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Market Your Security Measures

July 26, 2018

The most common lament about cyber security for small business owners is it drains profits while adding no value to the business.

That shouldn’t be the case, however.

Let’s set aside the truth that proper cyber security measures reduce the likelihood of a successful attack and the ensuing headaches, including bankruptcy, which engulfs 60 percent of SMBs within six months of a breach.

In today’s security-challenged business environment, where most small business owners mistakenly think they are “too small” to be of interest to hackers, a proactive cyber security program can differentiate you from your competition.

A PSFK Lab study with MasterCard revealed that 89 percent of customers expect stores to keep their financial information secure. With heightened alerts about Russian cyber attacks and one breach after another in the headlines, consumers have become more paranoid about their data than ever.

Suppliers — 2/3 of whom reported in a recent study that they have been victimized by a breach originating at a client or another vendor — are requiring stronger security of third parties before they allow them on their networks.

But perhaps most damning of all — a 2017 study by PWC of consumers’ attitudes about the safety of their personal information showed that only 25 percent believe businesses handle their data responsibly.

Prove to your customers that you do handle their data responsibly by touting your company’s cyber security measures as part of your marketing.

Note that I’m not saying to advertise the technology you use to protect your network because that would just give the bad guys key technical tidbits to break in. I’m talking about advertising on your marketing collateral and in your ads things like:

* “Our employees participate in ongoing cyber security training to protect your data”, or
* “Our employees have completed cyber security training to protect your data”, or
* “We deploy state-of-the-art cyber security measures to protect your data” or
* “Our network security meets (insert government and / or industry-specific regulations here)”, or
* Posting security training certificates or posters in your business

So, rather than grousing about the cost of security measures like hardware, software and training, turn this aggravating expense into an investment in your bottom line by assuring your customers and vendors that you protect their sensitive information as diligently as you protect your own.

Eric Magill is the owner of enduseritsecurity.com, which creates a culture of security in small businesses with security policies and security awareness training for employees. Call us at 302-537-4198 or Email us.
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Prompt Breach Disclosure Essential

June 27, 2018

At the RSA Cyber Security Conference this spring, a shocking double-standard was exposed in a survey of attendees regarding breach disclosures by access management company Thycotic.

Not shockingly, 84 percent expected an organization to notify them immediately if it suffered a data breach.

Shockingly, only 37 percent said they would notify their customers promptly if their organizations suffered a breach.

On second thought, when you see the blatant disregard for users’ privacy and PII by corporate America (think Uber, Equifax, Panera Bread breaches, etc.), the figure shouldn’t be that shocking.

Far too often, businesses in particular compound the inherent damage of a breach by covering up the facts as long as possible out of a greater concern for the company’s and executives’ reputations than their customers’ identities.

Of course, such foot-dragging in disclosing breaches never ends well for the company, as it claims a hefty percentage of sales in the immediate aftermath, a dramatic drop in stock price for publicly traded entities, causes a public relations disaster and lost goodwill, government investigations, and typically costs the CEO and key IT personnel their jobs.

Unnecessary butt-covering in disclosing breaches is why business owners are so often viewed as suspiciously as the hackers instead of like other crime victims.

Nevertheless, we get survey results like this one indicating the desire to cover up is stronger than the desire to do the right thing by customers and suppliers.

But, if ethical and moral considerations don’t motivate executives enough, perhaps increased regulatory pressure like the GDRP in the European Union or increasingly strict state disclosure laws across the United States will.

The GDRP requires companies doing business in the EU to disclose breaches within 72 hours of discovery. State laws also put a time limit on notifications. Federal legislators have even proposed a bill to jail executives who hide breaches.

Just from a moral and ethical standpoint, you should inform your customers and vendors, as well as the authorities, ASAP after a breach has been discovered and its breadth has been determined.

I’m talking days, not weeks or months. It will go much more smoothly, too, if you have developed an Incident Response Plan that lists those responsible for breach disclosures in your company — who contacts authorities, who handles customer / vendor / public notifications, public relations, etc.

Don’t be stupid and irresponsible with your breach disclosures when you become a victim. Be considerate and responsible and look out for your customers’ and vendors’ best interests too.

Does Your Data Depart With Employees?

June 11, 2018

When employees leave your company, do you know if your company’s data leaves with them?

Part of your procedures for off-boarding employees should involve the protection of the data they had access to while employed.

You pay a lot of money to build relationships with customers and clients. Your data of their activities, purchases, etc., fuels those relationships.

Unscrupulous employees, however, could take all of that hard work and expense and give it to their next employers — quite likely your competitors — for free.

That happens more frequently than you might think, as corporate presentations, customer lists and intellectual property leave with departing employees. Osterman Research reported that 69 percent of employees take data with them to their next employers. A Biscom survey in 2015 put that number at 87 percent.

The consequences range from loss of revenue to regulatory violations, legal battles and damage to a company’s competitiveness.

Protection of that data should begin while your employees still work for you. For example, employees should be required to sign an Acceptable Use Policy that explicitly states that the data they handle belongs to the company. It should specify that company data may not be copied to any removable storage media or external network drives or emailed or transmitted in any way without the written permission of management.

Other controls should include:

  • Visibility into employee practices
  • Limiting employee access to only the data they need for their jobs
  • Requiring encryption of sensitive data
  • Managing devices properly
  • Ensuring that data is backed up and archived properly
  • Requiring the use of enterprise apps
  • Deploying technologies that aid in achieving the above

For more information on how FlexITechs can help you protect your data from loss to departing employees, contact Eric Magill at 302-537-4198 or ericm@flexitechs.com

 

Supply Chain Security

February 18, 2018

If you haven’t already, chances are you will be required in the next year or two to submit proof to a supplier or customer that you are taking all reasonable precautions to secure their data or network when you access them.

With hackers learning that the easiest way into a large enterprise’s treasure trove of data and dollars is through a smaller supply chain partner that can’t afford 24×7 cyber security, you will find those large enterprises will expect proof that you are securing your own network when you access their network portals and handle their data.

In fact, you might consider requiring that of your partners and commercial customers yourself.

Why should you or your suppliers and customers care about each other’s cyber security practices?

Some of the largest breaches in history started with a hack of a third-party supplier or vendor and these supply chain breaches are rising.

  • The Target breach that lost 40 million credit cards didn’t start with a sustained hack on Target but with an employee at one of Target’s HVAC vendors opening a bad file attachment that installed malware on that employee’s computer. Using that machine, hackers found the HVAC company’s login credentials to Target’s vendor portal and from there worked their way to Target’s cash registers. When the dust settled, Target lost all of those credit cards, its sales fell 46 percent at one point, and recovery costs exceeded $200 million.
  • The Home Depot breach also resulted from a third-party breach and the home improvement giant spent more than $150 million in recovery, even after insurance paid $100 million.
  • According to the 2017 Ponemon Institute Data Risk Study, 56% of respondents reported they had suffered breaches that began with intrusions at third parties — a 7 percent increase over 2016.
  • Cyber criminals routinely hack email accounts to send email to all of that account’s contacts to make the email — laden with infected file attachments or links to fraudulent web sites — appear to be from a known and trusted source.

The security institute, SANS, has developed a document detailing how to establish a supply chain security program at https://www.sans.org/reading-room/whitepapers/analyst/combatting-cyber-risks-supply-chain-36252.

SANS conclusion:

“Supply chain partners are just as likely to be attacked today as any organization, and if not managed properly, they may afford attackers a back door into the networks of host organizations.”

You can also assure your partners and customers that you have taken appropriate security precautions to protect your network by implementing anti-virus and firewalls, patching software, and Security Awareness Training for your employees.

For details on such a program, call enduseritsecurity.com at 302-537-4198 or email us at securityinfo@enduseritsecurity.com.

SMBs Profitable Targets for Hackers

January 20, 2018

Most small business owners don’t believe they would be of interest to hackers. They can’t envision that cyber criminals would spend weeks or months trying to break into their networks.

And they’re right …  except for one thing.

Cyber criminals take their “businesses” as seriously as legitimate business owners by investing in more efficient methods of stealing data and money from all sizes and types of organizations — and no business is too small, right down to moms-and-pops who have found themselves caught in the cross-hairs of a Ransomware attack.

By following the practices of legitimate businesses, hackers can efficiently attack thousands of small businesses at a time and trick unsuspecting employees into divulging sensitive information such as login credentials that “earn” a hefty ROI — up to 1,400% in 30 days on a $5,000  investment — without ever trying to crack a single password.

The fact is, businesses of all sizes have data hackers want and can monetize. The data you store on yourself, your customers, your employees and your vendors can generate anywhere from 50 cents per record for basic contact info to thousands of dollars for financial account login credentials on the Dark  Web underworld.

As long as the ROI remains high and the risk of getting caught remains low, cyber criminals will continue to invest in ever more efficient methods of stealing your data and money — including A / B market testing, out-sourcing, franchising, demos, and customer service — that legitimate business owners would instantly recognize.

A study by UBM in 2016 found that “Businesses aren’t up against hordes of elite hackers but an industry efficient at finding those who  are vulnerable.” Hackers have concluded that small businesses are most vulnerable because they can’t afford the 24×7 security monitoring solutions that large enterprises can.

Further, that same UBM study stated that “The most common weak spots are employees who get caught by attacks that use social engineering and under-budgeted IT teams that don’t have the necessary skills, tools, or time to properly patch and defend complex, sprawling networks.”

If you don’t think your small business has a “complex, sprawling network”, a risk assessment will likely provide an eye-opening look at just how vulnerable your network is for your company, employees, customers and vendors.

In fact, a study by Check Point Software Technologies found that almost half of those surveyed had been victims of social engineering attacks and had experienced 25 or more attacks in the past two years. Those attacks cost victims between $25,000 and $100,000 to recover from.

To learn more about the risk your small business faces of a cyber attack, and how to make your small business less profitable to cyber criminals with Security Awareness Training, read our FREE report, “The Business of Cyber Crime and Why Small Businesses are Profitable Targets”, at http://www.enduseritsecurity.com/reports.shtml.

Protect Your Company’s Identity

November 30, 2017

Like so many things in this country, your business is known to government agencies and other businesses such as financial institutions as a number.

Just like you personally are known to those institutions and organizations by your Social Security Number, so is your business known to them by your Employer Identification Number (EIN).

You need that to file your taxes, to apply for loans, credit cards and for other instances when a unique identifier to verify your company’s identity is required.

Hackers know this too.

They know that with your EIN, they are off and running to file fraudulent business registrations, manipulate credit reports, commit banking and tax fraud, and apply for business and vehicle loans and company credit cards, all on your company’s good credit.

In the past year, for example, the IRS has noticed a sharp increase in the number of fraudulent filings of forms 1120, 1120S and 1041 as cyber criminals attempt to obtain data that enables them to file fraudulent tax returns as your business.

The following can be signs that your business has been the victim of identity theft:

  • A request to file an extension is denied because a return with your EIN has already been filed
  • An e-filed return is rejected because a duplicate filing with your EIN is already on file with the IRS
  • An unexpected receipt of a tax transcript or IRS notice doesn’t correspond to anything you have submitted
  • You notice you are no longer receiving expected correspondence from the IRS, which could indicate a hacker has changed your taxpayer address

To learn more about how to protect your business against identity theft, visit the IRS Identity Theft web page and scroll down to the Businesses section.

There, you will find information on W-2 and SSN theft and an identity theft guide for businesses.

 

Hackers’ Toll Goes Beyond Finances

May 3, 2016

I wrote about the toll hackers and cyber criminals take on end-users four years ago and think the topic deserves a refresh given the ramped up attacks since then.

Each year, the increasing cyber crime menace impacts us beyond the financial cost of anti-virus and anti-spam programs and firewalls, expensive virus removal fees, or splurging for a Mac because they appear to be immune from infections (truth: they’re no more immune from social engineering attacks than Windows computers).

The toll is no longer just financial, however. Hackers have diminished our confidence in the good nature of others and our ability to discern between good and evil.

The attacks have been so clever — designed to look like legitimate security or virus alerts with scary messages about the consequences of not following the instructions — that not only are end-users tricked into clicking them, they no longer have the confidence to click on the legitimate notices.

Of course, if they don’t follow through on legitimate alerts, they risk the security of their computers and their data by ignoring critical updates.

Hackers have confused end-users to the point of near paralysis. End-users might spend hours or even days trying to figure out if they should abide by an update alert or ignore it out of fear that it’s an infection. We get many calls from clients asking those very questions about good notices, as many as we do about actual infections.

Phishing emails, booby-trapped attachments from friends who have been hacked, threatening phone calls and on-screen warnings, pretexting believable but false scenarios, reconnaissance with seemingly innocuous questions that reveal valuable information to hackers, forged web sites and emails with links to infections, alarming or normal emails reputedly from UPS, the IRS, FedEx, banks and retailers … all of them far more convincing than the stereotypical Nigerian Prince scams of years past.

Pile on sneaky “Recommended” add-ons that the likes of Java and Adobe add to their updates that tangibly change your settings, annoying repetitive renewal and update notices from legitmate security software that mimics the behavior of infections, and Microsoft’s shady Windows 10 update procedure, and it’s a wonder anyone clicks any notice anymore.

This particularly affects less savvy end-users for whom any alert sounds convincing or scary. Honestly, faced with a bewildering array of alarming alerts on their computers, how many end-users will be comfortable enough to trust that their next click won’t encrypt the company’s files? How much time and money is lost to such paralysis?

Your end-users need to be educated on the differences between valid and malicious alerts and appropriate responses to the malicious ones.

A good security awareness program such as our FlexIT End-User Security program, that gets their attention and maintains their diligence, can not only help them avoid infections but restore the confidence they need to work safely and efficiently.

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