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Any Remote Workers? Here’s What You Can Do to Manage the Security Risk

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With the way modern businesses are run, every company has to function like a global organization. Even small businesses rely on cloud computing to interact with customers, vendors, and partners around the world. As a result, this expansion creates new risks for a company, especially when it comes to network and data security.

Hackers and cybercriminals are always looking for ways to infiltrate corporate systems, whether it’s through an email phishing scam or a brute force attack. If your company is not prepared to handle such intrusions, then it can expose every level of your operations and cause irreparable damage or financial losses.

So how do you keep your systems and people safe? Securing your facilities and internal network is critical of course, but so is the need to take precautions with remote employees. Outfitting all staff members with reliable password managers, databases, and other corporate resources will aid your company’s cybersecurity, helping minimize the possibility of human errors.

Risks of Remote Employees

Those new to IT security may logically think that the focus of cyber protection should be on the main buildings and networks where the bulk of employees work every day. But in fact, a single hack of one remote employee can be just as damaging as an infiltration of your internal systems.

For example, let’s say that a member of your human resources department goes out to lunch at a cafe and connects to a public wi-fi network from their personal laptop or tablet. Then they launch a web browser and log in to the company’s central database to view personnel records.

Clever hackers have found ways to infiltrate wi-fi routers anonymously and intercept web traffic passing between devices. What this means is that your company’s entire data repository is at risk, because the cybercriminals may be able to spy on the password used.

The dangers of allowing employees to work remotely extend to company-owned machines as well. If you allow staff members to take laptops off-site, then that hardware becomes just as exposed as personal devices. You can’t control which networks the computers can connect to, and with a few bad clicks, your entire organization can become infected with viruses or malware.

How VPN Encryption Works

The primary line of defense for remote workers should be a strong VPN service, regardless of the company’s size or a number of employees. The IT team should configure the VPN service on all staff machines, even for those individuals who don’t plan to work remotely on a regular basis.

A VPN service is comprised of two primary elements: the endpoint server and the client tool. The endpoint server will typically either be hosted in a local data center, in a private cloud instance or with a third-party company. All VPN traffic is routed through the endpoint server before being transported out to the public internet. The same is true for incoming data.

The VPN client tool is a piece of software running on each device that requires a secure connection. Most VPN providers offer tool versions for Windows and Mac OS X operating systems, as well as mobile apps for Android and iOS. The client tool is responsible for authenticating the local user and transmitting requests to the endpoint server.

When a VPN connection is first initiated, the user will be prompted to enter their username and password. From that point on, all data requests for corporate resources or public websites will go through a secure tunnel that is fully encrypted. This means that even if a hacker manages to infiltrate the local wifi network, your data cannot be decoded or stolen. The client tool and endpoint server own the security keys for handling all transmissions.

How to Choose a VPN Client

There are a wide variety of VPN solutions on the market today, some aimed at corporate entities while others attract consumer clients. It can feel overwhelming to try to isolate the best options, but when picking a VPN service for your entire organization, there are some key criteria to keep in mind.

First of all, you should consider the price of a VPN solution. When browsing the web, you’ll find some offers for free VPN services based in different countries. Be extremely wary of trusting any of these options with your company’s cybersecurity, as free VPNs typically have unreliable performance and risky data retention policies.

Endpoint servers can see all network traffic coming from the individual client tools, so you need to choose a VPN solution that is trustworthy and will not sell data to outside entities. Speed is also another consideration when it comes to VPNs. The best services offer high speeds regardless of where a user is located geographically.

Fostering a Culture of Security

Most corporate employees will view cybersecurity as a necessary evil. It requires new tools and processes that can often feel like a burden. In a perfect world, a worker could simply connect to the internet from wherever they are and use the corporate resources they need.

As an organizational leader, your job is to foster a culture of security and awareness so that employees are not tempted to take shortcuts or increase risk. To help with this shift, you may need to consider adding restrictions to company devices that limit their remote functionality. For example, a user should not be able to connect to core databases or applications unless they have authenticated with the designated VPN service.

Cybersecurity training should be mandatory for all employees on a regular basis, with new content being included as threats are uncovered both internally and externally. These sessions can emphasize the importance of securing remote connections with VPN and provide an overview of how encryption works. But since one tool cannot ensure the security of an entire organization, you must reinforce the need to be vigilant when working online and to report any suspicious activity or communication that could be indicative of an attack.

Security

How Startups Can Keep Data Secure in the Hybrid Cloud

cloud computing

Now that the cloud is commonplace within the business community, many businesses – from startups to established corporate giants – have determined that a hybrid cloud environment is the best option. Combining the flexibility and security of the private cloud with the affordability of public cloud services, a hybrid cloud environment gives businesses the best of both worlds while increasing their productivity and efficiency. At the very least, managing at least some of their data in the public cloud ensures that in the event of an outage, the business can continue to function.

Of course, security is a concern in any cloud environment – 77 percent of IT professionals say it’s a top concern –, and the use of the public cloud creates additional concerns related to the transmission of sensitive company data across public networks. By understanding the risks from the start and designing your system with security in min, you can avoid many of the issues that can arise from using the public cloud and protect your company against significant losses related to a data breach, malware infection, ransomware, or other danger.

Put the Right Data in the Right Place

The first step to an effective hybrid cloud security plan is to make appropriate determinations as to what data lives where. Many businesses opt to store business critical data, such as customer information, intellectual property, etc., on the private cloud while delegating email, CRM software, and certain applications to the public cloud. Not only does this help with security management, but also ensures that your startup is able to maximize resources. Hybrid cloud environments are significantly easier to scale than private cloud only; infrastructure is expensive to expand, upgrade, and maintain, but using the public cloud allows for more scalability while ensuring that on-premises or private cloud servers have the space for mission critical data.

Get on the Same Page

One mistake startups often make when migrating to any cloud environment is assuming that the cloud provider has security under control, and they have a limited role to play in protecting their data. This is inaccurate and can contribute to security breaches.

Regardless of your cloud setup, it’s vital to understand exactly what your cloud provider does to ensure security, how they respond to and report incidents, and how they mitigate risks. Security begins with selecting the most appropriate cloud provider for your needs, but you have a role to play as well. Your cloud provider will only provide the underlying infrastructure, while you need to develop the specific policies and procedures to protect your data and applications. This means implementing secure access procedures and policies regarding updates and patches, ensuring the encryption of data, and managing the overall configuration of the system to ensure security. It’s also important to understand the provider’s terms of service. For instance, some cloud providers have access to client organizational data, which may not be something you want.

Encryption

Encrypting data is a key aspect of any security protocol, but it’s especially important in a hybrid cloud environment. Data is constantly being moved between public and private clouds, and as public clouds are always at risk of breach, encryption is an absolute necessity. In addition to encryption, using a secure VPN and strong authentication processes are also important to keeping data safe in a hybrid environment.

Endpoint Protection

Many entrepreneurs overlook one of the most common sources of attacks on their data: endpoints. An endpoint is any device that connects to your network, from computers and mobile devices to printers, copiers, and even the office coffee maker if it is Wi-fi enabled. Therefore, endpoint protection is essential to a secure hybrid cloud environment. You must employ an effective authentication protocol to ensure that every endpoint accessing your network is what it claims to be, and that unauthorized access is forbidden.

Another important part of your hybrid cloud security protocol is understanding the risks to your business and how you can effectively mitigate them. This entails paying close attention to the risks to your industry and similar businesses, and how other companies have addressed them. It also means understanding your greatest vulnerabilities and addressing them in terms of priority. Being constantly on alert for threats and deploying the best tools and policies to mitigate them as soon as possible can significantly reduce the risk of your business becoming another statistic in the ongoing war against cybercrime.

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Security

Overview of Identity and Access Management Platforms

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The larger the company, the more information systems and staff members it has. This brings the issue of managing employee accounts and their access to enterprise systems to the fore. In a small company, this can be done manually by in-house system administrators.

In a large company, however, this presents a number of challenges: a large and ramified IT infrastructure makes manual management of identification and access a very labor-intensive process. We also need not remind you that the greater the human involvement, the higher the risk of errors, delays, information security incidents, and even intentional sabotage.

History is rife with examples where employees leaked confidential corporate information to competitors or intentionally harmed the employer after losing their job.

To avoid such unfortunate outcomes while maximally automating and streamlining access management, companies resort to identity and access management (IAM) systems. They help manage user accounts and their access to corporate systems, applications, and devices. This solves all of the above-mentioned and many other issues. Such systems are plentiful. Our overview covers some of them.

According to Gartner experts and industry pros, they rank among the best in this segment. You can also choose the one that suits you best using the selection tool we devised. It stands to mention that similar terms exist, such as Identity and Access Governance (IAG), Identity Management (IdM), etc. They actually refer to one and the same thing. For the sake of convenience, we use the term “Identity and Access Management” or its abbreviation “IAM”.

If you dissect the anatomy of IAM systems, you will see that these are integrated solutions comprising many tools. They are responsible for various processes, among which several key ones stand out: single sign-on systems, multi-factor authentication and password management, access control and secure storage of user profile data.

Reliable credential management systems should handle these tasks without too much trouble. They include tools for gathering and logging information about user logins into corporate operating systems and employee access to devices (ranging from printers to servers and data repositories). They also greatly simplify and automate the configuration of accounts and provision of access to employees.

For instance, upon creating a new employee account, the administrator chooses his or her access level. Depending on this setting, the user can immediately use all information systems accessible at this level. The user can do so using his or her account password.

However, this user cannot access a server with confidential information using this account password. It is important to understand that an IAM system is not a solution that can be installed with a few clicks and be up and running immediately. Each company has its own unique IT infrastructure to which any platform has to be customized and integrated.

An IAM platform often comprises several standalone products that can be used collectively or separately. It all depends on the objectives and needs of the company. That’s why technical aspects should be considered first when choosing a platform of this kind.

For instance, you should look at the degree to which a specific platform is compatible with the IT infrastructure: whether it has the appropriate connectors (modules that interact with corporate tools), the extension and scalability opportunities it offers, the number of supported accounts, and the cost of specific products.

It also would not hurt to check how user-friendly the system is. This is not limited to an intuitive interface and level of automation. You should look at how easy it is to add and delete new employee accounts, grant permanent or temporary access, and perform other common procedures. Most products let you evaluate their functionality by running a demo version.

Many products of this type are currently available on the market, both those by big-name vendors and lesser-known companies. You can compare the functionality of some of these tools and choose the best option for your business on ROI4CIO’s comparison table of IAM platforms, search for it on their website.

Let us now examine specific solutions.

IAM Platforms

Oracle Identity Management

Oracle’s solution is a comprehensive, integrated platform for managing data and roles both in an enterprise setting and in the cloud. Oracle Identity and Access Management is currently one of the most functionally advanced products on the market. It covers almost all aspects of identity management, access control, and directory services. It features over 20 tools, including solutions for managing privileged accounts, access from mobile devices, passwords, detailed reports, etc.

All basic identity and access management functions are also available through a multi-user cloud platform.

Oracle Identity and Access Management has an advanced analytical system. For example, it can find inactive accounts and detect unauthorized changes to access privileges by administrators of IT systems in an enterprise. It also displays current and historical data of audits of employee access privileges. You can also generate a report on the history of decisions to grant access privileges.

Keeping up with the times, the product developers implemented support of the Social Sign-on authentication mechanism for Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn social networks, as well as Google and Yahoo accounts. This lets you logon to corporate resources using these accounts or simply import information from them when creating corporate accounts. This solution is fairly convenient in addition to being a time saver.

Okta Identity and Access Management

Okta offers a number of cloud products for comfortable management of user access and account credentials adapted to web applications. Based entirely in the cloud, this service is compatible with both cloud applications and the corporate IT infrastructure.

Okta offers a total of six products as part of its IAM platform. Worthy of special mention are a single sign-on system and a universal directory that offers access to all users, groups, and devices. It also comes with a multi-factor authentication feature and tools for managing access to the API and the company’s life cycle.

Okta also offers its own APIs and off-the-shelf tools that can be integrated into applications. Okta tools are compatible with various types of directories, including Active Directory and LDAP, and can also be integrated with third-party identity and access management tools.

Okta products give administrators a very high level of control. They allow configuring a number of conditions for user integration into a particular system based on specific criteria, for example, whether or not the user has an existing account.

Administrators can also generate real-time security reports that help identify vulnerabilities or abnormal user behavior. Since the product is entirely cloud-based, its deployment and configuration takes the least possible amount of time. The tools are free to try for 30 days.

SailPoint IdentityIQ

This is an integrated identity and access management solution that uses role-based models, rules, and policies. In addition to access management proper, it offers detailed information about employee interactions with applications and data.

IdentityIQ also offers the essential controls and tools for unauthorized access prevention, as well as access-related risk analysis functionality. The product offers a single sign-on system for business application users. Both cloud and local services are supported.

In addition to IdentityIQ, SailPoint also offers a cloud platform called IdentityNow. Both have similar functionality and a very user-friendly and intuitive interface. Free trial versions of the products are also available.

IBM Security Identity Manager

IBM has been on the Gartner leaderboard for several consecutive years with its IAM platform. Its product, Security Identity Manager, is a role- and policy-based tool. It offers a very high level of automation. If configured properly, the involvement of administrators is minimal and comes down to creating user accounts and monitoring system performance. It is fairly easy to configure Security Identity Manager after the first launch using a Wizard tool.

The platform can be shared across multiple companies and projects at the same time. For example, it offers access to specific resources not only to the company’s own employees, but also to business partners or third-party developers. It also offers an audit feature and detailed reports on user access. This ensures a high level of security and minimizes access-related risks.

The degree of risk is assessed with the help of AI. A great deal of attention is also devoted to management of privileged accounts.

A detailed audit and reporting feature is also available for them. In the event of unauthorized access, safeguards are in place to minimize potential damage caused by intruders. This is accomplished using a standalone tool called IBM Security Secret Server.

The solution can be rolled out both on enterprise hardware and in the cloud. The cloud offers access to many popular SaaS applications.

Microsoft Identity Manager

Microsoft Corporation is renowned for its software and cloud services. It is therefore no surprise that it also has something to offer in the realm of identity management.

Microsoft Identity Manager manages account access to applications, directories, databases, etc. It uses sets of policies, rules, and roles, and also provides user integration between dissimilar systems. This makes them accessible from a single location under one user account.

The product offers powerful tools for managing passwords and multi-factor authentication as well as privileged accounts. It comes with Azure Active Directory. This cloud-based solution enables comfortable interaction with cloud applications and provides a high level of security.

Support of mobile devices is another strong suit of this platform. This is made possible by a standalone tool called Enterprise Mobility + Security, which offers control and identification of mobile device users and provides reliable protection of data and applications on them.

CA Technologies Identity and Access Management

The platform offered by CA Technologies comprises five products. The core product is called CA Identity Suite. As its name suggests, the product is responsible for identity and access management. The product supports local and cloud applications, can be integrated with various IT systems and scaled up or down depending on the current needs and changes in the enterprise infrastructure.

Identity Suite offers convenient reports and risk analysis, making it possible to neutralize or minimize risks on the go. Role- and policy-based management is also supported.

The tools called CA Advanced Authentication and CA Single Sign-On support advanced authentication and single sign-on. Both tools provide a high level of security when used with web and mobile applications, while significantly simplifying access for employees (and customers and partners, if necessary).

In addition to these tools, CA Technologies offers a directory management tool called CA Directory and a security tool for applications called CA Rapid App Security. This tool grants access to applications after matching data on the device, the user account, and the application itself. The arsenal of Rapid App Security also features many other tools such as fingerprint or face scanners.

Ping Intelligent Identity Platform

The platform by Ping Identity is an integrated solution that can operate both as a regular corporate application and as a cloud service.

A hybrid usage model is also possible. Intelligent Identity Platform offers plenty of tools for effective identity and access management. They include sign-on and multi-factor authentication, support of policies, detailed reports with risk assessment, etc.

A great deal of attention is also devoted to access security. It is provided using not only standard methods and policies but also the company’s brand-name proxy server (in the case of a cloud-based solution) or a configured corporate proxy.
The Ping cloud offers thousands of pre-configured applications accessible through this cloud.

The platform also offers convenient management of directories, supports all common types of devices, and provides AI-powered security.

NetIQ Identity & Access Management

NetIQ’s versatile platform comes with the tools that cover all basic identity and access management needs of employees. Its policies are equally productive in local, mobile, and cloud environments, and the high level of security makes the workflows reliable and safe.

The NetIQ product supports multi-factor authentication and single sign-on in addition to providing a powerful password management tool. Detailed reports are available to system administrators. A particular focus is on privileged user accounts with a high level of access, since they can be compromised and exploited to harm the company.

All of these tools are available to customers as standalone solutions. Their functionality can be tested during a free trial period.

Brief Summary

We wish to thank contributor: Vladyslav Myronovych.  In summary, he says: IAM platforms do not necessarily fall into the category of essential tools. Still, they can be a big help to the company’s IT department.

Such systems can significantly reduce the time of forced interruptions of workflows, caused by delays in providing access or other similar issues. This in turn boosts the overall productivity of employees.

Keen to read another tech security article recommended by Vladyslav?  Read on: The advantages of Next Generation Firewalls.

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Security

4 Online Threats to Your Business to Be Aware Of

keyboard

Cybercrime has changed criminal activity. No longer are heists solely performed by rogues attempting to break into a building for money or jewelry.

Nowadays, business theft is likely to come in the form of a cyber attack, with a hacker attempting to gain access to their target’s funds or data via a cyber-portal, which they can often do with ease.

Sadly, malicious cyber attacks are a genuine threat to companies of all sizes and in every industry. To ensure your business never becomes a cybercriminal’s latest victim, here are the four online threats to your business to be aware of.

1. Phishing Scams

Phishing scams are one of the most common data security issues many companies face, and they can grant a cybercriminal with access to:

  • Usernames
  • Account passwords
  • Credit card information

Hackers will commonly pass themselves off as a legitimate source to fool their victims and encourage them to provide sensitive data.

The best defense against a phishing scam is cybersecurity training. Your employees often pose the biggest risk to your business when it comes to this hacking tactic, which is why you must educate your staff on the signs of a potential threat and introduce strict cybersecurity policies for them to follow.

2. Docker Exploitation

Many organizations have invested in container authorization tools to deploy their applications successfully.

While these tools are ultimately improving the working lives for many DevOps engineers, they could pose a serious cybersecurity risk if left vulnerable, as a hacker could remotely execute a code on a server and gain full control of a production container cluster.

Thankfully, there are ways to detect and prevent Docker exploits with StackRox, as they will test the product against realistic vulnerabilities using algorithmic-based automatic anomaly detection, without the need to configure complex, unreliable rules.

3. Session Hijacking

As millions of online consumers communicate with companies on different servers located across the globe, cybercriminals can potentially listen to a conversation before stealing sensitive data. To do so, they might embark on SQL injections or man-in-the-middle attacks.

Businesses must, therefore, implement various measures to secure future communications and protect both their safety and their customers’ data.

For example, they could incorporate cryptographic protocols, such as Transport Layer Security (TLS) and Hypertext Transfer Protocol Secure (HTTPS) to create safe and secure communications between a company’s servers and their client web browsers.

4. Ransomware

Ransomware is a powerful type of malware that attempts to gain access to a computer, before locking out a user and demanding money in exchange for the recovery key to regain access to a network and data.

It is becoming a popular option with cybercriminals due to the invention of cryptocurrency, which can prevent law enforcement from tracking a payment.

The 2017 WannaCry ransomware attack is a prime example of the power of the malware, as it led to the infection of approximately 300,000 computers across the world in 150 countries, with the total damages reportedly reaching billions of dollars.

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Safety First: 7 Things Startups Need to Know About Protecting Shared Files

computer

In any modern business, your teams will exchange multiple files throughout the day. These files can be as innocuous as funny memes or email exchanges. Yet, they can also contain sensitive company information that hackers work hard to access.

They work so hard because information is more valuable than gold. With it, hackers can influence the way a company makes decisions, or even land it in legal jeopardy. And one of the most common ways they access information is by targeting shared files.

When employees share files, they are actually creating an opportunity for hackers to snag information. Anything transmitted through the internet can be snagged by someone with enough know-how. It takes diligence and a company-wide emphasis on security to ensure that doesn’t happen.

Keep reading below to learn how to keep shared files safe, so your company stay productive and keep serving its customers.

1. Educate Everyone About File Sharing

Employee education is one of the best investments any business leader can make. When you support your employees as they try to get better at their jobs, you will inevitably make your company more productive. And when you invest in education around cybersecurity or hire a professional for it, you make it safer too.

You can enroll employees in a Lynda course or simply reach to a cybersecurity firm to give employees personal lessons. When employees know how to safely communicate online, you reduce your chance of information leaking. You protect yourself from the severe damage hackers can wreak.

2. Shared Files Should Be Password Protected

Shared files are uniquely vulnerable to hacking attempts since hackers can snag them as they’re being exchanged. Files that are stored on a server or on a personal computer require hackers to penetrate multiple systems before they can access them. Yet, when files are transmitted, hackers just need access to the means with which it’s sent.

That’s why your files should always be protected on some level. You can password-protect basic file formats like PDFs or Word documents. Yet, it’s better if you encrypt your files totally.

With file encryption, even if someone gets their hands on it, they won’t be able to read it. Without the right decryption key, they’ll just have a file filled with random nonsense. And that keeps your company safe.

3. Collaborate Software Can Be Use For Anything

To maximize your security, you should centralize the software your teams use to get work done. Chances are that you have different software for communications, file-sharing, and development. That needs to change.

Most collaboration software put an emphasis on file sharing security, now. After multiple, major companies were hacked, they now understand the need to secure a company’s communications. That means you can chat, share files, or even communicate with clients all from one piece of software.

Not only does that help boost your company’s security, but it also makes it more productive.

4. Ensure Your Cloud Stays Secure

Despite the option to use centralized collaboration tools, most companies still use a cloud. There are many positives to sticking with it: it offers virtually limitless storage as well as easy access. Yet, there is also one significant negative to the cloud.

Hackers know to target the cloud if they hear of a company using it. They know that by hacking a company’s cloud, they will be able to access tomes of extremely sensitive information. All they need is the password to it, and to get they can use phishing attempts or install a trojan virus.

Protecting your cloud is one of the most important things your company should strive to do. Don’t share anything with anyone who doesn’t need access to it. And you should always monitor the activity on your cloud to make sure nothing is ever revealed which shouldn’t be.

5. Sensitive Info Needs Pretty Good Protection

Some companies deal with information that is more sensitive than basic financial details or employee records. For example, media companies may occasionally handle especially vital political information. It’s possible for private companies to handle files which would roil people if ever revealed inappropriately.

Files like that should only ever be transmitted using tools like PGP. The acronym stands for Pretty Good Protection, and it’s earned that name for a reason. The program essentially takes a message and turns it into a series of random numbers and letters.

That way, if someone accesses it, they won’t be able to tell what it’s supposed to tell. The only way to understand the message is by decrypting it with a key that only the intended recipient should have. Using PGP daily will give a noticeable edge against hackers who are used to less-than-secure companies.

6. Record Who Accesses What, And When They Access It

To protect yourself from leaks and from people inappropriately accessing files they shouldn’t, you need to keep good records. Most software automatically logs who accesses files and what times they access it. And most of this information is logged on a file linked to the original file, so it can’t be manipulated.

That way, if you suspect someone may have access to a file who shouldn’t you can’t check the logs. Not only will you be able to tell if a suspicious account accesses a file, but you’ll also be able to tell if someone’s account is behaving suspiciously. With these access logs, you’ll be able to tell if you have a problem and will be able to address it before it gets worse.

7. Be Cautious While Transmitting Files

You can’t trust everybody on the internet. The person you talk to on your messaging program may not actually be your coworker. You can never ever truly tell if someone is who they truly claim to be.

You can take steps to verify that someone is telling the truth. You can reach out to coworkers through other means, such as by email, to make sure you’re both on the same page. You can also request specific details about something before handing over information.

One you transmit a file, it may not be able to be brought back. So, be careful with what you send over since you can never be truly sure if it’s going to the right place.

Information Is More Valuable Than Money

The one thing you should always keep in the back of your mind is that information is more important than money. When hackers try to access your systems, they’re not after your profits. Instead, they want information about your company.

And the most common way they access this information is through shared files. Those files may be inadvertently shared with hackers pretending to be coworkers. They may also be outright stolen by hackers with access to the means with which it’s transmitted.

You can never be absolutely safe on the internet, but you can take steps to protect yourself on it. And the first step is to stay informed; to do that, you should just keep reading here. We stay updated with the latest information about business and technology so you can determine your next step to stay secure!

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Security

Roles of a Cyber Security Consultant

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The severity and impact of cyber-attacks is intensifying. On the other hand, companies lack IT employees with the expertise to deal with cybercrime. For this reason, organizations are opting to place their IT security needs with third-party security providers, such as cyber security consultants.

A cyber security consultant is a professional in the IT industry who is tasked with keeping systems and networks safe from internal and external attacks. Cyber security consultants do this by:

  • Regulating access to systems by, for instance, creating security clearance levels
  • Implementing security programs to protect information
  • Keeping up-to-date with approaches used by cyber criminals, such as phishing, viruses, hacking, ransomware, etcetera.

Cyber security consultants play the role of defenders. But to do so effectively, they must also understand how attackers work. As such cyber security consultants often explore systems for weaknesses that can be exploited by cyber criminals. They then use this information to develop security solutions to strengthen networks and systems. If you are a cyber security expert and have gained experience working in the field for years, then you can become a cyber security consultant. Some other roles in this field include:

  • Security architect
  • Penetration Tester/Ethical Hacker
  • Chief Information Security Officer (CISO). This is the head of security in a company.

Why companies invest hugely in data security

There are various reasons why companies invest in data security for the following reasons:

Cyber-crime is costly to manage

The cost of cybercrime is increasing. In 2015, costs stood at $3 trillion; this figure is expected to rise to $6 trillion by 2021. The burden of these costs is borne by the companies whose systems are breached. A big part of this cost goes to litigation, as affected customers sue for damage caused.

Diminished investor confidence

Whereas there are many adverse effects of data breaches, perhaps the biggest one is that incidents of cybercrime dilute investor confidence. For instance, in 2016, a cyber-attack on yahoo was discovered in the middle of an acquisition deal with Verizon. Yahoo was forced to accept a closing price that was $300 million below its original asking price of $4.8 billion.

For investors and members of the public, cyber security is now a criterion for deciding which companies to invest in. As part of their due diligence, they seek to understand a company’s strategy for managing risk, and want assurance that their money and information will be safe.

Also, the attacks by hackers on fortune 500 companies have sent the message that everyone is vulnerable. As such, investors are cautious now more than ever. For companies, the impact on their stock valuation can have lasting effects from the ensuing customer loss, and loss of finances either directly due to the attack or indirectly as shareholders and investors pull out their funds.

To conform to business regulations

Cyber-attacks change business regulation rules, ultimately affecting how companies run their operations. A case in point is the attack on Equifax, a consumer reporting agency. The 2017 attack compromised information of 143 million consumers, causing an outcry among the public, security companies, and the government. After the Equifax attack, the Data Breach Prevention and Compensation Act was introduced. The bill seeks to give policing rights to the Federal Trade Commission and the power to fine credit reporting agencies and to ensure they compensate victims.

Greater demand for privacy

Data breaches have left the public asking for one thing: privacy. Governments have responded by putting strict privacy laws in place. In Europe, The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) requires companies to delete consumer data upon request. Companies that utilize customer data for targeted marketing will have to change how they market. The impact will be even greater if such privacy rights enter huge markets like the US.

Roles of a cyber security consultant

As mentioned, individuals and businesses both face cyber threats on their networks and online systems. The main role of a cyber security consultant is to identify such threats and prevent them from happening.

Though you can be employed directly by a company as a security consultant, as a beginner, you will most likely work for a cyber security company. Organizations pay such companies for their expertise. It will be the job of the security company you work for to decide whether your skills and experience level measure up to a contract.

You will be required to:

  1. Ensure the online security of any clients allocated to you. More so, depending on the structure and work model of your employer, you may work with accounts from different industries, or specialize in government contracts, banks, insurance, hospitals, among others.
  2. Assess your clients’ systems and identify security issues unique to each client. Based on your findings, create a business case recommending security architecture and strategies that should be deployed to prevent threats and address vulnerable areas.
  3. Explain the existing threat to your client, why you need to deploy architecture to protect them and how your deployments will protect their business.
  4. After getting buy-in from clients, test and deploy solutions.
  5. Provide user-training to your client’s employees. To ensure long-term security, you will need to maintain a relationship with teams and offer ongoing assistance as needed.
  6. Stay up to date with current cyber threats, trends, and technologies, to outdo cyber criminals. You need to constantly stay up to date with:
    • Hardware Authentication. This will help you to control log-in procedures. To log in, a user needs a username, a password, a device, and a token.  A token provides additional authentication, making it harder for unauthorized users from getting into a system even if they have a user name or password.
    • Behavior analytics. Analyzing user behavior can tell you whether log in credentials have been compromised.
    • Deep Learning. This will allow you to identify deviations in user behavior.

To succeed in these roles, you need the following skills:

  • Knowledge of information security
  • Understand security technology
  • Be a great lister and communicator
  • Ability to explain technical issues to users
  • Great team player
  • Problem-solving skills
  • Attention to detail
  • Able to work under pressure and meet project deadlines
  • Project management skills

More so, to take advantage of job opportunities, you need to have relevant work experience. For instance, if you are a database administrator, you stand a better chance of landing a job managing database security than someone who has no prior experience with databases.

What’s next: Exploit countless career options for cyber security consultants

As cyber-attacks have grown, so has the demand for cyber security consultants among government agencies, banks, medical institutions, insurance companies, among others.

But reports from researchers, security bodies and governments maintain that the skills gap in cyber security is still glaring. An article from the US Bureau of labor statistics estimates a projected growth of 28% for information security analyst jobs from 2016 to 2026. The article also notes that the demand for managed security service providers will rise, as companies still lack the capacity to handle cyber threats.

Trends show there is and always has been a shortage of cyber security talent. For example:

  • In 2014, the Cisco Annual Security Report stated that by 2014, there would be a shortage of 1 million cyber security professionals globally.
  • In 2015, Symantec CEO, Michael Brown, said that by 2019, though the demand for cybersecurity professionals will have risen to 6 million jobs, there will still be a talent shortage of 1.5 million.
  • In 2016 ISACA conducted a skills gap analysis that estimated a shortage of 2 million cybersecurity professionals by the year 2019.
  • Current job forecasts still show that the industry is unable to cope with the increasing demand for cybersecurity jobs. Cybersecurity Ventures predicts that by 2021, 3.5 million cyber security jobs will be unfilled.

Robert Herjavec, CEO of Herjavec Group, points out that the shortage of security talent hampers efforts to deal with the ever-increasing incidents of cybercrime. This makes it highly likely that black hat hackers will continue to outpace us. Herjavec recommends that everyone who is employed in IT needs to take an active part in defending their company’s infrastructure and network.

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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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