Pratum Blog

Does your business have security, compliance, or both? While some believe having one automatically results in the other, the two are independent and need individual attention. Despite common misconceptions, compliance is not security. Knowing the difference and why it matters could mean better, long-term protection for your business.

To understand the difference between compliance and security you need to have a clear picture of what each one means for your organization.

What is Compliance

Compliance is the process an organization goes through to adhere to a minimum set of security requirements. In some industries, these requirements are required by law. For others, it’s an expectation from business associates and vendors in order to do business together. There are different types of compliance, which means different auditors who carry out the compliance process. Depending on the type of audit being done, auditors are typically looking for controls that are designed efficiently and operating effectively.

For example: Do the controls in place meet the objectives of the selected compliance framework? Are they operating as expected?

While compliance has its place in many business security programs, it can also be misleading. Here are a few pros and cons to show how compliance can be useful, but also deceptive for businesses at times.

Pros:

  • IDS/IPS Testing
  • Formalizing Processes – Compliance is an established set of guidelines. That means becoming compliant will help a business create a more structured security portfolio.
  • Maintaining Security Commitments – Ensuring security is upheld for both the client and legal requirements.
  • Initiates Security Conversation – For some businesses, security is not a top consideration until it’s required by law or a vendor. Being required to become compliant can be a first step to more security measures being implemented in a company.

Cons:

  • IDS/IPS Testing
  • Blanketed Approach - Compliance frameworks are often not comprehensive enough to ensure security is uniquely applied to all business use cases and needs.
  • Limited Scope - Compliance reports only cover a scoped environment; oftentimes, they do not include all business systems or controls.
  • Lacks Customization - Most importantly, compliance does not assess environments on the fundamental principle of risk. It simply cannot answer the question: what is the risk posture of my organization?

Now that you have a better idea of what Compliance is, and how it can help or hinder a security program, it’s important to understand why Security is important.

What is Security

When we use the term “security” at Pratum, we are referring to the clear and unique set of technical controls and business processes that define how data is stored, processed, transmitted, consumed, and accessed at an organization in order to ensure verifiable protection from evolving cyber security threats. Security is based on the risks facing your organization’s specific needs.

There are two major components in an effective and mature security program: Strong Governance and Comprehensive Technical Controls.

For strong governance you need to have a few key components including:

  • IDS/IPS Testing
  • Proper oversight and reporting
  • An accurate policy set
  • Ongoing and routine risk assessment/analysis process
  • Effective user awareness training

A comprehensive set of technical controls should protect business-sensitive information and needs to include:

  • IDS/IPS Testing
  • Network protection devices and software
  • Employee workstation protection policies
  • Sensitive data security safeguards

When these components all work together, the security posture of your organization will be equipped with customized protection that can better protect your business’s unique security needs.

Security and Compliance Working Together

While security and compliance can work together, having one does not guarantee the other. Compliance alone does not make your business entirely secure and having security measures may not meet compliance standards. The key is figuring out what your business needs to meet industry and business expectations, while also going further and establishing a strong security program to protect your company’s assets.

It can be easy to focus primarily on compliance and “worry about those security problems later”. After all, many organizations need to meet compliance requirements in order to win certain contracts, remain competitive in their industry, or conduct business altogether. However, ignoring security beyond compliance has long-term “disastrous” effects. It introduces complexity as the organization grows, and it does not develop a strong security culture.

Security culture is important because it involves the entire organization. With compliance it’s a one-size-fits-all structure. There’s no need to involve every member of the team with most compliance audits. Compliance alone cannot change a company’s security culture. Educating staff on security measures and enforcing policies and procedures needs to be a custom process designed to fit your business’s risks.

Where to Go Next

There is some overlap between compliance and security, but one does not imply the other. Compliance can help to further mature an organization’s information security program, but it does not guarantee a strong security posture. Having security in place won’t guarantee you’re ready for compliance.

If you feel your organization needs compliance, security, or both this is a great time to examine your current information security program. Reach out to a Pratum representative to learn more about where to go next with your security and compliance needs.

Cybersecurity is possible for remote employees. Here's how.

Whether it was already part of the company structure or has recently been added due to COVID-19, many companies are offering employees the option to work from home full-time. No matter the size of the organization, this sort of shift comes with some challenges. That includes cybersecurity. Even if a business has a well-established security program for the office, they may not have the same protection set up for those working from home.

Increased Cyber Threats

When the pandemic hit, many companies were in a rush to get employees up and running with at-home offices as quickly as possible. While this may have prevented loss in business for the short-term, the long-term cyber risks could become a detrimental problem very soon. According to some cyber experts, the potential for large-scale attacks is rising as more and more employees work from home.

There are also many threat actors with time on their hands, out there looking for these prime opportunities. One of those heightened risks may come from people using personal devices for work while at home.

Using a personal device for business purposes can introduce several new threats that may not exist on a work computer in the office. For instance, many corporate devices are set up to not allow personal use. That can include private emails, social media, and other browsing that is not deemed necessary for the job. These restrictions help prevent potential threats like phishing or malware. When someone is using a personal device and does not take the proper safety measures to separate business and personal use, new threats are being introduced through that personal device into the business network.

Think of it like this: Your company’s network is similar to a home. When you leave or go to bed you are able to lock the doors and windows for basic safety. If you want to be more cautious, you add security cameras or alarm systems. When you allow an employee to work from home on an unprotected device this opens the house windows and doors. The threats are not necessarily new, but they are much more likely with less protection in place.

1. Educate Your Staff

So how can you begin to protect those remote workers if your company cannot afford to buy everyone a device with built-in protection? One way is to educate employees. Making sure your staff understands how surfing Facebook or Twitter could lead to a potential threat, or how opening Spam emails may put the entire company in jeopardy by risking loss of revenue or intellectual property. Education is a good place to start.

2. Offer Extra Protection

Next, offer protection. If you have an expectation of security for your business, you need to be sure to provide your employees with the tools to meet those standards. Consider looking into firewalls or extra security monitoring that will help protect your employees’ devices the same way you would protect a computer at the office. If you expect a certain software or device protection, you should be the one to provide it to the employees.

3. Establish Separate Profiles

Another simple way to protect the network while using personal devices is to establish separate profiles. If an employee can separate their work activity from their private internet use, there will be more protection for the company. Talk to your IT department about how to communicate that process to your staff and give your employees clear guidance on what the expectation is for these separate profiles. While one may be used for business emails and company documents, the other can access social media or online shopping. Separation of the two could help prevent unnecessary risk.

4. Setup Safeguards

As for the company’s responsibility, on top of providing education and security programs for remote workers, businesses can also set up systems to safeguard the network on the company’s end. One way to do that is to collect the IP addresses of all remote workers. This list can then be used to create restricted access to the company network.

With these IP addresses a business can allow access to only those addresses approved by the company. This approved list will allow remote workers the access they need, while limiting any outside intruders. Restrictions can also be placed on the time of day IP addresses are allowed into the network. If you prefer workers only see company data during business hours, set the limits and let your staff know their restrictions.

5. Review Old Habits

Now is the time to go over the current security measures in place. Whether it was a rushed decision to send employees to work from home, or a long-standing option for your business, this is a good time to be going over your policies and work from home procedures. Everything from VPN access to firewalls, and even the latest updates on software are important components of your security posture. Be sure everything is up to date and meets the same standards, if not higher, than what you expect from employees working within the office.

Security is Possible at Home

Working from home may be the best option for your employees at this time, and that can be done securely if you take the time to establish a proper cybersecurity program. Just because you may have rushed to make remote work possible does not mean you need to leave it as is now.

Educate your staff on cybersecurity practices. Provide the proper equipment and tools needed to keep their work secure. Setup extra security measures on the business network. And go over old policies and procedures to see what needs to be adapted to fit the changing times. With the right approach your staff can be more secure when working from home.

If you’re unsure of where to start with your business’s cybersecurity needs, reach out to a Pratum representative today to help guide you!

Internal and External Penetration Testing

Is your organization secure from a cyber-attack? Unless you’ve done some thorough research, you may not be able to answer that question confidently. Knowing the strength of your security program is paramount in protecting your data, and your clients’ information!

Penetration testing is one of the most effective ways to ensure your business is prepared against an attack. Testing for both external and internal threats can help protect your company and give you some peace of mind. Knowing where your vulnerabilities are will help you secure your network, and knowing which tests are right for your organization is a good first step.

What is Penetration Testing?

Penetration testing, often called “Pen Testing”, is done by a cybersecurity expert who tries to infiltrate an organization’s systems using a series of tests. The goal is to try and find vulnerabilities in the security protocol that could be used by criminals.

There are two steps to a “typical” Pen Testing process: external and internal. Each one offers unique insight into the security strength of your organization. Taking the time to understand what they involve and offer your company can help you prepare for the process.

External Pen Testing

External Penetration Testing is the practice of testing security programs through external access. That includes anything that has a public facing service or IP or URL. This could be a web application,firewall, server or IoT device. Depending on the motivation of the attacker, they could utilize a vulnerability or chain vulnerabilities in order to gain access to sensitive data. In various parts of the internet, zero day (0-day) exploits are often sold or exchanged for these purposes.

The goal of External Pen Testing is to find those vulnerabilities a threat actor may use to get into your company’s network to steal valuable information from within your company.

External Pen Testing Methods:

  • IDS/IPS Testing
  • Segmentation Testing
  • Manual Testing Identified Vulnerabilities
  • System Screening/Port Screening/Service Scanning for Vulnerabilities
  • Checking Public Information for Leakages
  • Foot-printing/Banner Grabbing
  • Open Source Intelligence (OSINT) reconnaissance
  • PCI, HIPPA and other compliance-based testing

The tester may also try to gain access to external facing assets such as email, file shares, or websites.

During testing, the assessor will gather information on all assets within the scope of the test. That includes open ports, vulnerabilities, and other information about the company’s users. This can then be used for various attacks such as: brute forcing passwords, phishing attacks, precise operating system and service attacks.

The External Pen Test should reveal any areas that may be compromised and exploited to gain access to your network. This should also be utilized as an opportunity for clients to verify their current process for detecting anomalous activity. Once a perimeter is breached, testing depending on the rules of engagement, further attacks could be used to gain access to internal network assets, often referred to as pivoting or lateral movement.

Internal Pen Testing

Most organizations focus on the perimeter as far as security goes. Unfortunately, those with direct access to an organizations data pose the most significant threat overall. People are often easily manipulated and prone to mistakes (we are all human). Many times, what happens at the host level goes unmonitored and many organizations aren’t aware of what is entering or leaving their networks. Common misconfigurations are still seen to this day that often lead to full network compromise.

Internal Pen Testing is very important and can encompass many things. For those working from home that may be private networks such as home WIFI, cell phones, cable, streaming services, and the list goes on. All of these can be connected to each other. The threat comes from opening networks to external threats with one of these channels.

The office has potential internal threats, as well. The same systems in place at home can often be found at the office; such as phones, internet networks, and more. Also, if your business has a file sharing system that several employees have access to, and do not require a password, you may want to re-evaluate who is allowed to see the various levels of content. Not every employee needs access to the same data, and unnecessary access could leave you vulnerable to an attack. Not all employees have the interest of your company at heart and could be motivated by financial, vindictive or other means to cause harm to the network or overall company image.

A threat actor who is able to get in through one of these channels can then move about and gather private data by just observing from within. It may not always be an immediate attack. In fact, they may collect data to use later or sell to others. This could go undetected for weeks, months or longer if proper internal auditing, patching and testing is not performed on a regular basis.

During Internal Pen Testing the assessor is trying to find out just how much damage could be done by a threat actor or employee from the inside of the network. A poorly secured domain could lead to total control of a network, but most tests require multiple attack paths to complete the objective. This is often accomplished due to relaxed policies that focus on convenience rather than necessary mitigations.

Once the Pen Tester can access the internal system, the tester will sometimes move laterally within the organization’s system. The goal is to see how much of the internal network is vulnerable if an attacker were to gain access. Internal Pen Testing can also include privilege escalation, malware spreading, information leakage, and other malicious activities.

The tester will often use less important systems, that are easier to access, as a channel to get through to the more secure areas with higher levels of protection. This is typically where sensitive data or controls will be.

Internal Pen Testing Can Include Using:

  • WIFI Networks
  • Firewalls
  • IDS/IPS
  • Employees
  • Computer Systems
  • Mobile devices
  • HVAC
  • Cameras
  • Physical access

Internal Pen Testing is important, even if your External Pen Testing seemed secure. Threat actors may still be able to infiltrate your system. There could also be attacks from individuals from inside your organization. Knowing all levels of your security system will help you prepare and prevent a breach.

External vs. Internal: What’s Right for You?

Trying to decide the right security path for your business is not always simple. When it comes to Penetration Testing, knowledge really is power. Being able to know areas of strength and weakness can help better prepare you for possible threats. Whether it’s preventing an outside attack from an external threat, or an internal issue that could put your company in jeopardy, there are ways to know what you’re ready to handle.

There isn’t a “standard” penetration test for every organization, everyone is different. No matter how large or small your organization is, Pratum can customize a solution that provides value to your organization. If you feel budgetary constraints are an issue for you, talk to one of our experts and you’d be surprised as to what you still can do.

If you’re interested in seeking a third-party expert to conduct Penetration Testing, or just discuss your options, be sure to reach out to a Pratum consultant now.

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