The Dos and Don’ts of Ransomware

Ransomware is a common malware that can ruthlessly hold a computer’s data for ransom via encryption. This is one of the serious threats affecting millions of businesses around the world. The attacks use ransomware to steal sensitive data belonging to clients and demand a ransom before unlocking the data. However, while ransomware may seem like a monster that can easily flatten your business, there are easy tricks to insulate you from an attack. If you lack a contingency plan for dealing with a ransomware attack, you may struggle to respond appropriately.

Dos

Keep the software up to date

Any business with sensitive and confidential information should keep the software up to date to avoid attacks. Any software within the business should be the latest version since old applications are susceptible and easy to exploit by hackers. An automatic system update is one way of securing the network and devices by ensuring that you get the latest patches for viruses.

Many businesses falling victim to ransomware attacks have unpatched software that is easy to penetrate. Hackers know about the software’s weaknesses on your PC and will access your machine whenever there is a loophole. They are experts in exploiting a vulnerability.

Cybercriminals are always on the look-out for opportunities to exploit any business that has slumbered. If they come across security vulnerable, they will target it by launching a ransomware attack. Therefore, ensure your systems are kept up to date with the latest software patches to protect your information from attacks. The patching removes vulnerabilities and protects against ransomware.

Use security software

You can protect against malware by making sure your software is secure using anti-virus and the necessary firewalls. You should always have measures in place that ensure your IT systems are running securely.

A firewall can act as a gatekeeper against ransomware attacks by preventing unauthorized access to a system’s internal network. For example, you can install a spam filter to act as a firewall against ransomware attacks that use spam emails to penetrate your system. Some ransomware attacks through known security issues. Hence you should ensure it doesn’t get through a business-class firewall.

Using an anti-virus can save your system from ransomware by preventing viruses and malware from infecting your computer. The anti-virus will guard your system by preventing any ransomware attack. Furthermore, you can also focus on encrypting all important information to make data secure from hackers. By encrypting your data, you prevent unauthorized access and reduce the risks of penetration.

Always back up

One way of mitigating ransomware liabilities in business is to regularly back up all business data and critical information. The backup can help recover any information lost during ransomware and ensure the business still has access to critical data after a ransomware attack.

Backing up your critical information is a crucial preventive measure against ransomware. Always ensure you back up critical data and files to protect them from a ransomware attack. Create a backup strategy that will help you recover any data that has been held ransom.

Hence, have a good backup that is reliable in case of an attack. A reliable backup option is one that is tested and can provide 100 percent recovery of all files. It will ensure you restore system functionality as quickly as possible and not fall to the trick of paying the ransom.

Another important factor is to ensure all important data is stored into an offside host server. The success of backup systems lies in having multiple backup methods. Hence, use an external drive as a secure off-network system.

Alternatively, you can back up your critical data through a cloud storage solution. Cloud storage is an ideal solution to deal with ransomware since you will have the option to ‘roll back’ the system and access files. This method protects important information from outside access by keeping all data secure.

Provide continuous cybersecurity awareness training

Businesses can prepare for ransomware attacks by training their employees on the appropriate. This is perhaps the most important thing in mitigating ransomware attacks by educating employees on protecting the system. Your employees are the last line of defense against ransomware since cybercriminals will send malicious links and emails targeting ignorant company employees.

Educate your employees on how to be better users of the computer and be aware of the risks of opening unverified links and emails. They should know about the appropriate network access and use, maintaining passwords, and acceptable online practices. Ransomware attacks can occur because of employee errors, such as forgetting to change their passwords or using weak access points.

Providing continuous cybersecurity training can keep all people vigilant and aware of the increased risk of ransomware attacks. Training is the best defense since people are the weak link when exposed to ransomware.

Use smart password protection strategies.

Smart password protection strategies can help protect your system from cybercriminals. The ransomware attacks can easily get through a system with a simple password that is easy to crack.

The protection strategies include multi factor authentication to prevent any unauthorized access to the network and systems. Multifactor authentication ensures additional security and protection that reduces the risk of attack. For example, you can use passwords and other protection strategies to frustrate hackers trying to get onto your information.

Simultaneously, you should not use the same password for a long time as it can leave you open to a ransomware attack. The risk can be high when you use the same password for every system and network as a hacker can easily access all your accounts within one attempt.

Don’ts

Don’t wait until a threat strikes

A ransomware attack is one of the greatest cybersecurity risks that can have serious ramifications on your business. Therefore, do not wait until a threat strikes before you implement a response, as this can lead to greater damages. Prevention is usually the best solution to deal with ransomware and counterattack any threats. Also, don’t let the attack get worse. Ensure you mitigate any damages from the ransomware as soon as possible.

Businesses need to be proactive in dealing with ransomware attacks to ensure they respond quickly and effectively. Instead of reacting to an attack, the business should have measures that provide preventive services. You also need a recovery plan for ransomware and an escape plan in case of major damages. The plan should highlight who is responsible for taking care of tasks that will enable smooth recovery. It should also highlight where to find backup machines to help restore your business’s functioning as you deal with the ransomware threat.

Don’t pay the ransom.

When dealing with a ransomware attack on your computers, do not pay the ransom and give in to the attacker. Many people will panic and pay ransom after a ransomware attack as an easy way out to get their business normal. However, this is always a bad idea since there is no guarantee that the hacker will unlock your systems after paying the ransom. Even if you pay the ransom as requested, studies have shown that your files may not probably be unlocked, and you will be hit again.

If you refuse to respond to the ransomware request, the hackers will be less likely to create more versions of the viruses in the future. This is because the hackers create the ransomware looking for a response and will frustrate anyone who satisfies their demands.

Don’t allow personnel access to sensitive data.

If you are dealing with critical data in the organization, limit the number of people who can access customer sensitive information to prevent a ransomware attack. Ransomware is caused by allowing access to unauthorized individuals who have malicious intent. At the same time, don’t provide any personal information such as login credentials to anyone, especially if you are unfamiliar.

Restricting users from accessing personal email and critical data can help reduce the likelihood of a threat. Businesses should limit devices allowed on the company network as this can open up to cybercriminals. For example, isolate your IoT from the primary network.

Don’t click on attachments in email.

Many criminals run ransomware scams that can get you off-guard when you open emails from unknown sources. The hackers will use different ways to try and infect your system with malware, including spam emails. For example, employees can be tempted to open a spam email or a cool screensaver they are asked to install, then use the chance to access your system. Whatever the hacker wants you to click on an attachment, don’t do it as you will install it. Ransomware will encrypt anything it gets access to, including systems that act as external storage. Hence, don’t click on any attachments.

Don’t run backups during an attack.

Ensure you turn off all automatic backups during a ransomware attack to avoid duplicating the attack and compromise your backups. Many people make the mistake of running backups immediately after an attack to try and secure the data. However, this makes you vulnerable to more attacks from hackers.

The correct decision is to disconnect from the internet entirely to prevent the attack from going further. After a ransomware attack, the first thing you should do is to quarantine the infected machines and prevent the infection from spreading through your network. Ensure all your other machines are guarded by turning off the internet and closing other machines before the threat has spread.

Bottom line

The use of information technology will always raise the risk of ransomware attacks targeting critical company data. Vicious cyber attackers are preying on businesses while threatening to hold sensitive information ransom. While this threat can be damaging, businesses can easily deal with a ransomware attack by being proactive and having a recovery plan. If you follow these simple guidelines to deal with a ransomware attack, there will be higher chances of successfully weathering the threat and any difficulties. Keeping your network safe from cyber threats requires due diligence and using appropriate measures, as highlighted here.

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Types of Security Audits Everyone Should Perform Regularly

It is no secret that technology has changed the way numerous business owners run their companies. Therefore, everyone needs to make sure they can leverage their technological devices to the maximum effect possible for each user account.

With this in mind, cybersecurity is more important than ever. The reality is that even though technology has advanced, cybercrime is as advanced as well. Hackers have worked hard to stay up-to-date on the latest advances that have taken place in the technological field. As a result, cybercrime is also more coffee than ever. Now, organizations scattered across every industry are looking for ways to improve cybersecurity.

This is where a cybersecurity audit can be helpful. A security audit is an evaluation of the company’s comprehensive security protocols to make sure they are running smoothly. These audits can also help small businesses that cover holes in their security system. In this manner, a cybersecurity audit can help companies detect holes in their systems before hackers exploit them. There are several types of security assessment that every business owner should conduct regularly.

A Risk Assessment Audit for Security Controls

Risk assessments are among the most common types of security audits. The goal of a risk assessment audit is to help companies identify, estimate, and prioritize different tasks related to the cybersecurity capabilities of the organization. These security audits are essential because they allow companies to evaluate their abilities to respond to specific types of issues. In this manner, a risk assessment security audit can also help identify the security criteria they need to meet.

Furthermore, many businesses operate in industries that are heavily regulated. There might be severe compliance issues with which companies need to comply. In this manner, a risk assessment audit can also help companies make sure they comply with these regulations. The penalties for not complying with these regulations can be almost as bad as hackers gaining access to the company. For this reason, no matter what industry in which businesses operate, it is vital to use a risk assessment audit to identify issues regularly.

A Vulnerability Assessment To Keep a Network Secure

Another common type of security audit that companies need to conduct regularly is called a vulnerability assessment. The goal of a vulnerability assessment is to uncover flaws that might be located in a company’s security procedures, designs, or implementation of specific internal controls. Vulnerability assessments are commonly used to look at the company’s security measures comprehensively. The goal of this assessment is to look for weaknesses that might be systemically spread throughout the security system. Then, the company will compare its security measures to some of the best practices in the industry today. Finally, if something has to change, then the company will update its security protocols to patch these vulnerabilities and prevent a cyber attack that might leak sensitive data from network devices.

During vulnerability assessment, the company’s IT team or an outside expert will examine and determine whether or not there a particular security system flaws that could be in danger of being exploited. One of the ways they might do this is to run a specific software scan. This scan will look for holes in the company’s cybersecurity measures, such as the firewall, and test the network both from the inside as well as outside to figure out if something needs to be corrected to adhere to specific security standards. A vulnerability assessment is one of the most critical types of security audits because this helps companies identify flaws in their cybersecurity systems before a hacker can get access.

A Penetration Test for Access Point Assessment

Another type of security audit that a company should conduct regularly is called a penetration test. These tests are commonly run by people called ethical hackers. These are hackers that are paid to try to gain access to a company’s internal workings in the same manner as a traditional hacker. In this fashion, an ethical hacker can take part in a penetration test that can identify weaknesses that could be triggered or exploited, leading to a potential cybersecurity breach.

One of the significant advantages of this type of test is that it can provide a tremendous amount of insight into potential loopholes that might be present in the infrastructure. Usually, ethical hackers and penetration testers are experts in the latest hacking methods. They can use them to uncover weak points that might be present in the cybersecurity systems. This might include mobile platforms, cloud technology, and operating systems. Today, most businesses operate in a world that is more connected than ever before. As a result, there are also more entry points for hackers and other criminals than ever before.

Furthermore, it is essential to note that there are lots of different types of penetration tests. For example, there are internal penetration tests that are designed to focus on internal systems. On the other hand, an external penetration test will focus on assets that might be publicly exposed. Furthermore, many companies use something called a hybrid penetration test that provides them with a greater degree of insight. It is vital to approach a penetration test from a comprehensive overview. Then, an ethical hacker can uncover specific flaws that might be present in the system.

A Compliance Audit

Finally, another type of security audit is called a compliance audit. This type of audit is necessary for any business that has to comply with specific regulations in the industry. For example, certain companies in healthcare, finance, and government work need to make sure that their cybersecurity measures are up to snuff. There are specific regulations they have to meet, and a compliance audit is designed to show whether or not an organization or business meets the regulations in this industry.

A compliance audit is important because companies that refuse to do so could be susceptible to fines. Furthermore, clients do not want to work with a company that does not meet the regulations of the industry. As a result, a company could lose customers or clients if they refuse to do this audit regularly. The goal of this type of cybersecurity audit is to examine the policies of the company, look at access controls, and ensure that all regulations are being followed to improve computer security.

Leverage the Best Practices in Regular Security Audits and Identify Security Risks

These are a few of the most common types of cybersecurity audits that companies need to perform regularly. During a cybersecurity audit, it is crucial to make sure that all employees are informed of what is happening. During the audit, everyone has to make sure that they gather as much information as possible so that they can find flaws that might be present in this system. During an audit, it is a good idea to use an audit checklist for assessing the security of operating systems as well as physical security, particularly given the prevalence of remote access. Finally, companies might want to consider hiring an external professional to do the audit. This is an objective professional who will provide companies with unbiased, sensitive information. Then, companies can use this information, which identifies weaknesses, to improve information security, systems security, and update the security strategy.

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The Importance of Preventative Computer Maintenance for Businesses

If you run a business, then you probably depend on your computers daily. Without reliable computers, there is a good chance that your daily operation would grind to a halt. Therefore, you need to do everything in your power to make sure that your computers are up and running as much as possible. Even though many businesses are trying to find ways to reduce overhead expenses, it is crucial to invest in routine maintenance of computers. When it comes to scheduling maintenance for computers, there are two distinct types of maintenance. The first called reactive maintenance, which is a type of unplanned maintenance. Reactive maintenance is maintenance that is only performed when computers break down. This type of maintenance work is often costly because it involves handling acute repairs. The other kind of maintenance when it comes to facilities management is called preventative maintenance. These are maintenance tasks that are performed in advance to reduce equipment downtime. When it comes to regularly scheduled maintenance, there are several advantages to know.

Improve the Lifespan of Computers

One of the main advantages of routine maintenance work computers is that this will improve the lifespan of computers. Companies do not want to spend more money than they have to. To make sure that they are using their funds effectively, they need to do everything in their power to extend the life span of their computers. This is where maintenance management software can be helpful. This type of software can ensure that every piece of equipment is up to date on it.

Furthermore, this software can also be used to generate a preventative maintenance plan. That way, companies can make sure that the maintenance of computers is performed when it is best for the company. In this manner, preventative maintenance can be used to improve the longevity of every computer while also minimizes any disruptions to the company. This is one of the main advantages of the frequent maintenance of computers.

Increase the Security of the Business

Another significant advantage of routine maintenance for computers and balls improve cybersecurity. Today, one of the most significant security flaws and information technology takes place when emergency maintenance has to take place. When critical equipment goes down, the result is that the network is vulnerable. This means that if the network goes down, there is an increased chance that a cyber attack might take place. For example, some of the equipment that might be impacted by emergency downtime includes critical security measures. For this reason, it is essential to avoid emergency maintenance as much as possible.

When businesses go about implementing a preventative maintenance plan or a preventive maintenance program, they increase the security of the business. This is because companies are in total control of when individual computers go offline. In this fashion, companies can make sure that their most essential pieces of equipment have their uptime maximized. This means that the company’s security plan is up at all times.

Increase the Productivity of the Business

Another significant advantage of these maintenance strategies is that this will increase the productivity of the business. Thanks to preventative maintenance, there is a reduced rate of breakdowns, bugs, and delays. Furthermore, piracy, intrusions, and malware are also going to be limited. As a result, the company is going to be less at risk of developing workstation a mobilization. As a result, productivity is going to go up.

Another reason why the productivity of the business is going to increase when there is preventative maintenance in place is that all maintenance as planned. One of the most annoying things that happen to companies that do not have a strong strategy in place is that maintenance happens at unplanned times. As a result, users are driven offline, and production grinds to a halt. With preventative maintenance strategies, this is not going to be a problem. Companies are going to have plans in place, and employees can make alternate arrangements so that they can keep working even when maintenance is happening.

Another way that maintenance plans will increase the productivity of the business is by having a disaster recovery plan in place. One of the most significant issues that a company might face is a disaster. A hurricane or tornado has the potential to knock out an entire station. As a result, companies need to plan for this. Firm maintenance strategies are going to address disaster recovery plans to limit the damage of a natural disaster. In this fashion, the productivity of the business will remain high.

Preventative Maintenance Will Save Money

Many companies try to save money by reducing maintenance expenses. In reality, this is only going to cost more money in the long run. This is because preventative maintenance will identify repairs before they end up costing the company a tremendous amount of money. Yes, routine maintenance is going to cost money. At the same time, it is more costly to ignore preventative maintenance.

First, preventative money will reduce the frequency of acute repairs. The reality is that sensitive repairs are incredibly expensive. If something goes wrong with a computer, then the company has to pay a technician to come out and fix the computer, paying for not only the time but also the materials. Therefore, preventative maintenance will prevent this from happening. What cute repairs happen at lower rates, the company saves money.

Second, preventative maintenance will also save the company money because this will extend the life span of computers. When companies make sure that their devices run longer, they can put off purchasing new ones. As a result, companies spend less money on computers, and they can pump that money back into the business.

Finally, preventative maintenance will also save money because this will reduce the frequency of employees having to leave the company for more training. If the company ends up having to replace devices regularly, then employees have to be trained on how to use these devices. What companies can extend the lifespan of devices, then employees do not have to be trained on how to use new computers as often, helping the company save money.

Employees Are More Security Conscious

Finally, how a company treats its computers is often reflected in the attitudes of its employees. All companies need to make sure that their employees think about cybersecurity regularly to protect not only their assets but the company as well. When companies spend time treating their computers with care, their employees are going to spend more time taking care of them. Employees who notice that their computers are up and running all the time are going to protect them. As a result, there is a lower chance of something happening to these devices because employees are also more likely to take care of these precious devices.

These are a few of the most significant advantages of regular preventative computer maintenance. All companies need to treat these devices with care because they are cornerstones of their daily business operations. Think about implementing a preventive maintenance program for all devices in your business.

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Why Updates and Patches Secure your Devices

How do you perceive software updates? Are they a disruption from your daily tasks, or do you take that to improve your systems’ performance? Well, either way, it is imperative to understand the essence of the updates regarding the safety of your devices from different security flaws.

If it is your first time to encounter those “frustrating” pop-ups, do not worry. It doesn’t mean your software is now useless, or you will lose some of your data by switching to the latest version, NO. Software developers are always working to improve their programs’ features and content so you can have the best experience. And that’s actually where patching comes in.

But before you ask, patching implies the process of launching numerous functionalities to software that is already in the market to upgrade its performance. If you’ve been using Windows over the last couple of years, I am pretty sure you can easily relate. On January 14, 2020, the tech-giant withdrew all support and updates from Windows 7, including security updates—which means it is no longer safe.

So, why should you care about software updates and patching?

Keep personal data and that of your enterprise safe

In this day and age, we keep almost all our documents and credentials in soft copy. All the invoices, non-disclosure statements, memoranda, business plans, and other confidential documents are most probably stored in computers in your business. That’s why you don’t want to run outdated software on your devices.

Consider ransomware, for instance. With an unprotected system, you can install the malware unknowingly and expose your data to hackers. After gaining control of your computer, they may demand a ransom before handing it over to you. Or worse still, they may threaten to expose it to the dark web.

Your customers deserve utmost confidentiality

No customer will take your brand seriously if you are using outdated software to manage their credentials. They will quit as soon as they find out. Note that every client who shares their details with your brand expects nothing but the highest confidentiality level. Exposing their data to hackers can get your business in significant legal trouble.

Perhaps we can learn something from the popular Equifax data breach of 2017. The company failed to update its credit reporting system that had some security flaws in their web application. Two months down the line, hackers gained access to their database and ran off with clients’ credentials. The data included social security numbers and home security numbers.

As compensation, the Federal Trade Commission ordered that the company pays USD 125 to all affected customers, or offer free credit monitoring to them for ten years! They complied with the latter.

Mind about those around your network

Within your enterprise, everyone has a responsibility to safeguard their colleagues against malware. A single unpatched device may get infiltrated with worms and, in turn, transfer them to others in the same network.  You may even end up infecting devices of your family members, friends, or business partners.

Well, perhaps you use the best software in town to keep your systems safe. But honestly, antivirus software does not guarantee 100% safety. Taking advantage of patches any time you see them is the best way to keep your environment safe. That is why you never want to click that “maybe later” button when prompted to update.

Deploy the latest technologies in your enterprise

Software updates are not all about addressing security flaws, NO. As we mentioned earlier, patches come with many additional features. Even though most of these features are may not be visible at first sight, trust me, their performance cannot be the same. You may begin to experience better speeds, less or no program failures, and general safety.

If you find the updates recurring quite often, consider configuring your device for auto-updates. But the bottom line is, never skip an update—the integrated features are always great and for your best interests.

Software updates will boost your productivity

There are a couple of ways in which patches can better the productivity of your enterprise. As we have pointed out, software updates come loaded with more than just security updates. And of course, great functionalities will translate to better user experience and ultimately great results from employees, right?

Again, now that you are safe from malware and attacks from hackers, you can be sure of your business activities’ uninterrupted flow and reduced downtimes.

Updates also block any loopholes that may leak your data or give hackers access to your devices. In the end, you will be safe from unnecessary losses.

Safety against third-party loopholes

Apart from just updating your company’s software, it is good to be aware of third-parties—or business partners’ versions. For instance, if you have a vendor who manages some critical part of your enterprise, you need to be sure to use updated software.

If they happen to access your database using outdated browsers or other software, that could pose a significant danger to your business. Intruders can easily take advantage of the loopholes to access and take control of your systems. So monitoring their devices is something you don’t want to assume.

Software updates for the Internet of Things (IoT) safety

As of 2020, over 50% of the world’s population has enough infrastructure to access the internet. Actually, in the US, statistics show that 85.8% (313m) of the population uses the internet every day.

From the figures, it is logical to say the average person can access the internet every day, right? And that is through their mobile devices, computers, smart TVs, or other smart gadgets.

Now, while this is great news, cybercriminals can take the opportunity to rip off unsuspecting users—those who are unaware of the essence of software updates. That’s why, as an entrepreneur, you don’t want to be classified here because the effects can be terrible on your end.

Software updates can patch those security flaws!

Think of software updates as going for medical checkups to a doctor even when you are okay, or adding more oil to your car when heading for a long journey. Regardless of how big or small the updates are, you can only be on the safe side with the latest versions.

Patching will help seal all security flaws that may encourage cybercriminals to prey on your precious assets. So you can be sure both your devices and data will remain safe. Again, your business operations won’t be suspended over sudden loss or manipulation of data.

In case you haven’t been using a patch management system, this is the time you need to try it out for the seamless management of updates. However, before installing the updates, it is good to test and examine them. Finally, using devices directly supported by the manufacturer is another great tip to ensure automatic updates whenever there is one.

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Is BYOD Worth the Investment?

In today’s era, there are lots of businesses that are looking for ways to cut their overhead costs. Every business owner is able to relate to the problem of saving money in an effort to boost profit margins, increase liquidity, and remain competitive. At the same time, cutting overhead costs could impact the productivity of employees if they are forced to bring their own device to work and it isn’t compatible with the business’s applications. Even though employees might be familiar with their own devices when they bring them, it is also shifting some of the cost to the employees while heightening security risks. Is the strategy going to be successful? Is this worth it?

A bring-your-own-device strategy, often shortened to BYOD, does provide businesses with savings while also increasing the employee level of comfortability with their own device. Even though it is safe to assume that businesses will save a lot of money because they do not have to supply those devices, there is also a bit of controversy over whether the reward is worth the risk. Therefore, before deciding whether or not a bring-your-own-device strategy is going to be worth it, it is important to look at both the risks and rewards before zooming in on any potential cost savings. This will help business owners decide whether or not a bring-your-own-device strategy is right for them.

A Closer Look at the Savings with Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Strategies

First, it is important to break down the expenses that come with a bring-your-own-device strategy. When looking at the expense of it, it can also be a bit challenging to accurately measure just how much purchasing devices are going to cost. First, the expenses associated with a BYOD strategy are a bit murky. Every device is different and businesses spend different amounts of money on various devices. Furthermore, they also vary widely depending on what kind of policies implemented and how it is enforced.

If the strategy is enforced poorly, it could even cost businesses money. According to a study that was released in 2012 by the Aberdeen Group that discovered some companies were spending tens of thousands of extra dollars per year. On the other hand, there are also reports showing a large corporation, such as Intel, saved large sums of money when they implanted this policy.

In the world of technology, a study that is eight years old might as well be ancient. At the same time, the point still stands. It is important for businesses to take closely about how they are going to implement this strategy. Even though many business owners assume this is going to save them money, this might not actually be the case. A lot of these added expenses come from extra security risks that have developed over the years. Just as technology has progressed a long way, hackers have worked hard to keep up as well. As a result, cyber-attacks are more sophisticated than ever before.

The Variables With a BYOD Strategy

If you are trying to figure out if a BYOD strategy is going to be right for you and your business, then you need to know about several of the variables below. By considering these variables ahead of time, you will be able to make an accurate decision for your business. This will help you analyze the costs of a BYOD strategy versus the benefits of this move. These variables include:

The Current BYOD Costs

When you’re looking at the expenses of a BYOD strategy, it is important to first analyze the current costs that your business takes on when it comes to your wireless devices. If you would like to get the most accurate numbers when you are assessing your cost, you will require the help of both your IT Department as well as your accounting department. Concentrate on the various cost that your company usually takes on when it operates and maintains its own devices. This might also include any updates, applications, or extra features the devices encompass. It is always better to overestimate how much your business spends on technology than to underestimate it.

The Security Measures Implemented

One of the most important features that is going to accompany any BYOD policy is the security measures. Without taking on the right security measures, this could place our business at risk of suffering a serious security breach. Remember that customers and business partners today depend on everyone to protect their confidential information. A security breach could place this information at risk. One of the biggest issues that comes with a BYOD policy is that it usually comes with a much larger number of devices connect him to the business’s own network. As a result, is harder for the business to police who was accessing the network and who is uploading or downloading information. Therefore, when taking a look at the expenses that are going to come with a BYOD policy, it is critical to look at the cost of implementing a strong security solution as well.

The Productivity of the Business

When it comes to a BYOD strategy, it is also important to look at the productivity of the business. It is important to note that employees are going to fall on both sides of the fence when it comes to a BYOD policy. Some employees are going to be vehement about using their own devices simply because they are more comfortable with them. As a result, some employees may not want to use corporate technology. Many employees believe they are going to be more efficient if they use their own devices. At the same time, some employees simply do not want to take on the expense of using their own devices. Therefore, it might be a good idea to give employees a choice. The business can still keep a certain number of devices on hand but employees are allowed to bring their own if they would like. Employees like autonomy. Implementing the policy properly could result in increased employee productivity. That is one of the major goals of a BYOD strategy.

The Responsiveness of the Team

Finally, when implementing a BYOD strategy, it is important to remember that the strategy is going to come in many shapes and forms. For example, some businesses might encourage their employees to bring their own laptops for work but might also provide employees with a mobile device that is strictly for work. This can help employees remain as productive as possible because they will always have a device on them that they can use to respond to emails. Some employees might be more apt to engage in workplace activities at home if they are provided with a mobile device. Some businesses that might see revenue increases as a result of this responsiveness, this is an important factor to consider. Remember that if use a bring your own device strategy, this is going to impact not only the productivity but also the flexibility of the business as well. If implemented properly, this strategy can improve both areas.

These are a few of the most important factors to consider when businesses are looking to implement a bring-your-own-device strategy. In an era where many employees are working from home, this could provide a significant benefit to them. At the same time, this does come with extra security risks. These must be considered as well.

Think Carefully About a BYOD Strategy: Contact the Professionals

These are just a few of the most important points that you need to keep in mind if you are thinking about implementing a BYOD strategy for your business. Even though you might assume that asking employees to bring their own devices going to reduce your overhead expenses because you no longer have to supply the devices yourself, there is also the possibility that the added security risks that are going to stem from this policy could actually end up costing you money. For this reason, you need to rely on the experts if you would like to implement a strategy like this. You need to count on the information technology field’s professionals to guide you as you make the right decision for your business. When you have all of the information presented to you in a way that you can easily understand, this places you and your business in a position to be successful.

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Everything to know about Biometrics

Biometrics are becoming popular in making authentication dramatically, more comfortable, faster, and more secure than traditional passwords. Aside from being part of cutting-edge technology, biometrics have a place in the eyes and hearts of enterprises. However, there is more to unique identifiers than your behaviour and body, because biometric identity comes with risks when used as standalone authentication. That is why modern security is so focused on decreasing these risks and providing a more robust security solution. In this article, we are going to look at the basics of biometrics authentication and cybersecurity. We will also be answering some of the most commonly asked questions about biometrics.

What are biometrics

Simply put, biometrics refers to the measurements of biological characteristics that are used to identify individuals. A few examples of these forms of body characteristics include facial recognition, fingerprint mapping, retina scans, vein, or speech patterns. Researchers have found that the way someone walks, sits, their body odour, ear shapes, facial contortions, or the veins on the hands are unique identifiers. The most relatable examples of biometric identification include the fingerprint and facial recognition found in mobile phones.

As biometric technology continues to advance, biometrics are expected to add convenience and offer more security than passwords making identification faster and easier while also helping law enforcement catch criminals. Biometric data must be unique, collectible, and permanent to be useful. Once your information is recorded and saved, it is compared and matched in a special database. That is why you may not be able to unlock your facial recognition lock if you manipulate your face, or when your fingers are dirty.

Types of biometrics explained

Biometric identifiers correlate with intrinsic human characteristics. While they are used in many areas in our lives, such as mobile phones application, biometrics are used primarily for security purposes. They are grouped into three primary categories:

  • Morphological biometrics: They involve the body structures and physical traits like the fingerprint, your eyes, or the shape of your face.
  • Biological biometrics: This type of biometric use traits at the molecular and genetic levels. They involve blood or DNA, which can be obtained through any of your body fluids.
  • Behavioural biometrics: From their name, these types of biometrics are based on traits that are unique to each other such as how you talk, walk, sit, or even how you type on a keyboard.

Biometric data types

Some of the examples of biometrics that are commonly in organizations and highly private areas include:

Fingerprint recognition: Over the past couple of years, fingerprint scanners have quickly become ubiquitous due to their extensive deployment on mobile phones. All devices that can be touched by fingers are an easy target for fingerprint scans. It captures the uniqueness of a finger while concentrating on the valleys and ridges on a finger.

Physiological recognition: Facial recognition is a widespread recognition system method for devices and security systems equipped with a camera. However, other physiological recognition types have emerged with time, such as retinal scanning, ear recognition, and palm vein recognition.

Iris scans: Iris recognition involves close study of the iris’s unique patterns–the colourful part of the eye around the pupil. This form of biometric identification is mainly used in security applications and not prevalent in consumer markets, but we are yet to see how businesses may want to use it.

Voice recognition: Every individual’s sound is unique–the sound waves make this possible when you speak on a device. You can use this form of identification in a bank in your mobile accounts as a password. It can also be installed in doorbells to open doors or gates for authorized people.

Behavioural characteristics: This form of biometric identification analyzes how you interact with computer systems such as handwriting, keystrokes, how you walk, sit, or use the mouse. Such traits help assess who a person is and how familiar you are to the data you are keying.

Where are biometrics useful

Biometrics are a reliable form of identification and authentication. Large companies can benefit mainly by setting up secure biometric identification systems that are more powerful, efficient, and fast. Organizations can use biometrics is various ways, such as:

  • Unlocking IT assets and devices
  • Managing access to the building premises such as entry to other private facilities
  • Making payments through a smartphone
  • Performing security check-ups on new employees and visitors

How do biometrics work?

Like any other machine, you need to get familiar with your device to navigate through the enrolment process. Most companies use a form of biometrics in one way or another. It could be fingerprint sensors, voice, or face recognition. To get this working, you will need to record your biometric information successfully and store it. It will be saved later for comparison. For instance, for fingerprint scanners, you can scan your fingerprint several times on a fingerprint reader and allow the device to record, analyze, and store it as an encoded hash of your personal biometric.

This encoded hash is your fingerprint that is encrypted so that it cannot be altered nor used by other individuals–making it difficult for hackers to decrypt. If you own a large company, you can have your employees record their biometrics and unlock doors, devices, rooms, and other areas to improve security. However, before using a biometric system, we recommend conducting thorough research before purchasing, installing, or even using it to ensure that all security protocols have been followed and meet your organization’s requirements and needs.

Are biometrics safe?

Like any other form of identification, biometrics are not safe from threat actors. While biometric security is supposed to remain unused to you, criminals can copy, mimic, or impersonate your biometrics to fool systems and get away with crimes. There is a lot of data infringement and identity theft, especially in organizations and social media sites where people’s data is stolen and used illegally. Social media offers hackers an excellent opportunity to take your data and manipulate it to fit their bills. Always have in mind that what you post is not safe, and people may use it to mimic your biometrics breaching your security.

Some biometric systems can also malfunction or give false responses like accepting a wrong biometric or rejecting correct biometric. This mainly happens where there is a wide range of users. They can provide the following results:

False-positive: This is when a biometrics database incorrectly matches a person to another person’s credentials. If an authorized person gets a false positive, your entire organization, particularly the individual whose credentials are used, is at risk.

False-negative: This happens when the database fails to recognize the authentic personnel and blocks their access. A false negative is dangerous to your organization as it could mean someone is taking over.

How can you protect biometric data?

If your organization intends to use biometrics as a method of multi-factor authentication, you must make sure that the information collected is handled with privacy according to the regulatory and legal requirements. We also recommend using biometrics and other forms of authentication methods to provide a more robust level of security. This way, you have a backup plan in case one method is compromised, and you will get the chance to access and protect your account and devices from being hacked. Unlike other traditional methods of identification, biometrics provide reliable security as they cannot be stolen, guessed, or used again. However, they can be mimicked, and that’s why a backup password will be required to strengthen the security.

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How to Prevent and Recover from Ransomware Attacks

In today’s era, nearly every business depends on the internet in some way, shape, or form to help them carry out their daily operations. There are certain threats that could take a business completely offline in a matter of seconds and one of the biggest is called ransomware. A ransomware infection is becoming a common threat. This type of attack could target anyone from individual users to a network that hosts an enterprise-level company. When a ransomware attack takes place, this could place companies in dire straits. For this reason, everyone has to think carefully about how they can prevent ransomware attacks. Furthermore, if the worst-case scenario does take place, what is the disaster recovery plan? is there a backup system in place? There are a few key points that everyone should keep in mind.

What Is a Ransomware Infection?

Viruses come in many shapes and forms which is why it is important for everyone to make sure they stay up to date on their anti malware updates. For those who might not know, a ransomware attack is a type of virus or malware that makes the user’s or company’s data completely unusable. The malware does this by infecting a device and locking the screen as it encrypts files. When the files have been encrypted, they are impossible to use. Furthermore, ransomware can also be used to spread to other devices that might be connected to the network. In this manner, if one device has been infected, the virus might spread to other devices as well.

Usually, when a ransomware infection takes place, there is a note that displays on the screen. This note usually says that the files have been encrypted and are unusable. In order to free the files, the user will have to pay a ransom in order to free them. In some cases, ransomware might look like it came from a law enforcement agency, which only adds to the confusion. They might even claim that the device was used in an illegal activity in some way.

Typically, a ransomware attacker will ask for payment to be made in some sort of digital currency. This would make the transfer untraceable, making it easier for them to get away with it. There is usually a time limit that accompanies a ransomware attack. If the payment is not made within the set time limit, the attacker might raise the price. Or, the attacker might threaten to destroy the files completely, making them lost forever. This is why it is important to prevent ransomware attacks.

An Overview of Preventing Ransomware Attacks

Even though there is no way to complete way to totally prevent ransomware attacks from taking place, there are a few steps that everyone can take to minimize their risk.

  • First, it is important for all companies to train their employees to recognize signs that a virus, such as ransomware, might be present. Phishing attacks are some of the most common ways that viruses end up infecting a computer network. In this type of attack, criminals try to bait employees and users into clicking on links or downloading attachments that infect the computer. In some cases, this attachment might include a ransomware file that locks up the system. It is important for all IT departments to educate employees to recognize when a virus might be present so they can avoid these infections.
  • Next, it is important to patch apps and operating systems on a regular basis. This means anti malware files as well. Over time, apps become outdated and obsolete. The result is that there might be a vulnerability that a criminal could exploit for his or her gain. Patches are published on a regular basis to prevent this from happening. Everyone has to make sure their files are patched regularly to prevent a ransomware attack.
  • In addition, it is important to disable macros that are not needed. Some ransomware infections are sent as attachments. When the user opens the file, they are asked to enable macros. This will open up the contents of the document at every layer. When the macros are enabled, the ransomware will open and execute. To prevent this from happening, make sure that all macros are disabled. Then, if there is a suspicious file or attachment, alert the IT team.
  • Furthermore, all companies have to use something called least privilege. In order to limit the damage of any virus, including ransomware attacks, it is important to make sure that all employees only have access to the information they absolutely need. By restricting the access of everyone involved, this keeps security tight and also limits the risk of a virus spreading to the entire network.
  • Finally, it is critical for everyone to have a disaster recovery plan in place and all companies must have a backup system that can protect their files from harm. Usually, companies follow something called the 3, 2, 1 rule. This means that all data should be backed up at least three times via two separate media with one option being off-site. This might take the form of a cloud backup system. Backups are important because if ransomware is planted in one device, it might spread to the entire network. In this case, the data can be restored from one of the backups and the company keeps working. Just make sure the backups are not connected to the internet or local network as they might get infected as well. This system allows everyone to keep working without having to deal with the demands of the ransomware attack. This ensures that resources are kept available to keep the company running. Those who have a cloud backup system have to make sure they know how this works. If the cloud system is connected to the local network, then the ransomware attack encrypts its file as well.

These steps can play an important role in helping companies come up with a comprehensive disaster recovery plan that could prevent them from losing their data in a ransomware attack. All business plans have to take cybersecurity issues into account as they are more important today than they ever have been in the past.

The Recovery Process Following a Ransomware Attack

While it is always better to prevent a ransomware attack from taking place, this might not always be possible. First, note that a ransomware attack does not guarantee that the files are going to be encrypted. The program might end up doing something else instead. Even if the files are left intact, it is clear that a data breach has taken place and this has to be dealt with.

If the files are not encrypted, it is possible that copies were made and could be posted online. If companies pay the ransom, this only encourages more cyberattacks to take place in the future. This sends the wrong message as well. At the same time, every organization has a different level of risk tolerance and they need to do what they feel is right for them. With this in mind, what are some of the steps that users and companies need to take if they have been hit with a ransomware attack? Some of the most important steps include:

  • Isolate the Device: The first step should always be to isolate the device to prevent the ransomware from spreading to other computers and networks. This means that the computer needs to be removed from the network and all local connections need to be removed. In some cases, the ransomware infection might quietly spread to other devices, making the attack that much worse. By isolating the device, this risk is minimized.
  • Identify the Ransomware: Similar to other types of viruses, ransomware attacks come in many shapes and forms. There are a few online tools that can be used to check and see if this type of ransomware attack has been seen before. If so, there might be a guide to decrypt it. Take a look at the URLs on the ransom page as these are usually clues to the type of ransomware attack that has just unfolded. Furthermore, see if the encrypted files feature a new type of file extension. This could also be a clue to the type of ransomware attack that took place. By identifying the ransomware attack, it might be easier to defeat it.
  • Remove It: The next step is to remove the ransomware. In some cases, there might be an encryption tool that can be used to clear the ransomware. If there is not a tool that can remove the ransomware, then the next step is to reset the device and wipe out all the data. The device has to be returned to the factory settings by wiping out all of the data, including the ransomware. Then, the files can be restored from a backup copy.
  • Patch the System: Once the reset is done and the ransomware is removed, it is time to patch the system. Clearly, the ransomware got in somehow, so it is important to do a system audit and make sure that any gaps have been filled. This will prevent similar attacks from taking place down the road.
  • Password Changes: After any attack, including a ransomware attack, it is important to change the password of any account that might have been involved. This means company accounts, social media accounts, email accounts, and more.
  • Educate the Users: Finally, it is time to help users brush up on their education. Take the time to explain to them how ransomware works and why this attack is so dangerous. In order to prevent ransomware attacks in the future, people must be educated on how to spot them.

These are a few of the most important steps that everyone has to follow if they have been hit by a ransomware attack. Sadly, these attacks are becoming more common. They have the potential to destroy networks and wipe out data. The best way to deal with a ransomware attack is to prevent it from happening in the first place. This means coming up with a backup plan, training employees to spot phishing attacks, and updating apps and operating systems on a regular basis.

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How to Identify and Handle Malicious Messages

Every person in the world who is on the grid via an email address, mobile device, tablet, PC, or laptop receives spam. It has become the norm and there are programs and software that block a vast majority of these fake messages, but some still seep in. This begs the question; how can you differentiate a commercial spam message from malicious emails that can cause life-changing problems?

The unsolicited commercial messages are typically simple to identify, report to the email host, and discard as trash. Unfortunately, dangerous spam may not be as simple to process. Taking this question a step further, how can you determine if a message contains a malicious attachment or link, or one to scam you out of sensitive personal information or money? If you do discover malicious messages, what is the next step? Does reporting and sending the email to the trash do anything?

Red Flags for Identifying Malicious Messages

By being aware of what you are up against helps you control what to do with the various types of spam messages received. To help, the guidelines list red flags for spotting malicious messages:

The Sender Address is Inaccurate

When first opening the email, look at the sender’s address to ensure it matches the sender’s name and that the domain name of the company is accurate. To do this, ensure your mail client displays the address and not just the display name. Really look at the address since spammers have many tricks up their sleeves. For instance:

Santander SM service@santander-sm.com

You would think that this is a real address. However, the bank’s actual domain is Santander.com.

The Sender Does Not Know the Address

Is your name spelled out correctly in the message, and are you be addressed appropriately from the sender? Does the signature match typical legitimate emails from this company or sender? For example, banks will not address you as ‘Dear Customer’ so it is important to recognize that the email was intended for you.

Hyperlinks Have Lengthy and Strange URLs

Anytime you receive an unexpected email with hyperlinks, always hover over the URL in the email instead of immediately clicking. If the result is a destination URL that is strange or incredibly lengthy then it is likely spam. If the link will download a file, then this could be a malicious message that you must report and not click anywhere. On the other hand, if the URL has used a link shortening service then it could be spam.

The Spelling, Grammar, and Overall Language Seem “Off”

While spammers are improving on this key point, the message still is not grammatically perfect. If you notice the message looks like a spammer used an online translation service or is full of spell and grammatical errors, then it is a dead giveaway that it is spam.

The Content is Too Good to Be True or Bizarre

Like with any situation in life, if it seems too good to be true then it probably is. Those with long-lost relatives leaving you giant estates, helping foreign princes by sending them money, and unclaimed suitcases in a country across the globe are just not realistic. One major red flag is the spammer promising huge sums of money for a small investment. Historically, this type of spam is known as “419” or “Nigerian Prince” spam.

Assuming all these red flags reasonably check out, is it malicious? If your gut still tells you something seems off, look for the following:

Reputable Companies Sending Unsolicited Messages

All reputable companies, especially financial institutions, never send unsolicited messages requesting credentials. You may receive product updates from a company you purchase a widget from ten years ago, but they will not request money or sensitive information. Also, reputable businesses never use link shortening services and will never ask for your debit card, credit card, social security number, or any other personal information.

The IRS does not even email you about owning back taxes and Microsoft does not send messages that your computer has a virus. There are specific activities that organizations just do not do. Unfortunately, threat spammers attempt to fool users by masking the email to look like it is from a legitimate company, sometimes scaring you into believing you must act immediately.

There are Attachments with the Message

Probably the most important takeaway from this entire article is that you should never open attachments you were not expecting. It is that cut and dry. If you receive an unexpected attachment from an individual you do not know or a company, do not click the message. On the other hand, if it is from a classmate, coworker, acquaintance, friend, or company you have done business with then follow the above guidelines to see if it is acceptable to open.

There is a Call-to-Action Button at the Bottom of the Message

Many dangerous emails do not have attachments but use call-to-action buttons to trick you into downloading. This button is an aesthetically-pleasing embedded link meant to attract the eyes and entice you to click. Examine the call-to-action button in the same manner as a hyperlink, hover over it to see the address. If you are unsure, delete the email or check with the sender before clicking.

It Seems Like the Message is Phishing for Info

Another form of common dangerous spam is one that phishes for personal information which can be as simple as a friend or family member or the company you work for. Credit card numbers and passwords are not the only data spammers want through a malicious email. Remember to always be vigilant, cautious, and err on the side of suspicion, until you can verify the sender’s information.

There are several tips to identify phishing attempts, including:

  • Claim there is a problem with your payment information or account.
  • The message contains a fake invoice.
  • Offer for free products or a coupon for free items.
  • Request to click on a payment link.
  • The sender asks you to confirm personal information.
  • The sender claims you are eligible for a government refund if you provide information.
  • The sender says they have noticed suspicious log-in attempts or activity.

How to Handle Malicious Messages

Now that you know exactly what to look for, you must understand the next steps in handling malicious messages. Luckily, this is the easy part: simply delete the email or message. You could ignore it and let it consume space in your inbox or you could send it to the trash where it is permanently deleted. It is always best to report the email as spam before deletion which will send these types of messages and messages from this sender directly to the spam folder which is periodically deleted. Behind-the-scenes, reporting the message as spam gives the email client information to fight against these types of messages.

If the message is from a financial institution, most have special email addresses where you can forward messages that are potential phishing attempts. This helps their business by eliminating imposters and helps to keep you safe. If you are incorrect and the message is not spam, then it will help the organization realize that they may need to change email practices.

Email Best Practices

The best reaction to spammy-looking messages is to be proactive in the first place. There are many tools and tips that allow you to safely perform all previous checks. This includes disabling various default settings within the email client including:

Disable HTML

By disabling HTML, there is less chance of malicious scripts executing once the email is opened. If you choose not to disable HTML, then close the preview window so you can delete suspicious emails before opening and doing harm.

Ensure the URL is Viewable

Ensuring the full URL is viewable when hovering over a hyperlink within a message is important to determine if there should be a cause for concern. This is the default setting within most email clients but if not then enable it in the settings.

Ensure the Full Email Address is Viewable

Similarly, you want to also ensure the full email address is viewable when you first see the message. This is a primary indicator that the sender and message are suspect, and it should not be opened.

Utilize a Spam Filter

While most email clients have integrated spam filters, if yours does not, ask how to enable it. If the client does not have a spam filter option, then you should think about changing clients. Spam filters are do not provide complete protection, but they stop huge waves of known spam from reaching your eyes, so you do not have to spend the time reviewing the message and making the tough decisions.

As this has been stated numerous times, never open any unexpected attachments. The old idea that only executable files can be harmful is long gone. PDFs, documents, and various other attachments have become just as dangerous.

At the end of the day, when in doubt, throw it out. If the email contains seemly legitimate information that could be important and you are still unsure, contact the sender another way, other than a reply. If it is a financial institution, find their number online and call to ask if a specific message was sent and if it is safe to open. Often, they did not and will be happy you reported the spammers.

There are a countless number of spammers and malicious attackers who send mass emails to millions of users hoping that a few click their call-to-action buttons, embedded links, and open their documents. By doing so, this can wreak havoc on your life by installing files that track your online movements and pull sensitive information from your accounts as you go to different websites. This all occurs in the background without your knowledge. Therefore, take the safe path by reviewing the above guidelines and contacting the company if you are still unsure. You will be thankful you took the extra time to do so!

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Implementation Guidance: Email Domain Protection

Implementation Guidance: Email Domain Protection

The state of the world in 2020 is unlike anything we have ever experienced before. The complexities of living and working safely during the COVID-19 outbreak have trickled down to the IT world as criminal threats follow workers home. Financially motivated attacks on worker email accounts have only multiplied since the beginning of the pandemic.

Why do hackers and other criminal actors focus on email?

Email connectivity is the common connective thread among commercial and no-profit organizations of all sorts. The necessity of email communication makes it the most popular attack vector against organizational cybersecurity, both within and outside organizations. Spoofing attacks threaten email accounts within organizations, and phishing attacks threaten brand integrity outside organizations. Cyber threat actors are constantly developing and trying out new tactics, techniques, and procedures to identify and exploit weaknesses in email security.

Research firm Vanson Bourne conducted a survey of 1,025 IT managers in eight countries in February and March of 2020. Their respondents reported heightened concerns about email domain protection. The survey tallies found that:

  • 51 percent had experienced a ransomware attack in the last 12 months.
  • 58 percent had experienced an increase in phishing attacks.
  • 60 percent had seen an increase in impersonation fraud in the last year.
  • 60 percent had downtime from an attack that spread from one employee’s infected computer to the computers of other employees.
  • 77 percent had discovered weak passwords.
  • 85 percent believed email attacks would increase over the coming year.
  • 90 percent identified deficiencies in training employess against email attacks.

The human firewall

Email attacks can disrupt communications within an organization and with its customers. Even worse, email attacks can infect customer computers, not only taking them out of commercial communications but also creating a potential courtroom liability for the company whose computer forwarded the threat.

About 50 percent of all email attacks involve employee error. These security breaches hat only happen because some human employed by the company that is being attacked makes a preventable error. More than any software package, more than DomainKeys Identified Mail (DKIM), more than Sender Policy Framework (SPF), and more than Domain-Based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC), employee training ensures email security.

Employee training is the “human firewall,” the last line of defense against cyberattacks. But the Vanson Bourne survey found that only 21 percent of companies train employees on email security the recommended once a month, and 17 percent devote only 15 minutes a year to using employee assets to guarantee email security. The survey also found that employess who did not receive monthly cybersecurity training were five times more likely to click on a malicious link than those who did.

How do companies that recognize the need for training know that their programs will make a difference? IT managers in the survey tell us that effective training:

  • Effective cybersecurity training is inclusive. Everyone from the CEO to the an entry-level employee working the first day on the job needs to be aware of current cybersecurity threats.
  • Effective cybersecurity training is engaging. Too many companies recite bullet points and expect employees to regurgitate them for a multiple choice test to certify emplyee email domain protection training. Cybersecurity principles should not be restricted to the classroom. Cybersecurity principles need to be enforced throughout the day, every day.
  • Effective cybersecurity training is global. Training reaches across cultures and languages in the company. Every employee is a stakeholder in cybersecurity.

Company IT departments do not have to create their own cybersecurity training. Cybersecurity training is always an appropriate task for outsourcing. Dedicated contractors for cybersecurity services have more resources to stay up to date on the latest threats and more experience dealing with diversity in the workplace. But email domain protection requires more than just the human firewall.

So, how can companies improve their cybersecurity. Let’s consider several underutilized tools.

Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance (DMARC)

Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting & Conformance, also known as DMARC, is an email validation tool engineered to expose use of an email domain without authorization. DMARC ultimately blocks delivery of unathenticated email. On the sender side, this system protects the supply chain and customers by keeping tabs on emails sent in the name of the company. On the receiver side, it protects employees by detecting fraudulent senders.

Survey data find that IT managers are aware of DMARC, but most companies don’t use it. Only 28 percent of companies surveyed have deployed DMARC in their cybersecurity programs.The reason so few companies use DMARC in email protection is that many senior executives don’t realize what it really does.

What is appropriate implementation of DMARC?

DMARC protects data. Data breaches have quantifiable implications. When an email system is compromised, software engineers can estimate the number of customers affected, the dollar value of downtime and lost sales, the number of compensated hours necessary to get email systems up and running again.

But DMARC also protects brands. Customers shy away from vendors with known cybersecurity issues. Spoofing and phishing emails reflect badly on their apparent senders and the employees who forward them. This is the case even when the company owning the email domain is innocent of any intentional wrongdoing.

Damage to data is costly. Damage to brand can be catastrophic. The cost of data recovery may only result in a bad quarterly report, but the loss of brand value can hurt the company for years to come. Companies that protect their brands put the budget for DMARC at least partially in the deparments most intimately involved in data security.

The problem isn’t that companies aren’t aware that brands are valuable. In the cybersecurity survey, 98 percent of responding companies reported that they have a budget for brand protection. The issue that comes up with cybersecurity is who controls the budget for cybersecurity. If the budget for DMARC is managed by the Chief Financial Officer (CFO) or the chief legal officer, the company may not respond to cyberthreats quickly enough. The IT department needs to have at least a partnership with other executive functions in managing resources for DMARC.

The IT department needs to have resources for immediate threats to cybersecurity. The Chief Financial Officer can manage longer-term risks to the company and budgeting.

Why do we need DMARC? Aren’t we already protected by SPF, DKIM, and Microsoft 365?

DMARC is not the only tool of email domain protection. Many organizations deploy SPF and DKIM, or rely on Microsoft 365 features for cloud email. There are problems with all of these systems.

SPF (Sender Policy Framework) is  system that retrieves an SPF record associated with the sender’s domain, and verifies that the IP address the record contains has been authorized. Emails from unauthorized senders may be marked as accepted, marked as suspicious, or rejected, but this action depends on information in the sender’s SPF record. DKIM (DomainKeys Identified Email) authenticates messages with a cryptographic signature using a publicly available key. Emails that lack a verified signature are rejected.

The problem with both of these systems is that they identify domain names that may be different than the domain name in the sender line. A threat actor can implement SPF and DKIM for a malicious domain, and include a trusted domain in the sender line. On the other hand, legitimate messages may be rejected if SPF and DKIM are not properly configured.

DMARC was created to overcome these issues.

Cloud email systems are also at risk of attack. Of businesses surveyed by Vason Bourne that use MicroSoft 365, almost 60 percent reported an outage in the past year. There is no built-in continuity in Microsoft to cover communications during an outage. Emails sent to the company during an outage are lost. Salespeople understandably resort to using private email accounts to maintain contact with customers, placing their emails outside protection protocols. In a time of shortages and supply chain disruptions, like the current COVID-19 pandemic, even brief outages of email can result is significant lost business or added cost.

Seven cybersecurity challenges for businesses large and small and how to meet them

The bottom line for cybersecurity in 2020 is that organizations of every size face ever-increasing security challenges in at least 10 categories.

  • Email is the most likely target for cyberattacks. Email domain security will be an issue for a majority of companies and non-profit organizations this year.
  • Phishing, spoofing, impersonation, and other compromises of business email will only increase during the rest of 2020. The Mimecast Threat Center documented a 30 percent increase in business impersonations in just the first four months of this year.
  • Ransomware isn’t going away. Half of business suffered three days or more of downtime due to ransomware attacks in 2019.
  • In 60 percent of cyberattacks, malicious code is spread from employee to employee. Clicking on a bad URL is the most common source of the problem.
  • MicroSoft 365 is not sufficiently resilient for safe use without IT upgrades. And employees affected by MicroSoft 365 outages must be constantly reminded not to use personal email accounts.
  • Budget ownership has a significant effect on how quickly organizations can respond to an attack. Company IT needs to share ownership of resources to respond to data breaches.
  • Looking beyond email domain protection to brand protection is a security frontier companies can no longer afford to ignore. Cyberattacks have consequences beyond loss of data. They also affect market position.

Business as usual is a dangerous policy in 2020. Organizations of all sizes face more threats to cybersecurity than ever before. And company IT staffs are more tressed than ever as they try to meet security challenges.

Those are the reasons more and more companies are choosing to outsource their email domain protection functions. Downloading security software is no longer enough. Companies of all sizes need the dedicated expertise of cybersecurity experts to keep their communications up and running so they can focus on proving to the world they are still doing what they can do best.

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Mitigation Strategies That Countries Can Use To Prevent Damage From Cyber Attacks

As the number of cyber-attacks continues to rise, many federal agencies and state governments are seeking ways to overhaul their digital transformations in order to thrive. These agencies and governments want to use the technological advancements to improve their defense mechanisms on the homeland, continue to serve their constituents, and complete more efficient missions. This is possible because of the evolving digital world. However, the constant threats are also using the technology to evolve. Many organizations are having trouble dealing with these powerful threats. It may be impossible to completely eliminate cyber-attacks, but organizations are looking at different strategies to minimize the risk of them.

What Are Cyber-Attacks?

Intruders launch cyber-attacks in order to steal data. The intruders are seeking information that can compromised an organization’s key advantages over a competitor, put fear into the minds of citizens and destroy a country’s economy. Most of this information is stored electronically through different documents, proposals, and reports. Intruders will try to gather this information through targeting system and network administrators, senior executives, and any users who have access to this sensitive information.

Forms of Cyber Attacks

Malicious Software

Intruders may pinpoint a user and send them a phishing email that contains a hyperlink to fraudulent information. The malware is normally delivered in a RAR or zip file. In some cases, intruders may develop a fraudulent website for the user to view. Once the malware is attached, intruders have access to the information every time a user starts their computer or logs into their account.

Fraudulent Networks

Once intruders gain access to a user’s account, they can corrupt other computers in the organization in their quest to find confidential data. This is often an issue for organizations without a strong network. Intruders often gain access to Microsoft Office files, databases, and any data stored on PDF files. Any organizations that do not use a complex authentication system are also at risk.

Ransomware

Intruders use ransomware to encrypt data and then restrict access to it until a financial sum is paid. Ransomware is powerful enough to delete backups and even prevent computers from working at all.

Data Extraction

Intruders can use different files to encrypt a copy of an organization’s data. They often infiltrate the firewall and in some cases, may gain access to a Virtual Private Network. Once the intruders have access to the network, they can compromise multiple computers at once.

Mitigation Strategies to Help Minimize Threats

Email Guidance

Intruders may use a fraudulent email address to damage an organization’s business process through hurting them financially. Once intruders gain access to the network, they can set up a fraudulent email account and then compromise legit addresses by sending malicious emails or in some cases, changing financial information, such as bank account numbers. This allows intruders to receive unauthorized payments.

Organizations can create a sender policy system to analyze any incoming emails. Any emails that do not originate from a server that has been approved by the organization should be rejected. Organizations should also consider adding authentication and reporting technology to their domain. Any employees who handle money transfers should be mandated to take a class on phishing emails. Any of the contact information of specific employees should remain private.

Antivirus Software

Antivirus software is beneficial because it helps detect corrupt data that causes Trojans, computer viruses, and spyware. Organizations can use antivirus software to analyze a file’s strength before downloaded it, making it much easier to locate a fraudulent file. Some of the most recent antivirus software includes reputation ratings.

Change Microsoft Office Macro Configuration

Intruders may use Microsoft Office Macros to spread fraudulent codes while avoiding filtering. Organizations should consider changing the settings to block macros from having internet access. Organizations may also choose to allow macros in certified locations. Organizations can also change the Attachment Manager to stop users from cutting information. It’s beneficial to use Microsoft Office Macro only on a necessary basis. Inexperienced users in the organization should be restricted from using the platform until they learn more information. Organizations can also change the security configuration settings to stop intruders from running a malicious macro.

Industrial Control Systems

Industrial Control Systems use technology such as electronic sensors to monitor industrial equipment to ensure that it’s functioning properly. Some of the technology is vulnerable to cyber threats that continue to evolve over time. That’s why it is important to have strong security solutions. Organizations should ensure that the technology is protected. Organizations should consider blocking network access to non-operational technology environments. Make sure that each code launched in the environment has been approved. Any security issues should be fixed quickly to protect the assets. Organizations can also use code signing and whitelisting.

Patching

Applications like web browsers, Java, and Adobe are vulnerable because intruders can introduce fraudulent codes which may damage an organization. Once the threat has been identified, the application is immediately under high risk. The threat must be eliminated as soon as possible. Organizations should keep tabs on the software installed on every computer. They can add an algorithm that informs them that new patches have been installed on the applications. It’s important to use the latest version of software for each application. While it has risks, some organizations should consider testing patches before launching them.

Eliminate Local Administrator Accounts

Eliminating these accounts will prevent intruders from gaining easy access to the network. Organizations can also assign special keywords for each account. This prevents intruders from gaining access even if they were to hack an administrator. The alternative is to make sure that the administrator has a complex password that is extremely hard to identify. Microsoft has developed a tool to help organizations and administrators create complex passwords.

Hunting

Hunting is a strategy that organizations use to learn some of the tendencies of an intruder. Organizations have to analyze whether they have the staff and foundation in place to carry out the plan. Hunting works best alongside other security measures such as leveraging logs. The hunting strategy must align with the views of the organization. An effective hunting strategy allows organizations to adapt to an intruder’s techniques and tactics.

User Application Hardening

User application hardening can reduce the strength of surface attacks. Intruders try to create fraudulent content and exploit a security weakness that user application hardening can prevent. Organizations can adjust their web browsers and disable any unauthorized advertisements and codes. Organizations can also disable excess features in PDF form or Microsoft Office. Analyze applications like ActiveX, Adobe Flash, and Java. Uninstall unnecessary apps. Cut any internet advertisements. Intruders often use malicious advertising to tempt viewers to go to their fraudulent websites. Organizations should make sure that they are using an up to date web browser.

Whitelisting

Organizations should whitelist key applications to prevent intruders from releasing malicious programs and scripts. They should also whitelist different servers, especially those related to user authentication. That will stop intruders from gaining access to sensitive passwords. Unapproved programs should not be able to run, whether they have a file extension or not. Organization can use whitelisting to block any questionable user profile directories. If Windows Script Host isn’t an important application, get rid of it. Organization should be careful when whitelisting operating system files. Some of the whitelisting applications may be compromised and used by intruders. Consider whitelisting only a few applications at one time. Organizations can also set up a system of inventory that uses the whitelisting feature to prevent unauthorized programs from running. Device Guard is a whitelisting application that uses virtualization to block malware and intruders.

Email Filtering

Email filtering stops computers from being corrupted as a result of fraudulent emails. Organizations should consider whitelisting different attachment types. That is considered more efficient than trying to block a large number of files. Block any files that can’t be inspected before opening. Block all emails that are sent from an authorized server. Organizations can use disarming software which replaces attachments with something safer. Consider saving any Microsoft Office attachments and scanning them on a monthly basis. Block any incoming emails with hyperlinks from hidden internet users.

Sandbox

Intruders who try to send information through a sandboxed environment will not be able to infiltrate an organization’s network. Organizations can establish a sandbox on an application and then rely on the operating system to help. Another strategy involves establishing applications in an alternative virtual environment. Organizations can use the cloud to establish this system. Organizations that choose this strategy would have to enhance their security approach. That is necessary in order to prevent an intruder from reaching the organization’s confidential data in the virtual environment. Sandboxing will also remove any forensic evidence.

Backups

Organizations that backup their data on a regular basis are less prone to data being damaged or encrypted as a result of an intruder using malware. Any software and configuration changes should also be backed up for a few months. Users should avoid putting information in public storage areas. Rely on the organization’s file servers and storage services. Make sure that all backup data is stored offline to prevent intruders from finding it. Add two or three step authentication to all backup data. Organizations should also check the restoration process on a regular basis.

Web Content Filtering

When organizations filter their web content, they reduce the chances of intruders being able to successfully implement malware. Users should Whitelist different websites and web content that have a good reputation. Organizations should restrict any access to hidden networks and domains, as well as fraudulent IP addresses. Only allow certain users to view specific types of content. Restrict websites that the web content filter does not acknowledge. Block Flash and Java, or restrict access to only very specific purposes. Check all internet traffic and Microsoft Office files. Eliminate any advertisements that attempt to run in the gateway. Intruders often try to use corrupt advertising. Restrict any network connections to hidden networks. Block intruders who try to use IP addresses instead of domain names to access websites. Be aware that intruders may attempt to use regular websites to launch malware attacks.

Restrict Direct Internet Access

Corporate computers should not have direct internet connectivity. Organizations should use a firewall to make sure that users must use a DNS server and a legit proxy server. The firewall will prevent intruders from infiltrating corporate computers. The firewall also makes it easier to detect malware. Users should go through approved ports and adhere to the protocol. Organizations should also consider creating a proxy that decrypts suspicious content. Computers that use a non-routing device can identify malware.

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