number of organisations had to transition to remote/hybrid work models. While the switch allowed operations to continue without interruption, the scattered workforce and mobile endpoints brought their own set of challenges. One of the main problems was vulnerabilities becoming more visible to hackers, who quickly exploited them through phishing attacks.

Read: How to Build a Security-First Culture to Empower your Hybrid Workforce

The shift in communications between employees also made room for more phishing opportunities. Before the rise of remote working, co-workers would often talk directly about most topics, whilst now most communications happen via email and instant messaging applications. If an employee receives a link from another one, it’s not as easy to verify if the email is legit as it was when people were sitting next to each other.

Organisational oversights

In efforts to stay afloat amid the global crisis, many businesses completely disregarded cybersecurity. The rush to remote work meant that people were concerned about getting their staff operational and forgot about their security in the process.

This resulted in insufficient spending on security tools, lack of employee training and much more. People got used to working on their personal devices from unprotected networks. Such mistakes opened the door for cybercriminals.

Web Protection

Constantly evolving cybercriminals

Keep in mind that hackers constantly strive to uncover and exploit even the tiniest flaws in your business. They’re continually shifting their strategy, so you’re practically defending against a moving attacker.

Threat actors have recently targeted businesses via the website contact form, pretending to be legal authorities, saying that the company is not complying with the law and asking the organisation to download a “report.”

We also have plenty of examples from the Covid 19 pandemic, where criminals pretended to be part of health organisations to try and trick people. A security-first posture is a must for a business to avoid such tactics.

Cheap phishing tools

Several low-cost phishing tools are available on the dark web, allowing even non-technical people to become hackers. They can purchase lists of emails, craft their own messages and fire at the thousands per time. If it doesn’t work, they’ll just try again.

How can businesses stay safe against Phishing?

To avoid falling victim to phishing, all small and midsize businesses (SMBs) must be constantly vigilant. Learning how to identify a suspicious email is vital for this. To keep your business safe, you must:

  • Conduct regular security awareness training to ensure that everyone is on the same page and that employees strictly adhere to relevant security requirements.
  • Ensure that your IT infrastructure is up to date so that hackers cannot exploit unpatched/non-updated systems.
  • Enforce strong password policies and create a system that prohibits anyone from evading them.
  • Try and isolate vital infrastructure components as much as possible so that everything doesn’t collapse like a house of cards after a breach.
  • Conduct mock phishing drills to get data on your employees’ degree of alertness.
  • Deploy Web Protection and Mail Protection solutions to identify and block threats using AI.

Trying to guard against phishing requires effort and resources, but this can be made much easier if you have a specialist partner with a robust security strategy. Collaborating with an expert like us relieves you of additional concern and responsibility. We’ll handle employee training, monitoring and the best security tools that money can buy. If anything does get through, our Helpdesk is always operational and will sort out any issues before they can cause damage.

Contact us today to talk to our specialists. We’ll seek to understand your concerns, identify your vulnerabilities and propose solutions to improve your security. Our team knows how to leverage the power of technology and has been doing so for 2 decades. Our customer satisfaction rate is always close to 100% – check our case studies from different industries to learn more.

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7 Questions to Ask When Assessing MSPs

Questions to ask when assessing MSPs
Photo by Surface on Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 Minutes

Having an up-to-date technology infrastructure is critical for organisations to perform well in this ever-changing business world. An outdated technology infrastructure can harm your business by:

  • Giving cybercriminals a free pass
  • Putting your company in hot water with regulators
  • Reducing overall productivity
  • Causing employee dissatisfaction
  • Upsetting your customers

Related Read: What Should You Look For in an IT Partner for Financial Services?

Once you understand the risks of not keeping your technologies up to date with the latest standards, you must do everything possible to refresh your IT infrastructure. However, this is easier said than done, and you will need to devote additional time and effort to make necessary changes. This is where a managed service provider (MSP) can be of assistance.

While an MSP can augment technology expertise and knowledge gaps, finding the right MSP partner can be difficult. There are many firms out there with similar services and offerings. And if you don’t have technical expertise, it might be hard to assess their work.

That’s why we’ve compiled a list of seven of the most important questions you should ask an MSP when determining whether they are a good fit to meet your technology infrastructure and service needs. This list doesn’t cover all aspects of the IT spectrum, but we have a Complete Checklist available for download.

Questions to ask

1. Do you offer 24/7/365 support?

This is a trivial question, and most providers should have this covered in this day and age. Your MSP should provide 24/7/365 monitoring and support to address technology infrastructure issues to avoid downtime, data loss and cyberattacks. Cybercrime never sleeps, and neither do we.

2. Do you perform regular risk assessments?

Because risk factors are constantly changing, MSPs must conduct security risk assessments regularly to stay on top of emerging and evolving threats. Your MSP partner’s risk assessment reports should give you an overview of the internal and external threats that could come back to bite you later.

Recommended: First Step to Compliance: A Thorough and Accurate Risk Assessment

3. Do you meet all of my compliance needs?

If you must be HIPAA compliant, then you could benefit from an MSP that understands the standard and complies with it. Hence, ask if they can demonstrate compliance to relevant standards for your industry. An MSP should be responsible for handling your technology risk. Therefore, it’s wise to learn about their approach to Governance, Risk and Compliance.

Read: Is your business ready for HIPAA and PCI-DSS

4. Can you provide documentation to prove you are compliant and following best practices?

Working with an MSP that does not follow best practices and has a track record of non-compliance can be detrimental. Therefore, ensure that they adhere to relevant standards and best practices. Data protection compliance is essential for a business that’ll be handling your information, so standards and certifications such as ISO27001, Cyber Essentials and NIST are also must-haves.

Learn more: ISO27001 vs NIST Cyber Security Framework – Which one to choose?

5. Do you have a business continuity and disaster recovery plan? If so, what is in place, and are they tested regularly?

Your business needs contingency measures, and so does any company, including MSPs. If your MSP partner does not have a business continuity and DR plan in place, they may not be able to withstand an incident, and you may be affected as well. Even if they already have one, it must be up to date and thoroughly tested.

Read: How Backups and Disaster Recovery Protects SMEs

6. Is third-party auditing performed to meet cybersecurity and compliance requirements?

An MSP that invests in a third-party audit can objectively demonstrate that their information systems and processes adhere to stringent requirements in critical areas such as security and compliance. Make sure you don’t overlook this aspect.

7. Do you have a high level of confidence in your security posture? If so, can you explain why?

Most MSPs will say they are very confident in their security posture, so the crucial part of this question lies in the “why”. Seek to learn about their response times, incident reports, and outcomes following security incidents. There is no perfect security, so don’t expect to find a company that is “incident-free”. The way they react to an incident and mitigate threats is what’s most important, so ask them how efficient they are in this aspect.

Why are the above questions crucial?

Having an MSP on your side is about more than just saving time and effort. You must have a clear understanding of how they intend to protect your company from evolving cyberthreats, how they plan on ensuring that you comply with regulations to avoid fines and reputational damage and whether they can provide you with data backups when you need them.

Learning about an organisation’s process and culture is another vital part of doing business together, so keep that in mind when considering providers. For a complete list of questions that you should ask when choosing a new provider, view our Checklist and go through each question with your potential partners. We hope this will make your decision easier.

Read: How to Smoothly Transition to a New IT Services Provider

If you have any questions about this process, get in touch. Finding a new provider might seem like a daunting task, but it can be made much easier if you know what you’re looking for. Our specialists will be happy to advise and recommend a solution based on your needs.

How to Prioritise Your IT Gaps

How to Prioritise IT Gaps
Photo by airfocus on Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
Today’s technology-based businesses must deal with multiple issues, including cyber threats, head-to-head competition and regulatory compliance. Hence, keeping your technology infrastructure up to date is critical, and a technology audit is the best place to start.

A technology audit – or IT Audit – can assist you in better understanding and identifying gaps in your organisation’s security, compliance and backup. A thorough technology audit can assist you in answering the following key questions:

  • Is your current IT infrastructure vulnerable or lacking in any areas?
  • Are there any unnecessary tools or processes that do not align with your goals and vision?
  • Are you in compliance with applicable regulations, prepared to defend against security threats and capable of restoring business capabilities in the event of a system outage or data breach?
  • What steps can you take to address the discovered vulnerabilities?

If you have recently requested an IT Audit from an IT Support company, the result may have left you with more questions than answers. Most IT firms have the bad habit of speaking in a technical language that business people can’t understand. Plus, the report is often not actionable, which creates a confusing scene when deciding what to prioritise.

This is one of the fundamental things we decided to do differently in our own IT Audit – which we call The Gap Analysis. It’s an in-depth analysis of the essential parameters for organisational performance and growth, covering more than just the technical elements. We communicate the results in plain English, with an actionable plan and priorities clearly defined. If you’re interested in learning more, download our brochure and get in touch.

In this article, we’ll discuss the stoplight approach, which is particularly useful if you are unsure where to begin. It’s a simple but effective method to classify risk and prioritise what needs to be done first.

The stoplight approach

The stoplight method categorises gaps or vulnerabilities into red, yellow, and green groupings based on their severity. Everybody knows how a stoplight works, so this should be very straightforward.

RED: Address the highest risks and vulnerabilities first

Always have a clear idea of what to prioritise to prevent and deal with mishaps. Since most organisations cannot address all problems at once, it is critical to focus the most attention and resources on the most pressing issues first. 

Any technological refresh should prioritise addressing the most severe infrastructure vulnerabilities. For example, if your company has a massive security gap just waiting to be exploited, this has to be secured first! Other issues, such as updating or upgrading software to increase performance can be done afterwards, thus being addressed as a lower priority.

High-priority vulnerabilities that must be dealt with immediately are classified as RED, and they include: 

  • Backups that do not work 
  • Unauthorised network users, including ex-employees and third parties 
  • Unsecured remote connectivity 
  • A lack of documented operating procedures

More on some of these RED priorities:

How Backups and Disaster Recovery Protect SMEs
Identity Management and Access Control
Recommended Best Practices for a Secure Supply Chain

Yellow: Then focus on gaps that are not urgent

There will be gaps that must be kept under watch but can wait until the most crucial issues get resolved. Although these medium-priority gaps may be acceptable in the short term, they may soon become increasingly dangerous risks if not addressed. So be aware that despite not being the most urgent, these risks cannot be disregarded.

The following vulnerabilities, among several others, fall into the YELLOW category and are of medium severity: 

  • Insufficient multifactor authentication
  • Automated patching system failure 
  • Outdated antivirus software 
  • Failure to enable account lockout for some computers

More info on these YELLOW priorities:

Multifactor Authentication
Anti-Virus and Malware

Green: address these non-critical suggestions when you have the time and budget

These are the lowest-priority vulnerabilities. They can still potentially hurt your performance or pose security risks eventually but will likely not do so soon. Implement measures to close them gradually after fixing the high and medium-priority issues.

Most gaps classified as green in an IT audit will serve as recommendations for projects and upgrades to improve your technology performance. These will enhance productivity, collaboration and bring more efficiency to your team. You may also be advised about new security layers that should be implemented, and these are often a good idea. Just make sure that they will work with your existing suite and not interfere with your main security layers.

The following are some of the gaps that fall into the GREEN category: 

  • Accounts with passwords set to “never expire”
  • Computers with operating systems that are nearing the end of their extended support period
  • Persistent issues with on-premises syncing 
  • More administrative access than is required to perform essential duties 

Importance of prioritising gaps

Long story short: prioritising IT Gaps is a must. If you’re looking to save time, money, avoid imminent cyber attacks and be more efficient, this is how to do it. And to make sure you got your priorities right, you should hire a specialist firm to do your IT Audit before you begin.

Beginning your tech refresh without the audit puts you at risk of spending unnecessarily on a less critical issue or even spending on a solution that was not necessary in the first place.

Related Read: Refreshing your Business Technology Infrastructure in 2022

A tech refresh can bring several benefits to your business, but it has to be done right. If you think it’s time to improve your relationship with technology and leverage the power of IT, consider our Gap Analysis.

It’s the process we utilise to onboard new customers, and it brings powerful insight into how the tech is performing and how the users – your employees and customers – are interacting with it. After learning it, we can provide the best advice and a clear pathway to improving tech in your business. Read our brochure to learn more

Thanks for reading. If you have any more questions, feel free to get in touch. Our team will be happy to talk and understand your concerns. Follow us on Social Media for more content!

Improving IT Performance – Why Prioritise Your IT Gaps

IT Audit Improving IT performance
Photo by Isaac Smith on Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 Minutes
Technology is an unavoidable component of most businesses, helping them achieve their goals and vision. Therefore, reviewing and improving IT performance should be a regular practice for growing businesses. Moreover, if you are not cautious, technological flaws could allow cybercriminals to access your network and cause havoc in your company. The solution is quite simple but remarkably underrated in the business world: conducting a technology audit.

Recommended Read: Why should you conduct a technology audit for your business?

A technology audit can assist you in better understanding and identifying gaps in your organisation’s security, compliance and backup postures. By learning how your organisation is performing in different tech areas, you can determine what needs to be prioritised and how to improve IT performance.

To make the most of an IT Audit, you must have a trusted managed service provider by your side. A specialist provider like ourselves will simplify this task and provide you with a detailed and practical action plan prioritising the most urgent gaps, allowing you to decide how to proceed and allocate funds.

Switching is Easy – how to ensure a smooth transition between providers

Why should you prioritise your organisation’s IT gaps?

Here are some reasons why prioritising technology gaps is critical to improving IT performance:

To fix the most critical gaps immediately

Following an audit, you may discover hundreds of vulnerabilities, prompting the question, “Should all of these be fixed at once?”

To make an improvement on a major highway, you wouldn’t close every lane at the same time. Instead, you would first block and repair the most damaged one during non-peak hours. The same is true for vulnerabilities, and it is always better to bridge the most critical one first.

Bridging all the gaps at once is rarely practical, both financially and in terms of time and effort. Furthermore, if you prioritise a lower-priority vulnerability first, cybercriminals can swoop in and exploit critical flaws in the blink of an eye.

Related Article: Is Technology Affecting your Productivity?

Therefore, despite technical knowledge, prioritising the gaps also takes an in-depth understanding of your organisation. The tech that affects your operations, employee experience and service delivery should generally come first. And it should be enhanced with minimal downtime.

To promote better budgetary decisions

Budgets, when properly planned, can serve as a tool to assist you in meeting organisational objectives. Budgeting for IT is as important as for any area in your business – and it must be done right in order to improve IT performance.

Randomly allocating funds to bridge gaps will neither help defend against threats nor be a wise budgetary decision. Instead, prioritise gaps and distribute financial resources based on vulnerability severity.

To improve control over transformation and upgrade

Timely upgrades and associated transformation are crucial for a business to stay competitive in constantly evolving business landscapes. Even so, it is critical to maintain control over such transitions. Otherwise, it could lead to confusion and poor decisions, ultimately harming your company’s growth.

Get a better understanding of upgrades and transformation by prioritising gaps and systematically bridging them based on their severity. This will bring a vivid notion of how your IT performance is improving.

To avoid overburdening key stakeholders

Tending to all gaps at once can overwhelm your employees, in turn lowering their productivity and deteriorating customer service. Avoid this to the greatest extent possible. If your customers and employees are dissatisfied, your business can suffer serious setbacks such as employee attrition, customer churn, accidental data breaches and so on.

A successful transition from different technologies or even providers should be as smooth as possible so that the experience of employees and customers is not harmed in any way. Make sure your IT partner has a structured transition plan in place when discussing technology projects. Thinking about switching IT Providers? Read some of our tips.

Gap Analysis – the First Step to Improve your IT Performance

The IT Audit is a crucial first step to begin improving IT performance and pushing your organisation forward. Here at Spector, we call it the Gap Analysis, and we’ve included far more insight than what you’d typically find.

Our specialists can quickly identify the rights and wrongs of previous providers and will go beyond the technical report. We’ll talk to your people, understand their issues and concerns at the technical and operational level and provide actionable advice for the next quarter, semester and year. If you decide to work with us, we’ll ensure that all recommendations are delivered with minimal downtime and maximum satisfaction.

Read our brochure on the Gap Analysis to learn more about how we work and why we take this step so seriously.

Contact us to arrange a no-commitment discovery call. We’ll be happy to discuss how we can help your organisation successfully bridge technology gaps to achieve your goals.

 

Thank you for reading! Please share it with businesses that are looking to bridge the gap and improving IT performance. Follow us on Social Media for more exclusive content.

Is Technology Affecting Your Productivity?

Technology Affecting Performance
Photo by Chase Chappell on Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
Is your technology affecting productivity positively or negatively? When used strategically, technology can help small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) develop a more productive, efficient and innovative workforce. That’s why companies that prioritize technology are three times more likely to exceed corporate goals, according to the Adobe Digital Trends Report. In a business world that’s evolving at a breakneck pace, your company may not be able to perform at its full potential if it lacks the necessary technology. 

Technology can improve:

  • Business communication
  • Decision making
  • Marketing
  • Security
  • Customer support
  • Resource management
  • Time and cost-efficiency 

However, even the most cutting-edge technology can experience the occasional hiccup and slow you down if you don’t keep up with regular updates and support. Performing an annual technology refresh can help you avoid this altogether.

A technology refresh is the process of replacing technology components regularly by evaluating their ability to integrate with other infrastructure components and obsolescence, rather than waiting until the outdated element becomes the most significant impediment to achieving your company’s vision. 

Read: Refreshing your Business Technology Infrastructure in 2022

A technology refresh is crucial because maintaining legacy infrastructure components comes at a cost. It exposes your systems to hackers, reduces overall productivity and may even drive your most valuable employees out the door because they are tired of dealing with outdated technology that makes it difficult to do their jobs. Additionally, as the costs of maintaining obsolete IT components and the risks of failure continue to rise, day-to-day operations can be negatively impacted. 

In short, tech can have a significant impact on your operations – be it positive or negative. So it’s vital to enable your business to be in a position where technology can improve productivity.

Warning Signs that Technology is Affecting Your Productivity

Is it time to refresh your company’s technology? Your team’s feedback and usability experience will be your primary source of information. If technology is affecting their productivity, there’ll sure be complaints! Keep an eye out for the following six signs:

Systems are running slowly

Slow systems consume a significant amount of a company’s valuable time. The slowness could be due to several factors, including a failed integration, virus or lack of updates. It’s critical to find and fix the problem as soon as possible to get back to optimal performance levels.

Experiencing suspicious pop-ups

Suspicious pop-ups typically warn users that their system is vulnerable to a security threat or has a technical problem. Cybercriminals then prey on worried users who want to make sure their system is secure by extorting money to fix issues and eliminate threats that do not exist. One of the best ways to keep such malicious players at bay is by immediately updating legacy systems.

Read: Top Tips to Identify a Suspicious Email

Random shutdowns

It’s normal for systems to shut down to install critical updates. However, if the shutdowns are frequent and unpredictable, there’s a problem that needs to be addressed. While random shutdowns can be due to a range of factors, such as an unstable power supply, virus/malware or corrupted files, it could also be a warning sign that the system is due for an update.

Connection issues

Getting cut off from the internet in the middle of a crucial task or meeting occasionally can be inconvenient, but what if it happens regularly? It could be a sign that your system has a flaw that needs to be fixed. However, if software patching fails to resolve the issue, it may be time to refresh the system.

Lack of integration between your systems, software and technology

Integration is critical for today’s firms because the current technology landscape is evolving rapidly, and businesses may depend on multiple vendors for different solutions. So, if any technology component in your company does not integrate with the rest of the infrastructure, it should be replaced immediately.

Your system acts possessed

You may have seen situations where tabs open and close on their own, the mouse moves in the opposite direction, things open on your desktop at random, and files get downloaded without your knowledge. In such cases, you should consider a system refresh before consulting an exorcist. Systems without proper patching and update history may exhibit strange behaviour. Moreover, these signs could mean there is an intruder within.

Improving your Relationship with Technology

Technological roadblocks can be frustrating, and attempting to overcome them on your own is often overwhelming. This is a frequent complaint we get from people who are unsatisfied with their providers and thinking about moving on.

IT is not supposed to be frustrating. All your business technology should be improving productivity and efficiency, enabling your team to do more in less time. If that’s not your everyday experience, then it’s time do to something about it!

Learn More: Switching IT Providers

The moment of refreshing your technology is actually an excellent opportunity to consider changing IT providers. A project like this involves a transition period and some amount of effort for participants. So by combining it with a switch, you’re saving time and effort in the process. Learn more about it in our article: How to Smoothly Transition to a New IT Services Provider

Get started on your path to a happy relationship with technology by talking to an experienced partner. Knowing that the process is in expert hands gives you peace of mind and allows you to focus on growing your business. Contact us now for a no-commitment discovery call.

Thank you for reading! Please share it with others who may be needing help handling their IT and cybersecurity requirements. Follow us on Social Media for more exclusive content.

Why Should you Conduct a Technology Audit for your Business?

Technology audit for business
Photo by Surface on Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
When was the last time you conducted a comprehensive technology audit? If it’s been a while or hasn’t happened at all, you’re probably vulnerable to a cyberattack. Cybercrime shows no signs of slowing down and is expected to cost the world $10.5 trillion per year by 2025. If cybercrime were a country, it would be one of the world’s leading economies!

Are you confident that your organisation is secure with the current remote and hybrid work environments? Most businesses rushed to implement remote working capacities and left several security issues unchecked. This is where a technology audit can give you peace of mind. 

Related article: How to Build a Security-First Culture to Empower your Hybrid Workforce

An IT audit is a thorough analysis and assessment of an organisation’s IT infrastructure, policies and procedures. The auditor will run several tests, see if everything is in order and talk to people in the organisation to understand their processes, issues and usability challenges. This is the basic concept, but distinct managed services providers may act on a different approach. Spector further enhanced the standard IT Audit and included operational and businesses analysis. We’ll discuss these advancements later in this article.

Importance of Technology Audits for Businesses

Here are some reasons why a technology audit is essential to organisational resilience and overall success:

  • Detects security vulnerabilities
  • Ensures that the organisation is up to date on security measures
  • Establishes the foundation for the organisation’s new security policies
  • Prepares the organisation to respond quickly and effectively in the event of a cyberattack
  • Helps maintain compliance with various security regulations

For these reasons, it’s usually a good idea to perform a technology audit before refreshing your business technology.

technology audit for business - Quote: An IT Audit helps bridge security gaps and detect vulnerabilities before they can cause any real damage

Benefits of Technology Audits for Businesses

Comprehensive technology audits have three key benefits:

No Surprises

IT components that we use and trust every day may have hidden threats that we can easily overlook. If not addressed early on, such threats can quickly escalate into a full-fledged cyber attack. An IT audit is exceptionally beneficial when it comes to addressing this particular concern.

A properly planned auditing process creates a map of your IT environment that helps you understand how everything connects and which areas expose you to threats. This allows you to focus your remediation efforts where needed the most.

Consider this: What if one of your top executives was secretly selling all your intellectual property ideas to your main competitor? That could sink your company or significantly reduce your profit potential. Unmapped and unaccounted-for technology landscapes can lead to similar outcomes.

Read: Protecting your Business-Critical Data from Human Threat

To avoid this, regularly monitor, update, patch and clean up the proverbial dust in your infrastructure. You might soon discover that someone intentionally or unintentionally downloaded a piece of malicious code that’s spreading like wildfire across your network, waiting for the perfect moment to demand a ransom or continue spying and stealing your best ideas.

Data-Driven Decision Making

A properly conducted technology audit will provide your organisation with valuable data that you can use to make core business decisions. Its value extends to security budgeting as well. A data-driven approach to developing cybersecurity strategies can assist you in making more informed budget decisions. By knowing where are your most damaging exposures, you’ll have a better idea of where to spend your money.

An audit can also help you prioritise your goals based on what’s most pressing, exposing vulnerabilities or causing productivity loss.

A Vision for the Future

An audit can lay the groundwork for an in-depth analysis. By identifying your current technology state, you can begin to plan and build your ideal tech structure. It’s a powerful tool that can assist you in determining what your company excels at right now and formulating an effective strategy for the future.

Related Article: Preparing for a Technology & Cyber Security Audit

Armed with a thorough understanding of your technology’s strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats, you can begin planning years in advance and share the vision with team members to keep them motivated.

You may identify the opportunity to expand your offerings to a digital audience or perhaps modernise your operations with new emerging technology. Whatever makes sense to your business may be within reach once you identify and establish that as a direction for your tech to evolve. Thus the technology audit serves as a vital step for a growing company.

Conducting The Gap Analysis – An Advanced Technology Audit for Businesses

Now that you understand the benefits of conducting a technology audit and may be considering auditing your organisation’s technology, keep in mind that not all audits are the same.

To ensure a technology audit is capable of causing an impact, it must first be comprehensible for business decision-makers and actionable. You’re looking for more than just a technical report with hundreds of tables and graphs.

Learn more about our Gap Analysis

At Spector, we named our tech audit the Gap Analysis; and its primary goal is to deliver a practical, comprehensive and straightforward report. We divide the analysed areas into different categories and dive deep to understand how your business is performing in each of them. Then we put together a Scorecard for each category and indicate the priorities that should be addressed for each.

This is how we begin working with new clients, and it brings our team a good understanding of how your business technology is performing and what is holding it back. Should you be interested in learning more, read our Gap Analysis Brochure or get in touch with us!

Thank you for reading! Please share it with others who may needing help handling their IT and cybersecurity requirements. Follow us on Social Media for more exclusive content.

 

Source:

* Cybersecurity Ventures

Top 4 Business Technology Trends for 2022

Top 4 Business Technology Trends 2022
Photo by Vinicius “amnx” Amano on Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
Over the last few decades, technology has been a driving force in business transformation and doesn’t show any signs of slowing down. The fact that direct digital transformation investments are projected to total €7 trillion between 2020 and 2023 demonstrates this. If you want your firm to succeed, you must have the appropriate technologies to help you keep up with the changing business world. Learning what are the current business technology trends is the first step to do so.

In the present scenario, your technology must enable you to overcome three recent pandemic-induced issues:

Supply chain disruptions

In 2021, supply chain interruptions cost businesses throughout the world an average of $184 million. As production sites and borders were strongly impacted by Covid 19, the world has seen ongoing shortages.

The great resignation

In 2021, tens of millions resigned from their jobs in Europe and the United States, setting a new record. This global phenomenon has been called “the great resignation”. Its effect is being widely noticed and studied in the business world.

A rise in ransomware attacks

Ransomware affected 68.5% of businesses surveyed in 2021, according to research from Statista. As companies rushed to remote work, cybercriminals exploited vulnerabilities and caused considerable damage. Learn more about Ransomware.

As Covid 19 continues to impact organisations worldwide, this article discusses more trends likely to take place during the year. Businesses must keep up with the demands of the evolving technology landscape if they wish to achieve their goals and remain competitive despite the changes brought about by the pandemic.

Track the latest business technology trends to know if you are moving in the right direction. Having a managed service provider (MSP) on your side allows your business to stay up to date without doing the heavy lifting.

Top 4 business technology trend predictions for 2022

Third-party risks will increase

In 2022, third parties will be involved in 60% of security incidents. This means that firms that fail to invest in the risk management trifecta of people, processes and technology may face cyberattacks.

Proactive businesses will include risk assessment, supply chain mapping, real-time risk intelligence and business continuity management in their IT stack.

We have a selection of articles discussing third-party risks, available in the links below:

One-third of companies will fail at implementing “work from anywhere”

To successfully and securely empower remote workers, organisations need to deliver: 

  • A precisely designed digital workplace that allows for seamless working from anywhere
  • A leadership team capable of leading a virtual team
  • An organisation with high levels of digital literacy across all departments
  • A thorough mastery of work-from-anywhere concepts

However, a third of the companies still lag in these areas. Leaders have not been trained effectively, and organisational culture is suffering. Despite being the most prevalent business technology trend for the past couple years, companies haven’t mastered this challenge.

If you think there’s still room for improvement in your business, check our articles and guides on Remote Working below.

Should you want an individualised solution, get in touch and learn more about our Remote Working Services.

Migrating Cloud

Cloud-native takes centre stage in enterprise cloud

The Cloud has been involved in emerging business technology trends for over a decade now, and its potential still hasn’t been fully explored. Cloud customers will change their business strategy to be completely cloud-native rather than using the cloud for only a portion of their portfolio.

Also, cloud-native adoption is predicted to reach 50% of enterprise organisations by 2022, spanning all major technology domains such as big data, artificial intelligence and the Internet of Things.

Migrating to the cloud is not as straightforward as it may seem, and it requires careful planning and consideration. There are many solutions and setups available that may be adequate for your business, involving a private, public or hybrid cloud.

We have a Guide on Cloud Migration available for free, and our team would be happy to understand your needs and discuss solutions. Get in touch!

Tech execs leap from digital to human-centred technology transformations

In 2022, technology executives will concentrate on fixing long-term problems. The best ones will embrace a customer-centric approach to technology, allowing their organisation to meet future customer and employee needs with adaptability, innovation and resilience.

This business technology trend was identified by a Forrester report, and it allows companies to quickly reconfigure business structures and capabilities. It’s the realisation that business technology must be designed for the end users – people who will be able to maximise its value.

Our Guide on Technology Transformation is a couple of years old but still provides practical guidelines to apply changes in your business. Download it for free and get in touch if you want to talk to our specialists.

Apply these Tech Trends and Collaborate for success

Get your technology infrastructure ready for a successful year! With the help of a technology partner, you’ll have a much easier journey getting there.

Keeping up with the rapid pace of technology and learning how to leverage it to your business’ success can be time-consuming. Not all business technology trends will be applicable to your reality and industry. A trusted partner will not only lend you their know-how of what’s best in tech but will also implement these tools for you securely.

Spector can handle your IT, cybersecurity and compliance needs. If you’re choosing between providers, click here to download our Checklist that contains a list of questions to ask any MSP before working with them. This should help you filter between providers and make the right decision.

Get in touch with us or click here and set up a free consultation. Our expertise and skillsets may be what your company needs to help remote workers thrive.

 

 

Sources:

  1. Statista (worldwide-digital-transformation-market-size)
  2. Statista (cost-supply-chain-disruption-country)
  3. Job Openings and Labor Turnover Survey, 2021
  4. What is the Great Resignation?
  5. Statista (businesses-ransomware-attack-rate)
  6. Predictions 2022, Forrester

Refreshing Your Business Technology Infrastructure in 2022

Refreshing your Business Technology in 2022
Photo by Microsoft on Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 Minutes
After the ups and downs of the last couple of years, the business world enters 2022 with renewed optimism. Business executives are contemplating strategies to start the year with a strong quarter by adapting to the new normal. Do you have the best technology infrastructure to help you kick off the new year with a bang? If not, it’s time to consider a technology refresh.

Every company wants to grow, but if you treat your technological infrastructure as an afterthought, you may be severely limiting your company’s potential. Your team’s productivity, efficiency, flexibility and security are directly impacted by your business technology.

An up-to-date and high-quality IT infrastructure is an asset that enables you to do business without falling prey to cyber threats and helps you achieve your goals. Your IT infrastructure is a critical component of your business – and its importance is often underestimated in SMEs.

How about beginning the year with the right foot? A technology refresh enables a company to analyse the current state of its IT infrastructure and weigh the merits of trying something better. For a company’s long-term success, it’s best to review the present IT infrastructure — hardware, software and other technology solutions — and determine what additional solutions are available that would better suit its needs.

Reasons Worth Considering Before Refreshing Your IT Infrastructure

The following are the top four reasons to refresh your technology infrastructure:

Increased Security

The threat landscape is constantly evolving. We know this because of the projected increase in the cybersecurity market size from around 217 billion in 2021 to about 240 billion in 2022. If you want to keep cybercriminals out of your business, you must understand where your technology and security measures fall short, leaving you vulnerable.

Some of the threats that small and midsized business IT infrastructure must defend against are:

Assurance That You’re Meeting Compliance Requirements

Regardless of your industry, you’re probably subject to compliance regulations that your company must follow. If you use outdated technology that no longer receives software patches and is no longer supported, you may jeopardise your compliance status. Finding these gaps in your infrastructure as early as possible allows you to close them, thereby avoiding reputational damage and getting into hot water with regulators.

Read: How a ‘Compliance First’ Mindset Limits Liabilities for SMEs

Never take compliance lightly since failure to comply can result in:

  • Hefty penalties
  • Uninvited audits
  • Criminal charges
  • Denial of insurance claims
  • Forced closure or even imprisonment

Reliable Backup

Having a backup solution is a must if your business has any reliance on technology. It’s a critical component of a resilient organisation. If you already have a backup solution, you should test and verify it regularly to ensure that it is still functional. A backup is only good if you can restore from it, and if it stops working when your organisation needs it the most, you’ll be in a tough spot.

In addition, some cyberattacks specifically target backups. As a result, it is critical to regularly review and refresh your backup solution.

Learn more about our Backup and Disaster Recovery services and best practices with our dedicated articles.

Stay Competitive Using Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Other Emerging Technologies

According to Gartner, 33% of technology and service provider organisations intend to invest $1 million or more in AI over the next two years. AI and other emerging technologies are rapidly altering the landscape of every industry. If you want to stay ahead of your competitors, you must use the most up-to-date technology that is appropriate for your industry and goals. This could explain why around 60% of SMEs have invested in emerging technologies.

Collaborate for Success

A timely technology refresh could act as an energy boost for your company, enabling it to be more resilient. Begin your IT infrastructure refresh journey with a specialised partner. Knowing that the process is in expert hands gives you peace of mind and allows you to focus on building your business. Get in touch with us today.

Thank you for reading! If you have found value in this content, please share it with others who may feel the same way. Follow us on Social Media for more exclusive content.

 

 

Sources:

1. Statista 

2. Adobe Digital Trends Report 

How to Build a Security-First Culture That Empowers Your Hybrid Workforce

Hybrid Work Environment
Photo by Shridhar Gupta on Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
Tools are only as good as their users. This should be your guiding philosophy as the world shifts to a hybrid work model to deal with the complexities posed by the COVID-19 pandemic. While it’s great to define and implement essential security controls and tools, if it isn’t backed up by workforce buy-in and participation, you could be in for a bumpy ride.

Related Article: Securing your Hybrid Work Environment

A Ponemon survey of IT security leaders revealed that 62% of remote employees do not follow security protocols closely. And that’s only half of it. Think of all the logistical and monitoring challenges posed by hybrid working environments. You may have some employees working remotely, some from your office and a few others at a co-working space. If you have rotational shifts, you will have employees working throughout the day. To put it bluntly, building a security-first culture in this new era is a massive undertaking.

You will need to devise a comprehensive cybersecurity strategy that involves and empowers your hybrid workforce. Here are the critical components of this strategy:

Perimeter-Less Technology

In a hybrid work model, you will have employees spread over multiple locations, working together online. Some may use less secure home internet connections for work, while others may use personal devices to get the job done. That’s why it is critical to upgrade your security systems, tools and controls to make sure they match the demands of a hybrid environment.

This means going truly perimeter-less and investing in cloud-based SaaS applications, secure VPNs, identity and access management tools, patch management applications, unified endpoint management systems, and backup and recovery solutions. 

Make sure the application you choose supports Zero Trust architecture. Zero Trust is a security concept that dictates that every attempt to access company networks and systems must be verified first, whether within your network perimeter or outside it.

Documented Policies and Procedures

If your security policies and procedures are not clearly documented, you will struggle to enforce them. Your staff may not know what steps are involved or the purpose of the whole process. There will be no buy-in from their side. For instance, if you don’t have an Acceptable Use Policy for your VPN in writing, your employees may end up using it for non-work purposes.

Recommended Read: How to Ensure Compliance when Working Remotely

Identify critical IT policies and procedures like change management, remote access, incident response, etc. Then, have all of them documented and shared with the concerned teams and your staff members. Remember to keep the files up to date and in an easily accessible, central location. This will make it easier to enforce policies. Employees will know what is expected of them and why. Finally, make sure policies are reviewed periodically and make changes if needed.

Security Awareness Training Programs

Aim to make your employees the first line of defence against cyberattacks. Although this approach has been around for years, it is even more relevant in a hybrid work environment. The risk factor is higher, so you must take it seriously—no more gimmicks to meet compliance requirements.

Deploy engaging training programs to help reduce human errors, develop good security habits and create awareness about the current threat landscape. Create training videos and a knowledge base covering security best practices and SOPs.

Read – Your biggest cyber security risk: Your employees

Along with that, you should set up interactive training programs that help employees learn how to defend against phishing, ransomware, brute-force password attacks and social engineering. After training, reinforce what they learned by conducting routine tests and simulations.

Communication and Support Channels

You can handle threats more effectively when communication and support channels are clearly defined and easily accessible. Every staff member will know how to raise an alarm, whom to contact and what to do after reporting it. More importantly, it will help you detect threats early, thereby minimising their impact.

Additionally, you should clearly define what tools can be used for communication and collaboration. For instance, employees should be discouraged from using personal apps like WhatsApp and Facebook for official communication and file transfer. Not only does it put company data in danger, but it might also hurt your chances of achieving compliance.

Friction-Free Systems and Strategies

When it comes to devising new security strategies or evaluating new systems, ensure that you give due importance to user experience and efficiency. For instance, if your company’s antivirus solution slows down employee workstations, they may resort to disabling it to get work done, which is a recipe for disaster.

Although security is critical, it shouldn’t come at the cost of efficiency and user experience. Following security measures and policies shouldn’t feel like extra work, otherwise employees could grow weary and abandon security best practices altogether. Ensure your security systems and strategies dovetail nicely with their workflow.

Next Steps

The truth is, building a security-first culture is challenging. The hybrid work model has only made it more complicated by adding dozens of new layers and steps to the process. You will undoubtedly need skilled staff, 24/7 support and specialised tools if you want to implement a security-first culture within a hybrid work environment. 

If you are thinking about going down this path, we can help ensure proper and effective implementation and ongoing management of necessary IT, cybersecurity and data security controls.

Our specialists will be happy to help and understand your situation to provide a tailored solution. Get in touch today!

The Beginner’s Guide to Cyber Liability Insurance for Business

Cyber Liability Insurance
Photo by Kevin Lehtla on Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 Minutes
The COVID-19 pandemic has impacted everyone in one way or another. If one category most benefited from the pandemic, it’s cybercriminals. That’s why cybercrime has shot up by almost 300% since the start of the pandemic, and that’s why you must adopt necessary measures to protect your business from malicious cyber players. One of these measures is to have Cyber Liability Insurance.

Related Article: How to Become a Resilient Organisation

Cyber Liability Insurance covers the financial loss that results from cyber events such as data breaches. However, cyber liability is not typically included within general liability insurance and must be purchased separately. Also, each company offering a policy has different coverage options available and exclusions included.

Why Invest in Cyber Liability Insurance?

Experts estimate that the damage inflicted by cybercrimes will add up to about $6 trillion globally in 2021. That’s higher than the GDP of the world’s third-largest economy, Japan, which sits at $5.38 trillion.

These statistics stress why SMBs, in particular, must have cyber liability insurance:

  • Over 40% of cyberattacks target small businesses.
  • Over 60% of SMBs have experienced a cyberattack in the past 12 months.
  • Over 45% of SMBs say that their processes are ineffective at mitigating attacks.

Cyber liability insurance could be the difference between your business sinking or staying afloat after a security incident. Without cyber liability insurance, the various expenses you might have to bear after an incident could financially harm your business in the short term or, in the worst case, result in permanent closure.

Over 60% of businesses that suffer a severe cyberattack close their doors within two years. As a business owner, you don’t have to panic. The point we’re trying to make with this article is that being prepared is better than pretending the problem doesn’t exist. So if you’re still not confident about your business resilience, don’t wait until after a hack to do something!

Read: Organisational Resilience Starts with Cyber Resilience – Here’s Why

Here are a few expenses that a business would have to manage following a severe data breach incident:

  • Cost of downtime
  • Cost of investigation
  • Cost of recovering data
  • Cost of legal procedures
  • Cost of notifying stakeholders about the incident
  • Cost of restoring the personal identities of those affected

Good cyber liability insurance would usually cover these expenses. But always remember that before you commit to a policy, you must get clarity from your insurer about what they do and do not cover.

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Does your business need it? 

Any venture with cyber exposure must consider having cyber liability insurance. However, cyber liability insurance should be your top priority if your business handles or stores sensitive information online, such as electronically protected health information (ePHI) or personally identifiable information (PII).

Make sure your cyber liability insurance has the following essential coverages:

First-party coverage: 

  • Network security and privacy liability: Covers breach response costs like forensic investigations, public relations, credit monitoring, legal fees and fines/penalties.
  • Business interruption losses and extra expenses: Covers lost revenue and added costs to continue business.
  • Digital data recovery and cyber extortion expenses: Covers losses such as ransom paid due to ransomware.

Third-party coverage: 

  • Cyber liability: Covers claims of lawsuit expenses resulting from breaches in client systems or networks.
  • Media liability: Covers claims of libel, copyright/trademark infringement, etc., resulting from media use.

Cybercrime coverage: 

  • Covers losses from digital theft of money or securities and social engineering fraud

Who Are the Top Cyber Liability Insurance Carriers?

Finding the right cyber liability insurance provider is not easy. While most general insurance providers offer general liability coverage, they don’t always provide comprehensive cyber liability coverage. Choosing an insurance provider rated ‘A’ or higher by the most reputable insurance rating agency is always ideal. 

The following insurance carriers are worth considering:

  • Hiscox
  • Chubb 
  • AIG 
  • Travelers
  • AXA XL 
  • AmTrust Financial 
  • Co-Operators

But remember, just committing to a policy is not enough. You will also have to track/measure compliance with the agreement to make sure your contract is always valid and will, therefore, pay out in the event of an issue.

Recommended: What to Include in Your Incident Response Plan

Suppose your business is not following the recommended procedures for cyber security or doesn’t have the correct efforts in place. In that case, you’re facing the risk of cybercrime and not having the desired coverage. Be sure not to fall in that limbo!

Having the right partner by your side simplifies this process.

Whether you are looking to find a cyber liability insurance policy that is right for your business or trying to find and measure your policy’s compliance with cyber liability insurance contracts, we are here to help.

Contact us now to assist you in developing your cyber security strategy, including finding the right cyber liability insurance policy!

 

 

Protecting the Meat Processing Industry from Cybercrime

Protecting the Meat Processing Industry from Cyber Crime - Free Webinar

Recently some of the most significant players in the meat processing industry have suffered from cyber-attacks and exposed how unprepared the sector is to handle cybercrime. World-leading companies like JBS and Euro Farm Foods were hit by Ransomware and had to bring their operations to a halt immediately.

Cybercrime is at an all-time high and doesn’t show signs of slowing down anytime soon. Nevertheless, it usually takes some shocking incident for most people and businesses to begin taking action and protecting their valuable digital assets. 

If you are part of the meat processing industry or any field related to manufacturing and are looking to know what it takes to protect yourself, you came to the right place. In this article, we’ll be sharing a free Webinar we did on this exact topic soon after the hacks took place. In this chat, our CEO Mark Hurley spoke to our partners from Threat Locker and Westcoast Cloud to explain the critical points below:

  • Why is the meat processing industry being targeted?
  • How can you protect your business?
  • What is Zero Trust Security, and how does it help?
  • Is moving to the Cloud the answer?

Why is the Meat Processing Industry a Target for Cybercriminals?

Let’s begin with the most common question. This industry is becoming a target for many reasons. Criminals are looking for businesses that don’t traditionally invest much in security, as they are easier targets and pose virtually no risk or resistance.

Not only that, but almost every single industry in today’s economic landscape is increasingly being targeted by cybercriminals. This happens because everybody is becoming more reliant on technology, and businesses have a lot to lose if they lose access to their systems. Criminals are also becoming better and utilising more sophisticated tools, sending automated messages to thousands of people while investigating potential targets to hack.

Like any other industry with low cyber maturity, this industry is an untapped gold mine for criminals. It will continue to be until the core notions are implemented throughout the sector and people and businesses are better equipped to handle cyber threats.

Watch the Full Webinar

We hope this Webinar can provide value for your business and ultimately leads to better protection and security. The discussion held at the Webinar is valid for companies in most manufacturing lines, so feel free to share if you know anyone who could benefit from it. 

Please don’t hesitate to get in touch if you are looking for specialised guidance – our team will be happy to help.

 

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Securing your Hybrid Work Environment

Securing a Hybrid Work Environment

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
The COVID-19 pandemic caused an unprecedented shift in the way people work. Although most companies initially relied on a fully remote work model, the vaccine rollout has led to popularising hybrid work environments. Which in turn, has raised the question: how can businesses secure their hybrid work environment and ensure both on-site and remote staff can avoid cyber threats?

This question is relevant because hybrid work has never existed at this scale, and most businesses were not structured to function like this. A hybrid work environment has elements of both the traditional on-site work model and the remote work model. Employees can choose to work from home, at the office or a combination of both.

Recommended Read: Lessons in Lockdown – Our Guide to Smarter Remote Working

If you are planning to bring all your workforce back to the offices when you have the chance, consider some of the advantages hybrid environments have, such as:

Employee happiness

Hybrid environments help boost employee morale since there is an opportunity for collaboration with colleagues at the office and while working remotely.

Better productivity

The flexibility provided by the hybrid work model helps employees focus on their work when they are at their most productive. In a survey by Microsoft, 82% of business leaders reported good productivity when flexible work schedules were adopted.

Reduced costs

Companies no longer need to provide office spaces for their entire workforce at once, and employees need not commute daily to their offices. It helps reduce costs significantly.

Better protection against the pandemic

Although vaccination is encouraged worldwide, the World Health Organization has suggested that everyone follow measures like social distancing for an extended period of time. Keeping this in mind, a hybrid environment certainly ticks all the boxes.

Related Article: Securing Company Data with a Remote Workforce.

On the flip side, hybrid work environments do have their share of disadvantages as well. Of these, heightened cyber risks need immediate focus.

The Problem and the Solution toward Securing Hybrid Work

Flexible work locations lead to cyberattacks and associated pitfalls like data loss because many endpoints operate outside the secure corporate perimeter. That is why 88% of businesses believe it is vital to secure remote work tools and protect customer or employee data in the distributed work environment. This puts the responsibility on the companies to protect their digital assets through regular software updates, proper password management, robust data backups and business continuity solutions, continual employee training, etc.

Hence, asset management is imperative for the diagnostics and mitigation of vulnerabilities and threats. Keeping a tab of all software and hardware your business possesses can be an ideal first step towards successfully managing digital assets. It should not just be a one-dimensional process of noting down the model number, serial number, location, etc. Asset management for security and data breach protection related to hybrid environments needs an in-depth set of inventories. For this, there should be a clear picture of the operating system, the patch levels, the configurations and even the state of known vulnerabilities.

Multi factor authentication

This will provide will with accurate information and an overall view of your technology assets, which is why it should be the first step in securing your environment. Clarity is vital at this moment, and it will conduct you through the following steps.

Asset management provides a firm foundation for risk assessment of your business’ hybrid work environment. A risk assessment helps you identify:

  • Internal and external vulnerabilities in your organisation.
  • Threats to the business’ data, systems, software, cloud and networks.
  • Consequences/impact if the threats exploit vulnerabilities.
  • Possibility of harm that may eventually unfold.

We have a dedicated article explaining what you need to know to begin Building an Asset and Risk Register to Tackle Technology Risk, with a sample risk register available for download as well. Click the link to dive in!

Remember, regular risk assessment offers the following benefits to your business:

Identifying your risk profile and defining priorities: 

Detecting threats and sorting risks based on their potential for harm help you focus your efforts on urgent pain points.

Protecting your digital assets: 

A risk assessment helps you determine ways to protect your critical assets and vital data in the distributed work environment. 

Read: Importance of Secure Cloud Backup Solution for Remote Workers

Reduce security spending: 

Regular risk assessments help you reduce security spending because you know where to allocate funds to ramp up security. You may also find you have more than one tool doing the same thing, thus avoiding redundancy.

Actionable analytics:

Having access to information provides insights into the future and helps you take adequate actions to improve your business’ security.

Keeps you compliant: 

When you handle your business assets and data securely through regular assessments, you can save your business from a regulatory violation. Learn more about How to Ensure Compliance when Working Remotely.

This is just the beginning to secure hybrid work environments

As mentioned above, risk assessment and asset management can help you address, reduce or avoid security challenges. After knowing your risk and defining priorities, you’ll need to pursue the appropriate solutions to address each of these risks.You can get started with the asset and risk register by yourself. Read our dedicated article on it if you’re looking for more guidance.

However, doing everything by yourself, with no experience, may be confusing. Learning which solutions are best suited for your business could also be tricky, as there is a wide variety of tech solutions available today. If you think you could use some help about where to start, simply get in touch.

By collaborating with a specialised partner in technology, risk assessment and asset management, you can prevent vulnerabilities from escalating into full-blown disasters. Our knowledge comprises all you will need to both identify, plan and implement a tailored solution to protect your business and help your team avoid cyber threats. Schedule a discovery call today!

Sources:

  1. Building resilience & maintaining innovation in a hybrid world, Microsoft
  2. Accelerating Digital Agility, Cisco

What to Include in Your Incident Response Plan

What to include in your incident response plan
Photo by Kristine Wook on Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 Minutes
A security incident can topple an organisation’s reputation and revenue in a short amount of time. As billionaire Warren Buffet once said, “it takes 20 years to develop a reputation and five minutes to ruin it.” Keeping that in mind, it’s ideal to have an incident response plan in place before a security breach occurs. 

An incident response plan is a set of instructions intended to facilitate an organisation in detecting, responding to and recovering from network security incidents such as cybercrime, data loss and service disruptions. Having a plan in place contributes to the development of cybersecurity as well as overall organisational resilience.

Recommended Read: How can Cyber Resilience Help SMEs in Ireland

Since most small and medium-sized businesses (SMBs) have limited resources and funds, incident response is usually given less attention. However, failing to respond swiftly and effectively when a cyberattack occurs can cost far more than putting an incident response plan in place.

Essential Elements of an Incident Response Plan

Every incident response plan should include the following five key elements to successfully address the wide range of security issues that an organisation can face:

Incident Identification and Rapid Response

It’s critical to evaluate the threat effectively and decide whether to implement the incident response plan. This requires two prerequisites:

  • An authorised person to initiate the plan
  • An online/offline place for the incident response team to meet and discuss

The sooner the incident is detected and addressed, the less severe the impact.

Resources

In case of a cyber event, an incident response team will usually have emergency kits on hand and have the following resources to help navigate through the event:

  • Tools to take all machines offline after forensic analysis
  • Solutions to regulate access to the organisation’s IT environment and keep hackers out of the network
  • Measures to employ standby machines to ensure operational continuity

Knowing what resources you will need and having them ready in these circumstances could be critical for recovery.

Roles and Responsibilities

An incident could occur in the middle of the night or at an unexpected time, such as the busiest week of the year for your business. That’s why it’s critical to establish the roles and responsibilities of your incident response team members. They could be called in at any time. You must also have a reserve team in case any of the primary contacts are unavailable.

In the event of a cyber incident, time is critical, and everyone must know what to do. You must insist on the importance of accountability both within your team and with external providers and partners. 

Detection and Analysis

This is, without a doubt, one of the most crucial elements of an incident response plan. It emphasises documenting everything, from how an incident is detected to reporting, analysing, and containing the threat. The aim is to create a playbook that includes approaches for detecting and analysing a wide range of risks.

Containment, Eradication and Recovery

  • Containment specifies the methods for restricting the incident’s scope. A ransomware attack, for example, must be tackled very differently compared to an insider threat. 
  • Eradication is all about techniques to eliminate a threat from all affected systems. 
  • Because incidents cannot always be prevented, recovery efforts concentrate on reducing potential harm and resuming operations as quickly as possible. Learn more about Disaster Recovery.

Considerations for an Incident Response Plan

An incident response plan must address any concerns that arise from an evolving threat landscape. Before you start crafting your plan, there are several considerations to be made, including:

  • Building an incident response plan should not be a one-off exercise. It should be reviewed regularly to ensure that it considers the most recent technical and environmental changes that may influence your organisation.
  • Your incident response plan and the team working on it must be supported and guided by top management.
  • It’s critical to document the contact information of key personnel for emergency communication.
  • Every person in the incident response team must maintain accountability.
  • Deploy the appropriate tools and procedures to improve the effectiveness of the incident response.
  • Your security, backup and compliance postures must all be given the same attention.

Related Article: Becoming a Resilient Organisation

We live in an era where only resilient organisations can navigate through all the complexities created by technological advancements and other unexpected external influences. That’s why having an incident response plan is essential.

Trying to develop and deploy an incident response plan on your own might be tricky, and this is not a situation where you can afford to make mistakes. Partnering with a specialist can take the load off your shoulders and give you the advantage of having an expert by your side. Contact us today to schedule a discovery call, where our team will understand more about your challenges and guide you through our process.

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A Resilient Organisation Starts with Cyber Resilience —Here’s Why

Resilient organisation begins with cyber resilience
Photo by Nastuh Abootalebi on Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Global events, such as recessions and pandemics, create enormous social and economic challenges that impact organisations and their management. From employee and customer satisfaction to financial difficulties, supply chain disruption and skyrocketing cyberattacks, top-level management oversees a wide range of concerns.

As business owners aim to address multiple challenges that may threaten their organisations’ success, resilience is a trending buzzword. Organisational resilience is an organisation’s ability to foresee, plan for, respond to and adapt to gradual change and unexpected disruptions to survive and thrive.

Recommended Read: Becoming a Resilient Organisation

Even during the most recent COVID-19 pandemic, organisations that already practised methods to cultivate resilience through remote/hybrid work, digital transformation and more, showed that they could quickly recover from setbacks and have an advantage over competitors.

If you want to prioritise resiliency within your own business, one of the first steps you should take is building cyber resilience. Cyber resilience refers to an organisation’s ability to consistently deliver the desired outcome in the face of adverse cyber events.

Cyber Resilience Powers Transformation

According to Forrester, cyber resilience is more than just a security imperative. It’s the foundation of a strong business and brand. This is one of the reasons why over 65% of organisations are investing in improving their cyber resiliency posture. Companies across the globe have begun to realise that it’s time to look inward and identify and close security gaps to build a more resilient future.

While establishing cyber resilience, consider the following:

  1. You must deploy tools to detect, evaluate and handle network and information system risks, including those that affect your supply chain.
  2. It’s critical to identify irregularities and potential cybersecurity issues through continuous network and information system monitoring before they become severe threats.
  3. Implementing an incident response strategy is crucial to ensure operational continuity where you can bounce back quickly even if you are the victim of a cyberattack.
  4. Always ensure that your cyber resilience strategy is overseen by top management and integrated into day-to-day operations.

Companies that invested in cyber resilience expected to get the following results:

  • Increased secure collaboration within the organisation
  • Better preparedness, response and remediation skills in the event of a security incident
  • Improved integration of people, processes and technology

How to Improve Your Cyber Resilience

Employee training

Providing continual security awareness training to your employees enables them to identify threats and vulnerabilities. It enhances employees’ defensive abilities and prepares them to effectively deal with a crisis. Learn more about the importance of cyber security training.

Stay current with technological advances and the threat landscape

It’s crucial to keep up with the latest technology developments and threats. If you have no understanding of what you’re up against, you can’t protect your business.

Reset your security systems

Regularly audit your digital and physical systems to identify vulnerabilities. Set the critical systems to their best available configurations to prevent unauthorised access.

Adopt advanced technologies

Legacy technologies may be ineffective in dealing with today’s challenges. As a result, having the most up-to-date and effective technologies and tools to secure your organisation is critical.

Partner with an MSP

Resiliency is no longer a choice but a necessity. However, it requires a significant amount of time, effort and expertise. It’s always best to collaborate with an expert partner like us who can handle resiliency and technology matters for you. Learn what a cybersecurity company can do for your business.

If you’re ready to take the first step towards building cyber resiliency in your organisation but aren’t sure where to start, contact us to schedule a no-commitment call. Our team will understand your needs and suggest a tailored solution to bring your organisational resilience to the next level.

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How to Become a Resilient Organisation

How to Become a Resilient Organisation

Reading Time: 3 Minutes
The last year and a half have taught us that the world can experience a tremendous change in a short time. Whether it’s rapid technological advancements, political transitions, cyberattacks, stalling economies or even a global pandemic, only resilient organisations can weather these storms.

That’s why the concept of organisational resilience is now more relevant than ever before. Organisational resilience is all about how well a company anticipates, plans for and responds to gradual change and unexpected disruptions in its business environment so that it can continue to operate and thrive.

Related Read: How Can Cyber Resilience Protects SMEs in Ireland?

Organisations and individuals that discovered meaningful ways to practise resilience in the face of change, from remote and hybrid working to digital acceleration, proved to have an enormous strategic advantage. Cultivate a resilient culture so that you aren’t caught off guard when disruptions occur.

Remember, if your people, processes and technologies aren’t resilient, your business will have a tough time recovering from setbacks such as downtime-induced financial loss as well as dissatisfied employees.

What Does a Resilient Organisation Look Like?

Organisations that recover quickly from setbacks typically do the following:

Create an environment for innovation

An organisation’s employees are among its most valuable assets. You can encourage innovation among your employees by creating a work culture that supports creative thinking and effective communication. This will empower them to contribute their knowledge, abilities and suggestions.

An innovative work culture ensures that everyone in the company works towards improving business practices, productivity and overall resilience. An innovative organisation can quickly come up with multiple strategies to deal with a crisis.

Adapt to meet changing customer needs

Consumer demands and behaviour are influenced by global events. With that in mind, if a customer-focused company wants to survive and prepare for the future, it must understand and adapt to changes.

Asking these three questions will provide organisations with perspective:

  • What are our customers’ behaviours?
  • Why do our customers behave that way?
  • What do we need to alter to cater to a new set of demands and behaviours?

Overcome reputational and organisational setbacks

Almost every firm will face reputational or organisational setbacks at some point during its life span. Some businesses may crumble as a result of their inability to prepare for and recover from change and challenges. However, the resilient ones will do everything in their power to identify the source of the setback, rectify the damage caused and make communication with stakeholders transparent.

Read: How Backup and Disaster Recovery Protects SMEs

Rise to the challenge

While it’s impossible to control what challenges your business encounters, you can certainly control how you deal with them. A resilient organisation will be better equipped to stand firm in the face of severe adversity and will have the means to recover as quickly as possible.

Tactics of Resilient Organisations 

Prioritise the following tactics to nurture a resilient organisation:

Proactive cybersecurity planning 

Being proactive regarding cybersecurity means your business won’t just be waiting for a potential attack, but rather have tools and procedures in place to avoid these threats even when you become a target. Implementing standards and guidelines such as ISO27001, or the NIST (National Institute of Standards and Technology) Cyber Security Framework, is often an excellent choice, depending on your industry and location.

More on these guidelines: Our Detailed Guide on NIST and an article comparing both: NIST or ISO27001 – why choose one?

Protection of intellectual property (IP) 

This is more of a legal and operational task and includes having the right employee, contractor and partnership agreements in place to avoid critical organisational IP from being disclosed.

Implementation of uptime safeguards

This requires being able to restore service via automatic failover or backup and recovery. Learn how much downtime costs your business.

Contingency plan mapping 

Build a business continuity and disaster recovery plan that lays out contingency plans for events like downtime, evacuations, and so on to be prepared for tricky situations.

Read: What is Business Continuity, and why does it matter?

First Step to Organisational Resilience: Understand your Path

Organisational resilience doesn’t happen by accident; it requires a structured and well-thought plan made for your business. To build this plan, you need to understand which areas are lacking and thriving so that priorities may be addressed and remaining gaps can be closed.

Trying to build a resilient organisation on your own is a massive challenge and will consume a great deal of time and resources. Partnering with an expert like us takes the worry and heavy load off your shoulders. Contact us today to schedule a consultation, and we’ll guide you through every step of the process.

 

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The Role of Compliance in Cybersecurity 

Role of Compliance in Cyber Security
Photo by Christin Hume on Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 Minutes
The overall technology landscape is evolving at a breakneck pace. While these changes are meant to improve the quality of life, the unfortunate flip side is an increase in cyber threats. This is why global cybersecurity spending increased from nearly $40 billion in 2019 to $54 billion in 2021. Unfortunately, due to a lack of spending on personnel or technology, SMBs are most frequently targeted by threat actors.

Recommended Read: How a ‘Compliance First’ Mindset Limits Liabilities for SMEs 

Many businesses fall victim to cybercrime because compliance and security are not a high priority for them. For your organisation to run smoothly, both compliance and security are critical. While compliance ensures that your organisation stays within the bounds of industry or government laws/regulations, security ensures that your organisation’s integrity and vital data are safeguarded. 

Know These Benefits 

The following are the reasons why adhering to industry compliance regulations is so important from a cybersecurity perspective:

Encourages trust 

Customers usually put their trust in an organisation while sharing their personal information, but unfortunately, personally identifiable information (PII) gets exposed in around 80% of security breaches. Following regulatory standards demonstrates that the organisation cares about its customers and wants to protect sensitive data. 

Improves security posture 

Regulatory compliance helps improve an organisation’s overall security posture by establishing a consistent baseline of minimum security requirements. 

Reduces loss 

Data breaches are less likely to take place when security is improved. This lowers the cost of data loss, which can skyrocket when you factor in lost revenue, restoration costs, legal penalties and compensation. 

Increases control 

Improved security leads to increased control over the IT infrastructure. This can help prevent data loss/corruption and reduce the amount of time spent fighting cyberattacks. 

Industries and Regulations 

While each industry has its own set of cybersecurity issues, some overlap. Phishing, for example, is a threat that almost all industries face. To combat these challenges, each sector has its own set of compliance and regulatory standards with specific provisions for security and privacy.  

Some regulations apply to multiple industries as well. Note that compliance regulations change from one country to the next and sometimes even within the same country. Let’s take a look at some of the industries and their associated rules:

Healthcare 

In the healthcare industry, shared data is highly sensitive. Cybercriminals who steal protected health information (PHI) usually fetch a high price for it on the dark web. Therefore, there are regulations in place, like the ones mentioned below, to ensure the secure handling of data: 

  • The Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) prohibits the disclosure of PHI without the patient’s consent. 
  • In the European Union, generic data protection laws, such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and the Data Protection Act 2018 (DPA), regulate the handling of health-related data. 

Is your business ready for HIPAA and PCI-DSS? Find out in this article.  

Finance 

Finance is often the most regulated sector because a big chunk of data revolves around payments and financial transfers. Some of the most popular regulations in this industry are listed below. 

  • The Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI-DSS) is an information security standard aimed at reducing payment card fraud for organisations that deal with branded payment cards. The scope of this regulation goes beyond the financial industry. 
  • In Japan, the Act on the Protection of Personal Information (APPI) regulates the commercial usage of personal data. 
  • The EU’s Payment Services Directive (PSD2) governs data transfer during end-to-end payments.  

Defence 

There are strict regulations in the defence sector since a breach could result in the disclosure of national secrets. 

  • The Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) governs the Defense Industrial Base (DIB) in the United States. 
  • In Australia, the Defense Industry Security Program (DISP) assists organisations in understanding and meeting their security duties when working on defence projects, contracts and tenders. 

Data Protection Standards – ISO27001 

Having compliance standards or frameworks to direct your efforts tends to be an effective strategy. One of the most respected and requested standards globally is ISO27001, and for excellent reasons. If your business is following guidelines required by the standard and the right policies, tools and procedures are in place; you’re bound to be in a much better place in terms of security. 

Read: ISO27001 vs NIST CSF – Why Choose One? 

As is the case with the regulations mentioned above, a business that seeks to adhere to compliance best practices will generally improve its security as a requirement. Hence, compliance and security walk side by side and compose the GRC (Governance, Risk & Compliance) discipline.
 

Reaching your Compliance Goals 

Upgrading your business’s compliance and security posture is no more an option but rather a necessary undertaking. And you can save a tremendous amount of time and effort by finding the right partner to guide you along the way.

No goal is too far. Our expertise will break down what seems to be a daunting task into achievable steps, and you’ll soon be in a much better place. Contact us to schedule a Gap Analysis or read our brochure to learn all advantages of our Compliance and Cyber Security Programme. 

 

Sources: 

  1. Statista 
  2. IBM CDBR 2020 

 

What You Should Know if Your Business Is Targeted by Ransomware

What to do if hit by ransomware
Photo by freestocks on Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 Minutes

It may not be news to you that ransomware is on the rise, but the numbers may leave you shocked. In 2020 alone, there were close to 300 million ransomware attacks worldwide. The cost of ransom payments demanded by hackers is also increasing in tandem with the increase in attacks. According to a recent projection, the global annual loss from ransomware attacks will touch $20 billion by the end of 2021.

Offerings like ransomware-as-a-service have made it easier for criminals with little technical knowledge to become threat actors. These attackers are less predictable and seem to lack a code of ethics. For example, groups in the past had lists of organisations they wouldn’t attack, such as cancer treatment facilities. That’s often not the case anymore, as we’ve seen in recent attacks in the HSE and NHS (click the link below for more details on those cases).

Read: Ransomware – The Cybercrime that has struck the HSE

A ransomware attack can affect any organisation, regardless of size or industry. However, SMBs are the most vulnerable since cybercriminals count on these businesses to lack the resources to battle cybercrime or the IT teams to evaluate cybersecurity measures regularly. Even though SMBs continue to be disproportionately affected by these nefarious attacks, reporting and notifications rarely make the news unless a huge corporation experiences a breach.

With ransomware expected to hit businesses every 11 seconds, always remember that it isn’t a question of IF but instead WHEN your business will come under attack. Keep in mind that with the right security solutions and measures in place, your business won’t have to experience a devastating breach. But first, there are a few things you should know if you experience a ransomware attack.

1- Before Reacting to a Ransomware Attack, Remember:

The FBI advises against paying a ransom because spending money does not guarantee the hackers will share the keys to decrypt your data. Most respected security organisations worldwide also advise against it.

It doesn’t make any sense to place your trust in cybercriminals who have already demonstrated that they aren’t afraid to break the law and take advantage of you for financial gain. However, many businesses find themselves in this situation because they don’t have sufficient security, backup or compliance measures and are desperate to get their data back.

Want to dig deeper? Check our Complete Guide on Ransomware and How to Avoid it

Keep in mind that another reason the FBI advises against giving in to ransomware demands is that you are encouraging criminals to conduct further attacks. If nobody ever paid the ransom, there wouldn’t be as many ransomware attacks. Criminals would have to find new ways to make money and would disregard ransomware as a viable venture.

IT Cyber Security Audit

2- If you fall victim to a ransomware attack and have no option other than paying, “ransomware negotiators” are available for hire.

In ransomware negotiations, the most crucial moment occurs long before the victim and hackers discuss the ransom. This is because by the time both sides start to discuss, hackers have already gained considerable control over the organisation’s network by encrypting access to sensitive business data and other digital assets. The more data they encrypt, the greater the negotiating power they have.

So, even before you begin negotiations, you need to know how much data has been compromised and what negotiating methods have been employed in the past by the criminals. Professional ransomware negotiators can help at this stage. Although a ransomware negotiation rarely results in a ransom demand being totally withdrawn, it can significantly bring down the asking price.

3- Victims of ransomware should expect the following:

  • The data will not be erased in a trustworthy manner. It will be sold, improperly handled or stored for future extortion attempts.
  • Multiple parties would have handled the exfiltrated data, making it insecure. Even if the hacker deletes a large portion of the data once the ransom is paid, other parties who had access to it may have made duplicates to make payment demands later.
  • Before a victim can respond to an extortion attempt, the data may be leaked intentionally or inadvertently.
  • Even if the threat actor explicitly promises to release the encrypted data after payment, they may not keep their word.

Make Your Move Before It’s Too Late

You’re probably wondering what steps you can take right now to combat the menace of ransomware targeting vulnerable systems. Our best recommendations are layered security and a robust backup strategy.

Related Read: Backup Strategies to Prevent Data Loss

Since no security technology or measure is flawless or guaranteed, layered security assumes that attackers will infiltrate different layers of an organisation’s defences or have already done so. This approach aims to provide multiple security measures so that if an attack gets past one security tool, there are others in place to help identify and stop the attack before your data is stolen.

If the idea of protecting your business is overwhelming, don’t worry. You don’t have to do it alone. Collaborate with an experienced partner like us to do the heavy lifting for you. Our cybersecurity expertise and knowledge will help you pave the way to a more secure future. To get started, contact us and talk to one of our specialists.

Our team will be happy to understand your concerns and propose a tailored solution to address your business challenges. Don’t spend another minute worrying about cyber threats and find true peace of mind by knowing we got your back!

Sources:

  1. Statista
  2. Cybersecurity Ventures

Cybersecurity: What Every Business Owner Should Know

What Business Owners should know cyber security
Photo by Medienstürmer on Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 Minutes
While organisations and workers have certainly benefitted from the advancement of technology, it has also introduced an unprecedented number of cybersecurity risks. Ransomware attacks, for example, hit businesses every 11 seconds in 2021. Therefore, if you want your business to grow and succeed, you must understand the realities of cybersecurity.

Recommended Read: What can a Cyber Security Company do for my Business?

The Reality of the Current Threat Landscape

Did you know that the cost of cybercrime downtime is typically higher than a ransom?

Almost every organisation will encounter cybercrime at some point. It’s not a question of IF, but rather WHEN it will happen. While that reality can be alarming, there’s no need to panic. There are proactive steps you can take to protect your business and achieve peace of mind. But first, let’s discuss what you need to be aware of.

Here are some of the most severe and prevalent cyberthreats facing business owners right now:

Ransomware:

Ransomware is malicious software that threatens to reveal sensitive data or prevent access to your files/systems until you pay a ransom payment within a set timeframe. Failure to pay on time can result in data leaks or irreversible data loss. Learn more about Ransomware in our complete guide.

Phishing/Business Email Compromise (BEC):

Phishing is a cybercrime involving a hacker impersonating a legitimate person or organisation, mainly through emails or other methods such as SMS. Malicious actors employ phishing to send links or attachments that can be used to extract login credentials or install malware. Learn how to avoid phishing and deal with suspicious emails.

Similarly, business email compromise (BEC) is a scam in which cybercriminals use compromised email accounts to trick victims into sending money or revealing sensitive information.

Insider Threats:

An insider threat arises from within a company. It could happen because of a current or former employee, vendor, or other business partners who have access to critical corporate data and computer systems. Insider threats are hard to detect because they emerge from within and are not always intentional. Protecting your Business from Human Threat.

Denial-of-Service/Distributed Denial-of-Service (DoS and DDoS):

These attacks are widespread and easy to carry out. When a DoS or DDoS attack occurs, hackers flood the targeted system with repeated data requests, forcing it to slow down, crash or shut down. It’s just as if millions of people tried to access your website or app at the same time.

NIST Cyber Security Framework

If you are still unsure whether you should be concerned about these sophisticated threats or not, the following statistics may help you make up your mind:

  • It takes an average of 280 days to identify and contain a breach.
  • Malicious attacks with financial motivations were responsible for 52% of breaches.
  • Personal Identifiable Information (PII) is compromised in 80% of data breaches.

Implement These Measures to Secure Your Business

Now that you know what types of cyber threats to look out for let’s take a look at some measures you can put in place to protect your business against cybercrimes.

Strict Password Policies/Management Tools

Strict password policies and the use of proper password management solutions can help improve your organisation’s overall password hygiene. It is, in a way, the first line of protection against cybercriminals.

Strong Identity Controls – Multifactor Authentication (MFA) 

To combat the current threat landscape, strong identity controls that go beyond traditional username-password authentication are required. Consider using Multifactor authentication, which includes features such as one-time passwords (OTPs) and security questions.

Regular Risk Assessment 

This process aids in the detection, estimation and prioritisation of risks to an organisation’s people, assets and operations. Learn why you need a Risk Assessment.

Virtual Private Network (VPN)

To avoid a security breach, you should set up a corporate VPN that encrypts all your connections. Make sure your employees test it in their respective locations to avoid any hassles.

Business Continuity Strategy 

When disaster hits, a solid business continuity strategy ensures that mission-critical operations continue uninterrupted and that IT systems, software and applications remain accessible and recoverable. Learn more about Business Continuity.

Continual Security Awareness Training 

Continuous security training empowers your employees to recognise complex cyberthreats and take appropriate action, resulting in a transformative security culture within your organisation. Most cyber security incidents could be avoided with due training.

If you’re ready to strengthen your cybersecurity posture but aren’t sure where to start, don’t worry. We can help your company build a digital fortress of protection solutions. Contact us today to schedule a Discovery Call – a consultation free of charge and commitment. Our team will be happy to understand your concerns and discuss a personalised solution for your business to handle the immediate issues and future-proof your technology.

Sources:

  1. Cybersecurity Ventures
  2. IBM Cost of Data Breach Report

The Top Supply Chain Vulnerability: People

Supply Chain Employee Risk
Photo by Jeriden Villegas on Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
The supply chains of this digital era are long and complex, and any disruptions caused by security threats will have a massive impact on the entire organisation. While supply chains are prone to different types of external risks, such as supply disruption, high demand, financial instability, etc., businesses can usually plan against them and ensure continuity. What most companies often overlook are the internal threats arising from malicious or negligent employees within a company.

The risk of someone infiltrating your systems through an external vendor is at an all-time high right now. Since you are not in direct control of the employees who work for your vendors, you might find it more challenging to mitigate the people risks in your supply chain. However, this does not mean that supply chain risks cannot be mitigated at all. With proper security awareness training extended to your vendors and the building of a resilient defence against various threats, supply chain risks can be reduced to a great extent.

Related Article: Biggest Cyber Security Risk – Your Employees

The most significant vulnerability in a supply chain is the human element, so let’s discuss the different measures you can incorporate to overcome this risk.

Why Hackers Target Supply Chains

Cybersecurity risks targeting the supply chain of an organisation have grown exponentially worse over the years. As the pandemic lockdown took effect, supply chain cybersecurity risks increased by about 80% during the second quarter of 2020, with remote working scenarios making things worse for suppliers. However, there are some specific reasons why hackers target the supply chains of large organisations.

With most large organisations now taking adequate precautions against various cyberthreats, gaining access through the front door isn’t as easy as it used to be for hackers. On the other hand, the supply chain offers cybercriminals a creative way to infiltrate a large organisation.

Recommended Read: Recommended Best Practices to Secure your Supply Chain

Small vendors often don’t have the budget to invest in extensive cybersecurity measures. Moreover, these companies are also likely to have legacy hardware and software products that can be exploited in an attack. As a result, these vendors tend to act as a conduit for cybercriminals to inflict a bigger attack on a large organisation.

People Risks Originating From Supply Chains

The employees working in these supply chains often offer the path of least resistance to attackers. Although organisations have well-defined processes to vet and evaluate their suppliers and third-party vendors, it isn’t easy to measure the risks originating from the people who work for these companies. Moreover, organisations don’t have a centralised view of the third-party members accessing their applications and critical data. 

An employee opening an email containing a malicious link and clicking on it can inject a botnet into the IT environment or download a ransomware program. These types of phishing emails can also be used to steal an employee’s login credentials or conduct social engineering attacks. Once these attackers gain a foothold in the IT environment of the vendor, they can use it as a backdoor entry to a larger organisation and infiltrate their IT networks. 

Learn how to avoid Phishing and Suspicious emails.

In addition to potential phishing scams, other activities like using unsecured Wi-Fi networks or personal devices for work in the supply chain can also create significant security issues. Opportunistic cybercriminals look forward to exploiting any possible loophole in an organisation’s security. When these threats carry on from your vendor’s network to yours, it has the potential to disrupt your operations and damage your reputation.

Mitigating Internal Risks in the Supply Chain

Most organisations already have formal programs to assess and manage third-party risks. However, these programs are not always adequate to deal with employee risks. For instance, companies have questionnaires for their vendors regarding their security requirements. A survey by Riskrecon has estimated that only 14% of companies believe the questionnaire responses regarding security from their third-party vendors.  

In this scenario, additional measures are required to deal with the human risks that third parties pose. Follow these measures to mitigate your risks:

  • Limit access to critical information: Many third-party users require access from your end to perform their tasks. However, this access must be limited to their job roles. You also need to have a full list of individuals accessing your information and the type of information they are accessing. 
  • Extend security awareness training to vendors: The cybersecurity awareness training you have for your internal employees should also extend to members of your third-party vendors. There should be strict guidelines on security measures that should be followed by everyone accessing your data. 
  • Create a backup strategy: One of the best ways of mitigating data security risks is by backing up your critical data. You need to be prepared for the worst possible scenarios and have a disaster recovery strategy to get your operations up and running immediately after an unexpected attack. Learn how to create an effective backup and disaster recovery strategy.
  • Audit your vendors regularly: Choosing your third-party vendors is not a one-and-done process. Regular audit of your vendors and business partners will expose new vulnerabilities in their systems.

Secure Your Critical Data 

With supply chain risks at an all-time high, you need a trusted partner by your side to protect your data from all kinds of human threats emerging from the supply chain.

Our expertise in data security and storage can help you overcome supply chain obstacles and secure your data from all kinds of threats. Give us a call now!

Data Sources:

 

Monitor, Test, Restore – Making Sure Your Backups Are Ready! 

Mail Protection Insight

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
Backups play a critical role in any data protection strategy. If you are counting on your backups for disaster recovery and business continuity, unexpected backup failure can prove to be disastrous for your business. Especially when backups are scheduled automatically, you risk falling victim to media failure, software issues, cyberattacks or even a simple human error. A study estimated that three-fifths of backups are incomplete, and nearly half of all data restoration efforts result in failure. 

Related Article: Backup Strategies to Prevent Data Loss

Fortunately, backup failure can be avoided to a great extent through consistent monitoring and frequent testing. This, in turn, will ensure proper restoration of your data when disaster strikes. To ensure complete restoration of your data, you need to have a comprehensive plan for monitoring and testing your backups. In this article, we’ll explore the step-by-step process involved in monitoring your backups, testing them and ensuring full restoration during an unexpected disaster. 

Backup Status Monitoring

Most businesses that rely on data for their everyday operations have a consistent schedule to back up their generated data. Depending on the importance of the data stored, this schedule may vary from once every few hours to once a week or even longer in some cases. However, if your backup fails at some point, you might lose your data till the moment of its last successful backup. By identifying these weaknesses early, you can mitigate your overall losses and fix the issues.

This is why backup status monitoring is vital. Failing to monitor your backups might result in a snowball effect that could continue unabated until it gets detected.

How to prevent this

You must make backup monitoring part of your backup strategy. Although monitoring is an essential activity, most businesses cannot afford to perform it on an everyday basis. The frequency of monitoring can be based on your recoverability objectives. For instance, if you are dealing with critical data essential to your business, you could set up monitoring every week. This will help you identify any problems instantly and allow you to fix them without affecting your backup goals. 

Backup monitoring for remote workers

When employees work remotely, implementing a backup system for all their devices can be a bit challenging. However, this does not mean that you have to compromise on the safety of your data. The Cloud also needs to be part of your backup strategy. More specifically, a 3-2-1 approach is recommended, where you have at least three copies of your data – two on different platforms and one at an offsite location (Cloud). With a centralised remote monitoring and management tool, you can get total visibility into your backup tasks and remotely monitor and validate them. 

Read: The Importance of Secure Cloud Backup for Remote Workers

Backups

Spot Checking for Accuracy and Quality 

This is a relatively simple approach used in backup testing. Once you have backed up everything in your environment, you can go to the backup drive or Cloud to ensure that the files or folders are available there. If you cannot access any of the files, you might have a problem with your backups. In such cases, you need to check your backup configuration and drives to ensure everything is functioning correctly. You should perform these backups in multiple areas to ensure everything is running smoothly.

Full Restore Testing 

This method is more advanced than spot-checking, and it tests your ability to recover from complete data loss after a disaster. To perform this, you need to prioritise critical files essential to your immediate recovery and test them successfully. 

Prioritising files and folders for testing

When prioritising data for testing, you need to begin with data, applications or systems that have a low Recovery Time Objective (RTO), which refers to the maximum allowable time or duration within which a business process must be restored. These files and systems are the ones your business can’t go long without and are typically associated with the core activities. So if you can recover this data quickly, you can resume operations and avoid downtime.

How much does downtime cost your business? Learn with our Downtime Calculator

Determine the testing approach

There are various aspects to consider when testing your backups. For instance, you can create individual scenarios of virtual machines and test their ability to recover a system. You could also consider a disaster recovery approach in testing that simulates the entire environment and performs various scenario-based recovery tests. 

Here, the ultimate goal of testing is to verify the integrity of the backups you have created. You need to choose a suitable testing approach for your business that better reflects your IT environment.

Frequency of testing

How often should you test the integrity of your backups? That’s another big question you need to ask once you have decided to proceed with the testing process. For this, you need to consider various factors like workload, applications, systems, etc., in your environment and develop a testing schedule that works for you.

In addition, you need to consider your Recovery Point Objective (RPO), which is the maximum duration your business can survive after a disaster. Always make sure that the frequency of testing is well within your RPO if you wish to conform to the parameters of business continuity. For instance, if your RPO is 24 hours, you need to test your backups at least once a day to ensure a good copy of data is available to recover from a loss.

A Backup Solution That You Can Count On

The last thing you want during a disaster recovery process is to find out that your backups have been failing for a long time. By monitoring and testing your backups regularly, you can overcome this issue and rely on your backups at the time of need.

Most importantly, you need to invest in the right backup solution that ensures full recoverability of your valuable data. Reach out to us today and count on us to build a backup solution that is tailor-made for your business.

 

Data Sources: 

Data Protection Regulations: The ‘New Normal’ For All Businesses

Data Protection Regulations
Photo by Alexander Kovacs on Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 Minutes
In today’s global information economy, your business data is the golden goose chased by cybercriminals. Given how this data has an endless life, who can ensure that it isn’t exploited for unsavoury gains? Well, governments worldwide have stepped up to the plate. 

The implementation of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in 2018 by the European Union (EU) opened the floodgates for this global wave of change. Such was the impact of GDPR holding businesses accountable for data protection and privacy that today, 132 out of 194 countries have put in place legislation to ensure the security of data and privacy, as per the United Nations Conference on Trade and Development (UNCTAD). 

Related Article: GRC Fines, Penalties and Violations – Oh My!

Wondering how is this related to compliance and your organisation? Any business in the world, including yours, must comply with at least one data protection and privacy regulation. Whether you are a local or a global company, you must understand that ignoring this international consensus can leave your business’ future in the lurch. 

Give us a few minutes, and we’ll help you understand the difference between data protection and privacy, the prevalent global awakening and how it’s time for you to be smart about compliance. Let’s hit the ground running! 

Data Protection Versus Privacy: Related But Not The Same 

While data protection is about securing data from unauthorised access, data privacy is related to how authorised access is defined – who can access the data and the ways in which they can manage it. Your business must understand this distinction and the fact that the existence of one doesn’t eliminate the need for the other. 

Dig deeper with our article: Data Protection vs Data Privacy – A Closer Look

While you might avail the right technology to build a robust data protection posture, it still might not ensure the privacy of personal data in compliance with regulatory standards. Even authorised individuals who can access the data could also exploit it. Simply put, you must deploy the right technology and the right policies to ensure every bit of data you store and process remains secure and private. It’s time to quit stalling and start moving forward with proper security and privacy standards.

A Global Awakening

UNCTAD data also showcases how 66% of countries already hold legislation on data protection and privacy, while 10% have drafted one, and the remaining countries are likely to follow suit. Do not ignore this global consensus assuming that it would not impact your business as you would not be operating outside your home country. Even if you are not based in Europe or in a country where the legislation is active, it’s not going to be long before your state’s or country’s government decides to take the plunge themselves. 

Here’s just a glimpse of where regulation is in place or will be eventually implemented:  

  • Australia: The Privacy Act (1988) 
  • Brazil: General Personal Data Protection Act (LGPD – 2018) 
  • Canada: Personal Information and Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) 
  • China: Personal Information Security Specification (2018) 
  • The European Union (EU): General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) 
  • Japan: Act on the Protection of Personal Information (2007) 
  • Kenya: Data Protection Bill (drafting in progress) 
  • Nigeria: Data Protection Regulation (2019) 
  • Russia: Federal Law Regarding Personal Data (2006) 
  • Singapore: Personal Data Protection Act (2012) 
  • South Africa: Protection of Personal Information Act (2013) 
  • South Korea: Personal Information Protection Act (2011) 
  • Thailand: Personal Data Protection Act 
  • Uganda: The Data Protection and Privacy Bill (2015) 
  • Uruguay: Law on the Protection of Personal Data and Habeas Data (2008) 

Countries currently deliberating a regulation include Argentina, Chile, Ecuador, India, Malaysia, New Zealand, Switzerland, USA (a federal legislation) and more. 

That’s 50 countries already! Could this phenomenon be any more global? 

Cyber Security Assessment

Be Smart. Start Now! 

Compliance is an intelligent business, even if it is complex and unfair. Therefore, keeping it on the backburner is just an open invitation to trouble. How much do you value the reputation and integrity of your business? Please remember that your failure to demonstrate compliance with just one regulation standard alone can take your business straight into a dark phase of uncertainty. You can suffer losses in the form of license cancellations, hefty fine(s), damage to reputation, expensive lawsuits, and loss of business.

Watch video on our LinkedIn: Top 5 GDPR Fines Issued so Far

Let A Trusted Partner Help You

It takes special skills and tools to look ‘under the skin’ of your network to ensure it is both secure and compliant. It helps having a trusted partner that has managed both cybersecurity and compliance for businesses before. You will sleep better at night knowing your data is protected and precisely in the manner regulations need it to be. 

You are just one step away from assessing your compliance needs and addressing them. Call us today. Let’s talk compliance! Our team will understand your needs and help you get where you want with small, actionable steps. No challenge is too big to tackle, and you can take your business to the next level!

How Can Cyber Resilience Protect SMEs in Ireland?

Resilience
Photo by Dan Stark

Reading Time: 3 Minutes
Small and Medium Businesses (SMBs) usually invest less in cybersecurity, making them easier targets for cybercriminals. Close to 30% of businesses experience a cyberattack at least once per week.

The need for constant vigilance and defence against hackers has led many SMBs to complicate cybersecurity matters. Though the percentage of businesses that have adopted formal, business-wide incident response plans has increased from 18% in 2015 to 26% in 2020, the ability to contain an actual attack dropped by 13%. This is because: (1) businesses do not consistently test threat-readiness of incident response plans, and (2) many of them use too many security products that hamper the ability to identify and respond to a cyberattack.

It is here where a cyber resilience strategy can help organisations protect uptime and recover from incidents faster. Some people use the terms cybersecurity and cyber resilience simultaneously, but the meanings are different.

Learn: What can a Cyber Security company do for my business?

While cybersecurity primarily aims at blocking nefarious cybercriminals from attacking your network, cyber resilience is more about planning, defending, responding to and recovering quickly from a cyberattack. Endpoint protection, email security, network security, backup and data recoveryidentity and access management and a host of other critical solutions together fuel a comprehensive cyber resilience strategy. 

Arm Your Business with Cyber Resilience

The cyber threat landscape is evolving at lightning speed and traditional security measures can’t keep up with it. Experts have predicted that a ransomware attack occurs every 11 seconds in 2021. The only way forward for businesses, including yours, is to draft a cyber resilience strategy that highlights ways to move forward in the face of a cyberattack. 

Your business is cyber resilient when: 

  • You’ve implemented measures to guard against cyberattacks
  • Proper risk control measures for data protection get deployed
  • Hackers cannot severely disrupt business operation during or after an attack

The major components of a cyber resilience strategy are:

Threat protection

By deploying efficient attack surface management and risk management, you can easily take your business through the path of cyber resilience. Doing so helps you minimise first-party, third-party or fourth-party risks arising from data leaks, data breaches or misconfigurations. Additionally, assessment reports identify key risk areas that require attention. Our process is supported by our Gap Analysis, which will tell you exactly where you are and what’s missing to reach your goal.

Adaptability  

Cybercriminals are shapeshifters who constantly change their devious tactics. Ensure your business can adapt to emerging cyber threats. 

Recoverability  

Your business must have all the necessary infrastructure, including robust data backups, to quickly bounce back after a security incident. Conducting mock drills that let you understand the employee readiness to counter cyberattacks is also essential. Learn why Backup Strategies are vital.

Durability 

Your IT team can improve the business’ durability through constant system enhancements and upgrades. No matter what strategy the criminals use, prevent their actions from overwhelming you through shock and disruption. 

Modern approach to IT

5 Ways Cyber Resilience Protects SMBs

Adopting cyber resilience proves beneficial before, during and after cyberattacks. Five ways cyber resilience protects SMBs:

1- Enhances system security, work culture and internal processes

By implementing a cyber resilience approach within your business, you can easily design and develop strategies tailor-made for your existing IT infrastructure. Additionally, cyber resilience improves security within each internal process, so you can communicate desired behaviour to employees.

2- Maintains business continuity

Cyber resilience ensures that operations are not significantly affected and business gets back to normal after a cyberattack. 

3- Reduces financial loss

The financial damage caused by a breach can be so severe that businesses go bankrupt or even close. Cyber resilience keeps threats in check, reducing the chances of business disruption and limiting financial liabilities. 

4- Meets regulatory and insurance requirements

Cyber resilience helps keep your business out of regulatory radars by satisfactorily following all necessary criteria. Also, complying with regulations can be beneficial to your organisation for cyber insurance claims. 

5- Boosts company reputation

Having cyber resilience by your side gives you better control in the event of a successful cyberattack. It helps you block attacks, bounce back quickly if an incident happens and minimise the chaotic aftereffects of a breach. This improves your business reputation among partners and customers. 

Don’t worry if the concept of cyber resilience is tough to crack. We can guide your business to and through cyber resilience. We can begin with a discovery call to learn about your concerns and requirements and follow with a Gap Analysis to identify precisely the main points that need to be prioritised. Wherever you are in the world, we’ll be more than happy to assist, so talk to us and count on us!

Article curated and used by permission.

Sources:

1. Infosecurity Magazine 

2. The 2020 Cyber Resilient Organization Study 

3. JD Supra Knowledge Center

Importance of Secure Cloud Backup Solution for Remote Users 

Secure Cloud Backup Solution

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
A Secure Cloud Backup Solution is no longer a luxury – it’s a must. In today’s world, businesses gather, analyse and process large volumes of digital data on an everyday basis. From identifying typical customer behaviour to creating campaigns that target the right audience, business data plays a critical role in the day-to-day functioning of a company. Considering the critical need for data, businesses cannot afford to lose their data at any cost. However, data loss is quite common owing to various factors such as natural disasters, human errors, security breaches and more. If you expect your business to continue operations even after a catastrophic data loss, cloud-based data backup is the best option for you. 

Recommended Read: Why Security Awareness Training is Essential for Backups

Since threats to business data have skyrocketed in this new remote working age, the need for the cloud to be a part of the backup solution has become extremely important for businesses of all sizes. According to Microsoft, 94% of companies report security benefits after moving their data and services to the cloud. This is the main reason why organisations have started embracing cloud technology at a dramatic phase.

This short read will provide you with some decisive insights about the importance of cloud backup, especially in remote working environments, and how you can bolster your cybersecurity with a proper cloud strategy.

Need for Cloud Backup During Remote Work 

It’s one thing to lose your data during a cyberattack or another unexpected event, but losing your integrity and goodwill is an entirely different ballgame. All the years of hard work you invested in building your company will be in jeopardy if you suffer a loss of customer data. When your customers have no reason to trust you, they will take their business elsewhere rather than waiting for you to bounce back. Whether it is an ordinary human error or a deliberate cyberattack, the risk of losing your critical data is significantly higher when your employees are working remotely. 

The 2020 User Risk Report by Proofpoint has estimated that about 45% of employees in the United States believe that public Wi-Fi networks are safe for work. This number is likely to be close to what we see in Ireland. When you don’t control the environment in which your employees operate, the risk is much higher and stands as an indication for you to take suitable data security measures.

Security solutions such as antivirus, firewall, patching, etc., can only get you so far. What if there is a manual oversight or a natural disaster? Human error also plays a significant role in many security breach incidents. In such situations, the survival of your business depends on your ability to bounce back fast with the help of backed up data. This is why you need a business continuity and disaster recovery solution through cloud-based data backups.

Learn more about Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery 

Best Practices for Cloud Backup 

When you use the 3-2-1 backup rule, cloud storage inevitably becomes a part of your backup strategy. As per this rule, you make three copies of your data, store two copies on different media (e.g., hard drive and local storage appliance) and store one copy off-site in the form of cloud backup. You may also expand this rule by storing multiple copies of your data in different cloud locations. 

Apart from the data storage rule, the following best practices could guide you with your backup planning: 

  • Know your recovery objectives: In case of data failure, you need to know how quickly you can recover before your losses become irrecoverable (Recovery Time Objective) and how much data can you afford to lose from your last backup time (Recovery Point Objective). This helps you come up with a solid plan that ensures business continuity and disaster recovery. 
  • Prioritise your data: Businesses store all kinds of data every day. But which data is critical to your business recovery? Your backup plan should prioritise that first and then proceed with other data. A good cloud backup plan should outline different strategies for different kinds of data. 
  • Monitor your backup process: What’s worse than losing your data during a data loss event? Finding out that the backup data you have diligently stored is corrupted. You don’t want to be in such a position, especially after a catastrophic data loss. You need to monitor your backup process to ensure your backup operations are carried out without a glitch.
  • Test your backup and recovery: To ensure everything works as planned when disaster strikes, testing is a must. It is also a great way to identify the issues in your backup process and should be a part of your regular backup plan. Learn more about backup best practices.
  • Backup your SaaS data: Your G Suite and Office 365 data is secure. However, there is a misconception that these don’t need any backups. Although your SaaS vendors are responsible for providing the backup infrastructure, they do not guarantee the safety of your data or take accountability for any financial losses resulting from it. Make sure your backup plan has a strategy for your SaaS data as well.  

Migrating Cloud

Partnering With a Reliable Cloud Backup Provider 

With the volume of critical data increasing every day, businesses often face challenges protecting this data from unauthorised access. Cloud backup is the best way to ensure that vital data is always available in case of an unexpected disaster.  

Apart from ensuring data security, cloud storage can also make your backup process more efficient and cost-effective. To make the most of your cloud storage benefits, you want to have a trusted partner who you can rely on when things go south. 

This is where we come in. Our years of expertise in data backup and cloud storage can help you protect your business data in an incredibly effective way. Give us a call today and find out how we can help build your cloud backup plan and secure your data so you can access it anytime, from anywhere. 

 

Data sources: 

Potential Risks That Insider Threats Pose to PII 

Cyber Security

Reading Time: 5 Minutes
Personally Identifiable Information (PII) refers to any information maintained by an agency that can be used to identify or trace a specific individual. In other words, it includes data points such as social security number, date of birth, mother’s maiden name, biometric data, tax identification number, race, religion, location data and other information that can be used to deanonymise anonymous data.

If your organisation handles Personally Identifiable Information, you must take steps to secure your customer data. Not only is it essential from a compliance standpoint, but with security breaches on the rise, you have to make sure customer PII is not being compromised. Risk-Based Security revealed that by the end of 2020, a total of 36 billion records had been exposed and compromised. Of such data breaches, 60% are caused by insider threats or security threats originating from within an organisation. To make things worse, reports indicate that the number of insider incidents has increased by 47% over the last two years.

Related Article: Protecting your Business-Critical Data from Human Threat

Let’s deep dive into the potential risks that insider threats pose to Personal Identifiable Information, especially for healthcare and financial institutions, and how you can protect your organisation against such threats.

Potential Risks

An insider threat is a security risk that originates from within your organisation and is usually someone with authorised access misusing data (intentionally or unintentionally) to harm your company or your customers. The culprit could be any individual who has authorised access to confidential and sensitive company information, right from your present or former employees to consultants, partners or contractors.  

If you don’t secure your employee or customer PII, you leave yourself vulnerable to data breaches. Insider-led data breaches are widespread and can happen in multiple ways – from a negligent employee inadvertently downloading malicious malware to a disgruntled contractor selling customer data on the Dark Web to make money.  

Read: Your Biggest Cyber Security Risk: Your Employees

Insider-led data breaches are hard to detect because the threat actors have legitimate access and are probably familiar with your cybersecurity defence tools as well. It is much easier for them to circumvent your defences, access sensitive customer data and expose it. 

As a healthcare or financial institution, if your customer personal identifiable data is exposed, it can cause a great deal of trouble to both your company and your customers. Let’sLet’s look at some of the potential risks: 

Risks to Your Company

Reputational damage

According to a study by Ponemon, 44% of companies believe it takes anywhere from 10 months to over two years to restore a company’s reputation after a breach. This is bound to be worse for healthcare or finance institutions since the data collected is extremely personal and sensitive. Even if you respond promptly and adequately to your customers regarding a data breach, it could still result in a PR disaster and a decline in the customer base. 

Financial loss

The average cost of a data breach in the U.S. is $8.19 million. Some of the consequential costs that companies find themselves paying include compensation to affected customers, fines and penalties for non-compliance with regulations such as GDPR, expenses for forensic investigations and more. On top of that, the valuation of your company could tumble as well. 

Ransomware costs

A malicious insider who gains access to your data systems can steal sensitive customer PII from your network. Once your systems are hacked, the cybercriminal can block access to your data and then threaten to sell the information on the Dark Web if you don’t pay the ransom. Malicious insiders could be current or former employees or an outsider who uses or manipulates an unsuspecting employee to get past your security perimeter. Learn more about Ransomware and its risks.

Operational standstill

Data breaches have the potential to paralyse your business operations. You will have to conduct a detailed investigation to determine what data has been compromised and the cause behind the breach. In case data has been lost, you will have to take steps to recover it. Furthermore, you may be faced with expensive lawsuits and settlements. Unless you have substantial emergency resources, you will have to halt your business operations temporarily.

Multi-Factor Authentication

Risks to Your Customers

Identity theft

Cybercriminals may acquire sensitive customer data and use it to their advantage. For instance, they could use your customers’ credit card numbers, social security numbers, health plan beneficiary numbers or biometric identifiers to impersonate them to commit fraud or gain financial benefits. Learn more about Identity Theft.

Social engineering attacks

Data breaches could uncover your customers’ PII, especially sensitive data, such as name, address, contact details, date of birth and so on, that could end up on the Dark Web. Cybercriminals might use this data to launch social engineering attacks on your customers. The attackers may then psychologically manipulate or trick customers into sharing their confidential details. Learn how to avoid Phishing attacks.

Blackmail campaigns

Data breaches could result in sensitive medical information, such as psychotherapy reports or blood test reports, being leaked online. Cybercriminals could then use this type of information to run blackmail campaigns against your customers.

How to Secure Personally Identifiable Information

With the insider threat landscape constantly evolving, businesses need to step up and secure PII and other sensitive data more effectively. By failing to do so, you could end up putting the future of your customers, employees and company in grave danger. Here are a few tips to help you get started:

  • Use behavioural analytics to set up unique behavioural profiles for all insiders and detect insiders accessing data not associated with their job functions.
  • Implement access and permission controls to review, revise and restrict unnecessary user access privileges, permissions and rights. 
  • Review the PII data you have already collected, where it is stored and who has access to it, and then securely delete what is not necessary for the business to operate. 
  • Set up an acceptable PII usage policy that defines how PII data should be classified, stored, accessed and protected. 
  • Make sure your PII policy is compliant with different privacy and data regulations that apply to your business.  
  • Upgrade your storage holdings to ensure the data lives in a SOC2-protected data centre.
  • Cut down on inadvertent insiders by implementing mandatory cybersecurity and data security training programs. 
  • Make use of software that will help you protect PII, such as third-party risk management solutions, data loss prevention tools, Dark Web monitoring applications and secure documentation solutions, among others.

Taking adequate measures to secure personally identifiable information can significantly strengthen your cybersecurity posture against insider threats.

Protecting your customers’ PII is a challenging task, but one that has to be taken seriously. If you’re looking for expert assistance to take this weight from your shoulders, look no further. Get in touch today to speak to one of our specialists and learn how we operate. We’ll be happy to offer a tailored solution to handle your cyber security, compliance and technology development.

 

Data Sources: 

 

 

 

Data Privacy Versus Data Security: A Closer Look 

Data Privacy versus data security a closer look
Photo by Leon, on Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
The importance of data privacy and data security has grown exponentially as organisations today collect and store more information than ever before. Having a robust data protection strategy is critical to safeguard confidential information and ensure the smooth functioning of your business. But before we move on, let’s take a step back to understand the fundamental concepts of data privacy and data security.    

Recommended Read: Protecting your Business Critical Data from Human Threat

The terms data privacy and data security are often misunderstood and used interchangeably. However, they are two separate concepts! Data privacy focuses on how information is handled, stored and used, while data security is concerned with protecting your organisation’s assets. 

Understanding Data Privacy 

Data privacy deals with the regulations and practices to ensure data is responsibly handled. It includes how information is collected, processed, stored and disseminated. Any organisation that collects and stores data or does business across the globe should comply with several privacy regulations, such as General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA), Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), Children’s Online Privacy Protection Act (COPPA) and other privacy laws.  

These regulations aim to protect and enhance consumer and personal privacy. These rules give individuals the right to know what information is collected, why it’s collected and how it’s processed. As data privacy regulations are growing globally and becoming more complex, privacy requirements are also changing. Non-compliance with these laws could cost your business dearly. In 2019, Google was fined $57 million under the European Union’s GDPR law. Click to learn more about penalties, fines and violations regarding compliance. 

Importance of Data Privacy 

Data privacy is an individual’s right to control who has access to personal information and how it should be used. This also protects personal data from being sold or redistributed to third parties. When organisations collect customers’ data, it is their responsibility to protect and preserve their clients’ sensitive information. Not having a privacy policy in place or failure to comply with privacy laws can lead to severe consequences, apart from legal actions and financial loss. 

Understanding Data Security 

Data security is the process of protecting information from unauthorised access, data corruption and data loss. A data security process includes various techniques, data management practices and technologies that act as defence mechanisms to protect data from internal and external threats.  

Read: Protecting your SaaS Data is your Responsibility

Data security concerns with what an organisation does with the data collected, where and how the data is stored and regulates who can access the information. A comprehensive data security strategy will help prevent data breaches, ensure business continuity and keep your company’s data safe from cyberthreats. 

Importance of Data Security 

The term “Data is the new oil,” coined by Clive Robert Humby in 2006, stands true in today’s competitive business environment. Data security is critical for the smooth functioning of day-to-day operations and running a business successfully. Failure to protect your organisation’s confidential data can damage your brand’s value, result in regulatory penalties or shut down your business.  

The alarming rate at which cyberattacks are growing has forced organisations of all sizes to consider data security as a top priority. It is estimated that organisational spending on cybersecurity has reached $123 billion in 2020.  

Depending upon the purpose, type of industry or geographical location, your business can implement security compliance frameworks and international standards, such as the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST), the International Organisation for Standardisation (ISO) and Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS). These frameworks provide guidance and best practices for information security to help you assess IT security measures, manage risks, respond to security incidents and improve your information security management system. 

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Difference Between Data Privacy and Data Security 

In simple terms, data privacy and data security are two sides of the same coin. They have distinct concepts but are closely related. Achieving data security doesn’t ensure data privacy and vice versa, but both are required to establish a comprehensive data protection strategy. Knowing the difference between these terms will help you strategise better, prevent data breaches and stay legally compliant. 

Let’s distinguish the two concepts with a hypothetical example. 

Assume you own a laptop, where you store personal information. To avoid people from accessing those files, you pasted a sticker on the cover that reads ‘Do Not Touch’. But to add an extra layer of privacy, in case people don’t read or ignore the sticker, you locked the computer with a secure password. 

There are two things to note here. First, the ‘Do Not Touch’ sticker tells people to keep away from your laptop, thereby authorising your privacy. Second, the password ensures no one can access your data, thereby protecting your data from unauthorised access. 

Find the best advice for creating strong passwords with this article.

How to Achieve Data Privacy and Security While Being Legally Compliant 

Achieving data privacy and data security and complying with several laws have their own set of challenges. Even large organisations struggle to understand and implement the proper security management and compliance measures.  

But that shouldn’t be the same for your business. To learn how you can achieve and maintain compliance for data privacy and security, contact us today.    

 

Data Sources: 

 

 

Why Security Awareness Training Is Essential for Backups 

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According to IBM’s 2020 Cost of Data Breach Report, human error causes nearly 25% of data breaches, meaning that a negligent employee can become a tangible threat to your business’ invaluable data. The only way to prevent your employees from compromising your business data is by providing regular security awareness training. Conducting a one-time training program will not suffice amid today’s ever-changing threat landscape.

Related Article: Navigating Backups and Training during unprecedented times

Cybercriminals are waiting to exploit your business’ vulnerabilities, one of which could be your employees. There are multiple ways your negligent employees could jeopardise the security, integrity or accessibility of your business data, including: 

  1. Password reuse: Reusing the same password for multiple accounts is a widespread poor password habit utilised by careless employees. Unaware of the security consequences, the average user uses the same password across an average of five account logins, both personal and business, according to Ponemon research. Learn more about password security here.
  2. Accidental sharing and exposure: A moment of carelessness can lead to an employee sending data to a cybercriminal. This can have severe ramifications and lead to your sensitive business data ending up in the wrong hands. 
  3. Falling for phishing scams: Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, phishing attacks have gone up by over 60%. An untrained employee may find it difficult to detect these deceiving scams, leading to the leakage of sensitive business information. Learn how to identify a phishing email here.

You must intentionally develop a security-focused culture within your organisation through comprehensive and continual security training if you wish to avoid or mitigate unplanned downtime or disruptions due to data loss incidents. Employees consistently exposed to security training are more likely to follow cybersecurity best practices, thereby ensuring your business data is not left in the lurch. 

Read: Protecting your Business-Critical Data from Human Threat

Implementing security awareness training is as vital to preventing data loss incidents as having a robust backup strategy. Backups can help you recover mission-critical data quickly in the event of data loss or corruption event that may impact your business and could save your business from losing crucial revenue or clients. In addition to safeguarding critical business data, a robust backup can also ensure that: 

  1. You have access to complete copies of your business’ data assets in one place 
  2. You can significantly reduce business downtime following a data loss incident 
  3. The overall confidence in your business increases among customers and partners 

Recommended Read: How Backups and Disaster Recovery Protect SMEs

An effective backup strategy is characterised by multi-layered mediums and failover options, proper policy and procedure development, regular testing, and the implementation of comprehensive and consistent security awareness training.  

Regular Training Limits the Need to Excessively Depend on Backups  

Cybercriminals are experts at exploiting global events to scam people and businesses. The COVID-19 pandemic gave hackers a golden opportunity to exploit the loopholes left unaddressed by companies adopting the remote work model. 

With incidents of phishing and ransomware attacks going through the roof, security awareness training is more relevant now than ever before. By mitigating the human errors and mistakes that often factor into many data loss or corruption incidents, you can dramatically minimise costs and consequences that could impact your business’ success.  

Related Article – Your Biggest Cyber Security Risk: Your Employees 

During the pandemic in 2020, 56% of businesses recovered their data using backups after a ransomware attack. Many of these businesses could have avoided the damages inflicted by these attacks if they effectively trained their employees to spot common warning signs of cyberthreats such as ransomware scams. 

Deploying a data protection strategy that incorporates both backups and security awareness training will help your business counter data loss effectively. 

Incorporate Your Employees Into Your Backup Strategy 

With cyber threats becoming increasingly prevalent and malicious, you must take any measure possible to protect your business and its mission-critical data.  

Building and implementing the right strategy for backups and security awareness training can be easier with the right partner. We can help you implement a comprehensive data protection plan that incorporates employee training and data backup solutions that will enable your business to avoid data loss events that can jeopardise your business’ future. Talk to us now and find true peace of mind with the right solution.

 

Data Sources: 

  • Security Magazine Verizon Data Breach Digest 
  • 2020 Cyberthreat Defense Report 

GRC Fines, Penalties and Violations! Oh My! 

Compliance and Cyber Security Standards and Frameworks

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Global data protection regulations (new or updated) are being enforced aggressively, resulting in a tsunami of hefty fines and penalties to violators. The majority of these violations result from the failure to conduct regular risk assessments, which form an integral part of the ‘appropriate measures’ a business must take to ensure information security. 

For example, in 2017, credit agency Equifax lost personal and financial information of nearly 150 million consumers due to an unpatched Apache Struts framework in one of its databases. Regulatory authorities found Equifax guilty of “failing to take reasonable steps to secure its network”. The credit agency was mandated to pay a hefty fine, valued at potentially $700 million, which it is still paying to the Federal Trade Commission (FTC), Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) and all 50 U.S. states. 

Read: Understanding and Calculating Organisational Risk

If Equifax had implemented an ongoing risk assessment strategy, it could have avoided the subsequent financial fallout and reputational damage. A single risk assessment would have helped Equifax uncover and fix the patch-related vulnerability promptly. 

You must understand that regulatory agencies don’t expect you to cast a magic spell that can protect your network from threats indefinitely. They simply strive to hold you accountable for the steps you need to take to ensure consistent data protection and privacy. For example, the most enforced HIPAA audit requirement out of a total of 180, which has been cited in more than 50% of recent penalties, is an accurate and thorough risk analysis. 

Recommended: Is your Business ready for HIPAA and PCI-DSS?

Disasters Businesses Could Have Avoided

Here are a few instances where businesses were pulled up by the regulatory bodies and slapped with hefty fines for the lack of a risk assessment and management strategy. This will help you understand how risk assessment can go a long way towards building a resilient cybersecurity defence and demonstrating full compliance. 

Marriott International Shelling Out Over €20 Million 

Marriott International, Inc. was fined a whopping €20,450,000 in fines for failing to implement sufficient technical and organisational measures to ensure information security. The basis of the penalty was Article 32 of the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR), which clearly states the need for “a process that regularly tests, assesses and evaluates the effectiveness of technical and organisational measures to ensure the security of the processing.”

Capital One Fined $80 Million

In 2019, Capital One suffered a breach affecting 100 million people in the U.S. and 6 million in Canada. By exploiting a configuration vulnerability in the company’s web application firewall, an “outside individual” obtained personal information of Capital One’s credit card customers as well as people who had applied for credit cards. The Office of the Comptroller of the Currency fined Capital One $80 million for its “failure to establish effective risk assessment processes” when migrating operations to a public cloud environment.

Premera Blue Cross Coughing Up $6.85 Million

Washington-based health insurance company, Premera Blue Cross, was fined $6.85 million for HIPAA violations for a breach that affected over 10.4 million people. While handing Premera the second-largest HIPAA fine on record, the Office for Civil Rights (OCR) cited “system non-compliance” with HIPAA requirements. The OCR concluded that Premera had failed to conduct a risk analysis, implement risk management, or put audit controls in place.

Related ArticleFirst Step to Compliance – a thorough and accurate risk assessment

It goes without saying that if all three companies paid heed to expert compliance advice and implemented a meticulous risk assessment and management strategy, their balance sheets would have looked significantly different.

Deploy Risk Assessment and Avoid a Financial Setback

Several data regulations have defined the importance of risk assessment in ensuring data privacy and protection. For example, the Security Rule of the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) clearly mandates covered entities and their business associates to conduct a risk assessment.

Learn more with the article Managing your Technology Risk

By merely implementing this cybersecurity best practice – continuous risk assessment – you will be able to significantly reduce the likelihood of a security breach and a compliance audit; both of which can lead to a tremendous loss of revenue. Think about all the financial implications you could avoid. That should convince you.

Seek Expert Help for Implementation

Implementing a comprehensive risk assessment and information security strategy as part of routine operational procedures is no easy feat. You need specialised tools and experienced and dedicated support to ensure you get thorough and accurate risk assessments regularly to achieve and maintain compliance obligations.

Compliance is complicated and stressful, which is why partnering with an IT and Data Security specialist can help you simplify the risk assessment process and take the chaos and confusion out of the equation. Talk to us today to learn about our specialist approach to compliance and how we can help any business – including yours – be compliant without effort.

Backup Strategies to Prevent Data Loss 

Backup Strategy to prevent data loss
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We live in a digital age where data has become one of the most valuable commodities in the world. Businesses collect vast volumes of data every day from their customers, which plays a critical role in their day-to-day operations. If business organisations happen to lose their data under any circumstance, the consequences can be catastrophic.

This is the harsh reality of today’s digital business landscape. Businesses can experience data loss in many ways, ranging from natural disasters to cyberattacks. Should you suffer an unexpected data loss, your competitive advantage lies in how quickly you can get your operations up and running without experiencing significant downtime.

Related Article: Securing Company Data with a Remote Workforce

In this blog, we’ll take a brief look at the various dangers to business data and how you can prevent them with the proper backup strategy. We’ll also look at the different ways of backing up data and the advantages of using a robust business continuity and disaster recovery (BCDR) solution. 

Why Do You Need Data Backup? 

Before we look at the different ways of backing up data, you need to know why your business requires data backup. Businesses commonly encounter the following data security threats to data in their everyday operations.

Cyberattacks: As technology evolves, cyberattacks continue to evolve as well. The growing threat of ransomware is a testament to that. According to the latest Verizon report, 27% of malware incidents can be attributed to ransomware attacks. While antimalware and antivirus programs can certainly offer protection, businesses need to think about what might happen in case of an unavoidable security breach and eventual data loss when formulating a data security strategy.

Natural disasters: Natural disasters such as floods, fire, earthquakes and the like pose a meaningful threat to the traditional form of data storage and security. Do you have what it takes to bounce back if these disasters catch you off guard and wipe out your company’s data?

Hardware issues: Mishaps originating from hardware issues play a major role in business data loss. With traditional data storage methods, data is stored in a physical location on hard drives and backup appliances. Any hardware issues arising in these devices can pose a severe threat to your valuable data. 

Human errors: Human errors still play a central role in data loss. According to Verizon, as much as 30% of data loss incidents are caused by internal actors. This could be attributed to anything from poor password practices to falling for phishing scams. Human error can be avoided with employee training.

All these factors indicate that data loss can happen to any organisation irrespective of their size or the security precautions taken. You need a solid data backup solution to make sure that your lost data is not entirely unrecoverable. 

How to Back Up Your data

As you understand the importance of data backup, certain questions may inevitably spring to mind – What is the best way to store data? How many copies should you take?

Regarding the best way of storing data, both cloud backup and on-site backup appliances need to be considered. This is because both have their own advantages and limitations. On-storage devices are faster, giving organisations complete control over their data. However, they are prone to physical mishaps and hardware issues. On the other hand, Cloud-based backup is not vulnerable to natural disasters but requires a lot of bandwidth to backup large files.

Navigating Backups and Training during Unprecedented Times

The ideal backup strategy combines both these approaches, with multiple copies stored in different locations. When backing up your data, you need to consider the 3-2-1 rule, which simultaneously answers your questions on the right approach to data backup and the number of copies that need to be made. 

As per this rule, it is prudent to have at least three copies of data – one production copy and two backup copies on two different media (internal hard drive and removable storage media) along with one off-site copy (cloud) for disaster recovery. Newer variations of this rule suggest having at least two copies (3-2-2 rule) on the cloud depending on the importance of your data. Ultimately, the more copies you make, the higher your chances of recovery after a loss. 

Advantages of BCDR Over File-Only Backups

Backups
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In crude terms, data backup is simply the process of making copies of your files and storing them. However, the primary purpose of a backup is to get your business up and running in no time following an unexpected disaster. Hence, an effective backup strategy is symbiotic with business continuity as well. Business continuity refers to the ability of your organisation to get back in working order as quickly as possible following an unexpected data loss.

 Recommended Read: Why an Impact Analysis is Essential for Business Continuity

When you think about business continuity, you must think in terms of Recovery Time Objective (RTO) and Recovery Point Objective (RPO). RTO refers to the maximum time an application can be down without affecting the business. RPO refers to the maximum amount of data that can be lost without harming the company. 

A good Business Continuity & Disaster Recovery solution will provide you with the following benefits: 

  • Significant reduction in RTO and RPO 
  • Ability to predict business restoration following an unexpected disaster 
  • Reduction in downtime and associated revenue losses 
  • Lower interruption to critical business processes 
  • Avoid compromise to business reputation 
  • Ability to customise disaster recovery as per your needs

Best Practices for Data Backup

While incorporating an effective backup strategy, you need to implement the following best practices to limit data loss:

  • Increase frequency: Digitally-run businesses are required to back up their data multiple times a day. Doing it once a day, at the end of business hours, is no longer sufficient, especially with the number of threats gunning for your data. 
  • Use cloud backup: The Cloud has become an indispensable component of data backup in this digital age. Cloud backup comes with a multitude of benefits such as easy recovery, easy scalability, better cost efficiency and more. 
  • Use the power of automation: Automation has become a game-changer regarding various IT tasks, and backup is no exception. When you automate your disaster recovery process, you can bounce back from severe disasters and continue business operations without suffering too much downtime. 
  • Determine your retention span: Retaining all data backup versions forever is not feasible for most small businesses. Due to this, you need to determine the duration for which you will retain your data. This requirement will vary based on your industry, needs and compliance regulations. You need to come up with a solution that ticks all parameters. 

To Sum Up

Backup should be a part of every organisation’s business strategy, irrespective of its size, location or industry. Threats to business data are widespread and are happening at an alarming rate. In this scenario, a solid data backup plan could be the preventative measure that saves your business when disaster strikes. 

Talk to us today so we can help you zero in on an effective backup strategy that’s tailor-made for you. 

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How A ‘Compliance First’ Mindset Limits Liabilities for SMBs

Compliance First limit liability SMEs
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By adopting a Compliance First strategy, when choosing solutions and vendors, you will identify those that do not comply with your requirements, eliminate them from your selection process, and then select from the rest. It also means evaluating your current solutions and vendors and replacing those that cannot support your compliance requirements. 

In simple terms, compliance is anything someone else makes you do. This means laws, regulations, contracts, and even the terms of a cyber insurance policy. Failure to act responsibly can have devastating results — hefty penalties, lawsuits, investigations, and failing to have insurance cover big claims that can exceed $1 million.

Related Article: How to Ensure Compliance when Working Remotely?

If you think compliance is unimportant for you or only applies to enterprises, think again. No business is immune to compliance regulations, which is, in fact, a good thing. By knowing your business must be compliant, you can avoid fines and penalties, improve operational safety, improve public relations, prevent attrition and above all, ensure that liability insurance claims pay out in the event of an incident. Compliance has a measurable Return on Investment (ROI). 

By making the ‘Compliance First’ approach your first step, you can meet minimum regulatory requirements to protect against fines while also staying in compliance with liability insurance requirements. After this, you can improve your business’ compliance posture further by adopting additional measures. 

A Single Compliance Mistake Can Invalidate Liability Insurance Claims 

Many small and medium-sized businesses prefer to use free or the most affordable solutions possible. If you’re one of them, keep in mind that this is not a safe practice. Without solutions that meet security, encryption and reporting standards outlined by regulations that you must abide by (HIPAA, CMMC, PCI-DSS and GDPR), you could face three fundamental problems:   

  1. Suffering a preventable catastrophic breach 
  2. Risk of non-compliance and subsequent fines  
  3. Risk of violating and nullifying liability insurance policies, leaving you financially exposed 

Using cheap or low-cost non-compliant solutions may be tempting, but it can cause your business to assume all the reputational and financial risk and cost in the event a compliance violation comes to light. Remember that you do not have to use multiple non-compliant solutions to invalidate your insurance; even using just a single non-compliant solution can cause your claim to be denied.

All your insurance claims that cover compliance regulation infractions specific to HIPAA, CMMC, GDPR or PCI-DSS can be invalidated by a single act of negligence. If the vague regulatory guidelines overwhelm you, you are not alone. But it is worth taking the time to learn more about your requirements, so your organization can become adequately protected. 

The Cost of Non-Compliance 

Many businesses think of compliance spending as an unrewarded cost of business rather than considering it as an investment in protecting assets. This leads to less spending on compliant software or even under-staffing of compliance teams. If your business eventually ends up being non-compliant, it can have devastating reputational and financial consequences.  

HIPAA penalties often exceed $ 1 million. Defence contractors can lose their primary source of revenue by not complying with cybersecurity requirements. 

Recommended read: Is your business ready for HIPAA and PCI-DSS?

If you accept credit cards, PCI-DSS violations can draw penalties ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 per month by payment providers (VISA, Discover and others). Penalties depend on the volume of clients and transactions. 

GDPR violations lead to hefty violation fines worth 2% to 4% or more of company revenue based on the severity of the violation.  

Even the information you have about your workforce is protected by state and federal laws. 

Begin With a ‘Compliance First’ Approach for Product Selection 

A ‘compliance first’ approach covers a broad range of critical considerations to keep a business compliant. However, if you do not know where to begin, start with a business tool audit. The internal tools to audit for compliance are:  

  • Voice services like VoIP 
  • Cloud storage and file hosting 
  • Document sharing and transfer services 
  • Productivity tools 
  • Communication tools 
  • Any digital tool, product or service used for business 

Many regulations require data, including voice messages and emails, to be encrypted in transit and when stored. Find out if your version is compliant by reviewing each solution’s product sheet or release notes. If it’s still unclear whether or not the solution provides the type of compliance you’re looking for, contact the technology vendor directly to get an independent audit report of their compliance with the requirements you must meet. 

The ‘Compliance first’ approach can help develop a compliance-oriented culture within your business, thus preventing your business from falling into the quicksand of non-compliance. 

We understand that implementing the ‘compliance first’ approach can be a bit challenging. Don’t worry. We can help you seamlessly integrate this approach into your business operations to meet legal and insurance obligations. Get in touch with us today to get started. 

 

Are Your Business Partners and Vendors Potential Security Weak Links?

People working in office. Business partners potential weak security links

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A modern supply chain consists of people, systems and technologies that enable the delivery of goods and services to end-users. However, this dependency on third-party business partners opens doors to many security risks.

A lot can go wrong throughout the supply chain operation, which is why you should pay close attention to risks associated with third-party partners. Since many of them have varying degrees of access to your organisation’s systems and sensitive data, they could potentially be the weak link that jeopardises your entire security strategy.

Related Article: Recommended Best Practices for a Secure Supply Chain 

According to a survey conducted by Opinion Matters for BlueVoyant in June 2020, a whopping 80% of organisations have suffered a third-party related breach.

Supply Chain Challenges and Security Risks

It is common for modern-day companies to outsource core functions to improve efficiency and save costs. Working with multiple vendors that address your unique needs is vital to thrive in a competitive business landscape. However, managing different types of vendors can not only be daunting but can also expose your organisation to several threats. That’s why understanding the challenges and risks that come with third-party vendors or suppliers is critical for the safety and security of your business.

Listed below are some of the challenges and risks that organisations constantly face in a supply chain ecosystem.

Inadequate Visibility and Lack of Direct Control

According to the survey commissioned by BlueVoyant, 77% of respondents said they had limited visibility into the functioning of their third-party vendors. Multiple vendors and lack of resources limit organisations from continuously monitoring the entire vendor ecosystem and maintaining control of the supply chain. Without adequate visibility and control into third-party networks, it can be extremely challenging to identify potential risks or respond to threats appropriately.

Lack of Data Integrity

Today’s organisations are data-driven, and as such, data integrity is crucial for informed decision making, improving operational efficiency and gaining a competitive advantage. Since a supply chain involves a mix of multiple third parties who have access to sensitive information, such as customer details, financial data, trade secrets and more, ensuring the integrity of the sheer volume of data on hand can be a hurdle.

Dig deeper with the article: How to Effectively Manage Supply Chain Risks

One mistake from a third-party business partner could lead to a potential security breach, which could have a devastating impact on both your business and the entire supply chain ecosystem. Having a comprehensive third-party risk management strategy, backed by a robust backup and recovery solution, is vital to better manage and secure your organisation’s data when unexpected disaster strikes.

Poor Security Practices

Over 75% of organisations have been victims of a data breach due to security vulnerabilities in their partners’ networks. While your IT security posture may be solid, bad actors can easily infiltrate your third party’s weak network. It is hard to control the security practices of supply chain partners, which makes it even more difficult to identify potential threats that might be lurking in their unpatched servers or systems. Since a supply chain is deeply interconnected, a weak link can sabotage the entire network.  

Working with a diverse portfolio of supply chain vendors also translates into increasing third-party access to your organisation’s IT infrastructure, applications and data. Therefore, defining roles and controlling user access to sensitive data is critical to mitigating security and compliance risks. Learn more about Access Control.

The Human Factor

While companies rely heavily on technology to improve efficiency and service delivery, human error is one of the leading causes of data breaches. From browsing infected websites to failing to maintain password hygiene, an untrained and unaware workforce can leave security gaps throughout the supply chain and within your own organisation as well. Although these actions may be unintentional, they open doors for cybercriminals who are constantly looking for opportunities to infiltrate your company’s network.

Read: The Biggest Risk for your Organisation – Your Employees

Protect Your Business and Data

When it comes to protecting your business and data, you must not ignore the threats posed by your supply chain. Not only should you secure your IT infrastructure and data, but you should also ensure your third-party systems, data and applications are appropriately backed up and protected.

Contact us today to find out how you can securely protect your company’s assets against growing cyberthreats. Leverage the power of technology and enjoy your well-earned peace of mind.

 

 

 

Article curated and used by permission. 

Data Sources: 

  • Blue Voyant Global Insights: Supply Chain Cyber Risk Report 

Protecting Your Business-Critical Data From Human Threat 

Protecting Business Data from Human Threat
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
The technology-driven era we live in has made information sharing and data access very efficient. Still, it has also brought forth a new set of challenges. One of the notable challenges businesses face in this day and age is the rising threat to data security. However, the threat to business data does not always come from external actors. According to a study by CybSafe, human error, whether intentional or unintentional, was the main reason behind 90% of data breaches in 2019. To make matters worse, insider-related cybersecurity incidents have increased 47% in the last two years. 

Recommended Read: How can SMEs Apply Zero Trust Cyber Security Practices?

Therefore, it’s safe to say that the biggest threat to business-critical data comes from human elements inside an organisation. Since data is the lifeline of most businesses in this digital environment, any compromise can jeopardise operations and bring businesses to a complete halt. To avoid this, companies need to be aware of the threats posed by insiders and incorporate the necessary measures to prevent them.

In this blog, we’ll discuss the risks the human factor poses to cybersecurity and how you can overcome them.

Actors and Motivations Behind Insider Threats

There are two main types of actors behind all insider threat incidents: negligent insiders who unwittingly act as pawns to external threats and malicious insiders who become turncloaks for financial gain or revenge. 

Negligent Insiders: These are your regular employees who do their jobs but occasionally fall victim to a scam orchestrated by a cybercriminal. These actors do not have any bad intentions against your company. However, they are also the most dangerous since they account for about 62% of all insider threat incidents.

Negligent insiders contribute to data security breaches by: 

  • Clicking on phishing links sent by untrusted sources 
  • Downloading attachments sent from suspicious sources 
  • Browsing malicious or illegitimate websites using work computers 
  • Using weak passwords for their devices 
  • Sending misdirected emails to unintended recipients 

Train your staff with these tips on How to Avoid Phishing and Creating Stronger Passwords.

Malicious Insiders: These are disgruntled employees who wreak havoc on your data security for financial gain or revenge. While financial gain is the top reason behind most malicious insider actions, it isn’t always the case. Despite being rare in occurrence, these threats often have much more severe consequences since the actors have full access and credentials to compromise your security. For instance, a Chinese national allegedly stole trade secrets from a US-based petroleum firm, with the value of these secrets estimated to be about $1 billion. Losses of this magnitude are usually quite severe for any organisation, irrespective of its size.

Best Ways to Prevent Insider Threats and Protect Data

When a business falls victim to a data security breach, it faces more than just financial repercussions. The organisation’s reputation, competitive advantage, intellectual property, etc., often come under fire following an insider threat incident. Additionally, some compliance regulations impose hefty fines on businesses for allowing such a breach to occur. It is estimated that 60% of companies go out of business within six months of a major data breach incident. That’s why you must take a proactive approach when it comes to combating insider threats. 

Detecting Insider Threats 

Certain factors can help you identify insider threats before you experience a full-blown breach: 

  • Human behaviour: A potential insider with malicious intent against an organisation will exhibit abnormal behaviour. For instance, an employee trying to access privileged information and frequently staying late after office hours could be suspicious behaviour to watch out for. 
  • Digital signs: Before a major breach due to insider threats, you may witness some abnormal digital signs like a substantial amount of data downloaded, high bandwidth consumption, traffic from unknown sources, unauthorised use of personal storage devices, etc. 

Defence Strategies Against Insider Threats

There are a few strategies that you can implement throughout your organisation to minimise the possibility of insider threats.

  • Insider threat defence plan: Your strategies against insider threats start by creating a defence plan specific to insider threats. You need to define what constitutes abnormal behaviour in your employees and set up alerts for digital signs in your IT environment. Most importantly, you need to limit access to critical data and provide unique credentials for those with access to your data. Learn more about Access Control.
  • Data backup: Backups are essential to protect your data in case of an unavoidable loss. With regular backups for your critical data, your business can get back up and running after a security breach involving an insider. Before you back up your data, you need to classify what data is worth protecting and create a strategy accordingly. Learn more about Backup and Disaster Recovery.
  • Employee training: When properly trained, employees could be your first line of defence against various cyber threats. You need to create an organisational-level best practices policy that outlines clear instructions on BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policies, passwords, remote working, etc. Learn more about Employee Training.

Reach Out to Us to Protect Your Critical Data

The average cost of insider threats increased by 31% between 2017 and 2019 and is estimated to be around $11.45 million. With this cost expected to rise over the years, having a trusted partner by your side to protect your data from all kinds of human threats can go a long way towards securing your business.

With our years of expertise in data security and storage, we can help you incorporate innovative strategies to protect your data. Give us a call today, and one of our specialists will be happy to discuss your needs and propose solutions tailored to your business. 

Article curated and used by permission.  

Data Sources:  

  • https://www.venafi.com/blog/7-data-breaches-caused-human-error-did-encryption-play-role 
  • Ponemon 2020 Cost of Insider Threats Global Report 
  • https://www.tessian.com/blog/insider-threat-statistics/#:~:text=According%20to%20one%20study%3A,for%2014%25%20of%20all%20incidents. 
  • https://www.justice.gov/opa/pr/chinese-national-charged-committing-theft-trade-secrets 
  • https://cybersecurityventures.com/60-percent-of-small-companies-close-within-6-months-of-being-hacked/

 

 

 

Securing Company Data With a Remote Workforce  

Securing Data with Remote Workforce

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
In 2018, BlueFace predicted that remote work would start competing with office work by 2025. Little did they know that the pandemic would accelerate this process tenfold. Businesses were thrown into the deep end when they had to suddenly switch to a fully remote workforce. While some adapted to the ‘new normal’ by taking immediate measures to deal with the shift, the vast majority were unprepared to manage such an enormous transformation.

Amid this chaos, a host of challenges emerged, with the biggest being the unprecedented surge in cyberattacks. Cybercriminals caught businesses in a state of panic and exploited their lack of preparation to wreak havoc worldwide. A survey by Barracuda found that 46% of global companies encountered at least one cybersecurity scare since moving to a remote working model during the lockdown.

Recommended Article: 8 Steps to Secure Remote Working in the Pandemic

With today’s decentralised work environments here to stay, it is imperative that you act proactively towards securing your business’ data from unauthorised access, accidental loss and wilful destruction.

Due to the threats emerging as a result of remote work, businesses need to avail enterprise-class business continuity and disaster recovery solutions. Here’s why.

5 Reasons Why Your Remote Workforce Is a Prime Target for Cybercriminals

Remote work is making businesses uniquely vulnerable to cyberattacks. However, with the additional strain of the pandemic, the stakes have been raised significantly. Here are five reasons that make your remote workforce a darling of cybercriminals. 

  • Unsafe Home Networks: It goes without saying that remote workers logging in from their home networks pose a greater threat than on-site workers using their company’s secure network. Despite being aware of this quite apparent vulnerability, most businesses still tend to invest heavily in on-site security while cutting corners when it comes to securing remote work. 
  • Extended Vulnerabilities: When a significant chunk of work occurs over the internet, it opens up a Pandora’s box of threats targeting web services and applications. The greater the number of hazards, the higher the possibility of at least one threat penetrating the limited barriers securing remote work.
  • Challenges With Remediation: Infected or vulnerable machines need immediate technician attention, which is easy to accomplish in a conventional office environment. However, carrying out remediation efforts on remote endpoints presents a significant challenge, both in terms of access and structure, which are often not ideal. This makes it more likely for security to be compromised.
  • Limited Security: Most cybersecurity solutions don’t do such a good job securing remote endpoints as they do with in-house assets. This leaves the safety of remote devices, especially personal/BYOD devices, in the lurch.
  • Isolated Devices: Devices that have been updated with standard security settings that apply to all IT assets of a business are less vulnerable to security lapses. However, personal devices of employees used for company work do not hold the same security safeguards, making them an easy target.

Now that we have established why your remote workforce needs adequate protection let’s find out what measures you can take to achieve it.

Securing Your Remote Workforce Promptly 

The longer you take to secure your remote workforce, the more you jeopardise the safety of your business’ mission-critical data.

Here’s a list of measures you must undertake immediately to secure your company data:

Cloud-Based Backup and Recovery: While managing an increasingly remote workforce, you must turn to a robust and reliable cloud backup platform that allows you to efficiently back up endpoint data and recover it whenever needed. 

Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery (BCDR): Formulate a comprehensive BCDR strategy immediately to ensure no incident grinds your business to a halt for a long time. Please remember to recalculate and revise your recovery objectives, given how remote work is now normalized.

Regular Recovery Testing: Implement a strategy to regularly test data recovery to ensure your data recovery solution does not give way when you need it the most. 

Customer Scenarios Applied Technology

 

Safeguarding SaaS Data: Most businesses do not implement a strategy for securing SaaS data since they assume SaaS platforms secure it anyway. Unfortunately, that isn’t true. Your SaaS data is your responsibility, especially when most of your workforce will rely on SaaS applications while working remotely. While building a policy for it, you must also consider optimizing the storage for each user to ensure no data gets lost in transit. 

Awareness Training: 51% of businesses that responded to the Barracuda survey admitted that their workforce wasn’t proficient enough or adequately trained on cybersecurity risks associated with remote work. You must assess if this is also the case at your business and immediately develop a strategy to rectify it. The more aware your employees are, the more diligently they will follow backup policies. For more info, read Navigating Backups and Training in Unprecedent Times.

Ongoing Risk Management: Consider it a top priority to assess the potential risks your network and backed up data is exposed to. Without this, any corrective action would seem futile. This will help you address your backup needs as soon as they emerge. 

We have several resources concerning Risk Management. If you’re looking for more info on this topic, we recommend starting with the article Managing your Technology Risk.

Undertaking these measures will not only tighten the security of your data but also help your business demonstrate compliance with data protection regulations that apply to your industry.

Tackling remote work-related threats and securing your business data isn’t as taxing as it seems when you have proper assistance and support. Our team will be happy to help. Contact us today to learn more directly from one of our specialists, who will look to understand your challenges and work on a plan tailored to your business. Book your no-commitment, 30-minute Discovery Call to find out what good looks like.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to visit our blog and social media for more exclusive content.

  

Data Sources: 

  • https://www.blueface.com/blog/infographic-2018-bct-report-key-takeaways/ 

How can SMEs Apply Zero Trust Cyber Security Practices

Zero Trust Cyber Security Practices
Photo by FLY:D on Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 Minutes

Adopt Zero Trust Security for Your SMB

With the cyber threat landscape getting more complicated with every passing minute, cyber security deserves more attention than ever. Fully trusting applications, interfaces, networks, devices, traffic and users without authentication is no longer an option. Misjudging and misplacing your trust in a malicious entity can lead to severe breaches that can damage your business. Zero Trust Security practices, however, can go a long way towards helping small and medium-sized businesses minimize cyber security risks and prevent data breaches.

Zero Trust was introduced in 2010 by John Kindervag, a former Forrester analyst. The concept has since gained wide acclaim and approval as a trusted framework for cybersecurity. The Zero Trust approach trusts nothing within or outside its perimeter and insists on verifying everything attempting to connect to the company systems before granting access. In simple terms, the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) refers to it as a “never trust, always verify” approach. 

Security Frameworks: NIST or ISO27001? Which one to choose?

Implementing Zero Trust Security within your business can help guard against data breaches, downtime, productivity loss, customer churn and reputation damage. Over 70% of companies planned for the deployment of Zero Trust in 2020, and it is even more critical for SMEs in an era where workforces and networks are becoming heavily distributed.

Three Misconceptions and Facts About Zero Trust Security

First Misconception: Zero Trust Security is only for enterprises. 

The Zero Trust cybersecurity framework is a proven counterthreat strategy. While it’s true that enterprises prioritise the protection of their data and networks by deploying the best solutions and approaches, SMEs must also protect sensitive data and networks.

Smaller companies might not have access to the fanciest solutions but can still take adequate measures to minimize internal and external vulnerabilities. Thus, Zero Trust Security isn’t just for enterprises. It is equally significant for SMEs as well.

Second Misconception: Zero Trust Security is too complex. 

By applying Zero Trust concepts at a scale that makes sense for your business, you will realize it isn’t as complex as you thought. Once you have the right policies, training and tools in place, the process becomes routine.

Third Misconception: The cost of implementing Zero Trust is too high.

Zero Trust adoption is operationally and economically feasible if you focus on your most critical applications and data sets first. To learn about the main aspects you should improve, we recommend performing a Gap Analysis.

Still Not Convinced?

Let’s look at a few statistics that should convince you of the seriousness of today’s cyber threat landscape as well as the need for a Zero Trust approach:

  • Human error causes close to 25% of data breaches – Unfortunately, you can’t completely mistrust an external network, nor can you fully trust even a single user within your network. 
  • Experts predict that ransomware attacks will occur every 11 seconds in 2021 – This gives you no time to be complacent. 
  • Over 40% of employees are expected to work from home post-pandemic – When this happens, many devices, users and resources will interact entirely outside the corporate perimeter. This increases the risk of an incident occurring. 
  • Phishing attacks have increased by over 60% since the pandemic started – To counter such a scenario, cybersecurity policies must be dynamic and adapt to address additional concerns. 

If you’re not equipped with a solid defence against cyberthreats, you may regret it later when a breach happens. Chances are, your current approach to cyber security comes short of stopping cybercriminals from accessing your network. The Zero Trust approach can change all that.

Adopting Zero Trust Security within your business does not mean throwing away your existing security tools and technologies. In fact, according to NIST, Zero Trust Security must incorporate existing security tools and technologies more systematically.

Build an effective Zero Trust model that encompasses governance policies — like giving users only the access needed to complete their tasks — and technologies such as:

  1. Multifactor authentication
  2. Identity and access management
  3. Risk management
  4. Analytics 
  5. Encryption
  6. Orchestration 
  7. Scoring 
  8. File-system permissions

Taking your business down the path of Zero Trust may not be easy, but it’s undoubtedly achievable and well worth it. Don’t worry about where and how to begin. With the right MSP partner by your side, your journey becomes easier and more likely to succeed. Contact us to get started.

Our specialists will be happy to provide advice and answer any doubts about technology and security you might have. Then we can outline priorities and develop a plan to bring you where you want to be.

Thanks for reading. Feel free to visit our blog and social media for more exclusive content.

Source:

  1. Solutionsreview.com 
  2. IBM 2020 Cost of Data Breach Report 
  3. JD SUPRA Knowledge Center 
  4. Gartner Report 
  5. Security Magazine Verizon Data Breach Digest

Compliance Standards: Is your business ready for HIPAA and PCI-DSS?

Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 Minutes
One of the many challenges you probably face as a business owner is dealing with the vague requirements present in HIPAA and PCI-DSS legislation. Due to the unclear regulatory messaging, “assuming” rather than “knowing” can land your organisation in hot water with regulators.

Recommended Article – Governance: Understanding Guidelines, frameworks and standards

The Health and Human Services (HSS) Office for Civil Rights receives over 1,000 complaints and notifications of HIPAA violations every year. When it comes to PCI-DSS, close to 70% of businesses are non-compliant. While you might assume it’s okay if your business does not comply with HIPAA or PCI-DSS since many other companies are non-compliant as well, we can assure you it’s not. Keep in mind that being non-compliant puts you and your business at risk of being audited and fined.

Risks of Failing to Meet Minimum Compliance Requirements

Never take compliance lightly because non-compliance can lead to:

  1. Hefty penalties: HIPAA violations can draw fines ranging from $100 to $50,000 per violation, with a maximum fine of $1.5 million per calendar year of non-compliance. PCI-DSS can squeeze your budget too, with penalties ranging from $5,000 to $100,000 per month.
  2. Uninvited audits: Non-compliance can lead to unpleasant inspections and audits that can result in fines. 
  3. Denial of liability insurance claims: You must be extra careful while selecting solutions for your business. Using a single non-compliant solution can cause your insurance provider to deny a liability insurance claim. 
  4. Loss of business reputation: It takes years to build a reputation and just minutes to ruin it. Don’t let your business fall into the pit of non-compliance – it’s all under your control. 
  5. Imprisonment or even forced closure: In cases of severe non-compliance, regulatory bodies can sanction the arrest of top executives or even close the business.

First Step to Compliance: A Thorough and Accurate Risk Assessment.  

Are Your Existing Business Tools Compliant? 

If you are unsure where to start, assessing your business tools — cloud, VoIP, email service, electronic file-sharing service, applications, etc. — is an excellent place to start.

Protecting your SAAS Data is your Responsibility – learn more with our article on the topic

If your main business activities are being performed within such tools, their standards will directly interfere with your compliance level. Here are a few ways to check your existing business tools for compliance: 

HIPAA

  • Does the tool use AES 256-bit encryption? It doesn’t matter if sensitive data, like electronic Protected Health Information (ePHI), is at rest or in transit. Encryption is required by HIPAA. (how does encryption work?)
  • A tool with proper access controls ensures those who genuinely need sensitive data can access it. What’s your tool’s access control policy?
  • Is there automatic log-off in place if no user activity is detected over a specified timeframe? HIPAA requires this in order to safeguard high-risk data. 

PCI-DSS

  • Were the default passwords during the initial setup changed after installation? PCI-DSS specifies the importance of changing passwords to keep threats at bay
  • Are inactive user accounts removed or frozen after the warning period? Inactive accounts are easy targets for attacks. 
  • Does your tool store, retrieve or transmit cardholder information? If so, it must have the newly mandated version of the Transport Layer Security (TLS) protocol. 

These lists are not comprehensive and only scratch the surface. Also, none of the points mentioned above ensures the tool is HIPAA or PCI-DSS compliant. Just consider it a starting point.

If you’re confused about what your next steps should be, don’t worry. We’re here to help.

Use our expertise in compliance matters to conduct a comprehensive assessment of your business’s current state of compliance. We call this the Gap Analysis, and with it, you’ll have a clear understanding of where you are and what is missing to reach your goals.

This analysis also covers the cybersecurity and technology perspective, both crucial for business success in the long run. Talk to us now to learn more.

 

Sources: 

  1. National Library of Medicine 
  2. Help Net Security Magazine 
  3. Security Boulevard 

 

How Backup and Disaster Recovery Protects SMEs 

Photo by DocuSign on Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 Minutes
Many SMBs operate with a sense of unrealistic optimism when it comes to data loss and disaster recovery. However, the reality can be quite different and negatively affect your business if you’re not vigilant. As the rate of digitalization increases, so does the risk of data loss. Can your business afford a data-loss incident?

It doesn’t matter if data loss happens because of human error, cyberattack or natural disaster. It can have far-reaching consequences such as:

  1. Severe downtime: For SMBs, per-hour downtime costs vary from $10,000 to $50,000.1 
  2. Damage to reputation: One-third of customers will end their association with a business following a severe data loss.
  3. Regulatory penalties: Failure to protect data can draw penalties worth 2% to 4% or more of company turnover.
  4. Permanent closure: Some businesses are unable to recover from an incident and close permanently.

Navigating backups and training during unprecedent times.

Prioritising backup and disaster recovery for your business is very important. A comprehensive backup and disaster recovery solution provides secure, uninterrupted backup and quick data recovery — with a cloud-based architecture that ensures the company runs seamlessly in the event of a disaster. 

Key Terms Used in Backup and Disaster Recovery 

The following terms will give you an idea about the type of actions and processes you should aim to implement within your business:

Minimum Business Continuity Objective (MBCO) 

MBCO signifies the minimum level of output needed after severe disruption to achieve business objectives. It is the minimum acceptable level of products or services that must be provided during a disaster. Articulated correctly, the MBCO gives guidance on what should be recovered as a priority and how extensive the recovery should be.

Business Continuity – why it matters during Covid 19

Maximum Tolerable Period of Disruption (MTPD)

MTPD is the duration after which the impact on a business caused by disrupting critical services and products becomes intolerably severe. This has to be well discussed and agreed upon with your service provider to ensure your expectations will be met when a disaster strikes.

Visit our Downtime Calculator on our Resources Page to estimate how much each hour of downtime would cost you. 

Recovery Time Objective (RTO)

RTO is the time it takes before employees can start working after a disruptive event. It’s usually measured in minutes and derives directly from the MTPD. 

Recovery Point Objective (RPO) 

RPO is the amount of work that can be lost and will need to be done again after a data-loss event. It’s usually measured in seconds. The shorter this time is, the better, as it means less data will be lost.

Outsourced It Support
Photo by Andrea Davis on Unsplash

Deploy Backup and Disaster Recovery Today

Having an effective backup and disaster recovery solution provides several benefits. Here are the top six: 

1. Stay protected against natural disasters

The first half of 2020 alone had close to 200 reported natural disasters. While it’s impossible to stop a natural disaster, you can ensure your data is protected and take the necessary measures to prevent downtime. 

2. Minimize the impact of a cyberattack

With the rate of cyberattacks going through the roof and SMEs being a constant target of attacks, it is essential to have a robust backup and disaster recovery solution to protect your business.

3. Safeguard sensitive data

If your business handles sensitive data like Personally Identifiable Information (PII), measures should be taken to ensure it never ends up in the wrong hands. Safeguarding all critical data can build your business’s reputation and prevent regulatory penalties.

4. Quick recovery

It doesn’t matter how disaster strikes. What matters is how quickly your business bounces back. A good backup and disaster recovery solution helps you get up and running as soon as possible. 

5. Reduce the impact of human error

From accidental or intentional misdelivery or deletion to corruption of data, employees can pose a security threat to your business. Deploying backup and disaster recovery is, therefore, crucial. You must also train your employees on the difference between acceptable and unacceptable behaviour.

6. Tackle system failure

Unexpected system failure can lead to downtime if you don’t equip your business with backup and disaster recovery.

Remember, it’s your responsibility to protect your business from data loss and its chaotic aftereffects. If you can’t handle this alone, don’t worry. We’re here for you. With our backup and disaster recovery solutions, we can help build a resilient strategy to protect your business against data loss and give you much-needed peace of mind in the event of a disaster.  

Get in touch today and our specialists will be happy to assist in all things technology, GRC and cyber security.

 

Article curated and used by permission. 

Sources: 

  1. TechRadar 
  2. IDC Report 
  3. GDPR Associates 

Encryption Explained – A Clear and Simple Guide

Encryption Explained - A basic and clear guide
Photo by Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Reading Time: 6 Minutes
The science of encryption has been the answer to the fundamental human need to masquerade and protect sensitive information from prying eyes. Although the technology has witnessed a drastic metamorphosis over the ages, the fundamental concept behind encryption has remained unchanged. Encryption involves substituting the original information with codes that can be deciphered only by authorized parties.  

From the first hieroglyphics of Ancient Egypt appearing almost 4000 years ago and the Scytale used by the Spartan military in 700 BC, to Thomas Jefferson’s Jefferson wheel in 1797 or the Enigma machine popularized by the Nazis during the second world war, encryption has taken different forms over the centuries.

However, one of the major breakthroughs that continue to inspire the modern-day science of encryption came in 1961 when MIT’s CTSS (Compatible Time-Sharing System) developed the first-ever username and password methodology of user authentication.

What can a cyber security company do for my business?

Some of the more recent developments in the encryption technology include the introduction of AES (Advanced Encryption Standard) in 1997, the launch of reCAPTCHA in 2007 and the emergence of personal data lockers in 2012, all of which are used widely to this day.

What Distinguishes Encryption from Cryptography

To fully understand encryption, we must first define its parent category: cryptography. Although often confused with each other, encryption and cryptography are inherently different. We have put together the following list to demonstrate what sets the two apart: 

Cryptography is: 

  • The concept of securing sensitive information by converting it into a secure format for the purpose of transmission across insecure networks. 
  • A field of study that concerns with creating codes through the application of encryption and decryption techniques. 
  • Finds widespread application in digital currencies, electronic commerce, chip-based card payments and military communications.  

Encryption is:

  • Described as the primary application of cryptography and involves concealing confidential data in a way that renders it unintelligible for unauthorized users. 
  • The process of encoding a piece of information by using an algorithm for encrypting and a secret key for decrypting it. 
  • A critical aspect of modern data security. It is used for securing digital signatures and the data stored on smartphones and other mobile devices. It is widely used for safeguarding confidential electronic data, including emails, folders, drives and files.  

Types of Encryption You Must Know About

There are two main ways in which data encryption is carried out today, namely shared secret encryption (symmetric cryptography) and public key encryption (asymmetric cryptography).  

Shared Secret Encryption

As the name suggests, this form of encryption employs a single secret key that is required to encode the data into unintelligible gibberish. The intended receiver can then use the same secret key (shared by the sender) to decrypt and decipher the data at their end.  

Since it uses a single private key, symmetric encryption is faster than asymmetric cryptography. However, since the secret key needs to be shared between the sender and the receiver, there are relatively high chances of hackers intercepting the key and gaining unauthorised access to the coded information. 

Public Key Encryption

Asymmetric cryptography employs public-key encryption that splits the key into two smaller keys — one public and the other, private. While the public key is used to encrypt the message, the receiver must use their private key to decrypt it at their end.    

The fact that there is no prior exchange of secret keys for decryption makes public key encryption more secure than shared secret encryption.

Cyberthreats and Security Risks to Data Protection & Privacy on the Rise

According to the latest report by the Ponemon Institute, the average cost of a data breach is $3.86 million globally. These costs can almost double when broken down by country, industry or business size, jumping to an average of $8.64 million in the United States or $7.13 million for the healthcare industry.

The report points out that 80% of the data breaches included records containing customer PII (personally identifiable information). The study determined that the average cost of each compromised record was $150 and discovered that over 39% of the total cost of a data breach resulted from lost business.

Ransomware Equals a Data Breach

You might be wondering how this impacts you? It means a single data breach could result in a significant hit to your company’s profits and could also result in your brand reputation being tarnished or irreparably damaged.    

Intriguingly, the same report also highlights that extensive data encryption can be a critical factor in mitigating the costs of a breach by as much as $237,176

Most businesses, like yours, deal with loads of sensitive data every single day. Unless adequately secured, this confidential data can be exposed to the risk of being accessed by unauthorized users. Although no business is entirely immune to security breaches, implementing data encryption is your best bet when it comes to protecting your confidential information and safeguarding your reputation as well. 

Multi-Factor Authentication

Backup Encryption is the Way to Go  

With multi-national enterprises like Target, Yahoo and Equifax undergoing major data breaches in the not-so-distant past, you can never be too sure of the fact that your privacy is not at stake. Keeping that in mind, it is worth noting that along with encrypting their original data, many users now are also opting for encryption of their data backups. Here’s some food for thought for those of you who are still mulling over whether or not you need backup encryption:

Pros of Encrypting Your Backups  

  • Encrypting the backup data stored on a local hard drive can prevent unauthorized access to private information in the event of a theft.
  • Most of the businesses today have moved to the cloud for storage of backup data. However, the data stored on the cloud is not as secure as you might think. Encrypting your backup data stored on the cloud is an excellent strategy for strengthening your cybersecurity stance.
  • Since the cloud services provider controls the backups stored on the cloud, encrypting the same will help secure the integrity of the data against unauthorised access by the service provider.
  • Lastly, by encrypting your backups, you can enjoy peace of mind knowing that every last piece of data associated with your business is fully encrypted and secure.

Navigating Backups and training in unprecedent times 

Cons of Encrypting Your Backups

While data encryption is designed primarily to benefit the user and rarely has any drawbacks when properly implemented, one of the risks associated with encrypting your backup data is losing the decryption key. You need to keep your decryption key secure (just like your other passwords) and handy for easy access to your data backups.

Implement Data Encryption Now to Ward Off Cyberattacks

We have compiled a list of our three main reasons why data encryption is imperative for your business:

It is the Last Line of Defense 

Cyberattacks such as phishing and social engineering that thrive on human error or negligence can be efficiently thwarted with the help of encryption. So, even if the attacker is able to reach within your network, it’s impossible to access the encrypted data without a decryption key.

It Protects Your Data on the Go 

With the concept of the workplace becoming more fluid, data stored on portable devices such as tablets, USB flash drives, laptops and smartphones becomes especially vulnerable to cyberattacks as soon as the device leaves the office network. Encrypting this data is the safest way to ensure that even if your device gets stolen, the data will remain unintelligible and unreadable without a decryption key.

It Helps You Stay Compliant 

In a world where you need to stay compliant with laws and regulations to steer clear of hefty penalties, implementing data encryption is a great option to protect your critical data from cyberthreats and abide by the applicable compliance standards. For instance, the European Union’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) recommends encryption as an effective tool against breaches.

Now is the Time to Invest in Encryption Technology

Cybersecurity is one of the most integral aspects of running a business in the modern world, and encryption is one of the most effective strategies that you can deploy to bolster the integrity of your sensitive data against malicious attacks.

Want to know more about how you can leverage encryption to secure your business? Get in touch with us today! Our specialists will be happy to advise in preparing your business with the best systems available in the market.

Want to learn more about Cyber Security? Our blog is full of helpful articles on the topic.

First Step to Compliance: A Thorough and Accurate Risk Assessment

First Step for Compliance
Photo by Long Phan on Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 Minutes
Complying with data privacy and protection regulations wouldn’t give several business owners sleepless nights if it only meant installing a predefined list of security solutions. Compliance goes way beyond this, and for good reasons. In principle, regulators, local or international, want businesses to:

  • Assess the type of data they store and manage 
  • Gauge the potential risks the data is exposed to 
  • List down the remediation efforts needed to mitigate the risks 
  • Undertake necessary remediation efforts regularly 
  • And most importantly, document every single step of this seemingly arduous process as evidence 

Each of the above steps is mandatory and non-negotiable. A closer look will tell you that installing a list of expensive security solutions comes only after the first three steps in the process have been followed. Skipping past these initial steps and acting merely on presumptuous knowledge is tantamount to leaving your business’ future to sheer chance. It’s anyone’s guess what that would lead to. 

To get started in compliance, it’s crucial to Understand and Calculate Organisational Risk.

That’s why we’re going to explain to you why a thorough and accurate risk assessment is truly the first step towards achieving compliance. Moreover, when repeated regularly, it can help you demonstrate continuous compliance while keeping cyber threats at bay.

Security Risk Assessments Unearth Crucial Insights 

A thorough and accurate risk assessment can unearth a host of crucial insights from even the deepest and darkest alleys of your IT environment to ultimately empower your decision making. Having actionable insights at your disposal can help you build strategies to reduce risk levels in practical ways instead of shooting in the dark by testing various tools. 

Here are some of the essential details that become more apparent and unambiguous with every risk assessment. 

The baseline of the System
A risk assessment helps you chart out the lifecycle of all data that is collected, stored and managed in your entire network. 

Identification of Threats
A detailed risk assessment identifies all the possible threats, such as intentional, unintentional, technical, non-technical and structural, that your business data is exposed to.  

Identification of Vulnerabilities
With each assessment, you get the latest list of vulnerabilities prevalent in your network concerning patches, policies, procedures, software, equipment and more. 

Current Status of Existing Controls
From the assessment report, you can also understand the existing security and privacy controls protecting your business against vulnerabilities. 

 RelatedLearn how to create an Asset Register and Risk Register.

Probability of Impact
An accurate assessment report is fully capable of anticipating the probability of a threat that might exploit one of your network’s existing vulnerabilities.  

Strength of Impact
Risk assessment also helps you gauge the possible impact of any threat hitting your business. 

Imagine how easy it would be for you to build and implement a strategy to fix the security loopholes in your business while maintaining a well-documented record of your efforts. 

Why Risk Assessment Is Needed for Compliance 

While assessing whether you did everything in your capacity to ensure full compliance with the regulations, you also need to keep in mind that a regulator seeks evidence of compliance – documented reports. Besides helping you chart a successful path to compliance, a thorough risk assessment adds significant weightage to demonstrating evidence of compliance. When you present the risk assessment reports along with other documentation, you demonstrate how your business carried out due diligence in upholding principles of data privacy and protection. 

Learn more in our article: Gathering evidence to prove compliance.

Please remember that no regulator expects you to have a fail-safe strategy. What matters is uncompromising intent, informed action and undeterred consistency. If you can demonstrate all this, you will most likely avoid any punitive action, as well as a long list of problems that could surface afterwards. 

Help Is Just a Conversation Away 

Contrary to what is often claimed, there are no shortcuts to compliance or to any of the steps that lead to it. At the outset, achieving compliance might seem gruelling. However, it isn’t as bad as it looks when due process and expert guidance is followed. 

A conversation with us is all you need so we can help you walk through the complexities of risk assessment with diligent and customised guidance. Get in touch today to receive specialised advice.

Looking for more info on risk management? We have many articles addressing this topic in the Compliance section of our blog. Check it out and let us know if it brought more clarity to your business.

Navigating Backups and Training During Unprecedented Times 

Navigating during unprecedent times - backup and security awareness training
Photo by Heidi Fin on Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 Minutes
The surge in cybercrimes against businesses during the COVID-19 pandemic proved how flexible nefarious cyber players are, ready to twist and turn according to a situation to make profits out of a business’ failure. Remember that it could happen to any organisation, including yours, if you do not arm your business with a robust backup solution and periodic security awareness training.

It’s alarming that phishing shot up by 67% since the start of the pandemic. Initially, when this turn of events stunned the world and businesses struggled to adapt to the new normal, hackers pretending to be the World Health Organization (WHO) duped people into clicking on malicious links or sharing sensitive information. Such evil tricks, if not tackled, can easily violate your business network and lead to a terrible disaster, compromising invaluable data. 

8 Steps to secure remote working for the Covid 19 lockdown 

For instance, in November 2020, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) in the USA issued a warning regarding an SMS-based phishing scam through which hackers cheated citizens in the name of a ‘COVID-19 TREAS FUND’. When someone clicked on the link provided, they were redirected to a website identical to www.irs.gov, and the site collected their data. This scam is just the tip of an iceberg of phishing scams that unfurled in 2020. 

Cyber security awareness is vital. What if one of your employees fell prey to such a scam? A careless mistake like that could result in a successful cyberattack on your business that can have severe repercussions like data loss, downtime, hefty penalties, lawsuits or even permanent closure.  

The sudden appearance of COVID-19 caused a sense of panic among businesses. With the virus spreading like wildfire, the work-from-home model was the only available option to maintain a safe working environment. However, the unprecedented scale of remote work has endangered the security of several businesses, including yours. If you do not fix the gap between the preparedness and efficacy of your backup and security defences, data loss might be the first of many problems you could face.

Why Backups and Security Awareness Training Matter?

Backups can be a lifesaver for your business by protecting your valuable business data from being deleted or altered by malicious cybercriminals. Although the pandemic acted as a catalyst for backup adoption, only 41% of businesses back up their data at least once a day. That is not a very healthy practice, and you must make sure proper policy development, regular testing and continual reviews fuel your backup strategy.

Backups are part of a broader Disaster Recovery strategy. Read Does my SME need Disaster Recovery? to learn more.

Besides protecting your sensitive data, backups can help reduce severe downtime, improve your business’ reputation and act as a single access point for your entire database.

Backups

Even if you have all your backups in order, a negligent employee can still be a threat to your business data. In 2020, the San Jose Federal Court convicted an employee from a global MNC for carelessly deleting business-sensitive data. Thus, the only way to tackle the factor of human error is through regular security awareness training.

For more details on security training, read: Employees are your biggest cyber security risk

Always bear in mind that backups and security awareness training are equally important when it comes to your business successfully warding off cyberattacks that can result in downtime, data loss and more. Selecting one over the other can dilute your business’ counter-threat strategy. Undoubtedly, by meticulously implementing a robust backup and regular security awareness training, your business can deal with harsh times like the current pandemic as well as cyber threats that exploit such difficult periods. 

Empower Your Business Now 

If there’s one lesson the pandemic has taught businesses, it’s that it’s better to be safe than sorry. The business world is at a critical juncture, and your proactive approach can make or break your business’ future. While a world without cybercriminals would be great, such a utopian world unfortunately does not exist. The only way forward is through the smart implementation of the best strategies to protect your business data, processes, systems and people. And for that, you must empower your business by integrating backups and comprehensive security awareness training.

Remember, you don’t have to take the first step to a safer tomorrow alone. The right partner by your side can make your journey easier and more successful. It all begins with a simple email to us. Get in touch today

 

Data Sources:

  • Security Magazine Verizon Data Breach Digest 
  • Security Magazine 
  • Help Net Security Magazine 
  • Bloomberglaw.com 

Ransomware Equals a Data Breach

Ransomware Equals Data Breach
Photo by Charles Deluvio on Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 Minutes
From a data regulator’s perspective, it is the responsibility of your business to keep data safe from cyber threats, inform clients about a breach within a stipulated period and provide necessary documentation as proof of your efforts. Although different regulations have laid down separate mandates for breach notifications, the principle remains intact.  

While there is an overarching belief that data isn’t really “stolen” in a ransomware breach, no organisation hit with ransomware has been able to back this up as fact. That’s why compliance regulations such as HIPAA, GDPR and CCPA, among others, mandate businesses to notify their clients if their data is in jeopardy.

Learn more about Ransomware and how to avoid it in our complete guide. 

Many businesses, however, tend to operate in something of a ‘grey area’ when it comes to notifying their stakeholders about data breaches. In this blog, we’ll tell you why going down this route can backfire and why your business needs to adopt an inclusive approach that combines the best of cybersecurity and compliance.  

The Grey Area of Notifying Customer about a Data Breach

An increasing number of businesses seem to think that not all ransomware attacks need to be reported since not all hackers can decrypt the data they have encrypted themselves. They assume that only during sophisticated attacks do hackers possess the necessary skills to encrypt, exfiltrate and misuse data. Only in such cases do businesses accept that a breach has occurred and is hence, reportable.

However, this assumption is dangerous for two reasons. First, with enhanced ransomware-as-a-service tools readily available in the market, even a hacker with minimal skills can catch you off guard and wreak havoc. Second, regulatory agencies perceive the situation differently.

Having IT security controls in place will minimise your risk. Learn more in this article.

For example, as per HIPAA’s Privacy Rule, the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services has advised companies to assume that ransomed data contains Personal Health Information, even in “low probability” cases. In fact, some state data breach notification regulations mandate businesses to notify customers even in the case of “unauthorised access” without the need to prove that personal data was stolen. 

Why Businesses Choose Silence Over Breach Notification

Accepting a data breach of any kind isn’t easy for any business due to the severe financial and reputational repercussions. But there are other reasons why companies choose to stay quiet.

Inability to Comply With Data Breach Notification Norms

As rudimentary as it may seem, most businesses lack the ability to adhere to breach notification norms set by several regulations worldwide. Even if a company avoids reporting a ransomware attack, failing to notify its customers or clients on time will still invite stringent action from regulators.  

GDPR – the European Union’s data privacy and protection regulation – has set a 72-hour deadline to report the nature of a breach and the approximate number of data subjects affected. From the moment a business’ IT team establishes, with a level of certainty, that a violation has occurred, the clock starts clicking. 

Is your business capable of adhering to such norms?

Secure Remote Working

The ‘Victim Versus Victimizer’ Perception

Let’s assume a business reported a ransomware breach to its stakeholders and the relevant authorities. On one hand, the law enforcement agencies investigating the matter would perceive the business as a victim, even if it paid the ransom, while on the other hand, the regulators might deem the business to be the victimiser of its customers for failing to protect their data. 

If the business is found to be non-compliant with the necessary security mandates after an audit, the regulators will undertake punitive action after assessing a list of factors. Sony Pictures faced a similar scenario in 2014 post a security breach, which impacted some of its employees. 

Reputational Damage

A staggering 78% of people stop engaging with a brand online following a data breach. While your business could still recover from the financial damage caused by ransomware-induced downtime, rebuilding its reputation and regaining the trust of your customers is a long, tedious and, more often than not, futile process. This is one of the main reasons why businesses abstain from reporting a ransomware breach. 

In these situations, having a Disaster Recovery strategy in place could be life-saving for a business.

You Need to Cover Both Ends

While there isn’t a 100% fail-safe strategy to avoid cybersecurity attacks such as ransomware, your business can undoubtedly demonstrate its commitment to preventing security breaches or data loss incidents. This is exactly what compliance regulators, as well as your key stakeholders, look for – how proactively your business can mitigate risk and handle the aftermath of a breach while also adhering to applicable regulations. 

Adopting an inclusive approach that involves the best of cybersecurity and compliance is a step in the right direction. Partnering with an experienced MSP that has a track record of protecting businesses from sophisticated cybersecurity threats and non-compliance risks will greatly benefit your business.

Schedule a call with us today and let us help you proactively meet all your cybersecurity and compliance needs. Our specialists will be happy to explain how we do things and develop a strategy tailored to your business.

Ransomware Explained – The Cybercrime that has struck the HSE

Ransomware Cyber Attack hits HSE Ireland

By: Mark Hurley
Reading Time: 6 Minutes
Recently, the HSE – Irish Health Service Executive and the Department of Health – were struck with a Ransomware attack that shocked the country and made news all over. We’re looking to bring more information on how such attack was made possible and how you could protect your business from one. Keep in mind that small and medium organisations are the main targets for cybercriminals today, mainly because of their lack of awareness and protection.

In today’s article, we’ll be explaining what is Ransomware, how it happens, and a few basic methods to avoid it. If you’re looking for a full detailed guide including info on the best tools and procedures to protect your business, we have it in this link: What is Ransomware and How to Avoid it – The Complete Guide.

What is Ransomware

A successful ransomware attack can be devastating to a business. Organisations caught unprepared could be left with the choice between paying a ransom demand and entirely writing off the stolen data. 

In our day-to-day cyber security practice, we perform many assessments with new and potential clients. Among this wide variety of professional companies, we find a very different understanding of the threat Ransomware poses to their businesses.

There are the unknowledgeable optimists that believe it will never happen to them. Clearly, this is not a recommended stance.

There are also the informed optimists that believe they have all angles of protection covered. That may or may not be the case. Assumptions can be dangerous. 

Finally, there are the affected pessimists – the ones who have suffered from a Ransomware attack and for whom it may be too late. We receive calls from complete strangers asking how they deal with a Ransomware hit. We always ask the same two questions – do you have a backup, and do you carry Cyber Liability Insurance. The silence at the end of the phone can be deafening. 

Whichever of these groups you belong to, it is vital to become informed and engage with preventative measures. That way, you can plan for the worst outcomes so your business can continue to thrive after such an attack.  

The purpose of this article is to provide that information and to provide some of the measures required to both prepare and recover if your business is impacted by a ransomware attack. 

Ransomware is a multibillion dollar criminal enterprise executed by Cyber Criminals to disrupt access to your systems, business, and personal information. It is a form of malware that encrypts a victim’s files. The attacker then demands a ransom from the victim to restore access to the data upon payment.

Mail Protection Inboud & Outbound Protection

Once infected, the attackers demand a ransom (generally in Bitcoin) to liberate access to your data and critical business systems. Worryingly, this activity is on the rise at an exponential rate. Research suggests that in 2020 a new organisation was hit by a ransomware attack every 14 seconds and that Ransomware incidence increased 50% in Q3 in 2020 alone.

Adding insult to injury, the Cyber Criminals are leveraging the current Covid crisis to target vulnerable remote workers and infect susceptible organisations. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that ransomware damage will exceed $20 billion by 2021. It is so effective because it takes many guises. You must be aware of all of them to protect your data and your entire network effectively.

Case Study: The NHS

The HSE attack was not the first time cybercriminals targetted healthcare organisations. A famous example of ransomware is the WannaCry attack of May 2017. This was a piece of malware that infected over 230,000 computers across 150 countries within a single day. It encrypted all files it found on a device.

WannaCry mainly affected large organisations. The National Health Service in the UK being one of highest profile targets affected. Surprisingly, the attack’s impact in the UK was lower than it could have been. Due to the fact it was stopped quickly, and it did not target extremely critical infrastructure, like railways or nuclear power plants. However, economic losses from the attack were still estimated to be over 90 million pounds for the UK alone and about 6 billion pounds worldwide. 

Recently, 22 cities in Texas were hit with ransomware in September 2019. The attackers demanded $2.5 million to restore encrypted files, leading to a federal investigation. Moreover, ransomware is especially prevalent in financial and healthcare organisations, with cyber-criminals targeting 90% of these businesses last year.   

How Does Ransomware Happen?

Ransomware begins with malicious software being downloaded by an unwary person through an infected email or link onto their computer or smart device.

Once Ransomware infects an endpoint, it will run free wherever it has access. In seconds, the malicious software will take over critical process on the device. Then search for files to be encrypted, meaning all the data within them is inaccessible.

The ransomware will then infect any other hard drives, network attached devices etc, taking out everything in its path – including backups. 

This entire process happens extremely quickly. In just a few minutes, the device will display a message that looks like this:  

Wannacry Ransomware Attack instructions screen
Figure 1: WannaCry Ransomware Attack

This is the message that displayed to users who were infected with the WannaCry ransomware attack. As you can see, it’s a ‘cyber blackmail’ note. Users are informed that they have been locked out of their files and must pay to regain access.  

The people within your organisation are often your most significant security risk. The major issue here is a lack of awareness and staff education about security threats. Many people are unaware of what threats look like and what they should avoid downloading, leaving you open to risk. 

There has been a massive growth in Security Awareness Training platforms, which train users about the risks they face online, at work, and at home. Awareness Training teaches users what a suspicious email looks like and the best security practices to follow to stop ransomware. Such as ensuring their endpoints are updated with the latest security software. Security Awareness Training solutions typically also provide phishing simulation technologies.   

It may not seem obvious, but identity theft lies at the core of a lot of backdoor Ransomware attacks. Hackers use administrative and other accounts to gain a foothold in your core systems. Adding MFA – MultiFactor Authentication makes the possibility of elevating privileges and giving the attacker the keys to run ransomware without barriers. MFA comes free with most Microsoft 365 packages, and more in-depth solutions also exist that extend more granular protection to all devices in the organisation.

Continuing the use of End of Line hardware and software increases your risk heavily. Over time, attackers discover the security vulnerabilities that are widely released by larger corporations. Many organisations rely heavily on older computers/software that are no longer supported, meaning they are open to vulnerabilities. Organisational security policies often overlook hardware/software that is out of date.

This dramatically increases the organisation’s risk of falling victim to an attack. Keep your operating system and 3rd party applications patched and up to date to ensure you have fewer vulnerabilities to exploit.

Preventing and Stopping Ransomware

One of the most important ways to stop ransomware is to have strong endpoint security. A program that blocks malware from infecting your systems when installed on your endpoint devices (phones, computers, etc.). Just be sure that Ransomware protection is included when you’re searching for a security package, as many traditional Anti-Virus products are not equipped to defend against modern Ransomware attacks.

As ransomware is commonly delivered through email, email security is key in preventing ransomware. Secure Email Gateway technologies filter email communications with URL defences and attachment sandboxing to identify threats and block them from being delivered to users. This stops ransomware from arriving on endpoint devices, while blocking users from inadvertently installing malicious programs onto their machines.

How to Identify a Suspicious Email? Click here to learn more. 

DNS Web filtering solutions stop users from visiting dangerous websites, downloading malicious files, and blocking ransomware spread through viruses downloaded from the internet, including trojan horse software. DNS filters also block malicious third-party adverts. Isolation technologies completely remove threats away from users by isolating browsing activity in secure servers and displaying a safe render to users. Moreover, Isolation does not affect the user experience. These solutions deliver high-security efficacy and seamless browsing.

Backups

Once a ransomware attack succeeds and your data is compromised, the best protection for your organisation is to restore your systems quickly and minimise downtime. The most effective way to protect data is to ensure that it is backed up in multiple places, including your main storage area, local disks, and a cloud-continuity service. In the event of a ransomware attack, backing up data means you will be able to mitigate the loss of any encrypted files and regain functionality of your systems. Cloud data backup and recovery is a crucial tool in remediating against Ransomware.

Learn more about Disaster Recovery in this article.

Reducing the risk and damage of Ransomware requires a mix of frameworks, policies, training, and technology. The best companies perform a detailed GAP analysis using a Cyber Security framework such as the NIST CSF in conjunction with security controls such as the CIS 20 controls. This approach leads to better outcomes, and it’s how we commonly proceed with our customers.

Feel free to get in touch if you have doubts or would like to learn more about protecting your business against cyber security threats. Our team of experts will be happy to offer advice and guide you through what an effective strategy looks like for your business.

How to Ensure Compliance When Working Remotely

Compliance Regulations Remote Work
Photo by Siniz Kim on Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
The ongoing COVID-19 pandemic has presented businesses worldwide with many unique challenges when it comes to their day-to-day operations. With every company trying its best to survive in this unprecedented climate, remote working has become a critical factor in keeping operations up and running. However, this adaptation has exposed businesses to a whole new level of cybersecurity and compliance threats. 

With cybercriminals preying on vulnerable home networks and work-from-home employees saving files on their local drives, the threat to business data is at an all-time high. According to the Coverware Ransomware Marketplace Research report, the average ransomware payment for Q2 2020 stood at $178,254. This is a whopping 60% increase from the Q1 2020 average payment.  

Despite the increasing magnitude of cyber threats, organisations can still make the most of the great solutions available to them to successfully overcome this menace even when their entire workforce is working remotely. 

Is your business vulnerable? Read our 8 Steps to secure remote working during the covid 19 lockdown

In this blog, we’ll take a look at the most significant compliance and security concerns associated with remote work and how to overcome them.

Challenges to Security and Compliance With Remote Work 

When remote working became ubiquitous across the world, most organisations were forced to adapt to this change without solid policies or processes to maintain standards. Due to this, even some of the top companies are still catching up on their compliance adherence measures while facilitating remote work. 

Businesses of all sizes face the following challenges when working with remote employees:

  • Reduced security: When the lockdown started, employees took their business devices home and used them on their home networks. They also occasionally use their personal devices for office work. This poses a great threat to business data since organisations have very little control over security. 
  • Inability to enforce best practices: When operating within their office environments, companies can ensure their employees follow data security best practices. However, the scenario is vastly different with remote work. There’s every possibility that employees may use shared networks or public Wi-Fi connections to perform their work, adding to security complications. 
  • Inadequate backup: With remote work becoming the norm, the threat to data is significantly higher now. Unfortunately, data backup failure is quite common as well. That’s why organisations need to make sure they have multiple copies of their critical data in case their remote servers are compromised. 
  • Lack of employee awareness: Although most organisations follow best practices regarding employee and customer data, human error is still a major threat to security and compliance. Remote employees need to be provided with proper awareness training on how to handle data and on the best practices to follow. The most secure companies manage to make cyber security awareness second nature.

Best Ways to Ensure Compliance During Remote Work 

Although remote setups make compliance more challenging than usual, organisations can incorporate the following best practices to boost their security and comply with various regulations.  

1. Create a cybersecurity policy

If you don’t have a cybersecurity policy in place already, it’s time to create one. Organisations must develop a cybersecurity policy suitable for remote work. This policy should cover the various steps employees need to follow at personal as well as professional levels. By establishing proper standards and best practices for cybersecurity, organisations can minimise their risk exposure.

Cyber Security
Photo by Maarten Van den Heuvel

2. Incorporate a consistent data storage policy 

Without a standard cloud storage policy, employees are likely to store and handle data the way they see fit, which is certainly not advisable. There should be a shared repository on the cloud to back up files instantly from different sources. In many cases, the rogue copies that employees store on their local drives can pose a major threat to data security and create inconsistencies in storage policies. You need to make sure that data storage policies are strictly followed throughout the organisation. 

3. Increase remote monitoring 

During remote work, endpoint management and cybersecurity policies are impossible to incorporate without the power of automation. You need a robust remote monitoring solution that manages all your endpoints and helps you adhere to compliance regulations. When you have complete visibility into the entire remote working network, you can minimise vulnerabilities and security threats.

4. Increase employee awareness through training

Since human error is highly likely in all organisations, proper training should be provided to remote working employees. This training should focus on some of the most common and significant issues such as clicking questionable links, being wary of messages from untrusted sources, having strong passwords, implementing multi-factor authentication, etc. If your organisation falls under specific compliance regulations, you need to provide additional training to data-handling employees regarding the best practices to be followed. 

Your Employees are your biggest Risk. Learn more about this and how to train them in this article.

5. Use the right tools and solutions 

As cybercriminals and their tactics continue to evolve, you need to make sure that you use the right software tools and solutions to combat this threat. In addition to remote monitoring software, you need to use the appropriate antivirus, cloud backup, password manager and more. You also need to make sure that these solutions are properly integrated into a comprehensive platform.  

What Businesses Need 

Ensuring compliance is a critical task by itself. Doing that while implementing remote working policies and procedures can be overwhelming for many organisations. Your business must invest in a security solution that allows it to protect your valuable data and meet compliance regulations even in a remote working setup. 

With the right partner, this task becomes much more manageable. Reach out to us today, so we can help you develop an effective compliance strategy suitable for your needs.

Thanks for reading! For more articles on Compliance and Remote Work, visit our blogFollow us on Social Media for more exclusive content, and as always, if you have any feedback or questions about this article, please do not hesitate to use the comment box below.

 

Protecting Your SaaS Data Is Your Responsibility

Protecting your SaaS Data is your Responsibility
Photo by Austin Distel on Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
Businesses worldwide are investing heavily in software-as-a-service (SaaS) or cloud computing solutions in the search for flexible, reliable and affordable software infrastructure. The International Data Corporation (IDC) anticipated the cloud software market to reach $151.6 billion by 2020, but that was before the global pandemic hit, which triggered a rapid shift to remote work environments. However, it’s still highly probable that this prediction has already been surpassed, with this exceptional growth only bound to strengthen in the ‘new normal.’ Unfortunately, this growth has also made the cloud a darling of cybercriminals, which means nothing on the cloud is 100% safe. 

Your SaaS data, which is more accessible, and in some cases, more secure within a cloud infrastructure, is not fully protected from loss or corruption. If you, as a business, choose to look away from this glaring reality, you would be acting willfully ignorant. Through this blog, we’ll tell you how your SaaS data is only partially secured by SaaS platforms and give you three reasons why you must back up your SaaS data.  

How Your SaaS Data Is Actually Protected 

While responding to a survey by ESG, 37 per cent of IT executives admitted that they believed SaaS providers fully protected their business data. While this is not entirely false, it isn’t entirely true either. SaaS providers protect your data only concerning accessibility and availability (downtime at their end) and infrastructure-related failures or threats.   

Here’s how leading SaaS providers, like Google and Microsoft, for example, secure your SaaS data. 

G Suite: Google stores multiple replicas of your data at various locations, ensuring the data remains accessible in the event of a hardware failure. Although its infrastructure doesn’t offer native backup capabilities, it provides high availability (HA) with erasure code. 

Office 365 (O365): Given that the infrastructure of O365 is not unified, the backup capabilities for each application differ. O365 offers various backup options, but you must remember that even in its service level agreement (SLA), Microsoft only addresses the availability of data, not its recoverability. And yet, 57% of those responding to ESG’s survey relied on O365’s native recovery functionality, while 27% did not have any in-house recovery capabilities. 

Simply put, both G Suite and Office 365 offer, at best, temporary archives of your data. However, archives are not the same as reliable backups that you can recover or restore from. They neither guarantee protection of your data from prevalent threats nor data recovery post a security disaster. 

Three Reasons Why You Need SaaS Backup 

Having understood that your SaaS data is only partially protected, it’s time to look at three reasons why you need to tighten up loose ends and avail SaaS backup immediately. 

Reason 1: Various Data Loss Risks and Security Threats at Your End 

Here are some threats looming over your organization’s data and hardware/software infrastructure that can cause severe damage – enough to grind your business to a temporary or permanent halt:  

  • User error: Whether it’s falling for a phishing scam or mistakenly deleting crucial data, user errors have accounted for 23% of security breaches in 2020. 
  • Illegitimate deletion requests: It’s impossible for a SaaS provider to determine whether a deletion request was done in haste or with malicious intent. It will honour your deletion request no matter what. One illegitimate command and poof! Your data will vanish. 
  • Sync errors: While introducing third-party tools into your IT environment helps streamline your business, it leads to the possibility of your valuable SaaS data becoming vulnerable. 
  • Insider threats: Malicious insiders have accounted for 30% of data breaches in 2020. One employee with malicious intent is enough to bring the whole house down. 

In their respective SLAs, not even leading SaaS platforms, such as G Suite, Office 365 and Salesforce, guarantee the security of your data from vulnerabilities at your end.

Photo by DocuSign on Unsplash

Reason 2: “Shared Responsibility” 

Contrary to popular belief, SaaS providers are not responsible for protecting the integrity or availability of your data. Cloud security and data protection is a shared responsibility where cloud service providers (CSPs) are responsible for the security, reliability and accessibility of their cloud product or solution infrastructure, while customers are responsible for securing the data they upload and store on the cloud. 

Essentially, you are ultimately responsible for protecting your organization’s data from loss, destruction or unauthorized access and ensuring that the data is logistically, operationally and contractually secure and viable.  

Even global data protection regulations, such as GDPR and HIPAA, have defined and emphasized the accountability to be shared by the controller (your business) and the processor (third-party service providers such as SaaS companies). It’s time for you to do your part. A study by Extra Hop claimed that by 2022, at least 95% of cloud security failures would be the customer’s fault. You wouldn’t want to be counted among those businesses, would you? 

Reason 3: SaaS Providers Lack a Robust Backup 

A robust backup should ideally fulfil four basic needs – ease of backing up and accessing data, built-in capability to secure data from unauthorized access, quick recovery of data, and compliance with all significant data regulations. Merely relying on SaaS providers to protect your SaaS data will not fulfil any of these needs. In the absence of a proper and complete backup, you are essentially playing Russian roulette with one of your businesses most valuable and vital assets – its data. 

Invest in the Right Backup Solution Today 

If you continue to wait much longer, you will eventually fall victim to a nefarious cybercriminal or even a simple, honest employee mistake that could compromise crucial data your organization runs on.   

By investing in the right backup solution, you can ensure that your organization’s data is protected from a wide range of threats and drastically minimize the risk of a data breach. Talk to us today to help us set you up with an enterprise-class and robust SaaS backup solution that is tailor-made for your business.

Making Cyber Security Awareness Second Nature

Cyber Security Training for staff
Photo by Blackcreek Corporate on Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 Minutes
Your business’ cyber security program must start with your employees and robust security policies rather than entirely depending on your IT team or the latest security solutions. You can significantly reduce the likelihood of a data breach by combining a well-drafted cybersecurity policy with comprehensive security awareness training.

It is your responsibility to implement security training for all your employees so that your organization can withstand cyberattacks and carry out business as usual. Regular training will also help you develop a security-focused culture within your business and make cybersecurity awareness second nature to your employees.

Your Employees are your Biggest Cyber Security Risk. Learn why in our related article.

Cybercriminals can target your employees at any moment to gain access to sensitive business data. However, if your employees receive regular security awareness training, their calculated decision-making and quick response can effectively block deceiving threats.

Security Culture and Its Influence on Employees

Conducting a one-time employee training session for the sake of compliance does not adequately benefit your business’ cybersecurity posture – the key here is consistency. It is regular security awareness training that can truly protect your business from looming cyber threats that are constantly on the rise.

The following statistics shed light on why security awareness training is essential in today’s threat landscape:

  1. Human errors cause 23 per cent of data breaches.
  2. Over 35 per cent of employees do not know about ransomware.
  3. Nearly 25 per cent of employees have clicked on malicious links without confirming their legitimacy.

The aim of developing a security-focused culture is to nurture positive security habits among employees. For example, the simple practice of locking one’s computer screen when leaving the workstation unattended can prevent data from being accessed by unauthorized users.

Once you properly train your employees, they will be more aware of the business’ security policies and realize that their employer’s cybersecurity is their responsibility as well.

Unaware employees are your most significant cyber security risk. However, once trained, they act as your first line of defence.

Helpdesk Integration

Tips to Implement Effective Security Awareness Training

Until recently, companies would impart security awareness training as lectures using a slide deck. Businesses conducted these training sessions once a year or once during induction. However, these sessions proved ineffective because of their uninteresting nature and lack of follow-up sessions.

Training your staff will help you avoid both the Invoice Fraud and the CEO/CFO Fraud. Click the links to learn more.

If you intend to develop a security-focused culture, implementing robust security awareness training is crucial. Here are a few tips that can help you effectively implement security training:

  1. Make the training sessions interactive – Your employees will show more interest if you deliver training in high-quality video format since it grabs more attention. Add text content only as a complementary piece to the video. Ensure that the presentation is appealing to your employees so that they do not miss out on essential details. Also, make sure your employees can clear their doubts through face-to-face discussions or virtual conversations with subject matter experts.
  2. Break the training into smaller modules – Since the attention span of your employees will almost certainly vary from one to another, breaking training sessions into smaller modules will help them retain information faster as a whole. You can regularly send training modules to your employees to ensure they are up to speed on the latest security topics. Smaller units have a better chance of retention than lengthy pieces of content.
  3. Facilitate self-paced learning – Give your employees the freedom to learn at their convenience. This, of course, does not mean deadlines should not be set either. Make sure you give your employees sufficient time to complete each training module based on its complexity.
  4. Training must include relevant material – The training material must not contain any outdated information. Given how quickly the cyberthreat landscape is changing, the program must be updated regularly and cover new cyber threats so hackers don’t end up tricking your employees. Please remember that the content should not be overly technical. The training material must be imparted in an easy-to-understand manner, so employees have no trouble applying it in daily work scenarios.
  5. Conduct reviews with quizzes and mock drills – To assess your employees’ preparedness, you must conduct regular tests, including mock drills, that assess alertness based on their response to simulated scams.

Transform Your Weakest Link Into Your Prime Defense

Regular security awareness training can help develop a transformative security culture within your business, thus enabling your employees to detect even sophisticated cyber threats and undertake adequate action.

We understand that implementing robust security awareness training can be a bit challenging. However, you have nothing to worry about. We can help you seamlessly integrate security awareness training into your business operations to make your employees the first line of defence against existing or imminent cyber threats. Get in touch with us today, and let’s get started.

Thank you for reading! For more security and technology advice, visit our Blog.
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How to Effectively Manage Supply Chain Risks

Securing Supply Chain
Photo by Elevate on Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
Digital transformation has made many things easier for businesses, right from inventory management and order processing to managing financials. On the flip side, however, it has also made companies more vulnerable to cyberattacks and data breaches. A breach occurring anywhere in the supply chain could end up seriously disrupting your operations. So, how do you safeguard your business against these threats? 

Deploying a bunch of security solutions within your company is not enough. For starters, it can’t guarantee the prevention of human errors and insider threats, which are major causes of data breaches. Besides that, it doesn’t precisely address the weak links in your supply chain. Global supply chains have grown vast and complex, making it virtually impossible to pinpoint failure points or avoid risks entirely.

The Invoice Fraud commonly hits unprotected suppliers. Learn about it with this article.

In other words, it is time to stop considering cybersecurity and data protection as just a technology problem that exists within your organization. The scope is much, much larger. It is also a people, process and knowledge problem that extends to your entire supply chain. That means your preventive and corrective measures should proactively address risks within your supply chain.

Let’s take a look at some key strategies and controls that can help you effectively manage and avoid supply chain risks effectively.

Make Supply Chain Security a Part of Governance

Addressing supply chain risks on an ad-hoc basis will only create ambiguity and chaos. Instead, you need to make it a part of your security activities and policies. This way, employees will know how to coordinate with third-party organizations and what kind of security activities must be undertaken. 

Supply chain cybersecurity strategy best practices include:

  • Defining who is responsible for holding vendors and suppliers accountable
  • Creating a security checklist for vendor and supplier selection
  • Specifying how to evaluate and monitor suppliers’ cybersecurity practices and how often
  • Setting up a mechanism for measuring performance and progress

Take Compliance Seriously

With cyberattacks and data breaches increasing and impacting more people than ever before, the emergence of numerous compliance regulations has come to the forefront. For instance, if you are part of the defence industrial base, you must be Cybersecurity Maturity Model Certification (CMMC) compliant. There are many more out there, such as GDPR, HIPAA, PCI DSS, etc., each applicable to a particular industry or specific focus area.

Want to get your business compliance-ready? We recommend our Guide on NIST – you can use it to create a base for several standards.

In most cases, to prove and maintain compliance, companies must undergo several detailed assessments, produce different reports and documentation, implement certain best practices and more. You can avoid weak links in your supply chain by making compliance with these regulations mandatory for your vendors. 

Besides that, you need to ensure your business remains compliant with laws applicable to you as well. Not only does it strengthen your cybersecurity and data protection posture, but these regulations also act as a guide for everyone on your team to follow. Since these regulations are often updated, it ensures the measures you take align with industry standards.

PC & Mac Encryption

Deploy Comprehensive and Layered Security Systems Internally  

Threat prediction is virtually impossible if you have a large number of third-party vendors. The attack surface is massive, making it almost impossible to guard against. What you need is comprehensive and layered security.

It is a more holistic approach, where each layer of your IT infrastructure is protected by a series of different solutions that make up for each other’s vulnerabilities. So, even if your firewall fails to defend an attack vector, you still have multiple layers of defence protecting your data, including antivirus, access control, intrusion prevention systems and data encryption. 

The layered approach to security also calls for regular training and testing of your employees since they are usually your first line of defence. For instance, if your team knows how to identify a phishing email, your data won’t be compromised even if your phishing filter fails.

Do you know how to identify a phishing email? Learn how in this article.

By not relying on any one solution to protect your sensitive data and files, you disrupt the cyber kill chain. This will allow you to prevent, detect and respond to cybersecurity risks more effectively.

Adopt and Enforce International IT and Data Security Standards 

Because modern supply chains are so interconnected, you have to interact and collaborate with your vendors constantly. This means vast amounts of data are exchanged, including sensitive customer information such as medical records, PII and financial data. The data must be stored securely (with continuous monitoring and real-time alerting), and access to it must be regulated.

But how do you guarantee this? By adopting and enforcing international IT and data security standards such as GDPR and HIPAA. These standards ensure companies keep track of the sensitive data they acquire, produce it when challenged, and implement adequate measures to secure the data. Besides that, when selecting a SaaS vendor, you should find out if they are SOC 2 or ISO27001 compliant. This indicates that the vendor is securing information as per industry standards.

ISO 27001 vs NIST – why choose one? Read to find out.

Wrapping Up

With supply chains becoming more interconnected and smarter, now is the time to identify and secure weak links in your supply chain. Collaborate with your partners, find out potential vulnerabilities and compliance violations, and work together to mitigate those risks.

We have another article with more practical tips on securing your supply chain available at this link: Recommended Best Practices for a Secure Supply Chain. With this content, you should be able to bring much more security to your business.

To find out how to deploy layered security and how you can secure your data while staying compliant with regulations, get in touch. We’ll be happy to understand your concerns and provide our recommendations and strategic advice.

Your Biggest Cybersecurity Risk: Your Employees

Unaware Employees - Your biggest cyber security risk
Photo by Alexandre Boucher on Unsplash

Reading Time: 3 Minutes
Cybercriminals work round the clock to detect and exploit vulnerabilities in your business’ network for nefarious gains. The only way to counter these hackers is by deploying a robust cybersecurity posture that’s built using comprehensive security solutions. However, while you’re caught up doing this, there is a possibility you may overlook mitigating the weakest link in your fight against cybercriminals — your employees. 

With remote work gaining traction and decentralized workspaces becoming the new norm, businesses like yours must strengthen their cybersecurity strategies to counter human errors and data breaches perpetrated by malicious insiders. All employees, irrespective of their designation/rank, can expose your business vulnerabilities to cybercriminals.

Untrained employees are putting your business at risk of Invoice Fraud. Learn about it in this article.

Implementing routine security awareness training for employees can help you prevent a vulnerability from escalating into a disaster. As the first line of defence against cyberattacks, your employees must be thoroughly and regularly trained to identify and deflate potential cyber threats.

Why Employees Pose a Risk to Businesses?

According to IBM’s Cost of a Data Breach Report 2020, 23 per cent of data breaches in an organization occurred because of human error. An untrained employee can compromise your business’ security in multiple ways. Some of the most common mistakes committed by employees include: 

  1. Falling for phishing scams: With the onset of COVID-19, hackers masquerading as the World Health Organization (WHO) tricked people into clicking on malicious links and sharing sensitive information. Cybercriminals are using improved techniques, like spoofed emails and text messages, to propagate the ongoing scam. Your employees must be well-trained to counter it. To learn and train your people in Identifying Phishing Email, view this article.
  2. Bad password hygiene: A section of your employees might reuse the same password or a set of passwords for multiple accounts (business and personal), which is a dangerous habit that allows cybercriminals to crack your business’ network security. Improve your Password Hygiene by reading this article.
  3. Misdelivery: Even slight carelessness can lead to an employee sending sensitive, business-critical information to a hacker. Such an act can cause lasting damage to your business, which is why you must be prepared to counter it.
  4. Inept patch management: Often, employees can delay the deployment of a security patch sent to their device, leading to security vulnerabilities in your business’ IT security left unaddressed. 

The bottom line is that with cybercriminals upgrading their arsenal every day and exploring a plethora of options to trap your employees, security awareness training has become more critical than ever before.

Employees - biggest risk at an organisation
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

Security Awareness Training: An Essential Investment

A one-time training program will neither help your employees repel cyberthreats nor help your business develop a security culture. To deal with the growing threat landscape, your employees need thorough and regular security awareness training.

The CEO/ CFO Frauds can also be avoided with employee training; learn about it here.

You must never back out of providing continual security awareness training to your employees just because of the time and money you need to invest in it. The return on investment will be visible in the form of better decision-making employees who efficiently respond in the face of adversity, ultimately saving your business from data breaches, damage to reputation and potentially expensive lawsuits. The following statistics highlight why you must deploy regular security awareness training and consider it a necessary investment:

  1. Eighty per cent of organizations experience at least one compromised account threat per month.
  2. Sixty-seven per cent of data breaches result from human error, credential theft or social attack.
  3. Since the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, phishing attacks have gone up by 67 per cent.

Expecting your employees to train themselves on detecting and responding to cyber threats certainly isn’t the best way to deal with an ever-evolving threat landscape. You must take on the responsibility of providing regular training to your employees to ensure you adequately prepare them to identify and ward off potential cyberattacks.

Every employee must realize that even a minor mistake can snowball into a terrible security disaster for the company. They need to understand that your business’ cybersecurity is also their responsibility.

Read: The Human Factor behind Compromised Passwords

You can transform your business’ biggest cybersecurity risk – your employees – into its prime defence against threats by developing a security culture that emphasizes adequate and regular security awareness training. 

Making all this happen will require continued effort and may seem like an uphill climb, but with the right partner by your side, you can easily integrate security awareness training into your business’ cybersecurity strategy.

Here at Spector, aside from different training programmes, we also keep your employees aware by sending fake phishing email regularly and verifying who is falling for potential baits. This acts as a reminder for people to stay alert. 

The first step towards training and empowering your employees starts with an email or a call to us. Feel free to get in touch or schedule your preferred time, and one of our experts will give you a ring to discuss any questions and problems you may have. 

Thanks for reading! Follow us on Social Media for more exclusive content.
 

Recommended Best Practices for a Secure Supply Chain

Supply Chain Security best practices
Photo by Reproductive Health Supplies Coalition on Unsplash

Reading Time: 4 Minutes
Your business’ cybersecurity posture must prioritize detection, evaluation and mitigation of risks posed by your supply chain. It is vital that your security is upgraded regularly to better prepare for any worst-case scenarios.

Having said that, it should come as no surprise that a vulnerable third party who deals with your organization can weaken your supply chain as well. Although controlling a third party’s cybersecurity can be challenging, it must be taken seriously since a security compromise at their end could put your business at risk.

How to Effectively Manage Supply Chain Risks? Find out with this related article.

Always remember that no matter how secure you think you are, dealing with an unsecured vendor can severely damage your business’ reputation and financial position.

Recommended Security Practices

Prevention is always better than cure, especially when you are managing data, systems, software and networks. By proactively adopting best practices, it is certainly possible to enhance your supply chain’s security. For more info on Cyber Security, we have several articles available here. Some of these practices include: 

Security Awareness Training 

You must educate all employees about how even a minor mistake on their part could severely compromise security. Since employees are usually the first line of defence against cyberattacks, it is important that they are given adequate training to identify and avoid any potential threats. 

Drafting and implementing an effective security awareness training program should not be a one-time affair. It should take place at regular intervals to ensure all stakeholders are on the same page. Top-level executives must be trained just as juniors and trainees.

Two more articles highlighting the importance of cyber security training: Invoice Fraud and CEO/CFO Fraud.

Data Classification 

Data classification enables you to identify data, segment it according to its worth and assign security to each type of data. The bottom line is that if you do not know your data thoroughly — especially the data that rests in your supply chain — you will struggle immensely at securing it.

Access Control

Enabling an access control gateway lets only verified users access your business data, including users that are part of your supply chain. With robust authentication and authorization protocols in place, you can minimize the chances of sensitive data getting compromised. 

While authentication verifies whether the user is who they claim to be, authorization verifies whether a user has access to a particular type of data. Hence, both hold equal importance when implementing a robust access control strategy.

Monitoring 

Given the invasive and inevitable nature of security threats, a brisk reaction time is fundamental to the effectiveness of your supply chain security. Hence, automated and consistent monitoring is vital for quick detection and response to an attack. 

You must gather and dissect relevant data to recognize suspicious activity or dubious system changes within your organization. For example, it’s not normal for a user to modify hundreds of files within a split second – that’s more like virus behaviour. Knowing this, you can pre-define acceptable behaviour on the monitoring system, and if breached, the system will trigger an alert.

Endpoint Protection 

Endpoint protection ensures that end-user gadgets are protected against nefarious cybercriminals. Any gadget connected to the network could be used to open a backdoor to your files. Cybercriminals are getting more adept at identifying the most vulnerable point within your network. 

In most cases, it turns out to be an end-user device on your network or even devices on your third-party partner’s network. Therefore, securing endpoints is crucial to reinforcing the security of your business and your supply chain.

Patch Management

Security gaps left wide open due to inept patch management can leave your business vulnerable to cyberattacks. Whenever a new patch gets delivered, it is essential you deploy it immediately. Failing to do so could give cybercriminals a clear passage to circumvent your defences. 

Routine Scanning

Routine vulnerability scanning is a coordinated process to test, recognize, examine and reveal potential security threats (internal and external). Automating these scans so they are conducted accurately and regularly without investing a lot of time and effort will work wonders. 

Network Segmentation

Once you dissect your business’ network or segment it into smaller units, you can control the movement of data between segments and secure each part from one another. Moreover, automating the process can help you smartly restrict suspicious entities (both internal and external) from gaining access to vital information or data.

Managed Detection and Response

MDR is an economically feasible service that helps you with in-depth threat detection and response. Threat hunting, which is part of this service, helps you with deep research and analysis of vulnerabilities, thus allowing you to deal strategically with cyber threats.

Adopt These Best Practices Before It’s Too Late 

When it comes to supply chain security, the best practices mentioned above are just the tip of the iceberg of what you should do to avoid security incidents. Enlisting the help of a Managed Services Provider can help you stay ahead of the curve since they have the experience and expertise to shore up your business’ security.

We got another article with more insight and advice to secure your supply chain, available here: How to Effectively Manage Supply Chain Risk?

Most of these processes can be done automatically and following the best-known practices by an IT Support Provider. Our suite of cyber security tools is constantly evolving, and our specialists are always on par with the latest threats and methods used by perpetrators. If you’re looking for true peace of mind, talk to us, and we’ll be happy to provide more detail on how we do things.

For more information on Cyber Security, check our dedicated Blog section or our service pages.

Recommended reads on Cyber Security:

What is Identity Theft and how to Avoid it?
Stopping Ransomware – The Complete Guide

8 Steps to Secure Remote Working for the Covid 19 Lockdown

Securing Remote Work for Covid Lockdown
Photo by DocuSign on Unsplash

Reading Time: 5 Minutes
Last month we had our first (and hopefully last) anniversary of the Covid 19 pandemic. For this occasion, we reviewed an article from last year – a practical guide to secure remote working in your business.

When the first lockdown hit, many companies scrambled for remote working solutions. In that rush, some cyber security considerations may have fallen to the wayside. As the third lockdown lingers on, securing your remote workforce is a must, as working from home is the new normal. We have outlined 8 key security steps for secure remote working that apply to all companies, regardless of size.

1. Establish what is covered with your IT Support Provider

Both the requirements and coverage agreements tend to be different when working remotely. Protecting people’s personal devices in their home networks demands more attention than in a controlled environment such as the office. Your IT provider may or may not cover the usage of non-commercial home devices or PCs to access your company’s IT resources remotely. You need to know what is covered and if they are incorporating home working.

It is considerably better to allow them to manage your home workers with their centralised management tools than to do it solo. Ask the question. At this stage, a good IT Support Provider will have managing a remote workforce down to a science.

2. Provide Malware Protection for Your Remote users

While you may have centralised malware protection and monitoring of all the workstations at your physical office, you likely do not have the same level of control for home computers. If possible, we recommend that you ask your IT provider to extend their Malware protection and remote management solutions to your home office users. 

If that is not an option (and it should be), Webroot offers multi-device packages for a reasonable cost, covering both PC and Mac environments. Macs should not be exempt from using endpoint protection software. One in ten Mac users has been attacked by the Shlayer Trojan.

Set a policy that all home employees must use an antivirus tool on the machines that access the firm’s resources. Moreover, have your IT support provider verify this before you install your secure remote access tools.

3. Make sure remote working does not introduce more risk

You may have had to suddenly set up remote access servers, Windows 10 virtual desktops or other remote access solutions. Whatever you chose, make it consistent across your organisation, as it makes it simpler to manage and roll back at a later stage. In particular, do not blindly open remote access ports without thinking of the risks and consequences. 

Remember that ransomware attackers look and scan for open RDP servers, targeting anything responding on port 3389. This means any open doors are considered critical security concerns that could compromise your business. For RDP servers, you need a VPN solution, period.

4. Reinforce Cyber Security Education and Make Staff Aware of Covid-19 Scams

The Irish Times have reported a huge increase in COVID-19 scams that are circulating. Urge your users to not click on unsolicited emails and to use only official websites. The same principles used to identify Phishing emails apply here, and you can find more about them in our article How to Identify a Suspicious Email.

Ensure that the firm has a way of centrally communicating incidents so that you can trace all official communications and notifications to act accordingly. Additionally, a Mailbox filtering tool also helps reduce the number of fraudulent emails your employees will receive every day.

Employees - biggest risk at an organisation
Photo by Brooke Cagle on Unsplash

5. Update security and Acceptable usage policies for staff

Make sure your acceptable computer use policies cover staffs’ home computer assets. If this wording is not already there, you’ll need to quickly get up to speed to allow employee’s individual assets to be used for remote access. Policies should also cover remote working protocols, and payment processes need to be reviewed to avoid becoming a victim of payment scams.

Click here to learn more about the Invoice Fraud and the CEO/CFO Fraud to understand the importance of payment protocols.

Some of the biggest frauds in cyber could have been avoided if proper payment processes were in place. A simple confirmation phone call before a requested fund transfer is enough to confirm the identity of whoever is getting the money.

6. Review what software remote employees need

There are two considerations here. Your staff may need to access productivity applications that can only be run from inside your network. In this case, a remote connection to a Remote Desktop server or their PC may be best.

For users that use Microsoft 365 and cloud-based apps, you may only need to provide Microsoft 365 applications. For this, you will need to consider your licence requirements. A Microsoft 365 license allows you to install the Office suite on PCs, Macs, tablets, and smartphones, equal to the number of users you acquire. Those with Volume licenses can allow Office for home use purchases for your employees. You may need to review your options and licensing alternatives based on what platform and version of Office you are currently licensed for.

Which Microsoft 365 Package is Best for your business?

If you are in doubt, reach out to your IT support provider; they may be able to provide temporary licenses with screen connection software that they already use to remotely manage your network.

7. Implement Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)

When implementing secure remote working, consider adding MFA to remote access solutions. This adds an extra layer of security to your users; and makes it much harder for a cybercriminal to steal someone’s identity. We have a One-Page Guide on Multi-Factor Authentication and Single Sign-On, where we explain how they work and why they’re so important.

Ask your IT support provider about adding MFA solutions such as DUO or Microsoft’s native Multifactor Authentication solution to access your IT infrastructure both in the office and the cloud. 

While your company may need to move quickly to allow your staff to work remotely, you can still ensure that only those admins and users are allowed in mitigating the threat of identity theft.

8. Secure connectivity with a virtual private network (VPN)

A VPN will hide your identity and online activity when browsing. It can also be used to ensure company files are only accessible from whoever is in the organisation.

Most Unified Threat Management Firewalls (SonicwallFortinetSophos) include an inbuilt free SSL VPN client that can be deployed to provide secure end-to-end connectivity for your end-users. Ensure that your Firewall and VPN solutions are up to date as this reduces the possibility of security vulnerabilities.

Prepare for the future of secure remote working

One year and three lockdowns in, remote working isn’t going anywhere, that’s the reality. It is important to define how you work remotely, review improvements and then secure your remote workforce properly. As always, the CIS provide excellent guidance with their CIS Telework and Small Office Network Security Guide. Review that to see if there are any other security issues you should be monitoring.

Next Steps to ensure Secure Remote Working

1. If you’re looking for an IT support provider with experience providing a secure remote working environment, get in touch here, or give us a call on 01 6644190 to talk with one of our experts.

2. Discover more about how MS Teams helps remote workers with both communications and collaboration.

3. Review our Remote Working solutions to ensure optimal protection for your businesses.

When to use Windows Virtual Desktops

Windows Virtual Desktops
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Reading Time: 4 Minutes
Since its release in September 2019, Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD) has gained traction across multiple organisations, mainly those looking to provide a better user experience for their employees, have the latest security and feature updates, and reduce costs across their IT environment.

Especially since the first wave of lockdowns in March 2020, Windows Virtual Desktop has become a solution that organisations started looking at for their company’s needs as most of the global workforce had to work from home suddenly. 

When Do You Require a Windows Virtual Desktop

This is a question that we field regularly with users of Microsoft 365 Business solutions. It all comes down to applications! The desktop applications a customer may want to access may not just be Microsoft Office Suite applications. Commonly there are applications such as Accounting, ERP, Development and bespoke client-based solutions that you cannot deliver to your end-users using traditional Microsoft 365 Business solutions.

In a conventional network, these would reside on servers and desktops in your organisation. If your users use Microsoft applications and services – consider Microsoft Office 365 Business Premium. This will satisfy the end-user requirement and provide the flexibility required to work from any location.

For such requirements, there is Windows Virtual Desktops.

So what is WVD? How can you implement it? Will it work for your organisation? What other services does it need for it to work efficiently? Let’s dive in and answer these questions one by one.

What is Microsoft’s Windows Virtual Desktop?

According to Microsoft, “Windows Virtual Desktop is a desktop and app virtualisation service that runs on the cloud.” The cloud Microsoft is talking about is Azure, and running WVD on Azure gives the following benefits:

  1. A scalable multi-session Windows 10 (full) deployment
  2. A replacement for cumbersome Remote Desktop Services (RDS) servers and application publishing.
  3. Accessibility from any location with a full Windows 10 user experience.
  4. A greater degree of security and end-user controls.
  5. Rapid deployment and scalability, allowing BYOD policies.

Learn more about what it takes to migrate your business to the Azure Cloud with our 101 Guide.

How Does Windows Virtual Desktop Benefit Your Organisation

Productivity

One of the main benefits of Windows Virtual Desktop is that a user can access their desktop from anywhere they have internet access, using their company-issued device, a shared work computer, or their own device. So an employee who finds themselves stuck in a remote location would be able to remotely access their same desktop experience with all its functionality and personalisation.

Cost Reductions of Windows Virtual Desktops

By using WVD, an enterprise can realise cost savings in several ways. First, hosting on Azure significantly reduces the infrastructure needed, mainly servers and the rooms to house them in. Also, with employees working from anywhere, the amount of office space required is less, especially when shared workspaces, like WeWork and Regus, are available.

Lower Support Costs

Labour savings will also be significant since you won’t need as many full-time employees to maintain a vast infrastructure. Again, a part of labour savings will come from needing less help desk support staff. This is because desktops are created virtually with the latest versions, so there are no issues with installation or older versions. They are also simpler to lock down and enforce endpoint policies that lower the attack surface for hackers.

Fewer Hardware Costs – Supporting BYOD

For companies that will allow employees to bring their own device (BYOD), the budget for new devices can be reduced since they rely on their devices.

Scalability and Security

A company that wants to scale quickly can do so with Windows Virtual Desktop. The alternative is also valid. If your company goes through busy periods and requires additional staff, you only pay for the use of those desktops as and when they are needed. This is particularly useful for Arts organisations and productions companies where contractors will use their own devices (BYOD).

Since the desktop on WVD will always be up to date, it will have the latest security features Microsoft offers. Traditionally, a larger company would defer security updates or take time to fully roll them out, leaving users vulnerable for attack.

IT Support Dublin

Issues With Moving To Windows Virtual Desktop

Before you can fully move your organisation onto WVD, you need to either migrate your traditional apps to cloud-based alternatives or have all of your apps in a digital format with a proper signature. This requires taking all of your EXEs and MSIs and converting them into MSIXs. Microsoft has provided tooling to do this manually, but Spector can assist with that process.

Mobile Users without Internet Access

It may seem rare, but it does happen. If your users are in an area with no internet or a slow/unstable connection, they will not be able to access their desktop and the apps they need. It is important to profile your user base in advance.

Peripherals

You will also need to address the topic of peripheral technologies that standard desktops have access to. For Example:

Printing – this can be resolved by using IP printers.

Scanning – as with printing, scanners can be set to send jobs to email or file locations.

Speakers, microphones, and webcams – this is more challenging. Even with the Windows 10 Enhanced Media pack, we recommend that all MS Teams conferencing and telephony take place outside of a Windows Virtual Desktop. We tend to deploy conferencing and telephony apps on the local desktop or device as the end-user experience is way better.

Hardware license keys and other USB devices – you will need to research this, as it is dependent on the device and licencing.

Conclusion

As working from home and BYOD become the new norm, Windows Virtual Desktop will deliver a consistent and secure working environment for your staff. For more information or a demonstration of Windows Virtual Desktop, please feel free to contact us.

Our team will be happy to demonstrate how everything works and guide you through the usability process in a free Discovery Call. Your business could benefit from this and many other technological advancements while still saving costs.

For more tips and information about Cloud and Remote Working, check our dedicated Blog section with several articles about the topic. We’ve helped thousands of customers move to remote working after the Covid 19 pandemic and would be happy to assist your business.

Thank you for reading! Follow us on Social Media for more exclusive content.
 

Cloud Migration: A Guide to Microsoft Azure and Microsoft 365

Cloud Migration A Guide to Microsoft 365 and Azure Migrations

Organisations belonging to all verticals and sizes are beginning to reap the rewards of Digital Transformation programmes to challenge the status quo and deliver new ways of doing business. At the core of our practice, we help clients realise these benefits by adopting cloud-based technologies. This guide aims to look at how to leverage the benefits of the Microsoft 365 and Azure platforms.

We will share our experience of migrating on-premise technologies to their cloud-based counterparts. Along the way, we will review the most common approaches to extend and migrate critical components of your IT infrastructure, such as Active Directory, shared files, line-of-business servers, desktops, and applications.

We aim to help you develop a more comprehensive plan and deliver successful cloud migration projects that produce meaningful long-term business outcomes. Use the index below to skip to your preferred section or download our PDF guide to lead your decisions.

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What are you Planning to Migrate to the Cloud?

Let us start with the most fundamental of questions. What components of your current or planned IT infrastructure are you planning to migrate to the cloud? It is more and more common for us to work with companies that are 100% living in the cloud. Most of them use the Microsoft 365 Platform for productivity applications, among other solutions for project management, accounting, and collaboration.

Still confused about the Cloud? Learn all the important details with this article.

In the rush to get teams operational during the first wave of Covid 19 lockdowns, many companies grabbed the first and best-known technology available. We are now assisting companies in reengineering this approach to ensure better security by consolidating as many of these functions in as few platforms as possible.

Common Business Technologies

Email and Collaboration – We recommend reviewing and consolidating as many functions under one provider as possible. The Microsoft 365 Business or Enterprise packages are a great place to start and provide Email, Collaboration, Enterprise File Share, Chat, Telephony and more. The goal is to maximise each part of your investment and ask if there are better ways of achieving what you are currently doing today. For more information on the right Microsoft 365 package for your business, see our related blog on MS Business and MS Enterprise.

Files (i.e., company shares) – The main shared files belong in the cloud and can be accommodated through your Microsoft 365 SharePoint functionality. This works fine unless you have specific high-performance file server requirements that may be required to house shared accounting solutions (i.e., QuickBooks, Sage) or required by 3D modelling tools such as Revit. For that, you may need to consider a dedicated file server or Azure Files, which will better suit the purpose.

Active Directory – AD should be in the cloud. Managing user identity and access rights is critical as you migrate your technologies to the cloud. We also recommend that Microsoft 365 End users also explore the benefits of a cloud-based AD. It provides more granular policy management that is useful in terms of broader security policy management. AD may exist totally in the cloud or live in a Hybrid model where AD information is synchronised between internal and cloud-based servers.

Databases (i.e., SQL Server) – The cloud is the ideal platform for databases too. Not only are licensing costs typically lower, but the ability to scale out to increase performance and protect critical data (with backups and replication) are imperative considerations. This flexibility is particularly useful when testing Proof of Concept deployments or when your company may need to scale up services for a short time.

IT Support Ireland

Business Specific Applications (i.e., ERP, MRP, CRM) – Business applications tend to come in two flavours. First, we have web-based applications. These move very quickly to a cloud infrastructure as they are essentially cloud-ready by design. The supporting technologies supporting database, web interface and file management as relatively simple to migrate.

For traditional applications that require a client-side installer (an application installed on a desktop), the migration can be more complex. It comes down to how efficient the application works between the client and the server (i.e., if they are in separate locations). By design, these applications are meant to be on the same network, reducing latency and providing better performance. If there is a significant end-user performance hit by moving these business applications to the cloud, you may need to rethink the migration process. Possibly move your users to a Windows Virtual Desktop solution or Application publishing solution that is also cloud-based.

Desktops – For organisations that rely solely on cloud-based applications, i.e., Microsoft 365, XeroParolla and such, having a virtual Windows desktop in the cloud may not provide much value. However, organisations with:

  1. Client/server applications,
  2. BYOD programmes, 
  3. Compliance requirements,
  4. Requirement to scale users rapidly,

A Windows Virtual desktop ticks all the boxes and provides better performance associated with traditional LAN based speeds and controls.

Site-Specific Hardware (i.e., printers, scanners, warehousing and manufacturing controllers, POS systems) – These elements are attached physically to a location and cannot be migrated. 

Security – this is a vast topic, and to make it simpler, you need to consider where your users, data, applications, etc., live. You need to identify how each of these components integrates and communicates with other components and implements security controls and technologies to address risks. This generally involves multiple layers such as Email protection, end-user training, Malware and Ransomware solutions, Identity management solutions and firewalls.

Backups and Disaster Recovery – Cloud is perfect for backup and DR. The cloud provides an ideal target for your backup data/images as storage space is inexpensive, it is physically remote from the original copy, and there is plenty of redundancy built-in. It can also provide a full recovery location for disaster recovery or failover in the case of a disaster. 

We find that a detailed asset and risk register help focus the mind in planning your cloud migration. It allows you to look at your IT assets today, how they are protected and serve the end-user base. It also allows you to paint the future and what benefits a cloud migration will bring, addressing security considerations as you go. 

Learn more about how to build your risk register with our detailed article and find the best ways to manage technology risk.

What is clear from our list above is that most IT assets can be migrated to the cloud. That answers the “What can we migrate?” question. In terms of a wider strategy, the next question is one of timing and phasing your migration.

Cloud

Pure Cloud vs Hybrid Cloud

This question has already been answered for the smaller businesses with no on-premises IT services and infrastructure – you are already 100% cloud-based. For more complex companies with a mix of on-site servers and cloud services such as email and DR, you will need to consider how migration will be performed.

A Question of Timing – Cutover or Phased migration

Should you perform a cutover migration (where users are accessing an on-premises environment one day and are accessing the cloud the next) or migrate your users into groups or phases?

There is no single right answer that accommodates all client requirements. It boils down to their IT components and applications, staff and IT providers’ capabilities and risk. Let us consider an outcome where we will move all components that can be moved to the cloud. 

The “When” question deals with the process of moving the selected IT components to the cloud.

There are two primary ways to perform the migration:

Cutover Migration

A Cutover migration is a one-time event with lots of planning and preparation in advance and then a burst of activity immediately after the go-live. After some time, the activity level subsides as users get used to their new cloud environment and start appreciating the benefits. Cutover migrations are typically best for simple, small settings where it makes sense to do everything at once. It is challenging to do a cutover migration of a large and complex IT environment due to the risk of missing critical components, which means that the risk of user disruption is also high. On the other hand, cutover migrations can be very quick and completed within weeks or even days.

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Cutover Scenario

In a cutover scenario, the cloud environment is set up independently as a proof-of-concept replica of the existing on-premises environment. All servers are installed in the cloud and data migrated. All user virtual desktops are prepared with their required profiles, settings and applications. 

A Proof-of-Concept test user group is then selected to log into this newly created environment to confirm that all applications and services are working as expected. Once fully tested and signed off a “go-live” date is scheduled. 

Users are then steered to the new cloud setup as their new working environment. It is wise also to leave the original infrastructure in place for a short time in case any specific settings, files or certs have been missed. Assuming all goes well, the old environment is decommissioned in the coming weeks. This results in the customer having switched from an on-premises system to a cloud-based one in a cutover fashion.

Phased migration 

A phased migration is a journey. It breaks the migration process down into small, manageable steps that are executed in sequence with the opportunity to have users validate the environment in production every step of the way. Phase-in migrations can take a long time to complete. It is not unusual to see these last for months or even years. However, this is a safer approach to migrating large and complex environments. For small, simple environments, phased migrations are typically more work-intensive and disruptive than necessary.

Phased Scenario

In this scenario, the cloud environment is preconfigured with select IT components and one or more workstream are moved to Azure. Users continue using both the existing on-premises systems and the new cloud-based one simultaneously for an extended period. 

The on-premises environment is likely extended to the cloud using a VPN and Hybrid AD. This extends both the network and the user access controls to the cloud-based applications or servers that are being migrated. Over time, additional workloads like file shares, databases, and virtual desktops can be moved one at a time from on-premises to Azure until all the desired IT components have been migrated.

Before an Azure migration, make a list of which IT components will be migrated to the cloud and which will stay local. Consider the migration approach that fits best – Cutover or Phase-In – and discuss it with your IT team and Managed Service Provider. Will you opt to get it done quickly, or will you want to take your time and test everything thoroughly? Be careful not to overcomplicate matters. We have seen simple file share migrations drag on for months! Equally, make sure that your testing is complete and reinsure you are testing accordingly. Planning is critical here.

A Typical Spector Azure Deployment

Each of our Azure Migrations starts with a proof-of-concept stage. One that has no impact on your current environment but can be connected to the live environment for final migration once the POC is complete.

Moving is easy

Connecting your POC Into an Existing IT Environment

There are three top-level steps involved in plugging a new Azure deployment into an existing IT environment.

Extend the network  this is typically accomplished by setting up a site-to-site VPN between your Core office location(s) and the Azure environment. 

Extend Active Directory – Making the same Active Directory Domain Services available in Azure allows you to manage user objects and assign virtual desktops without any changes to the existing environment. Once the AD is extended from the current environment to Azure, it spans both locations and allows seamless movement of servers from one to the other.

Move Server and Desktop workloads – Once network connectivity is established and Active Directory is extended into Azure, servers and data can be moved from the existing environment to Azure. We tend to use Azure Site Recovery (ASR), another VM replication technology, or the Azure Resource Move process.

The result of the three steps above is a Spector managed Azure environment with connectivity to an existing IT environment, AD visibility, and the ability to move VMs from one environment to the other without the need to re-join the domain or reconfigure the operating system.

Once the migration has been performed, you may also consider a reengineering of your cloud solution to better tailor it to its new home or seek alternatives that better suit your digital transformation goals.

Sample Scenarios – Outcomes and Key Steps for Successful Cloud Migrations

In this section, we will look at two cloud migration scenarios of varying complexity and examine the steps in that migration and the outcomes, skill sets, and time scales to achieve them.

Scenario 1

25 user Accountancy Practice using traditional desktop-based applications such as TAS books, Sage Line 50 Accounts, Various Payroll applications.

Current Situation

The company is based in two geographic locations with staff performing a range of financial services including accounts production, tax planning, pension planning and payroll services. Staff work between the office, home and audit locations using laptops. Each site has a centralised server. There are two separate domains, as the second site was a result of M&A.

Current Issues

 All applications are traditional desktop or client/server applications that require constant and disruptive updating.
• Adding new staff is laborious and time-consuming.
• Client files are transferred to laptops for offline working.
• With restricted travel, it takes time and effort to gather all the data required.
• Staff find remote working challenging with VPN and password reset issues.
• Operations are only 80% as productive as their pre-Covid 19 levels.
• Staff cannot easily share and work from both locations as their business data is located on different systems.
• Communications are challenging, with most staff reverting to mobile phone usage. Clients complain that they cannot get through to their main point of contact.

Goals

The ability to communicate and collaborate in real time with both clients and other staff members across both offices.
 Easily gain access to files – both online and offline – from any location on any device.
• Migrate accounting clients to a new centralised cloud-based platform that cuts out all the file transfers.
• Deliver a consistent desktop experience for all users that is quickly scalable and accessible from any location.
• Improve efficiency and focus on consultative rather than transactional relationship with clients. – Drive centralised reporting and KPIs.
• Reduce IT headaches and management costs.
• Improve security and compliance and enter a long term improvement programme.

Cloud Migration Plan 

1- Upgrade all users to Microsoft 365 Business Premium.
2- Set up a new Azure AD environment – the old AD was an inherited mess.
3- Extend the network from both locations to Azure using site to site VPN.
4- Migrate file server to SharePoint Online, allowing users to collaborate and share data with each other and clients.
5- Set up Windows Virtual Desktops for users of Client-Server apps.
6- Perform a fresh install of Accounts Production Virtual Server.
7- Migrate data sets from client-server applications to new Azure-based Virtual servers.
8- Set up backup and Site recovery for DR.
9- End-user testing and go live.
10- Setup Microsoft Teams for Chat, Collaboration and Telephony – replacing several legacy systems.
11- Rollout security policies via Intune and Advanced Threat Protection.
12- Set up data retention and compliance policies.
13- Traditional desktop-based accounts (Sage, Tas, etc.) migrated to Xero & AccountsIQ. Parolla for payroll, depending on client requirement. All with detailed KPI plugins allowing for more consultative practice management.

Outcomes

The primary outcomes come from consistency and efficiency. The consistent end-user experience and modern look and feel make it simpler to train and onboard staff. The client also reports better communications and access to the team with better reporting outcomes.

There has been a 20% increase in pre-Covid efficiency as there are less blockers and time wasted in communications and technical difficulties.

Customer Scenarios Applied Technology

Scenario 2

Manufacturing and Distribution Company both producing and distributing goods to several European markets. Offices in 3 countries. 130 staff. Manufacturing and storage warehouse. AD, File & Print, ERP, Web Orders, CRM, TMS, Exchange Server, ERP – all Server-based. Ageing SAN and infrastructure. Traditional PRI based PBX. Forty reps on the road. Fifteen expert engineers, balance office-based.

Current Situation

The investment in technology has been slow over the past several years. There has been a strong emphasis on security – so much so that all technology is located on-site. There is now a desire to migrate technologies to a cloud-first strategy where possible. There is a strong desire to allow for greater working agility and flexibility as offices are downsized in favour of smaller hot desk sites with flexible meeting rooms.

Current Issues

• There is no defined IT and cloud-based migration strategy.
• Technology management – support and applications are costly, with multiple 3rd party relationships that are difficult to manage and coordinate together.
• 
Traditional applications have slowed down the adoption of new agile technologies.
• 
There is a widespread use of shadow IT and security concerns as staff try to work around the technology limitations.
• 
A traditional UC solution is expensive and needs complete and costly replacement.
• 
There is a need for a rethink and rewiring of all security technologies.

Goals

 The first goal is to develop a strategy and simplify the IT supporting all business functions.
Move obvious workloads to the cloud – File, AD, Email, Comms and Collaboration.
Review core ERP and CRM solutions to see if the cloud migration path is open or seek alternatives.
 Upgrade existing hardware – where necessary.
• Complete cyber security review using the NIST Cyber Security Framework and Enterprise Grade security solutions to protect all company, people, and data assets during the migration process.
• Review and enhance Disaster Recovery solution.

Migration Plan 

1- Develop Strategic IT Review and Roadmap for:

  1. Applications – End-User
  2. Comms & Collaboration
  3. Applications – Enterprise
  4. Infrastructure
  5. Cyber Security
  6. Business Continuity

2- Establish Microsoft 365 Tenancy with E5 Licence – this delivered a consistent application experience for all. In the process, we migrated all telephony, IM, conferencing, and communications through Microsoft Teams saving 20k in annual charges per annum.
3- Full email migration to the cloud with full security capabilities such as MFA, Legal Hold, Data Retention and Mobile management capabilities.
4- New core infrastructure hardware to include core networking, security, and firewalling (Sophos solution with Synchronised security and 24/7 managed threat response).
5- Sales, Finance and Admin all working through SharePoint for file sharing and management.
6- Engineers and higher end-users using Windows Virtual Desktops with Azure High-Performance File Shares to support Revit and “chatty application” workloads.
7- Migration of core servers for ERP, CRM, AD Devops to Azure-based Virtual Machines.
8- Extension of local networks to Azure using IPSEC VPNs.
9- Longer term partner strategy with ERP solution to private cloud infrastructure.
10- Azure backup and Site Recovery solutions Veeam & Zerto based backup and Site Recovery solution with full tested failover for business applications.
11- Set up backup and Site recovery for DR. Fully monitored and tested.

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Outcomes

This 14-month project has reduced management costs by nearly 80k per annum. Traditional longwinded processes have been replaced with newer, more agile methods allowing staff to focus more on developing new products and go-to-market strategies. Technology is now seen as a real business enabler. Cyber Security protection is now a topic at the board table with a mature and tested platform in place – with clear lines of reporting and responsibility.

Conclusion – Assisting with the move

As you must have noticed, a proper cloud migration process tends to be very complex and has many instances where it could go wrong. To ensure your files and operations are secured in the cloud, you should find a trustworthy provider to advise and guide you over each step and who essentially watches all details for you.

If you already found that provider, use this guide to ensure nothing less than perfect is delivered. If you are still looking, be reassured we will be happy to assist you in this transition. We’ve helped businesses of many verticals and sizes in migrating to the cloud and will be able to take this heavy load from you and deliver a seamless experience to your employees and customers – light as a cloud.

Book a discovery call with one of our experts today and learn how we can transform your business with the power of technology.

Which Microsoft 365 Business Package is Right for You?

Microsoft 365 Business Package
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Reading Time: 4 Minutes
In April 2020, Microsoft rebranded their original Office 365 packages under their new Microsoft 365 branding. In the interim, many companies are still using older packages and remain unaware of the features and functions available under the latest packages.

What about the Enterprise packages, you may ask? Enterprise packages are designed for companies with over 300 staff with specific security controls such as Legal Hold and in-depth Data Leakage protection that can only be purchased in their E5 licence. If you have more complex data security and compliance requirements, check out our blogs on the subject or feel free to reach out to one of our solutions consultants who can help you decide.

Using Only a Fraction of the Available Features

Most SME companies that we encounter are signed up to Microsoft Business Basic (think email and cloud-based version of their productivity applications) or Microsoft Business Standard (Email and Desktop Version of their productivity applications) packages. Most of them, however, are using only a limited amount of the available capabilities. 

There is a wealth of other functionality under the hood that enables more efficient remote working and security for your users, wherever they work. For our assessment here, we are comparing Microsoft Business Standard Edition to the Microsoft Business Premium Edition – as Standard is the most common package that we see in the market.

What is Microsoft 365 Business Standard?

Microsoft 365 Business Standard is a package for organisations who require Office applications across a maximum of 5 devices, with the addition of business email (50Gb), cloud file storage (1TB) and online meetings and chat via Microsoft Teams. The current price of the package is €10.50 (per user/month) with a one-month free trial.

What is Microsoft 365 Business Premium?

Microsoft 365 Business Premium includes everything that the Microsoft 365 Business Standard package offers with the additional add-ons of advanced cyber threat protection and device management, improving security for your business environment. The current price of the package is €16.90 (per user/month) with a one-month free trial. 

Functionality Comparison

Microsoft 365 Standard and Premium package comparison

Is Microsoft 365 Business Premium worth it?

Rather than labouring the point, the simple answer is resounding YES! The main reason is Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) and the additional features allowing you to easily manage devices throughout your organisation, which the Business Standard does not include. Let us take a quick look at some of these key features:

Intune

Microsoft Intune is a cloud-based service that allows you to enforce policies for mobile device management (MDM) and mobile application management (MAM). You control how your organisation’s devices are used, including mobile phones, tablets, and laptops. You can also configure specific policies to manage applications. 

For example, you can prevent emails from being sent to people outside your organisation. Intune also allows people in your organisation to use their personal devices for work. Intune helps make sure your organisation data stays protected and can isolate organisation data from private data on personal devices. As with all security-based solutions, we recommend building specific policies first and then setting up the technologies and alerting to support those policies. 

Conditional Access

As the name suggests, Conditional Access allows you to control the devices and apps connected to your email, files and Microsoft 365 apps. Conditional Access provides granular access control to keep your corporate data secure while giving users an experience that allows them to do their best work from any device and location.

There are two types of conditional access with Intune: device-based conditional access and app-based conditional access. You need to configure the related compliance policies to drive conditional access compliance at your organisation. Conditional access is commonly used to do things like allow or block access to email, control access to the network, or integrate with a Mobile Threat Defence solution.

Azure Information Protection

Enable collaboration of your emails, documents, and sensitive data internally and externally. That is done securely through a combination of encryption, restricted access, and rights to provide additional protection.

Defender

Provides Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) by offering a complete, ongoing, and up to date defence. This helps mitigate malware threats from multiple sources such as infected attachments, links, and downloads through your Microsoft 365 apps such as email, SharePoint, and MS Teams.

Learn about Microsoft 365’s Security Concerns and how they could impact your business.

Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD)

This service is an all-inclusive desktop and application virtualisation service. WVD is a Windows 10 desktop that lives on the Azure platform. It provides a complete desktop solution for remote workers and is suitable to users of business-specific desktop-based applications, i.e., Accounting solutions, ERP, MRP, CRM, etc. Using WVD also allows for a secure remote working for BYOD users

 

Our conclusion and Spector’s recommendation

Yes, there is an extra cost of just over €6 per user per month, but the security controls and capabilities that are contained in Microsoft Office Business Premium are more than worth it. There is a massive uplift in cybercrime (400% in 2020) seeking out vulnerabilities that these security controls can defend against. This re-emphasises the importance of the features above, as your business will be able to defend against threats, giving you the peace of mind that your information is being safeguarded.

How can we help?

We are a Microsoft Gold Certified Partner, which means we have the highest degree of expertise working with Microsoft technologies.

We can help you plan and migrate to the Microsoft 365 Business Premium Package with a strong focus on policy, security, and productivity. If you have any questions on the Microsoft 365 Packages or would like to know more, please get in touch, and we will be happy to help.

We’ll be letting you know when we begin our Microsoft 365 Lunch and Learn sessions, where we deep dive into the specifics of the Microsoft 365 products such as Microsoft Teams, SharePoint, and Collaboration applications. Tell us in the comments if you’d be interested in joining us!

Follow us on Social Media for more exclusive content, and as always, if you have any feedback or questions about this article, please do not hesitate to use the comment box below.

 

The Top Microsoft 365 Security Concerns 

Top Microsoft 365 Security Concerns
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Reading Time: 3 Minutes
Microsoft does an outstanding job securing its cloud services. However, cloud users must take responsibility for configuring and managing secure access and file sharing to minimise the risk of data leakage. 

Which Microsoft 365 Business Package is right for you? Find out in this article.

Some IT Managers and most business owners might not be aware of the specific configurations within Microsoft 365 and could have open breaches for cybercriminals. In this article, we’ll be talking about some of these potential risks and how they can impact your business. Here are our top 5 security concerns.

Unauthorised or External File Sharing

Microsoft 365 enables users to collaborate with people outside of your organisation in applications like Teams and SharePoint, as well as by sharing files and folders directly. We talked about external sharing in Microsoft 365, and in particular Teams, in detail in other articles. 

Not sure if Teams is the right tool for your business? Read this article to find out.

Files that are shared outside your network are vulnerable by default. With Microsoft 365, a user can share a single file or an entire folder. This grants access to all files currently in that folder and all its subfolders, as well as any new ones created there. For a decent guide on the subject, take a look at this guide by Netwrix.

Privilege Abuse

Users often wind up with more permissions than they need to do their jobs. Excessive rights increase your risk of a data breach. For instance, users can accidentally or deliberately expose or steal more data than they should. Similarly, malicious software or hackers who take over a user’s account can access more data and systems than they normally would. 

Microsoft 365 doesn’t make it easy to restrict permissions based on business unit or country, or for remote or satellite offices. It’s also tricky to granularly grant admins rights to perform only specific functions, like resetting user passwords. 

Global Administrator Account Breaches

Security Breach
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Hackers and cybercriminals often target administrative accounts in their attacks. As a result, they gain access to elevated privileges. The centralised administration model in Microsoft 365 allows all administrators to have global credentials. Meaning administrators have access to every user’s account and content. If hackers manage to take over a global admin account, they can change critical settings, steal valuable data, and leave backdoors to enter again. 

To reduce the risk of these powerful accounts being compromised, you can set up multi-factor authentication (MFA) in the Security and Compliance Center. Keep in mind that global administrator accounts do not have MFA enabled by default. 

Curious about Multi-Factor Authentication? We have a one-page guide explaining how it works.

Disabled Audit Logs

Audit recording is not enabled by default in Microsoft 365. An administrator must manually turn auditing on. Similarly, to audit email mailboxes, an administrator must turn on mailbox auditing. These are essential features both for security and compliance and should be present at all times.

Understand that the audit log shows only events that occurred after auditing was enabled. 

Short Log Retention Periods

Microsoft 365 stores audit logs for a short time. From just 90 days to a maximum of one year. For details on these settings, take a look at this link. Many compliance standards require storing audit logs for far longer than that. For example, HIPAA requires logs to be retained for six years. GDPR does not specify a retention period. However, it requires organisations to be able to investigate breaches, which can take well over a year to surface. By that time, the native audit logs are gone. 

Remediating These Risks 

At Spector, we have a full suite of tools that help us remediate these risks and ensure that your Microsoft 365 tenancy is and remains fully secure. As a Microsoft Gold Partner, our team specialises in understanding the whole suite of products available at the market. We’re keen on finding vulnerabilities, solutions and communicating them to our customers and partners.

We can use our expertise to help find vulnerabilities in your business too. Our Gap Analysis covers most business aspects that can be improved, from technology and compliance breaches to business operations and personnel training practices. For more information, please get in touch or book a call with one of our experts.

Thank you for reading! Follow us on Social Media for more exclusive content.
 

Managing Your Technology Risk

Technology Risk
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Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes
Today, no business is 100 per cent secure from cyber threats, and more companies are waking up to this reality now than ever before. It’s no wonder cybersecurity investment in 2020 is pegged to grow by 5.6 per cent to reach nearly $43.1 billion in value. With cyberattacks surging due to widespread remote work and increased online interactions during the pandemic, it seems likely that this trend will only continue to grow further.

Download your Risk Register Sample at the end of this article.

While 58 per cent of IT leaders and practitioners consider improving IT security their topmost priority, nearly 53 per cent of them find cybersecurity and data protection to be among their biggest challenges as well. That’s primarily because cybersecurity is not a one-and-done exercise. Your business might be safe now but could be unsafe the very next minute. Securing your business’ mission-critical data and customers’ data requires undeterred effort sustained over a long period of time. While there are several pieces to this puzzle, the most important one, considering today’s threat landscape, is ongoing risk management.

Through the course of this blog, you will understand the definition of a cybersecurity risk assessment and why you must undertake and monitor them regularly to keep your business’ cybersecurity posture abreast with ever-evolving cyber threats. By the end of it, we hope you realize how installing cybersecurity solutions alone isn’t enough to counter cyber attacks unless you make ongoing risk management an operational standard for your business.

Understanding Cybersecurity Risk Assessment

In rudimentary terms, a cybersecurity risk assessment refers to the act of understanding, managing, controlling and mitigating cybersecurity risks across your business’ infrastructure.

In its Cybersecurity Framework (CSF), the National Institute of Standards and Technology (NIST) states that the purpose of cybersecurity risk assessments is to “identify, estimate and prioritize risk to organizational operations, assets, individuals, other organizations and the Nation, resulting from the operation and use of information systems.”

The primary purpose of a cybersecurity risk assessment is to help key decision-makers take informed decisions to tackle prevalent and imminent risks. Ideally, an assessment must answer the following questions:

  • What are your business’ key IT assets?
  • What type of data breach would have a significant impact on your business?
  • What are the relevant threats to your company and their sources?
  • What are the internal and external security vulnerabilities?
  • What would be the impact if any of the vulnerabilities were exploited?
  • What is the probability of a vulnerability being exploited?
  • What cyberattacks or security threats could impact your business’ ability to function?

The answers to these questions will help you keep track of security risks and mitigate them before disaster strikes. Now, imagine periodically having the answers to these questions whenever you sit down to make key business decisions. If you’re wondering how it would benefit you, keep reading.

Why Make Ongoing Risk Management an Operational Standard?

Making ongoing risk management an operational standard is vital, especially in today’s cyberthreat landscape where even a single threat cannot be underestimated. In one assessment, your business might seem on the right track, but in the next one, certain factors would have changed just as the company would have changed. That’s precisely why having an ongoing risk management strategy is now an integral part of standard operations for many of your peers.

Here are seven reasons why you can’t keep this critical business decision on the backburner anymore:

Reason 1: Keeping Threats at Bay

Most importantly, an ongoing risk management strategy will help you keep threats, both prevalent and imminent, at a safe distance from your business – especially ones you usually do not monitor regularly.

Reason 2: Prevent Data Loss

Theft or loss of business-critical data can set your business back a long way, leading to the loss of business to competitors. Ongoing risk management can help you remain vigilant of any possible attempts at compromising your business data.

Reason 3: Enhanced Operational Efficiency and Reduced Workforce Frustration

As a business owner or key decision-maker of your organization, you would be amazed how consistently staying on top of potential cybersecurity threats can reduce the risk of unplanned downtime. The assurance that hard work will not vanish into thin air will surely keep your employees’ morale high, thereby reflecting positively on their productivity.

Reason 4: Reduction of Long-Term Costs

Identifying potential vulnerabilities and mitigating them in time can help you prevent or reduce security incidents, which in turn would save your business a significant amount of money and potential reputational damage.

Reason 5: One Assessment Will Set the Right Tone

You must not assume that there should only be one fixed template for all your future cybersecurity risk assessments. However, in order to update them continuously, you need to conduct one in the first place. Hence, the first few assessments will set the right tone for future assessments as part of your ongoing risk management strategy.

Reason 6: Improved Organisational Knowledge

Knowing security vulnerabilities across the business will help you keep a keen eye on important aspects that your business must improve on.

Reason 7: Avoid Regulatory Compliance Issues

By ensuring that you put up a formidable defence against cyberthreats, you will automatically avoid hassles for complying with regulatory standards such as HIPAA, GDPR, PCI DSS, etc.

Continue tackling the Risk – Download your Risk Register Sample

Outsourced It Support
Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash
Photo by Blake Wisz on Unsplash

From our years of experience working with customers in highly regulated industries – Financial Services, Healthcare, semi-private organisations – we have found that the best way to handle the challenges of managing technology risk and governance is by leveraging the NIST Cyber Security Framework.

We explain how to do it in detail in our Guide to NIST. Its main focus is for Financial Services companies, but every type of business can leverage the framework to deal with risk.

Download your Risk Register Sample Here.

The Asset and Risk Register are crucial for the development of a Risk management system, but keep in mind that they are only part of that system and not the end result. Now that you are done reading this part, the next one is to Develop your Action Plan to Address Technology Risk.

To continue managing the risk consistently and continually, we have developed our own methodology to assist and guide you through every step. If you are looking for an extra level of detail and a system that will make this process much more comfortable and straightforward, Book a Call with us. We can get you to your desired state of maturity with a tested solution.

Follow us on Social Media for more exclusive content, and as always, if you have any feedback or questions about this article, please do not hesitate to use the comment box below.

 

10 Ways to Improve Online Meetings

Remote Working Video Conference Meeting
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Estimated Reading Time: 3 Minutes
It has been nearly 12 months since the start of the Coronavirus. In this time, we have had to adopt online meetings to collaborate with our teams and communicate with our customers. The “new normal” has been replaced with “the office is dead” and so the unhelpful predictions will continue. There are multiple challenges in successfully transferring communications to online meetings tools such as 
Microsoft Teams and Zoom.

Want to learn more about Microsoft Teams? Check our articles: Is Teams the Answer to your Remote Working Requirements? or Our Guide to the perfect Microsoft Teams Deployment

There are, however, some tips that we have gained through the use of our EOS (Enterprise Operational System) Traction Meeting disciplines that translate very well to online meetings. It all boils down to preparation and the setting of rules and expectations. Our team have multiple online meetings per week, covering both internal and client communications. We are happy to share our learnings, improvements and best practices with you here.

Here are 10 steps you can take to make your meetings shorter and more productive:

1. Test your technology ahead of time

Make sure you have the bandwidth capacity for online meetings. Nothing kills momentum at the start of a session like a 15-minute delay because people need to download software, can’t get the video to work, etc. Prior to a virtual meeting, all participants should test the technology and make sure they are comfortable with the main features.

2. Use the camera

To make people feel like they’re all at the “same” meeting, use your camera. We are continually amazed by how many people turn off their cameras in a Video meeting. In a nutshell, be present or get off the call.

3. Create and stick to a clear agenda and timeline

During the session, use an agenda, set meeting ground rules, take breaks every 45 minutes (if running into hours), and clearly outline next steps (including timing and accountabilities) after each section and at the end of the meeting.

4. Share your screen

Meetings should be discussions. Background information should be provided beforehand using a collaboration tool such as Microsoft SharePoint. If someone needs to present, use screen sharing to guide the conversation, so attendees can literally “be on the same page.” But prioritise conversation to maximize the time people are looking at each other.

Read this article by Harvard Business Review: What it Takes to Run a Great Virtual Meeting?

5. Add a personal touch

In our weekly team meetings (Level 10 Meetings in EOS Traction world), we start with some good personal and business news to share with other team members. It may sound a little over the top, but it works well to strengthen relations and get an inside view of others’ lives. With our client meetings, we always begin with some good news about our company, such as a new client or new exciting technology to share. This always starts meetings on a positive note.

6. One person guides the session

It is vital to have a meeting facilitator that can guide and time the meeting. We commonly limit the core meeting length to 30 minutes with 10 minutes set aside to kick off and summarise the discussion and next actions. The facilitator should also be able to resolve basic questions on the technology being used.

7. Ask questions and engage all people

This is no different from in-person meetings. There are always loud and dominant people in the room. The high “D” in the DISC profile or the Leading Lion types so well described by Dr Larry Little. Engage the quieter staff members through questions. You may be surprised at the insights they will bring to the meeting.

8. Take Notes and agree on Actions

Make sure to take notes on next actions with clear responsibilities and timelines. In Traction world, we call them To-Dos. To-dos are actions that will be performed within the next week or two weeks. Simple activities with binary outcomes such as done or not done are known to drive excellent accountability. In particular when you measure how many of these To-Dos actually get done!

9. Set the next meeting date before the current meeting ends

We all know that marrying calendars can be a nightmare. In the case of team meetings, set a regular meeting time that is fixed in stone. No other business gets in its way. With less frequent client meetings, we always seek to schedule our next appointment before the current one is over. This saves enormous time and hassle for both parties.

10. Score your meetings out of 10

Ask yourself if the agenda was met, whether there was clarity around next actions and how engaged people were. We call these Level 10 meetings, as they are marked out of 10. If anyone scores the meeting less than an 8 there needs to be a clear explanation as to why. While simple, this is a remarkably effective way to get honesty on the table and determine how well the meeting was run.

We hope these practical steps are useful to you. Online meetings are here to stay, so we might as well put some effort to make them as productive and pleasant as possible.

Watch out for our handy guide to online meeting technology. If you’re looking for more useful information to better enable your business for Remote Working, make sure to check our article: The Best Tips and Guides for Remote Working. Alternatively, read Our Short Guide on how to safely Implement Remote Working.

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Cyber Security – Do You Know Your Digital Risk?

Security - Are you Digital Safe
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Estimated Reading Time: 4 Minutes
Rapid technological advancement and rising global connectivity are reshaping the way the world is functioning. From higher productivity to improved customer satisfaction, technology has played a critical role in the growth of businesses worldwide. However, the consequential bad news is that technological advancements have also made organisations increasingly vulnerable to digital risks. However, this does not mean that businesses must compromise on growth and improvement for the sake of security.

The security challenges within these digital environments could be better addressed if organisations knew how to identify these risks and incorporate preventative security measures and controls, along with proactive solutions and detailed plans, to overcome their digital vulnerabilities. Let us discuss the different types of digital risks you should be looking out for and how you can use this information to get a positive ROI.

Types of Digital Risks

Digital risks are increasing in the business world due to the rapid adoption of new disruptive technologies. These risks are seen in various industries and are more pervasive than cybersecurity risks. On a broader scale, digital risks can be classified into physical, technical and administrative risks.

The following risks are the most prevalent in today’s digital world and should be treated as top priorities for your business:

  • Cybersecurity risk: Cyberattacks continue to evolve as companies become more technology-driven. Attacks like ransomware, DDoS, etc., can bring a halt to the normalcy of any business.
  • Data privacy risk: As we move forward to a knowledge-based economy, data has become the most valuable commodity in the world. This has resulted in hackers targeting critical business data and misusing them for personal gains.
  • Compliance risk: Businesses need to adhere to various regulations regarding data privacy, cybersecurity, organisational standards of practice, etc. Any violation can attract heavy fines and penalties for a business.
  • Third-party risk: When you outsource certain services to third parties, it might compromise the security of your IT infrastructure. For instance, a software tool you develop with an external vendor may introduce some vulnerabilities to your otherwise intact digital environment.
  • Resiliency risk: This concerns the ability of a business to bounce back and continue operations after an unexpected disaster.
  • Risks due to human errors: In the UK, 90 per cent of cyber data breaches were caused by human errors in 2019. Whether it’s falling for phishing scams or misusing work devices, human errors can be quite costly for organisations if they go unchecked.
  • Automation risks: While automation is reshaping the tech industry for the better, it could also give rise to a range of risks such as compatibility risks, governance risks, etc.
  • Cloud storage risks: The flexibility, ease-of-use and affordability offered by the cloud makes it one of the most popular options for backup and storage. However, the cloud is also prone to various risks such as lack of control over data, data leakage, data privacy, shared servers, etc.

Importance of a Risk Assessment in Managing Digital Risks

Secure Remote Working

The best way to start managing your digital risks is by performing comprehensive security risk assessments regularly. After all, how would you know what your current vulnerabilities or gaps are and where you biggest security challenges lie without an ‘under the skin’ examination? With a risk assessment, you can measure your security posture against various internal and digital threats and determine how equipped you are to deal with these risks. When you perform a security risk assessment you can proactively:

  • Identify vulnerabilities: A risk assessment helps you identify which part of your digital environment is relatively weak against various security threats. You can identify which systems are likely to be targeted by attackers and incorporate measures to strengthen these systems. Without the information presented by your risk assessment report, you don’t stand much chance of improving your digital security posture against various vulnerabilities.
  • Review and bolster security controls: In most cases, security incidents occur due to a lack of controls in the process. For instance, without proper cybersecurity awareness training and best practices training, employees are unlikely to follow security protocols on their own, which could result in losses due to human errors. Based on the risk assessment, you can upgrade your securities and incorporate preventive measures against various risks.
  • Track and quantify risks: To effectively manage various risks, you need to know the effect of these risks on your business. With a risk assessment, you can quantify these risks by identifying the potential losses posed by various threats. This helps you incorporate necessary risk mitigation strategies to prevent your exposure to various risks.

To begin understanding these risks, there are several steps a business owner or risk manager can take. We have more detail on this topic in the following article: Building your Asset and Risk Register.

The Value of Risk Assessment

IT and security budgets are often difficult to explain to management. Everyone understands the consequences of not investing in correct security measures. However, it isn’t that easy or simple to put an exact ROI figure on security investments. The value of risk assessment is based on how you choose to act with the information you get from these reports.

After understanding these risks, you should have enough knowledge to begin prioritising and addressing them based on the impact and urgency of each risk. This process will result in the creation of an Action Plan, which if properly executed will minimise most organisational risks. Some organisations are able to conduct this process effectively by themselves, while others fail to do so.

In this scenario, the real question is – what is the cost of not making this investment?

Security devices and tools
Photo by Pop & Zebra on Unsplash

Let us consider a major data breach for example. It is always about what you stand to lose in the aftermath of a breach. If your business is dealing with valuable customer data, a data breach can result in unrecoverable financial losses as well as reputational damage. Moreover, this might also result in regulatory non-compliance and attract heavy penalties from various regulators. In such cases, reviving a business after a major disaster can be almost impossible.

Here, the cost of investment in security solutions and cyber insurance is negligible since it concerns the survival of the business. You may not be able to measure the exact ROI of the airbags in your car but that does not mean that your survival is not dependent on them. Similarly, the information and insights gained from routine risk analysis are critical to the operation, resilience posture and long-term success of your business.

A thorough analysis can bring you essential insight and indicate the next steps for your organisation. Should you be looking for professional help to identify and address your digital risks, we recommend starting with the Gap Analysis. This process goes beyond a conventional IT Audit, where your company’s cyber security structure is scanned to identify any potential breaches. The main difference here is that we’ll also look into your policies, processes and people to understand where your business is and where you want it to be.

After identifying the Gap, we’ll begin to close it and improve your business’ cyber security structure. To learn more about this process, download our brochure and feel free to get in touch.

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What is Ransomware and How to Avoid it – The Complete Guide

Ransomware How Does it work and how to avoid it - The complete guide

Introduction to this Guide

We hope with this guide to provide you useful information to protect your business against Ransomware. It is today one of the most dangerous methods of cybercrime for businesses that rely on technology. Luckily, with a robust cyber security strategy it can be avoided and its damage reduced to a minimum.

Our Guide covers all that a business owner or director must know about Ransomware. Click on the links below to skip straight to where you want to go. We hope you enjoy your reading.

Should you also prefer to download the entire guide as a PDF, simply click the button below.

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Attitudes to Ransomware

A successful ransomware attack can be devastating to a business. Organisations caught unprepared could be left with the choice between paying a ransom demand and writing off the stolen data entirely.

In our day-to-day cyber security practice, we perform a lot of assessments with new and potential clients. Among this wide variety of professional companies, we find very differing understanding of the threat Ransomware poses to their businesses. 

There are the unknowledgeable optimists that believe to will never happen to them. Clearly this is not a recommended stance. 

There are also the informed optimists that believe they have all angles of protection covered. That may or may not be the case. Assumptions can be dangerous.

Finally there are the affected pessimists – have suffered from a Ransomware attack and for whom it may be too late. We receive calls from complete strangers asking how they deal with a Ransomware hit. We always ask the same two questions – do you have a backup and do you carry Cyber Liability Insurance. The silence at the end of the phone can be deafening.

Whichever camp that you belong to it is important to become informed and engage with preventative measures and plan for the worst outcomes so your business can continue to thrive after such an attack. 

The purpose of this guide is to provide that information and to provide some of the measures required to both prepare and recover if your business is impacted by a ransomware attack.

What is Ransomware and How does it work?  

Ransomware is multibillion euro criminal enterprise executed by Cyber Criminals to disrupt access to your systems, business, and personal information. It is a form of malware that encrypts a victim’s files. The attacker then demands a ransom from the victim to restore access to the data upon payment. 

Once infected the attacker then demand a ransom (normally in Bitcoin) to liberate access to your data and critical business systems. Worryingly this activity is on the rise at an exponential rate. Research suggests that in 2020 a new organisation will be hit by a ransomware attack every 14 seconds and that Ransomware incidence increased 50% in Q3 in 2020 alone. Adding insult to injury, the Cyber Criminals are leveraging the current Covid crisis to target vulnerable remote workers and infect vulnerable organisations. 

Once systems are compromised, cryptocurrency, credit card, or untraceable gift cards will be required as a ransom. However, payment doesn’t ensure that you regain access. Even worse, victims who do pay are frequently targeted again. Just one infection can spread ransomware throughout an entire organisation, crippling operations. As a result, the solution is often costly as you require a complete rebuild of your core infected systems 

Ransoms range from hundreds of euro to the millions Garmin had to pay after their systems were compromised in 2019. Consequently, billions have been extracted by cyber-criminals in recent years. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that ransomware damage will exceed €20 billion by 2021. It is so effective because it takes many guises. You must be aware of all of them to effectively protect your data and your entire network. 

How Bad Can it Get – The NHS Example

NHS - National Health System (UK) was targeted by WannaCry Ransomware
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A famous example of ransomware is the WannaCry attack of May 2017. This was a piece of malware that infected over 230,000 computers across 150 companies within a single day. It encrypted all files it found on a device. Following that, users must pay €300 worth of bitcoin payments to restore them. 

WannaCry mainly affected large organisations. The National Health Service in the UK being one of highest profile targets affected. Surprisingly, the attack’s impact was lower than it could have been. Due to the fact it was stopped quickly, and it did not target extremely critical infrastructure, like railways or nuclear power plants. However, economic losses from the attack were still in the millions of pounds.

Recently, 22 cities in Texas were hit with ransomware in September 2019. The attackers demanded €2.5 million to restore encrypted files, leading to a federal investigation. Moreover, ransomware is an especially prevalent in financial and healthcare organisations. With cyber-criminals targeting 90% of these businesses last year.  

The threat posed by Ransomware has never been greater. Microsoft also revealed in their 2020 Digital Defence Report that the time in which it takes to gain command and control of an organisation’s network has dropped significantly. As a result, now cyber criminals can go from initial entry to ransoming the entire network, in just 45 minutes.   

How Does Ransomware Work? 

Ransomware begins with malicious software being downloaded by an unwary person through an infected email or link onto their computer or smart device. 

One common method of distributing malware is through phishing attacks. Where an attacker attaches an infected document or URL to an email, disguising it as being legitimate (i.e., a well-crafted but fake Amazon Delivery or banking notification). By opening the infected link or attachment the first phase of the attack is complete. As a result, Malware is now installed on their device.

How to identify a Phishing email? Find out in this article.

Another popular method of spreading ransomware is using a ‘trojan horse’ virus. This involves posing ransomware as legitimate software online, which then infects the device once installed.

Encrypting Files at Light Speed

Once Ransomware infects an endpoint it will run freely wherever it has access. In seconds, the malicious software will take over critical process on the device. Then search for files to be encrypted, meaning all the data within them is inaccessible.  

The ransomware will then infect any other hard-drives, network attached devices etc, taking out everything in its path – including backups.

This entire process happens extremely quickly. In just a few minutes the device will display a message that looks like this: 

Wannacry Ransomware Attack instructions screen
Figure 1: WannaCry Ransomware Attack

This is the message that displayed to users who were infected with the WannaCry ransomware attack. As you can see, it’s a ‘cyber blackmail’ note. Users are informed that they have been locked out of their files, and they must pay to regain access.

Should you pay the Ransom?

Backups are the last port of call during a ransomware attack. Backups are also targeted by the attacker. If your backups are infected, you may have no other choice but to pay the ransom. It is estimated that the Sportswear manufacturer Garmin paid out a multimillion-euro ransom to get their system back online in 2019.

Payments are requested through bitcoin, a cryptocurrency that cannot be traced. Followed by a countdown, threatening to permanently delete the encrypted files should time run out. For smaller businesses performing a Disaster Recovery may be viable however for larger companies with thousands of core systems, the cost of recovery may simply exceed the ransom.

The Origins of Ransomware

As mentioned, Ransomware is the most prevalent form of cyber-crime as of 2020. However, it has been with us for over a decade. First sightings of this attack date back to around 2005. Although conditions for it to be devastatingly effective have only been met with the rise of Bitcoin.

In the 2000s, ransomware was not very sophisticated. The early methods used by attackers to encrypt or block data were easy to remediate. Services that allowed untraceable payments were lacking also. As a result, few victims ended up willing to pay the ransom due to these blockers.

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The more successful enterprise for cyber-criminals was in supplying phony anti-virus and computer cleaning software (scareware). By operating under a thin veil of legitimacy, cyber criminals were able to avoid detection. As the internet became a larger part of society around 2008, legislation caught up to this method of attack. Which significantly increased the risk and cost of operation.

The risk gap between scareware and ransomware was closing. While ransomware remained a less costly venture. In the early 2010s, ransomware scams became more prevalent utilising different avenues of payment, such as through prepaid cash cards or gift vouchers. Then something happened that would significantly change the trajectory of ransomware as a cyber-crime: the rise of cryptocurrency.

Cryptocurrency – The Enabler of Ransomware

Bitcoin, the most known Cryptocurrency, acts as an enabler to cyber crime
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In 2012, the Bitcoin Foundation was formed and Bitcoin Central was recognised as a European Bank. Cyber-criminals were waiting for this exact form of currency since 2005; a simple, untraceable, method of extracting ransoms from their victims. The risk gap between scareware and ransomware began growing again, however this time, ransomware was the less risky, and less costly option for cyber-criminals.

Then came Crypto Locker in 2013, a revolutionary new form of ransomware. Combining Bitcoin integration and much more advanced methods of data encryption. Victims of this attack would be unable to decrypt their files without a special key encryption unless they paid out roughly €300 worth of bitcoin. The Gameover Zeus banking trojan became a delivery method for Crypto Locker. It was shut down in an operation led by the FBI. Within months researchers discovered numerous Crypto Locker clones across the globe from criminals looking to hitch a ride on the new wave of modern ransomware.

Eventually, cyber-criminals realised that profits being as they were from attacking individuals, they could aim bigger. Targeting businesses who possess more sensitive and valuable data and would pay accordingly. This was the advent of ‘Big Game Hunting’. Where cyber-criminals specifically target larger organisations through their users. This is the state of ransomware today, the biggest cyber-security risk, which is only growing.

Why is Ransomware so effective?

Ransomware causes massive damage to business, impacting companies financially and their productivity.

Most apparent is the loss of files and data, which represents years’ worth of work and intellectual property, or customer data that is critical to the smooth running of their organisation. Loss of productivity comes as machines will be unusable. According to Kaspersky it takes even smaller organisations a minimum of a week to recover their data in most cases.

Once a victim of a successful ransomware attack, downtime is only the beginning of the problem. The loss of data and productivity can have tremendous impact on a business financially. After that, professionals need to be hired to remediate the damage caused and put protections in place to stop such an attack from happening again. Many businesses do not survive.

Ransomware Exploits your Greatest Weakness – People

People utilising computers are the weakest point in your organisation
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Attackers most successful vector of attack is using email phishing attacks, which can bypass traditional security technologies. Email is a weak point in many businesses’ security infrastructure. Hackers exploit this by using phishing emails to trick users into opening malicious files and attachments.

Another approach is to use trojan horse viruses where hackers also target human error by causing them to inadvertently to download malicious files. These files can remain dormant in your systems for a long time before they become active. Once active they implement Control and Command tools giving the hacker free reign to run ransomware throughout your organisation.

The major issue here is a lack of awareness and staff education about security threats Many people are unaware of what threats look like, and what they should avoid downloading leaving you open to risk. 

This lack of security awareness helps ransomware to spread with great efficiency.

Reasons Why Ransomware is so Successful

Ransomware attacks grew by as much as 715% in 2020 with attackers making off with increasingly high average payouts that have tripled from circa €80k to €239 (source Sophos 2021 Threat Report) . Many businesses do not have the strong defences needed in place to block and detect these attacks, because they can be expensive as well as complicated to deploy and use. It’s often hard for IT teams to convince company executives that they need strong security defences until it’s too late and systems have already been compromised.

Out of Date Hardware and Software

Organisational security policies often overlook hardware and software that is out of date. This can be down to legacy systems support needed to drive the business.

Over time, attackers discover the security vulnerabilities that are widely released by larger corporations. Technology companies often push out security updates, but for many organisations they have no way to verify that users are installing these updates. Many organisations rely heavily on older computers that are no longer supported, meaning they are open to vulnerabilities.

This is one of the main reasons the WannaCry virus was so successful. It targeted many large organisations such as the NHS, which used decades old machines on operating systems that no longer received regular updates.

The exploit WannaCry used to infect systems was discovered two months before the attack took place and was patched by Microsoft. However, the attack rapidly spread due to these devices running old software.

As discussed, the rate of growth in Ransomware attacks on businesses large and small is out of control. The risk is high, which is why you must be proactive. Ransomware thrives in a climate where businesses are unaware of where their risks lie. In the next section we will cover ransomware avoidance, and the need for a layered approach to cyber security. To allow your business to protect, detect, and recover from a Ransomware attack.

Addressing the Ransomware Risk

Life Buoy - illustrative metaphor for how to save a company from ransomware
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Reducing the risk and damage of a Ransomware requires a mix of frameworks, policies, training, and technology. The best companies perform a detailed GAP analysis using a Cyber Security framework such as the NIST CSF in conjunction with security controls such as the CIS 20 controls. This approach leads to better outcomes, period. Below we list some of the key components in your Ransomware protection arsenal.

Learn more about the NISC CSF in this practical Guide.

Here are some tips for the best protections to put in place to stop ransomware attacks: 

Strong, Reputable Malware and Ransomware Protection

One of the most important ways to stop ransomware is to have a strong endpoint security solution. One that blocks malware from infecting your systems when installed on your endpoint devices (phones, computers, etc.). Industry leaders include Sophos, Trend Micro and Bitdefender. Just be sure that Ransomware protection is included as many traditional Anti-Virus products are not equipped to defend against modern Ransomware attacks.

The best solutions will also provide real time alerting if unusual behaviour is noted on your networks and help lock down that behaviour if it looks suspicious. Better still many modern providers can also supply real time alerting and remediation services.

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These solutions help protect against malicious downloads, and alert users when they are visiting risky websites. However, they are not guaranteed to be 100% effective as cybercriminals are always trying to create new pieces of malware that can get around the security tools. Still, endpoint security is a crucial step in strong protection against malware. 

Email Security, Inside and Outside the Gateway

As ransomware is commonly delivered through email, email security is key in preventing ransomware. Secure Email Gateway technologies, such as Mimecast and Barracuda, filter email communications with URL defences and attachment sandboxing to identify threats and block them from being delivered to users. This stops ransomware from arriving on endpoint devices. While blocking users from inadvertently installing malicious programs onto their machines. 

Ransomware is also commonly delivered through phishing. Secure email gateways can block phishing attacks using Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) capabilities. Also, there is Post-Delivery Protection technologies, which use machine learning and AI algorithms to detect phishing attacks. After that, they then display warning banners within emails to alert them that the content may be suspicious. This helps users to avoid phishing emails which contain a ransomware attack. 

Web Filtering & Isolation Technologies 

DNS Web filtering solutions stop users from visiting dangerous websites and downloading malicious files. Blocking ransomware that is spread through viruses downloaded from the internet, including trojan horse software. DNS filters also block malicious third-party adverts. Additionally, web filters should be configured to aggressively block threats, to stop users from visiting dangerous or unknown domains. 

Isolation technologies are a valuable tool to stop ransomware downloads. They completely remove threats away from users by isolating browsing activity in secure servers and displaying a safe render to users. Therefore, preventing ransomware as any malicious software is executed in the secure container. Moreover, Isolation does not affect the user experience. Delivering high security efficacy and seamless browsing. 

Security Awareness Training 

The people within your organisation are often your biggest security risk. There has been a huge growth in Security Awareness Training platforms such as KnowBe4. Which train users about the risks they face online, at work, and at home. Awareness Training teaches users what a suspicious email looks like, and the best security practices to follow to stop ransomware. Such as ensuring their endpoints are updated with the latest security software. 

Security Awareness Training solutions typically also provide phishing simulation technologies. Meaning admins create customized simulated phishing emails, and send them out to employees to test how effectively they detect attacks. Phishing simulation is an ideal way to help view your security efficacy across the organisation. It is also a useful tool to identify users that need more security training to stop the spread of ransomware. 

Multifactor Authentication

It may not seem obvious, but identity theft lies at the core of a lot of backdoor Ransomware attacks. Hackers use administrative and other accounts to gain a foothold in your core systems. Adding MFA makes the possibility of elevating privileges and giving the attacker the keys to run ransomware without barriers. MFA comes free with most Microsoft 365 packages and more in-depth solutions also exist with companies like DUO that extend more granular protection to all devices in the organisation.

Software Patching

Keep your operating system and 3rd party applications patched and up to date to ensure you have fewer vulnerabilities to exploit.

Data Backup and Recovery

Addressing Ransomware by having backups of your hard drive
Photo by benjamin lehman on Unsplash

Once a ransomware attack succeeds and your data is compromised, the best protection for your organisation is to restore your data quickly and minimize the downtime. The most effective way to protect data is to ensure that it is backed up in multiple places. Including; in your main storage area, on local disks, and in a cloud continuity service. In the event of a ransomware attack, backing up data means you will be able to mitigate the loss of any encrypted files and regain functionality of systems. 

The best Cloud Data Backup and Recovery platforms will; 

  • Allow businesses to recover data in the case of a disaster. 
  • Are available anytime. 
  • Are easily integrated with existing cloud applications and endpoint devices.  
  • Have a secure and stable global cloud infrastructure.   

Cloud data backup and recovery is a crucial tool in remediating against Ransomware.

Learn more about Business Continuity and Disaster Recovery.

Cyber Liability Insurance and Extortion Coverage

If the worst comes to pass, it can be very costly to rebuild your business or to pay of the cyber criminals. If it comes to this, Cyber liability Insurance can assist.

Cyber extortion is a coverage option under many cyber liability policies. It protects your business against losses caused by ransomware and other types of cyber extortion.

What’s Covered

Many cyber liability policies cover three types of costs:

  1. Ransom Money. This is money you pay to a cybercriminal in response to a threat. Some policies also cover property (other than money) you relinquish to an extortionist.
  2. Extortion-Related Expenses. These are expenses you incur because of the extortion threat. Examples are travel expenses you incur to make a ransom payment and the cost of hiring a security expert to advise you on how to respond to a threat.
  3. Repair Costs. Payment of a ransom does not guarantee your computers and data will be undamaged after their release, or that they will be released at all. Most cyber liability forms cover losses you sustain as a result of damage, disruption, theft, or misuse of your data. Policies cover the cost to restore, replace or reconstruct programs, software, or data.

Most cyber policies require you to secure permission from your insurer before you pay a ransom. If you make a ransom payment and then tell your insurer about it later, the payment may not be covered. The same rule applies to extortion-related expenses. If you want to hire a consultant to help you negotiate with the extortionist, you’ll need to notify your insurer in advance. Otherwise, the consultant’s fee may not be covered.

Most cyber liability policies provide reimbursement for a ransom payment and related expenses. They do not pay these costs upfront.

 

Cyber Risk Management

Some cyber liability insurers provide risk management services through a web portal such as eRiskHub. Policyholders can use these websites to learn about cyber exposures and how they can protect themselves from losses.

Covered Threats

Cyber extortion insurance covers ransom payments you make and extortion-related expenses you incur in response to a threat. The meaning of this term is important because it determines what types of acts are covered. The definition varies, but often includes threats to do some or all of the following:

  • Alter, damage or destroy your software, programs, or data
  • Infect your computer system with a virus or other malicious code
  • Release your data or sell it to someone else
  • Make your website or computer system inaccessible by initiating a cyber-attack, such as a denial-of-service attack
  • Transfer funds using your computer system

Ransomware is experiencing a boom as the perfect conditions for its rise to prominence have been met in recent years, and dedicated cyber-criminals are actively working on methods to ensure it is more effective. This game of cat-and-mouse will continue to evolve as the gains are large and the payouts continue.

Preventing Ransomware – Get in Touch

IT Support Dublin

If you feel uncertain or do not have the skills to determine your current cyber security risk, contact us to discuss our Cyber Security GAP analysis service. This will that help expose any current issues and build a risk-based roadmap to address any gaps in your approach. We are always here and happy to help any company looking to improve their cyber security maturity profile.

If you are looking for a new IT partner to provide faster response, times, enhanced security and better business outcomes – get in touch today.

New Year, New Risks for IT & Data Security

New Year, New Risks for IT and Security

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The COVID-19 pandemic has changed everything about the world as we know it. Just as we started embracing new practices like sanitizing, social distancing and remote working, the pandemic has also forced us to embrace systemic changes in the ways we deal with cyberthreats.

The FBI has reported an increase in cyberattacks to 4,000 per day in 2020, which is 400 per cent higher than the attacks reported before the onset of the coronavirus.

Since remote working is here to stay, the trend in increasing cyberattacks is expected to continue well into the future. Moreover, business technologies are also transforming, attracting more cybercriminals to target business data. In these circumstances, the best solution is to build your cyber resiliency and protect yourself from unforeseen attacks.

Remote Working and Cybersecurity

Cybersecurity has always been a challenge for businesses with sensitive data. A single unexpected breach could wipe out everything and put your existence in question. With the sudden transition to remote working, this challenge has increased manifold for security teams. From the potential safety of the remote working networks to trivial human errors, there are endless ways in which your IT network could be affected when employees are working remotely.

A study by IBM Security has estimated that about 76 per cent of companies think responding to a potential data breach during remote working is a much more difficult ordeal. Also, detecting breaches early is another big issue for IT security teams. The same study by IBM has estimated that it takes companies roughly about 197 days to detect a breach and 69 days to contain it. Is your cybersecurity posture good enough to withstand a potential attack?

Threats You Need to Be Aware of

Cyberthreats come in different shapes and forms. From simple spyware monitoring your network transactions to a full-fledged ransomware attack that holds all your critical data for a ransom, there are multiple ways in which your IT network could be affected. Only when you get the idea of the potential risks surrounding your IT infrastructure, you can build a resilient cybersecurity strategy that enhances your IT environment and keeps vulnerabilities at bay.

Let’s look at some of the common cyberthreats that businesses faced in 2020:

Phishing scams: Phishing emails still pose a major threat to the digital landscape of many business organizations across the globe. COVID-19 communications have provided the perfect cover for these emails to lure unsuspecting users. By creating a sense of urgency, these emails might persuade your employees to click on malware links that could steal sensitive data or install malicious viruses inside a computer.

To learn how to avoid Phishing attacks and identify suspicious emails, click here.

Ransomware: Targeted ransomware attacks are increasing every day. It is estimated that a ransomware attack will happen every 11 seconds in 2021. Ransomware attacks hold an organization’s critical data for a ransom, and millions of dollars are paid to hackers every year as corporates do not want to risk losing their sensitive data. However, there is no guarantee that your files will be secure even after you pay the ransom.

Learn More in our Complete Guide on Ransomware.

Cloud Jacking: With the cloud becoming a more sophisticated way of storing data, cloud jacking incidents have become a severe threat. These attacks are mainly executed in two forms – injecting malicious code into third-party cloud libraries or injecting codes directly to the cloud platforms. As estimated by the 2020 Forcepoint Cybersecurity Predictions, a public cloud vendor is responsible for providing the infrastructure while most of the responsibility concerning data security rests with the users. So, bear in mind, you are mostly responsible for your data security even when it is on the cloud.

Man-in-the-middle attack: Hackers can insert themselves in a two-party transaction when it happens on a public network. Once they get access, they can filter and steal your data. If your remote working employees use public networks to carry out their official tasks, they are vulnerable to these attacks.

Distributed Denial-of-Service attack: This attack happens when hackers manipulate your web traffic and flood the system with resources and traffic that exhaust the bandwidth. As a result, users will not be able to perform their legitimate tasks. Once the network is clogged, the attacker will send various botnets to the network and manipulate it.

Protecting Your Business from Cyberthreats

Security readiness is something all organizations must focus on irrespective of their size. It is mandatory to have an action plan that outlines what needs to be done when something goes wrong. Most importantly, it is critical to have a trusted MSP partner who can continuously monitor your IT infrastructure and give you a heads-up on usual activities.

Investing in cybersecurity solutions is way cheaper than losing your critical data or paying a large ransom. You need to deploy advanced solutions that can keep up with the sophisticated threats of this modern age. Then, there is a list of best practices such as multi-factor authentication, DNS filtering, disk encryption, firewall protection and more.

If all these aspects of cybersecurity sound daunting to you, fret not. Reach out to us today to fully understand the vulnerabilities in your network and how you can safeguard your data with the right tools and techniques.

The Dangers of Rapid Digital Transformation during Covid-19

The Perils of Rapid Digital Transformation

Digital transformation is the process of using digital technologies to create new business processes to meet changing business and market requirements. It is by its nature planned and intentional change. The Covid 19 lockdown has accelerated digital transformation and flipped it on its head. It has been forced upon many companies who have scrambled to get their workforce up and running from home and other remote locations.

Since lockdown our ISO Lead Auditor, Aaron Nolan, has evaluated the security impact of remote working on over 40 companies. He prepared over 120 best practice questions and examined he results under four main headings. What he discovered can be broadly summarised as follows:

Remote working – perhaps not as secure as you thought!

We found that the correct mechanisms are in place for secure remote working. However the we found several security gaps and data leakage concerns in over 50% of companies reviewed. These came about due to the pace of change and a need to get working as quickly as possible. In particular, we noted the use of Shadow IT and unauthorised remote access solutions in several companies. In the majority of cases this requires some small changes to both technology and security policies to close of these security gaps.

Microsoft 365 Security

Let’s be clear here. The Microsoft 365 Platform is secure but it requires work to make it so. Microsoft provide a wealth of tools through their Security and Compliance centre that can assist in tightening security. You just need to understand what options are available to you, define your policies and them deploy them. Our main findings were that there was:

  • A lack of Multifactor Authentication.
  • No use of auditing and security policy management capabilities in Microsoft 365.
  • Rapid adoption of Microsoft Teams with little or no attention to security and retention policies. Also, potential issues with data leakage of or PII confidential data.
  • A general lack of a plan with defined goals and edges i.e. reactionary rather than planned approach to cloud migration.

The mechanisms to secure Microsoft 365 exist withing the platform itself but they need to be turned and managed properly by professionals.

Business Continuity Planning

We found very good procedures in place for both backup and well tested disaster recovery procedures. The missing component though was a written Business Continuity Plan (BCP). For the sake of clarity, a BCP is an organisation wide document outlining an action plan and response to a serious business shock such as Covid 19. We found several companies with either no BCP or one that was years out of date. We even found some alluding to staff that no longer even worked in the company.  Thankfuly the Covid 19 lockdown has sparked interest in addressing this. VCIO magazine have a helpful article on how to establish and build a BCP.

Efficiency

For the majority of businesses that continued to operate through the Covid 19 lockdown, there has been a realisation that remote working actually works. Many staff have traded the daily commute for a more balanced work/life balance. The result has been a noted increase in employee well being and productivity. This has come as a welcome surprise to many who now view remote working as part of the future of their digital transformation strategies.

There is also a massive shift towards cloud-based platforms such as Microsoft 365. Largely driven by an effort to consolidate multiple IT functions under one hood. It is no longer just a case of having email in the cloud. It is about the efficiency of having all of your business data, communications and collaboration tools in one place. The light has been shone on the possibilties of remote working and it appears that companies are really seeing the benefits of how technology can transform the working lives of their staff.

If you are interested in seeing how technology can help transform the lives of your staff and make your organisation more agile we would love to hear from you.

Feel free to reach out to us either by phone on 353 16644190 or get in touch here. We can arrange a discovery call and perhaps even a short demonstration.

Thinking of a New IT Support Provider

  1. If you’re looking for an IT support provider get in touch here, or give us a call on 01 6644190 to talk with one of our experts.
  2. Looking to plan your Microsoft Teams deployment.  Feel free to read our post here on the subject.
  3. Review our Remote Working solutions to ensure optimal protection for your businesses during the Covid-19 lockdown.

A guide to the perfect Microsoft Teams deployment

Cyber Security
How to Deploy Microsoft Teams Properly

Reading time: 5 Minutes
Written by Mark Hurley

Steps for Preparing Your Organization for A Successful Microsoft Teams Deployment

In our day to day practice we serve a customer base with user numbers ranging from 15 -150 users, across industry types, some with a single office location, others with multiple locations. With the surge in remote working due to the Covid-19 lockdown we have seen a huge increase and demand for clients seeking a better way to communicate and collaborate. Microsoft Teams  – Microsoft’s suite App combining a suite of Collaboration and communication tools satisfies that requirement for a large percentage of our clients.

Since its launch on May 3rd 2017 Microsoft Teams has exploded onto the scene with a current user base of over 44M users, at the time of writing this, worldwide making it Microsoft’s fastest growing app ever.

Better still Micorosft Teams provides a single simple to use app that works on almost any device from any location. So what’s not to love?

Despite its simplicity Microsoft Teams is complex solution under the hood and as such requires a proper plan to deploy and manage on an ongoing basis. Let’s take a look at Microsoft Teams from a deployment perspective – preparing your organization for the rollout, and some pitfalls to avoid, to ensure it goes as smoothly as possible.

Deploying Microsoft Teams – The Process

 

The stages outlined above follow a pretty standard approach to a new software or application deployment. There are typically three challenges to a successful Microsoft Teams Deployment that need to be addressed through the rollout life cycle. These can be summarised under three main headings:

  • Technical issues – is your technical environment fit for purpose, does your organisation have the correct licencing, bandwidth capabilities etc.
  • User adoption resistance –  establishing early communication, training and pilot programmes  will assist with adoption.
  • Governance and Security considerations – establish policies and make sure your data secure, who is keeping an eye on wider governance and what policies and procedures need to be in place to keep Microsoft Teams secure.

Address Technical Issues

The last thing that you need once you have committed to a new technology such as Microsoft Teams is to have that effort torpedoed by a lack of technical preparation. Users will turn their back on a technology if it is glitchy. Any excuse! You need to consider the technical environment and prepare accordingly. Listed below are some of the key technical considerations for deploying Teams.

1. Check your Bandwidth and technical capacity

The traffic generated by Microsoft Teams will impact the network. Conduct an assessment to ensure that your infrastructure can support Teams and provide a high-quality user experience. Microsoft offers a number of tools to help admins prepare for Teams. Consider also that remote workers may not have the best internet connections and secure home technology setups. These will all need due consideration and planning.

2. Check your licencing

Before deploying Microsoft Teams, you will need to make sure that it’s included in your Microsoft license. It’s also important to evaluate the requirements of dependent services such as Exchange and SharePoint.

 

Overcoming User Adoption Resistance

Change can be difficult for an organization; when people become used to working with a particular app or tool, they may resist adopting new products. Ultimately, this boils down to their unfamiliarity with the tool, along with a worry that they will lose efficiency. That’s why a change management strategy is essential: you can explain the benefits, offer pre-deployment training, and let users prepare for the eventual switch over.

1. Create and Communicate Your Change Management Strategy

  • Create advanced enthusiasm for Microsoft Teams
  • Select and train a small user core who can act as influencers
  • Outline current business challenges and show how Microsoft Teams can help overcome them
  • Ensure new users have access to ample training and support
  • Allow users to leave feedback directly and act on it accordingly

2. Ask a lot of questions.

A recent Spiceworks survey found that organizations are using an average of 4.4 different collaboration solutions across three different providers in an attempt to meet the high demand for collaboration. In some cases, IT isn’t even aware of all the tools in use. Start by asking end-users what they use for collaboration, what works and what doesn’t, and where there are gaps.

3. Bring stakeholders together.

Assemble a team of individuals from various departments, including both end-users and managers. Be sure that groups who regularly use collaboration tools are represented. Define use cases for Microsoft Teams and determine the best way to facilitate adoption and migration from existing tools.

4. Train Staff on the Functionality

There is a wealth of detailed video and documentary training material available on from Microsoft. Have you staff review and round table suggestions and ideas as they go through this training.

Determine the functionality you will use first and who will pilot and test that functionality. Teams provides functionality such as:

  • Chat and IM,
  • Calendar and Meetings,
  • Conferencing,
  • Integrated Telephony (requiring as additional licence),
  • Collaboration and
  • File management capabilities.

We found that adoption in Spector accelerated by through the migration of our file server into SharePoint and integrating our phone solution with our partner IPTelecom. This meant that we were able to consolidate all of our files/folders and communications in one simple to use app. We have not looked back since!

5. Logically Organize Your Microsoft Teams & Channels

Before implementation, your organization should give thought to how you will configure Teams for maximum effectiveness. Decide how you will set up your various teams and channels. In Microsoft Teams, teams are groups of people brought together for work, projects, or common interests. A channel is a subset of that.

For example you could have a Team called “Internal R&D Projects” and then have multiple channels such as CRM Changeover, Production Efficiency etc. as Channels.

Here are some best practices for organizing your teams:

  • Be clear about your goals in advance.
  • Determine which people or groups will be added to each team.
  • Determine roles and permission in advance. For example will you allow users to create their own Teams and Channels.
  • Start with a smaller number of team members and scale upwards.
  • Designate a small number of owners for each team.

6. Train Staff on the Functionality

There is a wealth of detailed video and documentary training material available on from Microsoft. Have you staff review and round table suggestions and ideas as they go through this training.

Determine the functionality you will use first and who will pilot and test that functionality. Teams provides functionality such as:

  • Chat and IM,
  • Calendar and Meetings,
  • Conferencing,
  • Integrated Telephony (requiring as additional licence),
  • Collaboration and
  • File management capabilities.

7.Organize Your Microsoft Teams & Channels

Before implementation, your organization should give thought to how you will configure Teams for maximum effectiveness. Decide how you will set up your various teams and channels. In Microsoft Teams, teams are groups of people brought together for work, projects, or common interests. A channel is a subset of that.

For example you could have a Team called “Internal R&D Projects” and then have multiple channels such as CRM Changeover, Production Efficiency etc. as Channels.

Some best practices for organizing your teams:

  • Be clear about your goals in advance.
  • Determine which people or groups will be added to each team.
  • Determine roles and permission in advance. For example will you allow users to create their own Teams and Channels.
  • Start with a smaller number of team members and scale upwards.
  • Designate a small number of owners for each team.

Governance and Security

 1. Form a Governance Committee

Ok, I can see eyes beginning to roll here. You are only a 20 person organisation and you do not have an in-house Governance function. We mention it here for a reason. Teams is not an isolated product. It is part of the wider Microsoft 365 suite of applications. So what you do in Microsoft Teams may have an impact on what happens in Email, file management and other apps. You need to make sure that the deployment decisions that you are making in Microsoft Teams comply with other policies elsewhere. Our advice is always to lock down technology as much as possible.

2. Secure your Identity

As Teams is part of Microsoft 365 you will use the same authentication process to gain access to Teams as Microsoft 365. It is not only highly recommended but imperative that you employ at least Multifactor Authentication (MFA) and/or Certificate based authentication to verify your user identities. Simple email addresses and passwords do not cut it. Microsoft offer a native MFA solution and another favourite in our practice is DUO.

3. Device Compliance

With more and more people working from home you need to make sure that any devices connecting to your Teams comply with your company security policies and have at minimum and up to date and centrally managed Malware protection solution in place.

4. Setup Your Office 365 Security and Compliance Tools

Teams uses a variety of security and compliance tools and protocols, and offers a number of ways to configure them depending on your organizational needs. Before roll out, take the time to ensure you are familiar with the following tools:

  • Auditing and Reporting – interfaces with the Office 365 Security and Compliance Center to configure the level of audit reporting