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PCI Compliance & Network Segmentation

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networkIf you need to comply with the Payment Card Industry Data Security Standard (PCI DSS), then you have to start with network segmentation. This crucial process involves the development of controls that will improve the security of your firm’s data.

You should strive to convince the PCI auditors that you comprehend the purpose and objectives of the standards to ease your compliance process.

The Card Holder Data Environment (CDE)

When your firm is dealing with sensitive data from clients, the PCI DSS requires that you establish measures to guarantee its safety.

The Cardholder Data (CD) may contain crucial data including the name, service code, primary account number, expiration date, and other private authentication data.

Due to the sensitivity of this information, you are obliged to ensure that no unauthorized person access the data which would lead to theft and other fraudulent activities.

The CDE include all the networks that come into contact with the client’s private data. This includes the network system as well as all the computers that processes, transmits, and stores the data. Also, the CDH involves all the applications, servers, computing devices, virtual components, and anything else that is connected to the cardholder data environment.

Network Segmentation As Defined by PCI DSS

This concept is aimed at ensuring that all the stakeholders understand the movement of data within the firm’s established system. The CDE has several access points which should be monitored thoroughly to ensure that only authorized individual can access sensitive data.

PCI DSS interprets connectivity to include wireless, virtualized, or physical systems, all of which can directly affect the security of the data. The data can enter the system using different methods including USB drive (physical connectivity) or wireless connectivity (including wireless LANs and Bluetooth). On the other hand, the virtualized connectivity may include resources such as virtual firewalls and virtual machines.

The PCI DSS requires that all these entry points are secured to prevent the data from being tapped for fraudulent activities. You must provide tangible measures to secure your compliance certificate which will boost your trust levels and enhance your business significantly.

How do Businesses Scope Systems?

According to PCI DSS, the scoping process requires that you critically evaluate all the points in the cardholder environment where data can be accessed.

The first step of this crucial process involves the establishing a catalog that details the methods that you apply to acquire the cardholder data. The PCI DSS assessment demands that you explicitly explain where you obtain the data from and also indicate how you intend to protect it.  

You will achieve this by ensuring that you highlight all the payment channels as well as the cardholder data acceptance methods. You will also need to define the route that the data will follow after collection and seal all the loopholes that may lead to leakage.

The next crucial step involves identification and documentation. The PCI DSS requires a well-documented data on the process and locations involved in the processing, storing, and transferring of the data collected.

You must candidly show an understanding of the handlers of the data, technologies used, and the process used to transfer data through the cardholder environment. Once you convincingly describe this, you will be required to incorporate the processes, components, and individuals involved in the entire process. You should give special attention to the people who will manage the CDE.

After reviewing the CDE, you should establish controls to protect the data. You should develop security measures including encryption and firewalls to monitor the entry and exit of data from the system. After the implementation phase, it is advisable that you keep monitoring the systems to initiate modifications that will continually protect the data even as the data environment changes.

Out of Scope Systems

Based on the PCI Security Standard Council, out of scope systems can be defined as those that have been proven to have no access to any CDE in your firm. However, you’ll realize that it is not easy to find these systems! If you’re to meet the PCI standards, you must identify the out of scope systems and ensure that they do not access or influence security controls linked to CDH.

Before you declare them to PCI, you should research to ensure that you only provide those that will not be required anywhere during the processing, storage, and transfer of data.

Can I Transfer Risks to Third Party Organizations?

All the services providers that you engage in your firm, as well as other third-party firms, are regulated by your PCI DSS. They may directly get involved with your clients’ data and can expose it to risk. As such, the risks that the third-party organizations carry will directly impact your firm.

Security

4 Things Businesses Should Consider To Improve Physical Security

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1000 US small business owners were surveyed in 2016; nearly 10% of them said that they had suffered from burglary or theft.

Burglary or theft can cause small businesses massive financial difficulties, not to mention potential disputes with insurance providers with regards to any potential damage or cash recovery.

By not having any security measures in place, your business can be easily identified by criminals as an easy target for burglary or theft.

If you think about it, when you are purchasing something online, you always look at the address bar to ensure you see the green lock to make sure that your payment is safe and secure; why should your business be any different?

Remember, not just physical assets are valuable; digital data on physical digital devices such as laptops count as a data breach and may contain information that is valuable for criminals such as credit card information or social security numbers.

Now is the time to take your security more seriously.

1. Access Control

Installing an access control system can add a physical deterrent to any criminal or person that may wish to enter parts of your business that should not be accessed by anyone. Employees using a form of access control shows any visitors or customers that your business takes their security seriously.

According to Cssltd.co.uk, 30% of intruders entered the premises through an unlocked door.

Access control can be customized completely to allow only certain employees access to specific areas.

With this flexibility of picking and choosing who has access to what, this greatly reduces the chance that someone could simply walk in, walk out and take whatever they wish from your business with no issue.

2. Employee ID

Issuing employees with ID cards will ensure that identifying individuals is easy. ID cards can be customized to have additional security features on them; such as using access control cards as employee ID.

Combining employee ID with an access control system adds an extra layer of security that is often not even thought of.

There is a wide range of ID card security features such as barcodes, QR codes, mag stripe and more.

In 2016, Dutch businesses lost almost €1.5million due to business identity theft.

3. Lanyards

Lanyards are a versatile object that recently has even been picked up by top end fashion brands that sell for extortionate amounts of money. Luckily, lanyards for your business do not need to be that expensive.

Small businesses can utilize plain, pre-printed or fully personalized lanyards. Plain or pre-printed lanyards are available in a wide range of colours at a low price point. For example, using colour coding with lanyards to determine which employee belongs to which department can assist security in identifying who belongs where.

Personalized lanyards may cost more but they will be exclusively available to the business as the design will be completely personalized for you. Whilst personalized lanyards are great for security, they also give your employees an important marketing tool.

Lanyards are very useful, they can hold ID cards, car keys and more. Employees will find other uses for your personalized lanyards when not at the business premises. A company such as ID Card Centre can supply your business with personalized lanyards that fit your needs.

4. Training employees

If your business can afford to hire security staff that’s great. Other small businesses may not have the spare funds for this.

A more cost-effective solution is to ensure all employees understand security and why it’s paramount for the business to ensure that it is safe and secure.

Training your employees also tells them that you trust them, which in return means that they will want to work harder for the business.

By ensuring all your employees have been trained to follow strict security measures, this can deter any potential criminal from attempting to enter your premises.

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Security

5 key email security threats and how to protect against them

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email marketing tips for businessIn 2014, a hacker group gained access to Sony Pictures. Investigators, in particular, the CEO of Cylance speculated that the hackers targeted Apple IDs with a phishing attack and once a user fell prey to the attack, the hackers made their way into Sony servers.

Such attacks are on the increase and as of last year – 2018, statistics indicate that 1 in 131 emails contain malware. That paints a dire picture and raises the stakes because whether it is personal or business emails, people can no longer afford to ignore email security.

However, to practice email security best practices, it is important first to understand the primary email security threats.

1. Interception of confidential data

Sending any confidential data via email over an unencrypted channel is akin to inviting interception and data theft. An eavesdropping attack, whereby a hacker steals information from an unsecured network, is one of the easiest ways a hacker can access private traffic.

Data are sent in plain text in an unsecured network, meaning that passwords and bank details will be shown in plain sight, hence the best way to protect against interception attempts is to secure your networks if possible, or encrypt your traffic by various means which we shall look into later.

2. Malware

A malware is a software that someone intentionally designs to cause disruption, damage data or gain unauthorized access. Statistics indicate that there are over 600 million different forms of malware.

While malware can hide anywhere and in different file forms, email forms a bulk of the hiding place for malware. That is because it is easy to send an email carrying a malware appear legitimate by making it seem as if it is from a personal friend or co-worker.

As a result, especially because people do not take time to confirm that the email is actually from the intended sender, they open the attachment with the malware and infect their devices. The malware then causes damage, and by the time you or the IT department realizes what is happening, a lot of sensitive data might already be gone.

3. Phishing attacks

A phishing scam occurs when a criminal sends an email in the guise of someone else, such as your company CEO, in an attempt to fish for sensitive information from the target.

Often, the email seems urgent, and it can elicit curiosity or fear making it impossible for the target not to open the email. Once the target opens the email, he/she is then prompted to surrender a user name, password, credit card number and so on.

Chances are you’ve run into a phishing scam before as they are highly prevalent all around the world. A 2017 report indicates that cybercriminals create close 1.5 million new phishing sites every month making it arguably the greatest email security threat.

4. Weak passwords

Weak passwords are yet another significant email security vulnerability. They can be easily compromised in a brute force attack. You might think that a password with personal clues like ‘marvelfan1988’ is far from generic but the truth is, it takes only 15 hours to crack it by brute force.

Once they get access to your email, then they have access to everything else they might need – phone number, answer to your security question, banking, and credit card details, even details to online financial accounts such as PayPal. This is also why holding down your email security fort is so vital.

The situation becomes direr if you use one password for all your online accounts because that means the hacker can now access your entire digital life.

5. Stolen devices

Admittedly, stolen devices are the least concerning email security threat. However, one cannot afford to ignore because once a thief steals a device, all they have to do is tap on view emails and they have access to all manner of sensitive data.

Verdict?

Now that you understand the major email security threats, the question now becomes, what are the ways to improve the security and privacy of your emails? Below are three key guidelines you can follow to ensure you improve your email security.

Ways of Improving Your Email Security and Privacy

Ensure That You Always Use TLS

TLS is Transport Layer Security, and it is a protocol that encrypts any connection to a website, a server or another client. Also, the protocol verifies that any server you connect to is authentic.

Note also that TSL encrypts communication between one server and another which means it offers all-around protection. With TSL, it becomes harder to intercept confidential data – the number one email security threat mentioned above.

To ensure TSL is activated, especially if you are using an external email client, open the client and go to settings. Under settings look for STARTTLS or SSL/TLS and activate the option. If any of these two options are not available, then find – connect only through an encrypted channel.

Scrutinize Attachments, and Be Cognizant of Tracking Links

With attachments, it is advisable to only open those that you trust. However, it might always be possible to verify a sender. In such a situation, it is vital to remember that the pdf, doc, and xls are the file formats which tend to be most infected.

Either open these files in a virtual machine or take advantage of any in-build tool your Webmail provides to open such files.

With regards to links, avoid clicking on the links and instead, copy the address and open in a new tab. That will help you avoid the tracking code embedded in the link by companies or individuals designed to track how many people opened the email.

Also, if the link is designed to send you to a phishing site, by copying it and scrutinizing it further, you might avoid the phishing attack.

Whenever you are careful with tracking links, and you scrutinize attachments, then you have a higher chance of avoiding malware and phishing attacks.

Use Strong Passwords

Strong passwords are the foremost deterrent to an attack due to weak passwords. As an individual or a business, insist on strong passwords; preferably longer than 12 characters, and composed of letters, numbers and special characters.

In addition, each login should have a unique password. You should never use the same password for two or more accounts.

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Security

5 Tips for Improving Your Workplace Security

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security guardDid you know 2 million workers report being victims of workplace violence every year?

As an employer, if your workplace has never experienced any insecurity or violence cases, it’s easy to let your guard down. A person with criminal intent can break in and cause harm, a client can assault an employee, or your workers can turn on each other.

This is why it’s vital to take your workplace security seriously. Here is a guide on the steps you need to take.

1. Enforce Policies That Promote Security

Your company policies go a long way in keeping the workplace safe and secure.

As such, one of the first things you should do is to audit your existing security policies, identify gaps, and make the necessary changes. For instance, if you’ve been hiring workers without doing a criminal background check, it’s time to make the practice a company policy.

Also, make it your policy to conduct regular security awareness training. This way, your workers will stay up to date on security matters.

2. Implement Access Control

Yes, open office plans are the jam these days, but this doesn’t mean everyone should have access to every room in the office. The best way to prevent access to sensitive areas such as the server room is to deploy an access control system.

Depending on your system, you could issue your workers with keyless cards. This makes it simpler to remotely allocate access credentials and manage who has access to where.

3. Install Alarms and Surveillance Systems

Alarms and surveillance cameras are common in residential settings but not so much in commercial spaces. In fact, only 1 in 7 U.S. businesses (14 percent) have alarms and video surveillance systems.

Sure, the cost of security systems installation and maintenance can be high for a small business, but the return on investment is worth it. These systems not only discourage criminal activity but also make it easier to resolve insecurity-related issues. You can, for instance, use CCTV footage to investigate office theft.

4. Hire Security Guards

If your workplace covers an entire building, it’s not just enough to install alarms and CCTV cameras. Hire security guards too.

You see, guards are your first line of defense against criminal attacks, and they can always step in to de-escalate physical conflicts between employees and other security incidents in the office.

If you don’t own the building that houses your workplace, work with its management to get security guards on site.

5. Make Structural Change to Your Premises

Does the structural nature of your workplace building expose your office to security risks?

For example, if your office has clear windows facing a public area, prying eyes can look in and scan for valuables. Fortunately, there’s a quick solution to this vulnerability. Just hire a commercial window tinting service to safeguard the privacy of your people.

Another structural element to look into is the quality of your access doors. Are they reinforced to prevent unauthorized entry? If not, you can make reinforcements or install new high security doors.

Ramp Up Your Workplace Security

A secure workplace doesn’t only keep your workers, clients and physical assets safe. It also strengthens your brand, increases employee loyalty, and improves productivity.

Want your business to reap these benefits? Implement the workplace security tips fleshed out above and wait for the results!

And as you get your business’ physical security in order, don’t neglect IT security.

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