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cybersecurity

Choosing the right cyber security vendor

Choosing the Right IT Security Provider

By | Security

IT security today is more complex than ever. More devices, more connections, and more distributed IT environments have helped broaden the threat landscape for organizations of all sizes.  

While businesses understand the importance of building a strong defense, many simply lack the resources and technical expertise needed to effectively combat today’s escalating threats without undercutting other business priorities.  

To help ease this burden, companies are increasingly relying on the skill and expertise of managed service providers (MSPs). By assuming responsibility for daily maintenance and support tasks, MSPs can help you keep your IT operation running efficiently, reliably and security while freeing up IT resources to focus on more pressing business initiatives. 

While outsourcing IT security can be an effective business strategy, not all IT providers are created equal. The range of capabilities and types of services offered by today’s MSPs run the gamut. To help ensure an optimum match for your specific needs, it’s important to carefully evaluate your prospective IT provider across several core areas. 

 

Needs-focused

A good IT provider should start by seeking to understand your current security posture, taking into consideration your unique data protection needs, compliance issues, and long-term business goals. How sensitive is the data you manage? What are your current methods of storage and will this change in the future? What are your protocols for data access? This detailed review will help uncover weaknesses or gaps in your security infrastructure. The goal isn’t to sell you a bunch of new technology but to ensure an optimum level of security without sacrificing functionality.  

 

Industry expertise

Ideally, you want to look for an IT provider with experience working in your particular field, especially if you operate in a regulated industry, such as healthcare or banking. As data privacy regulations continue to proliferate, one major challenge is keeping track of new compliance updates and changes. Some data assets require minimal protection while others may require more robust security. Determining the optimum balance is essential. If a provider has limited experience working within your industry, this wouldn’t necessarily exclude them from providing reliable service. However, you’ll want to perform extra due diligence to validate their level of competence and their ability to meet your unique security and compliance needs

 

Technology-tuned

Today’s cybercriminals are more sophisticated than ever. That’s why it’s critical that your IT provider be up to speed on current and emerging threats as well as the technology needed to combat them. They should be capable of implementing advanced security techniques and practices, including strong access controls, the latest malware protection, and proactive security scanning. You’ll want to make sure the provider you work with can adapt to change and growth and stays on the cutting edge of technology innovation. Your provider should be well-versed in technology planning to help ensure your security strategy is designed, implemented, and managed in a consistent manner.   

 

Solid track record

Your IT provider should be able to provide references and case studies of how they solved security challenges and examples of reliable security service delivery across a variety of IT environments. Active client references provide a good gauge of performance, responsiveness, reliability, and expertise. Customer feedback should provide a view into how the provider operates, and if they are a good match for your organization. Do they understand the business they are protecting? Are they up-to-date with the latest technologies, trends, and potential avenues of attack? Are they inquisitive and aggressive about helping you achieve your business goals and objectives? Can they be your trusted partner?

 

Fast response

You may not work 24 hours a day, but your IT infrastructure never sleeps. That’s why it’s important that your IT provider offers around-the-clock support. Your business demands it. Your service provider should be able to clearly outline and define its response capabilities. What is the expertise level of support staff? What is the standard response time? Will you get immediate help from an expert or will someone call you back? Ideally, your provider should offer an automated process to generate and track tickets and resolve problems from a single dashboard. 

 

Disaster recovery

Finding time to focus on the routine functions of backup and recovery is increasingly difficult in today’s fast-paced business world. That’s where the knowledge and guidance from an outside IT provider can help. As backup and storage processes migrate to the cloud, you’ll want a provider skilled at determining optimum price points, evaluating storage media options, and choosing the best course of action for your unique needs. With today’s flexible managed services offering, looks for a provider who can integrate the entire process of backup and recovery into a single service. Storage, design, testing, and around-the-clock proactive backup monitoring allow you to keep an eye on performance without having to manage the task yourself.

 

Roadmap planning

Planning for IT security is an ongoing process. Central to this effort is understanding your business goals and the role data, security, and compliance play in supporting those goals. Effective IT security requires a holistic approach that effectively blends proven techniques and practices with advanced technologies. A good IT provider will develop a clear picture of your IT capabilities and prepare a defined action plan to address any infrastructure, performance or compliance gaps. You should be able to rely on the advice and expertise of your provider to assist you with ongoing planning and strategy―continuously looking for ways to save money, improve performance, and leverage technology to support your company’s long-term growth.

 

Gain a performance advantage

Safeguarding your vital IT infrastructure is not just a security concern; it is a fundamental business issue. It requires an intelligent investment in resources to meet an increasingly complex threat landscape. Selecting the right security provider can help ensure the best approach to protecting your vital business assets, mitigating risks, and optimizing your return on investment. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to Tackle 3 Top Cybersecurity Challenges

How to Tackle 3 Top Cybersecurity Challenges Related to the COVID-19 Pandemic

By | Security

The increasing sophistication of criminal attacks on computers and network systems keep cybersecurity professionals on their toes. Bad actors are continually enhancing their tactics to infiltrate systems and cause havoc, especially during crises. The novel coronavirus disease, referred to as COVID-19, was declared a global pandemic by the World Health Organization (WHO) on March 12, 2020. The fear of the unknowns and shifts inactivity of people and organizations all around the world that have resulted from the pandemic have created a “perfect storm” for cybercriminals. 

Cybersecurity professionals have a significant task at hand to mitigate the security risks associated with the challenges to protect their organization’s assets and resources. Presented below is an explanation of three top cybersecurity challenges related to the COVID-19 pandemic and tips for mitigating your risk.

  1. Increased Social Engineering
  2. Varied DDOS Attacks on Organizations
  3. Remote Work Environment Exploits    

 

1. Increased Social Engineering

Social engineering consists of malicious actors using a variety of communication methods (email, phone, text, social media posts, and snail mail) to exploit individuals for the purpose of obtaining personal data. Cybercriminals obtain the personal data by deceiving their victim. They may purport to be someone you know or someone in an authoritative position. They may also disguise an email to look like a well-known company. The bottom line is to deceive you so that you unknowingly provide the information they want (passwords, bank account details, etc.). There has been a significant amount of social engineering during the COVID-19 crisis. One of the most common form of social engineering is phishing.

According to Google, they block more than 18 million phishing emails every single day. During a week in April (shortly after COVID-19 was declared a global pandemic), they saw 18 million (combined with malware) related to COVID-19. In addition to more than 240 million spam messages related to COVID-19. 

An example of how cybercriminals use human emotion during a crisis is a phishing scam that started with a text message. An individual in New York city received a text message about an important update related to COVID-19. As the email requested, the individual forwarded the message to others. The message ended up going out to individuals in Kansas, Boston, Washington D.C. and the West Coast. The bad actor of the text message was eventually tracked down by a team of U.S. Intelligence Community.

Phishing scams have become so prevalent during the COVID-19 pandemic that a group of hackers have joined forces to tackle the attacks. The group includes 400 members from 40 countries. 

The unfortunate case of social engineering for cybersecurity professionals is that its main point of entry is human emotion. While it is a prudent practice to implement email filters and increase the severity of your systems that detect phishing, educating employees will prove the greatest benefit.

Here are a few tips to pass on to employees: 

  1. Review and understand the company’s cybersecurity policies.
  2. Don’t use company equipment for personal social media interactions.
  3. Only discuss personal and sensitive data in person or over the phone (when you know the other person), never in response to an email.
  4. If you receive a suspicious email from a known or unfamiliar contact, and it includes an attachment or link, call the individual on the phone to confirm they sent the message. 
  5. Report any suspicious communications to your cybersecurity officer.

2. Varied DDOS Attacks on Organizations

According to the security advising firm CSO, cybercriminal attacks during the COVID-19 pandemic have targeted the geographic locations and organizations most impacted by the disease. The industries most affected include retail, manufacturing, education and research, government, financial services, manufacturing, transportation, engineering, technology, chemical, and food and beverages. The method of attacks on these organizations has varied, but distributed denial of service (DDOS) attacks have been gaining momentum since 2019 when the COVID-19 pandemic was introduced. DDOS attack consists of one or more automated bots set in motion to overwhelm a public-facing system in order to slow down or paralyze it.  According to a report by dataset management firm Neustar, DDOS attacks are providing significant disruptions during the COVID-19 pandemic by launching both large-scale and small-scale attacks.

Large-Scale Attacks

The 2016 DDOS attack on the Dyn infrastructure company that resulted in shut downs of technology giants Reddit, Twitter, Yahoo, and PayPal among a host of other organizations is an example of a large-scale attack. It was in the form of a botnet that infiltrated devices that were infected with malware. The attack, which was really three-in-one, was eventually resolved by Dyn, but resulted in the company reporting an 8% loss. 

The healthcare industry’s frontline position in the novel coronavirus crisis, coupled with their increased reliance on technology, are setting up the industry to be a focus of large-scale DDOS attacks. In addition to housing HIPAA-protected patient data, these organizations are also on the forefront of testing and devising medicines to control the spread of the disease. As they respond to the needs of people infected by the disease, their systems are a viable target for cybercriminals aiming to cripple it. In March, the Department of Health and Human Services was subjected to a DDOS cyberattack. While the attack was not successful at crippling the organization’s systems, it is an example of what we could see more of in the near future. 

Widespread Small-Scale Attacks

Cyberattacks have been thought of as activities carried out by people with advanced technical skills. DDOS cyber threats are low-level enough to minimize the costs and knowledge necessary to launch a successful attack. However, a new trend in DDOS cyber threats is that hackers are now offering services to assist individuals with launching a DDOS attack. These services may include planning, creation, monitoring, payment, and reporting services for a botnet whose costs will vary according to the services and length of the attack desired. These work-for-hire services mean that just about anyone can now launch a DDOS attack for just a little money. An investigative study by Securelist uncovered that a five-minute attack on a “large online store could cost as minimal as $5.

Mitigating the risks of a DDOS attack can be tricky since they are so varied, but the following are some basic tips:

  1. Monitor local, state, and global lists of current DDOS threats.
  2. Keep systems up to date. 
  3. Secure all your network borders.
  4. Investigate all changes in network performance.
  5. Create a mitigation plan.

 

3. Remote Work Environment Exploits

 

 

Cybercriminals typically target the weakest link. As companies transition to a remote working environment to prevent the spread of COVID-19, human beings are occupying the role of the weakest link. Cybersecurity professionals can implement a robust infrastructure, but its power can be easily compromised by employees who neglect security best practices.  

Employees should be informed about the following key best cybersecurity practices:

  • Use strong passwords that are not duplicated.
  • Ensure that all software is approved by the organization and updated with latest versions.
  • Maintain a watchful mindset when responding to communications and accessing the Internet.

In addition to educating employees, you should also consider the cybersecurity systems you currently have in place. One of the most critical services provided when workers work remote that can become a weak point for cybercriminals to attack is your network traffic. The Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) published a document to assist federal agencies with preparing for a quick transition to teleworking. 

The following five objectives provided in the document are beneficial for other organizations with remote workers:

  • Manage traffic
  • Protect traffic confidentiality
  • Protect traffic integrity
  • Ensure service resiliency
  • Ensure effective response

Summary

Cyberattacks are disruptive and often destructive. The risks to businesses are many and include a damaged reputation and financial losses. The attacks are becoming more sophisticated, making the mitigation of risk a moving target. During a time of crisis, such a the COVID-19 pandemic, the likely case that there will be an increase in attacks makes mitigating the risks even more critical for organizations. Organizations of all sizes are having to respond to the “new normal” that is taking shape during the COVID-19 pandemic. One certainty is that no organization can accept the risks.

Just as there are basic strategies for preventing the spread of COVID-19, there are also basic strategies for preventing cyberattacks during this heightened time of cyber activity:

  • Stay current with updates. The Department of Homeland Security website includes a list of security alerts. You can sign up to receive the alerts via email. 
  • Educate the workforce.
  • Revamp your cybersecurity measures and infrastructure.

Is your organization prepared to tackle the cybersecurity challenges related to COVID-19? A simple question you can ask yourself is “Does your organization have the technology and resources in place to protect your data assets, limit cybersecurity risks, quickly respond to cyber threats, and enable employees to work efficiently and safely from home?” If your answer is affirmative, that’s great news. Otherwise, now is the time to implement a viable cybersecurity plan. BACS is a team of IT support professionals that help organizations assess their cybersecurity needs and determine the best solution for long-term results.

Cybersecurity In The Era Of The Cloud | How To Prevent Hackers

Cybersecurity In The Era Of The Cloud | How To Prevent Hackers

By | Security

If there’s one technology with widespread benefits across every industry, it’s the cloud. The ability to improve operations while saving costs has companies eager to make this transition and plan to improve their IT infrastructure. However, companies may be too quick to adopt this technology without establishing proper cybersecurity protocols and policies. This leaves businesses vulnerable to vicious attacks from hackers that could leave your business and operations in shambles. Thus, it is imperative that companies educate themselves about potential cybersecurity risks when moving to the cloud.

 

What is the Cloud? 

Broadly, the cloud refers to servers that are accessed over the internet that host software and data that you use for services. Many people may be passively familiar with the cloud because of its rise to prominence in personal usage such as phone storage. People are familiar with the fact that their phone’s photos may be stored somewhere else, and that those can be accessed no differently than if they were saved on your phone just by a simple login. 

 

For businesses, the cloud offers much more than added phone storage. Entire processes, systems, and applications can be moved to the cloud to improve productivity and reduce downtime. Although it is not without its risks, the cloud is an incredibly valuable tool for businesses to utilize. 

 

Cybersecurity Weaknesses in the Cloud

As previously mentioned, a challenge that presents itself when you are working with the cloud is the issue of cybersecurity. Cybersecurity is an ever-evolving battle between hackers and between the people who want to steal your data and the people who want to protect it. Hackers are becoming more sophisticated by the day in their efforts to infiltrate and steal businesses valuable data.

 

The cloud needs to be secure and maintain a secure lock on the data. It is vital that both the business and the cloud being used are identifying and maintaining the proper security controls necessary to prevent breaches. The cloud provider and the business both have to share in the responsibility of protecting their data and their customers from breaches that can cause issues for their business. For the most part, the benefits almost always outweigh the cybersecurity risks 

 

Cloud Benefits are Clear

Cost

Most businesses will be drawn to the first benefit, cost. This is especially true if you are a small business. For small businesses, it is generally significantly cheaper to use services through the cloud than to spend the money to host servers on their own. Many small businesses cannot afford to hire an entire IT staff to manage their services, let alone defend their data against hackers. 

 

Global Scaling

The cloud also provides a more efficient way to scale your company, as the cloud services are most likely already available at the scale that is required. This will free your business from the burdens of scaling, so your team can focus on building your business. Your cloud provider will be able to help your business meet all of your needs while growing. 

 

Team Performance Through Data Access

Your team will be able to access all of the data and applications that they need to perform their job. As teams become more decentralized, your team members will need to access critical services to keep customers. The cloud will ensure that as long as your employee has internet, they will be able to access the necessary applications and data. 

 

Productivity

Cloud computing can increase the performance of the services and applications that are vital for your business. Any software application can be updated in real-time whenever there is a need for it, and our business will always have the most up-to-date applications to improve productivity. 

 

Security

Cloud computing also helps to keep a business’ data safe. When working with a service provider, you now have a company whose job it is to protect this priceless information. You can sleep much easier at night knowing your data is protected by the best cybersecurity experts in the world. 

 

Reliability

Using the cloud will ensure that your business has reliability and speed when you need it the most. Cloud computing will improve your reliability all while decreasing IT and scaling costs. 

 

Even, with all of these benefits, it is necessary to understand exactly what issues can arise from moving to the cloud. 

 

The Cloud Could Result in Cybersecurity Issues

 

Data Breaches & Government Fines

Data breaches have always been a risk for business well before the cloud existed. Hackers have an even larger opportunity now that businesses are moving rapidly to the cloud. More devices are connected to the internet, which are more potential entry points for hackers to infiltrate your network. This can occur in the cloud if the proper precautions are not established. These data breaches can result in massive government fines. 

 

Outdated Software

This threat is made worse by the fact that outdated third party apps can cause data breaches. An outdated application is another potential entry point for hackers. It is imperative to be sure that the apps you are using in conjunction with your cloud services are up-to-date and secure. The newest application version will patch any known vulnerabilities in previous versions. 

 

Inadequate Training

Lasty, you will have to make sure that your employees are fully trained how to properly use  cloud services. Employees are resistant to change and may struggle to adapt to the cloud. If your employees are not using the cloud services to their fullest extent, they will be losing out on all the benefits. Additionally, improperly trained employees could create opportunities for hackers to breach the cloud. Many cloud companies will set up your cloud and leave you and your employees to figure out the rest and vulnerable to hackers. 

 

All of these issues can be handled by a competent cloud hosting organization. 

 

BACS Takes Care of Your Cloud Worries

BACS takes great pride in alleviating concerns that organizations may have involving cloud computing. 

 

Personalized Plans & Data Protection

We work with you to develop a personalized cloud plan that works specifically for your business. No matter if you have 10 or 10,000 employees, BACS will find the plan that fits. The most sensitive data that businesses have can be kept on-site in order to keep data safe and secure. BACS has a high level of encryption on all its data and applications, thus keeping you in and the hackers out.

 

Up-to-Date Apps & Training

BACS will also make sure that your apps are all up-to-date in order to function at their best and keep your data safe. Your business needs the most up-to-date applications to ensure that hackers cannot exploit weaknesses in versions that are outdated. Most importantly, BACS will ensure that your employees are trained to properly use the cloud computing tools at their disposal in order to work as effectively as possible. Your employees will know exactly how to utilize all of your cloud capabilities. 

 

Cloud computing offers businesses numerous advantages in their operations and the ability to safely store their data. It empowers businesses to grow faster and more seamlessly while implementing the technology it needs to do so. If your business does not adopt the cloud, then you are quickly falling behind your competitors. Reach out to BACS today to learn more about how our cloud solutions can take your business to the next level. Your data will be safely in the hands of our experts who can defend against the most sophisticated cybersecurity attacks.

Cybersecurity-Best-Practices-to-Keep-Them-Safe

Employees Going Remote? 5 Cybersecurity Best Practices to Keep Them Safe

By | Security | No Comments

The number of remote workers in the U.S. has grown in recent years. In 2012, there were 2.5 million people in the U.S. that were considered remote workers. According to a report published by Global Workplace Analytics, that number jumped to 3.7 million in 2017. And these numbers do not consider self-employed individuals. Is your organization transitioning to a remote work model due to a shift in the way you do business, or in response to an issue outside the organization, such as the COVID-19 global pandemic? If you are responsible for your organization’s network security, you may experience a bit of angst about entrusting employees to make sound decisions to protect the organization’s resources. After all, you can implement all the endpoint security/protection measures possible, but the final trust lies in employees to do the right things. Providing an educational session with a handbook they can keep or easily access will empower them to make choices that keep the organization’s resources protected. If the transition must happen quickly and you don’t have time for cybersecurity training, providing remote employees with key best practices is a good substitution.  

The information below highlights five key actions for remote employees to do to remain safe while working remotely:

 

1. Understand the Risks

Employees may have read about cyberattacks in the news, but not understand the consequences to the organization and the role that they play in minimizing security risks. They should know that while it is true that the IT professionals in an organization are responsible for making sure the organization’s resources are protected from cyberattacks and other unwarranted intrusions, employees in the organization also have a responsibility. This responsibility is greatest when employees work at a location that is remote to the organization. In addition to financials, cybersecurity threats can also impact an organization’s reputation. Employees may think the danger falls on the organization. However, any security fallout for an organization is going to impact its employees. This could be in the form of their personal information being exposed to an unauthorized person or losing their job. The organization may have to reduce its staff size or eliminate business perks to try and recover from a cyberattack. 

An important step is instructing employees to report security issues right away. Let them know who they should contact and how. If an employee contacts you with a security issue, it’s important that you don’t berate them or make them feel bad about the issue. 

2. Safeguard Entry Points

The first step in a cyberattack is the attacker gaining access to the desired assets without authorization. Two common points of entry are weak passwords and exposed hardware. The vulnerabilities in these areas are remarkably simple to resolve.  

Passwords

A list of cybersecurity best practices is incomplete without mentioning passwords. According to the Verizon 2019 Data Breach Investigations Report, weak passwords are the cause of a significant number of cyberattacks. At the very least, employees should use strong passwords. This means using a mix of upper and lowercase letters, numbers, and special characters such as an exclamation point (!) or ampersand (&). Is your password easy to remember? If your answer is yes, it’s probably not a strong password.  Once they decide on a strong password, employees must resist the temptation to use it on multiple devices. If a cybercriminal should discover your password, they may try to use it to access even more information. 

A password that people often overlook is the one that is used to access and manage their wireless router. This device is often installed by a technician with a default username and password. If remote employees haven’t replaced the default values, they should change them right away. The URL to the router and the default connection information may be located on the back of the router. Otherwise, they should contact their provider for the information.

If employees are concerned about trying to memorize strong passwords, they should consider using a password manager. These applications simplify password creation and usage to facilitate security and convenience. KeePass, LastPass, and 1Password are popular password managers. Another good option is to use multiple factor authentications, which involves setting up a secondary device to provide authorization. 

Hardware

Unprotected hardware is appealing to cybercriminals. The installations and configurations implemented by IT department personnel lose their effectiveness when employees neglect to perform general security measures to protect them. They should always lock their computer screens when stepping away from it—even if they’re remote location is a home office. Social media is filled with images of children and pets creating havoc with unattended computers. They may appear entertaining, but these playful acts can cause employees to send an unintended email or open a file. Employees should consider the device they use to connect to your organization’s network or to store information related to your job a valuable tool that should always be protected.

Videoconferencing is becoming a popular method of connecting people in an organization when they are working in different remote locations. Since it also requires a technical connection, vulnerabilities exist. The safeguards for a computer also apply to videoconferencing. In the article, “Video conferencing risks when working at home: 16 ways to avoid them”, Norton provides a list of great tips for working safe while teleconferencing. One important tip they state is to turn off a webcam when it isn’t in use.

3. Use a Secure Connection

One absolute must for cybersecurity is that employees connect to your organization’s network using a secure connection. The safest method is using a virtual private network (VPN). A VPN is a tunnel that provides a haven for digital traffic to travel through when employees are connected to the Internet. As they transmit and receive data, an employee’s location and IP address are concealed and all their data is encrypted so that others are unable to read it. 

Employees should be discouraged from using a public Wi-Fi. They should understand that public Wi-Fi networks typically transmit data unencrypted, which causes a serious risk because it can be intercepted by an unintended party.

4. Protect Your Tools

Employees should only use applications that have been approved by the IT department. Downloading an application or software from the Internet may add adware, spyware, and viruses to your system. If employees will use company-supplied computers, installing anti-virus and anti-malware software and a firewall is critical. They should install these on any personal devices they intend to use for work or to access the organization’s network. It is a good idea that employees remain aware of the latest threats. CSO, a security research company, provides up to date information about current threats that you can pass on to remote employees. 

Employees should think of operating systems as dynamic software since critical updates and patches are constantly being added to improve security and users’ experience. The easiest method of obtaining the updates is to set automatic updates. It may seem annoying, but employees must understand that keeping operating systems up to date helps to keep their systems running efficiently and safely. Employees should also make sure all approved software on their system, including web browsers, are up to date.

5. Be Watchful and Proactive

An employee’s responsibility to safeguard your organization’s resources doesn’t end when they implement the safeguards mentioned above. They should also be watchful for suspicious and unusual activities and report these to the IT department or the organization’s designated cybersecurity professional.

Make sure they know the following:

  • Pay attention to every communication you receive. If an email looks suspicious, don’t click any attachments or downloads associated with it. Common red flags are poor grammar, misspellings, and odd URLs. 
  • Be aware that cybercriminals may attempt to access personal information via email, text, and voice messages.
  • Scams and “phishing” are often related to an existing event. For example, cybercriminals may try to use communications about the COVID-19 stimulus payments to get your attention.
  • If you have a security issue, such as you lose a company-owned device or your personal device with corporate data, report the issue right away. 

Summary

The tips presented here are to help employees practice safety while working remotely. An underlying requirement is that you have implemented a robust infrastructure. If you are uncertain about the system currently in place, BACS can assess the specific needs of your organization and help your organization to implement a centrally managed cybersecurity solution that protects its resources. To learn how BACS can help you develop, implement and manage a robust cybersecurity plan, please connect with us at (650) 887-4601 or complete this contact form and we will connect with you.