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Imagine you receive a call from your neighbor, a door to your house appears kicked in. You arrive home to find that certain items are out of place, things aren’t in disarray, however, someone unauthorized has broken in and you are unsure what damage has been performed. What or who were they after, what did they do, and when did this occur?

Perhaps your home has a security camera that records data, knowing what security controls exist, what information they contain on them, as well as the retention of that data can be crucial. What if you were on vacation, and the cameras overwrite data after 24 hours it, would be necessary to save or preserve this information before it is lost.

This is the same issue many businesses face after a cybersecurity incident.

Much like a business that identifies indicators of compromise, there are many lingering questions and a flurry of time sensitive activity that needs to follow in order to ensure the appropriate incident response actions are taken. Ultimately, answers to all these questions are typically entirely dependent upon how much historical information exists. An incident responder needs to quickly identify systems that may contain relevant information and preserve it before it is lost forever.

Without an understanding of your business, you may not have the crucial information to respond to an incident properly. It’s crucial to know what security controls exist, what type of evidence is generated within these, and how long this information is available for. The ability to identify incidents and review activity is reliant upon having the applicable data. You typically will need to have the information around what happened in order to protect your business from being attacked again as well as to understand what occurred. A lack of knowledge also makes it hard to recover what was lost.

Visibility

In order to have the best success in protecting your data, and responding during an incident, you need to proactively make sure the necessary data is being captured and ideally monitored. Typical systems that contain crucial information include network devices such as firewalls, core switches, Authentication Servers/Domain Controllers, security tools, as well as key systems that contain business sensitive data.

Examples of sensitive systems/data: ACH transactions in a bank, code base for a tech company, or intellectual property for a manufacturing plant.

Knowing how to access this information is key when addressing security threats. Without a full understanding of the key systems and infrastructure of your company, you’ll have a hard time efficiently responding to incidents or may even make things worse when an incident occurs.

Here are a few things to ask yourself to make sure you understand your visibility if an incident were to occur:

  • Who has access to our critical systems and data?
  • Where are the audit logs for the above systems stored and for how long?
  • What security layers protect these systems and is it being monitored appropriately?

Your staff should be able to answer these questions regarding your critical systems and data. The answers will help determine your risk level, and therefore determine many of your security protocol needs. If they can’t answer these questions, it’s time to reevaluate your incident response plan.

Preparedness

The best thing a business can do to prepare for a disaster is identify key systems and infrastructure within their enterprise. So, what does that look like? There are 3 major components every business should take into consideration:

1. Auditing Information -
Ensure you have the correct types of information being logged. This needs to be done in two ways.

- Log data from the correct devices. A lack of logging from crucial systems will leave gaps in visibility that can be detrimental during incident response efforts as well as active security monitoring.

- Ensure you have logging enabled for the necessary data. As an example, ensure your logging critical information such as successful and failed events as well as activity such as changes. Logs from a firewall aren’t helpful if you are only auditing denied traffic.

2. Monitor Data -
Look out for intrusions or security events, it’s necessary to take a pro-active approach and actively perform threat hunting exercises and security monitoring. Be aware of alerts that may be going off when a security breach occurs. You may also choose to hire an outside firm, like Pratum, to monitor your systems in real-time with SIEM services.

3. Retention Settings –
Make sure your data is being stored for an adequate amount of time. If an incident happens, but the retention settings don’t go back far enough, you won’t have access to the data you need. This length of retention depends on the level of your company’s security risk. The higher the risk, the longer you should be storing data.

Monitoring

How is your monitoring posture? If you need to go back and review data, or the events surrounding an incident, will you have that information readily available? If your system is designed to only hold data for a short amount of time, you may not be able to get the information you need if a security threat is found.

Going back to the burglary analogy; if you have security cameras that stores footage for 24 hours you will need to immediately seek to preserve that evidence before it is overwritten. The risk if this data not being available significantly increases if you go on vacation frequently. Businesses that take the time to evaluate the effectiveness of their security controls, appropriately measure their risk, and perform incident response preparedness exercises will be better equipped to respond quickly and efficiently during an incident.

How often you monitor your data should match the risk level. When a company has valuable information, like belongings in the home, it needs to be protected and monitored. The level of security should equal the value of the assets. If your data is highly important or sensitive, the level of risk is higher. That information needs more layers of protection.

Review

Evaluating what went wrong during a security incident can be much more difficult if you don’t have all the necessary information. Without any evidence, timeline, or a suspect, it’s hard to solve a theft case. It’s equally hard to solve a cyber-attack.

That’s why it’s so important to prepare ahead of time by understanding your business. Knowing what security measures are in place, how often they’re monitored, and who’s in charge if something goes wrong, can all make a world of difference when it comes to recuperating and responding to an attack.

If you need help evaluating your security posture and coming up with an incident response plan, Pratum offers services to fit your needs and budget.

Cybersecurity for Remote Employees

As the United States works to flatten the curve and slow the spread of COVID-19, much of the American workforce is being sent home from the office. That presents some technical and security challenges for business owners, looking to protect staff’s health and the well-being of the business. If you are preparing to send your employees home in response to Coronavirus, there are a few things you need to prepare before making your business remote.

Set a Security Policy

Before sending your staff home, make sure you have a security policy in place up for remote work. Employees may not be aware of the security measures they should follow, or how to safely conduct business from home. For many, this is the first time their jobs have been done remotely. Creating written out guidelines helps educate your staff, while keeping your company safe. This way everyone will be on the same page and will hopefully lessen any confusion.

NIST has guidance on what to include in a policy/standard. You can find their recommendations under the NIST publications, titled “Guide to Enterprise Telework, Remote Access, and Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) Security”.

Establish a Secure Connection

While your employees are working remotely, you should provide secure connectivity to corporate resources. Organizations that have never allowed for remote work will need to make resources available that were only accessible internally before now. There are a few ways you can help ensure the security of your network, while staying connected.

1. Utilize a VPN (Virtual Private Network). A VPN will help establish a secure connection between the office and employees who are working from home.

2. Think through what limitations on VPN usage may exist. This will help ensure it can support the number of employees needing to connect.

3. Use MFA (Multi-Factor Authentication) on the VPN and any remote connections. This adds an extra layer of security, by requiring additional information to access the VPN. Implement this sort of security layer anywhere you can.

4. Keep all VPNs and network infrastructure devices up to date on patches. The Department of Homeland Security CISA website has some guidance on VPN security.

Address WIFI Risks

At-home networks are typically not as secure as corporate networks. While working at home your employees probably have several devices connected to the same WIFI, as well. This can cause security risks when opened to personal devices, home appliances, and more. Company provided hotspot connections may be an option for some organizations.

You should also consider the speed of your employees’ home internet connections. They may not have the bandwidth to support their entire family now working from home, or children using devices to stream video on the same WIFI. This isn’t necessarily a security concern, but it may have an impact on employee productivity.

Prepare for Updates

While your employees are away from the office, they may need to connect back to the company network in order to get certain updates. That can include OS, anti-virus, and vulnerability scanning. Depending on your process for updates, you may need to let your staff know a certain time of day this can be done so they can be sure their devices are on and ready for the necessary maintenance.

Educate your Employees

Cybercriminals know how to take advantage of hot topics. There have already been scams targeting people looking for more information on COVID-19. During times of fear, people are more susceptible to these sorts of scams. Employees can also feel more relaxed in their home, which could mean they’re more comfortable opening suspicious emails.

Remind your staff to stay vigilant. Educate them on the importance of checking sources before clicking on links, and never sending money to anyone without verifying the recipient. That may mean an extra phone call, instead of walking down the hall.

You should also warn your staff about not using personal devices for work purposes, and not to use public WIFI while accessing business content. While working from home you may not consider your child or pet a cyber threat. However, an inadvertent click of the mouse could cause big problems. Be sure to lock your computer whenever you leave your device, just as you should at the office. These could open your business to a variety of security risks. We recently outlined some of the issues these practices can cause in a recent blog article 5 Ways to Stay Secure While Working Remote.

Ensure Your Incident Response Plan is Ready

Your Incident Response Plan is always a crucial part of your business. Now is the perfect time to make sure it is up to date and you know how to enact it remotely. If a cyber incident occurs, do you have the ability to investigate and mitigate the threat from outside the office? Start working on the answers to these questions as soon as possible, if you haven’t already.

Having a security plan in place, educating your staff, and being prepared for possible threats will make this time of uncertainty more secure and manageable for your business. If you have questions about any of these recommendations, feel free to reach out to a Pratum consultant today!

Remote Employee

The World Health Organization has officially declared the COVID-19 outbreak as a “pandemic”. This is causing several schools to close and businesses to re-evaluate their policies. One way some companies are trying to prevent spreading of illness is by allowing, or requiring, employees to work from home. With the switch to more remote workers, we put together a list of five ways you can increase cybersecurity while away from the office.

1. Communicate with IT

When working remote you should always plan ahead before leaving the office for an extended period of time. One important consideration is to check in with your company’s IT staff for any security protocol you should be following. Be sure to ask about company policies for routine connection to the company network. This allows IT staff to perform security updates, check for vulnerabilities, and keep your system in good working order. Not connecting to the company network for long periods of time may leave your device at risk. Talk with the IT staff about their recommended connection schedule.

2. Lock Your Computer

If you’re working from home, you may not consider the dangers of leaving your computer unlocked. If you have children, pets, spouses, or roommates wandering around, they may unknowingly click on something that causes issues. Having a cat or toddler accidentally delete important files while you step away from an unprotected device could be bad news. Instead, just follow the same practices you should be doing at the office by locking your computer any time you need to step away.

3. Keep Work Files on Work Computers

While it may be tempting to use your favorite computer or tablet when working from home or other remote locations, it’s not the best security practice. If you work for an organization with a diligent IT staff, they will be continually updating software and security measures on your company devices and networks. The same cannot always be said about your personal devices. You may not follow the same, strict protocols as professional, technical staff would. You also may not be able to afford the same level of technical controls that your company can.

These are all good reasons to keep your company data on company devices. By connecting a personal device to private information, you are potentially putting your company at risk. You’re also putting yourself at risk of being liable if something were to cause damage to the organization.

4. Avoid Public WIFI

The idea of sitting at home during Coronavirus prevention may seem daunting to some people who need human interaction. That’s why several people take their work to local coffee shops or restaurants. In addition to the need for social distancing, the problem with that is the threat of hackers sitting at the table next to you, or even the building next door. Using public WIFI opens you up to a number of security risks.

Even if you trust the network of the company you’re visiting, you may unknowingly sign onto a WIFI connection that is just one character different than the one you intended to sing onto. It may even have the same password as the legitimate WIFI network, but this one was set up to trick you!

You will also want to consider a VPN, or Virtual Private Network. This allows you to create a secure connection to another network over the internet, while shielding your activity from cybercriminals on public WIFI. A VPN will transmit your information through the protected pathway, rather than directly from your computer.

Using the same network as everyone else in the vicinity, without a firewall between you, could allow others to access your computer without you even realizing it. That leaves your private data and company information vulnerable if you’re working remote.

There’s also the threat of any communication shared with clients or back at the office being visible to others on the network you’re using. That traffic back and forth could contain information you do not want a threat actor seeing and taking advantage of. That leads to the next point.

5. Block Sight Lines

Taking the time to find the perfect seat while working remote can be tricky in crowded coffee shops. Just make sure that ideal spot won’t be ideal for someone trying to watch what you’re doing on your computer. If a cybercriminal can read sensitive data you type into your laptop, or spot some documents not intended for public viewing, it may be detrimental to your business.

Another great way to help reduce shoulder surfing is to add privacy filters or screens to your laptop. These can be attached to your monitor for extra security. Filters or screens create a black-out effect for anyone looking at your screen from the side. Unless you are sitting directly in front of the monitor, the screen will appear darker the more of an angle you look at it. You can find these at most stores that sell computers or online.

Also, never leave your phone or laptop alone. Even a quick restroom break is enough time for hackers to compromise your devices.

Whether you are taking precautions when it comes to physical health, or simply work remote on a regular basis, it’s important to keep up with cybersecurity practices. Be sure to communicate with your employer and find out what cybersecurity protocols you should be following while you’re away from the office. This will help keep yourself, and your organization, more secure!

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