Category Archives: COVID-19

Trends in IT-Security and IAM in 2021, the “New Normal” and beyond

Article by Dennis Okpara, Chief Security Architect & DPO at IDEE GmbH

Yes, there is hope for 2021, but the challenges of the “New Normal” are here to stay. CISOs have to prepare and start acting now, because cybersecurity and the IT-infrastructure will have to face threats that have only just started.

The year 2020 was the year working from home lost its oddity status and became normality. Big names like Google and Twitter are planning long-term and hold out the prospect of working from home on a permanent basis. More than 60 percent of companies are trying the same and have implemented home office policies in 2020. But with great flexibility comes great responsibility: Everyone responsible for Cybersecurity and a secure IT infrastructure is now dealing with new challenges closing the last gaps and weak points when it comes to allowing access to company resources. Dennis Okpara, Chief Security Architect & DPO at IDEE GmbH, the specialist for secure identity access management (IAM), authentication and authorization, shows the top 3 issues CISOs have to look out for:

1. The Problem with Insider Threats will only get Worse
With more and more people working from home, the use of personal devices and working on private networks only increases and further fuels the risk of insider threats. This does not come as a surprise. As early as in 2018, Verizon's Data Breach Investigation Report already recorded an increase in threats from "internal actors," meaning employees who knowingly or unknowingly illegally disseminated data and other company information. According to the 2020 report, insiders were responsible for a data breach in a flabbergasting 30% of cases.

The case of Twitter in the summer of 2020 illustrates the damage vividly an insider threat can create. Hackers used social engineering to exploit the insecurity of IT employees and thus gain access to internal systems. Of course, it is quite unlikely that any of Twitter’s employees acted with malicious intent, still, they became the tool for an attack. The result: although the ATOs (Account Take Over) was used for fairly obvious scam posts, the attackers captured well over $100,000.

No company is immune to such attacks, and even strict cybersecurity policies have little effect because they are very difficult to enforce or monitor when people are working from home. Therefore, it can be assumed that the number of insider threats will increase by more than 20% in 2021.

2. Ransomware and Shadow-IT are bound to become the CISOs nightmare
Working from home came suddenly for most companies and pretty much overnight, and even still, most corporations are not sufficiently prepared for the challenges that lie ahead. Unlike in the office, where the IT department can reasonably reliably control the distribution of software on employee PCs, the use of home networks and private devices opens up new attack vectors for hackers.

Employees often use third-party services, download free software, or use private cloud services as a workaround when corporate services are not available. The storage of documents, access to data or other sensitive information on private devices will also continue to increase without CISOs being able to control this. Since private devices and networks are usually inadequately protected, they serve as a gateway for ransomware, which then attacks corporate networks, encrypts data and extorts high ransoms. Gartner analysts have already predicted a 700% increase in 2017 - the growth from the New Normal will dwarf those numbers and give CISOs many sleepless nights. Due to system and network vulnerabilities, misconfigurations, phishing, and the increase in credential attacks, we will likely see an exponential increase in ransomware attacks in 2021.

3. Mobile Devices Become a Favourite Target for Hackers
Developments such as multi-factor authentication (MFA) is improving the security of access to corporate services. On the flip side, it has put mobile devices in the crosshair of hackers. As smartphones are now practical for almost all online activities, the number of attack vectors has grown steadily along with them. In addition to malware, which can be easily installed via third-party apps, especially on Android, and data manipulation or the exploitation of recovery vulnerabilities (such as the interception of magic links or PIN text messages), social engineering is a particularly popular field here.

In addition to the widespread phishing e-mail, vishing (manipulation of employees by fictitious calls from IT staff) and smishing (which works similarly to phishing but uses SMS instead of e-mail) will increase sharply. Hackers will come up with new tricks to compromise mobile devices, and that can only make digital fraud worse.

2021: The Year We Abolish Trust
In a year in which we will have to learn a lot of things anew, CISOs are well-advised to not build anything on trust – neither their network infrastructure nor their IAM. Zero-trust architectures that question all access to corporate resources must become the standard in the age of the New Normal. Restricting resource access to a physical address or IP address, or to VPN access, is counterproductive and difficult to manage if employees are to work from remote locations. Digital identity will shift from user identity to the combined identity of the device and the user. Only this will enable modern and secure identity & access management.

Don’t let your kids’ online classes be disrupted by cyberattacks!

Beware of cyberattacks happening through online classes!2020 will be remembered for a lot of sweeping changes and online classes are definitely on top of...

The post Don’t let your kids’ online classes be disrupted by cyberattacks! appeared first on Quick Heal Blog | Latest computer security news, tips, and advice.

Six Trends Shaping the 2021 Cybersecurity Outlook

Article by Tom Kellerman, Head of Cybersecurity Strategy, Rick McElroy, Head of Security Strategy and Greg Foss, Senior Cybersecurity Strategist, VMware Carbon Black

Everything is different, and yet the same. As we look ahead to the cybersecurity landscape in the next 12 months, it is from a position no one predicted this time last year. Business operations have changed beyond recognition with most employees working from home in a transition that happened almost overnight. Stretched security teams have been challenged to rapidly deploy robust remote working facilities to maintain productivity. Most were writing the ‘pandemic playbook’ as they went along.

Ironically, one of the few certainties of the situation was that cybercriminals would take advantage of disruption to escalate campaigns. In that sense, nothing changed, except that the opportunity was suddenly much greater. As a result, nine in ten security professionals surveyed by our Threat Analysis Unit said they were facing increased attack volumes, which they attributed to the newly distributed working environment.

The effects of COVID-19 will continue to impact the cybersecurity sector for some time, but they are not the only considerations. This year we’ve seen cybercrime and cybercriminal groups continue along a path of technical and industry innovation that will see new strategies and tactics gain traction in 2021. We have also seen cyber defences tested like never before and, for the most part, they have held firm; there is reason for cybersecurity professionals to be optimistic.

With this in mind, the following are six trends we expect to see, and key areas cybersecurity professionals should keep their eyes on in 2021.

1. Remote-Working Focuses Attacker Attention on Mobile Compromise
As business becomes more mobile than ever and remote working persists, mobile devices and operating systems will be increasingly targeted. As employees use personal devices to review and share sensitive corporate information, these become an excellent point of ingress for attackers. If hackers can get into your Android or iPhone, they will then be able to island-hop into the corporate networks you access, whether by deactivating VPNs or breaking down firewalls.

We will also see hackers using malware such as Shlayer to access iOS, ultimately turning Siri into their personal listening device to eavesdrop on sensitive business communications.

Combating these risks requires a combination of new mobile device policies and infrastructure designed to facilitate continued remote working, as well as raising employee awareness of the persistent risks and the importance of digital distancing.

2. Continuing Direct Impacts on Healthcare
In terms of direct impact of COVID-19 the healthcare sector, at the heart of crisis response, will see the adaptations it made to try and maintain patient services become a vulnerability. With growing reliance on telemedicine for routine medical appointments lucrative personally identifiable information (PII) is being accessed from remote locations and as a result is more easily intercepted by hackers. At the same time, vaccine-related data pertaining to trials and formulae is some of the most sought-after intellectual property right now and the drive to get hold of it for financial or political gain is putting healthcare and biotech organisations under intense pressure from external threats and insider risk.

That said, the strain on healthcare cybersecurity is not going unheeded; we will see increased IT and security budgets in the sector to combat the growth in external threats.

3. Emerging Tactical Trends: Cloud-Jacking and Destructive ICS Attacks
As the new year dawns, we will see tried and tested tactics evolving to become more sophisticated and take advantage of changes in network architecture. Cloud-jacking through public clouds will become the island-hopping strategy of choice for cybercriminals as opportunity proliferates due to the overreliance on public clouds by the newly distributed workforce.

It won’t be only the virtual environment under threat. Increasing cyber-physical integration will tempt nation state-sponsored groups into bolder, more destructive attacks against industrial control system (ICS) environments. Critical National Infrastructure, energy and manufacturing companies will be in the crosshairs as OT threats ramp up. Our analysts are seeing new ICS-specific malware changing hands on the dark web and we are likely to see it in action in the coming year.

4. The Ransomware Economy Pivots to Extortion and Collaboration
Another familiar tactic taking on a new twist is ransomware. Ransomware groups have evolved their approach to neutralise the defensive effect of back-ups and disaster recovery by making sure they’ve exfiltrated all the data they need before the victim knows they’re under attack. Once the systems are locked attackers use the data in their possession to extort victims to pay to prevent the breach becoming public. And if that fails, they can sell the data anyway, meaning the victim is doubly damaged.

Ransomware is such big business that the leading groups are collaborating, sharing resources and infrastructure to develop more sophisticated and lucrative campaigns. Not all collaborations will be successful, however, and we’ll see groups disagreeing on the ethics of targeting vulnerable sectors such as healthcare.

5. AI Utilised for Defensive and Offensive Purposes
Technology innovation is as relevant to attackers as it is to defenders and, while artificial intelligence and machine learning have significant benefits in cybersecurity, we can expect to see adversaries continue to advance in the way AI/ML principles are used for post-exploitation activities. They’ll leverage collected information to pivot to other systems, move laterally and spread efficiently – all through automation.

The silver lining is that in 2021 defenders will begin to see significant AI/ML advancements and integrations into the security stack. Security automation will be simplified and integrated into the arsenal of more organisations – not just those with mature SOCs. As awareness of how attackers are using automation increases, we can expect defenders to fix the issue, maximising automation to spot malicious activity faster than ever before.

6. Defender Confidence is Justifiably on the Rise
To finish on a resoundingly positive note, this year we saw cyber defences placed under inconceivable strain and they flexed in response. Yes, there were vulnerabilities due to the rapidity of the switch to fully remote working, but on the whole security tools and processes are working. Defender technology is doing the job is it designed to do and that is no small feat.

The mission-critical nature of cybersecurity has never been more apparent than in 2020 as teams have risen to the challenge of uniquely difficult circumstances. In recognition of this we will see board-level support and a much healthier relationship between IT and security teams as they collaborate to simultaneously empower and safeguard users. 2020 has been the catalyst for change for which we were more than ready.

Predicated Data Classification Trends for 2021

Article by Adam Strange, Data Classification Specialist, HelpSystems

In the digitally accelerated COVID-19 environment of 2021 what are the top data security trends that organisations are facing? Here is HelpSystems Data Classification Specialist, Adam Strange’s take on the outlook and trends for 2021.

Ongoing Growth in Remote Working will Create Data Security Threats
  • The far-reaching impact of COVID-19 includes the intensified threat of malicious cyber attacks as well as an escalating number of damaging data breaches across almost every sector of business. The rapid shift to remote working during the pandemic left many employers exposed to hackers and highlighted multiple examples of serious network and data vulnerabilities.
  • For example, in a recent article, Infosecurity Magazine quotes research finding that attacks on the biotech and pharmaceutical industry alone rose by 50% in 2020 compared to 2019. And in the defence sector, The Pentagon is seeing a huge rise in cyber attacks through the pandemic, where unprecedented numbers of employees are forced to communicate through their own devices. 
  • As more companies move to facilitate a semi-permanent remote workforce, data security ecosystems will evolve to become more complex and advanced data management and classification solutions will be a critical technology investment.
  • ‘Insider threat’ will be categorised as the most prominent tier 1 data security risk in 2021, necessitating stricter corporate guidelines and protocols in data classification, as well as comprehensive employee education programmes around data security. 
  • HelpSystems’ recent research interviewed 250 CISOs and CIOs in financial institutions about the cybersecurity challenges they face and found that insider threat - whether intentional or accidental - was cited by more than a third (35%) of survey respondents as one of the threats with the potential to cause the most damage in the next 12 months. 
  • Further, the latest Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) report confirmed that misdirected email remains one of the UK’s most prominent causes of security incidents, demonstrating the need for all organisations to control the dissemination of their classified data. 
  • HelpSystems’ technologies in data security and classification are enabling businesses to regain control of sensitive data, identify sensitive data by scanning and analysing data at rest and classify and protect personal data by detecting PII at creation. 
A Security Culture needs to be Embedded into Organisations, especially as Insider Breach Risk continues to Grow
  • In 2021 data governance will take centre stage in data security and privacy strategies. Companies will create Centres of Excellence (COE) to embed a solid data security culture across teams and corporate divisions and to formalise in-house data management processes, rolling out divisional best practice and placing data classification at the foundation of their data security strategy.
  • Employees play a vital role in ensuring the organisation maintains a strong data privacy posture. For this to be effective, organisations need to ensure that they provide regular security awareness training to protect sensitive information. In terms of how they go about doing this, they must invest in user training and education programmes. 
  • The security culture of the firm must be inclusive towards all employees, making sure they are continually trained so that their approach to security becomes part of their everyday working practice, irrespective of their location, and security becomes embedded into all their actions and the ethos of the business. 
  • Data classification solutions will allow businesses to protect data by putting appropriate security labels in place. HelpSystems data classification uses both visual and metadata labels to classify both emails and documents according to their sensitivity. Once labelled, data is controlled to ensure that emails, documents and files are only sent to those that should be receiving them, protecting sensitive information from accidental loss, through misdirected emails and the inadvertent sharing of restricted documents and files. 
Supply Chain Ecosystem Risk will get Bigger
  • Accenture quote that 94% of Fortune 100 companies experienced supply chain disruptions from COVID-19, and that as much as 40% of cyber threats are now occurring indirectly through the supply chain.
  • 2020 has been the year where businesses realised more than ever that data security across the supply chain was only as strong as its weakest link, where exposing a business’s network and sensitive data to its suppliers had the potential to carry significant additional risk. 
  • HelpSystems’ recent report interviewed 250 CISOs and CIOs from financial institutions about the cybersecurity challenges they face and nearly half (46%) said that cybersecurity weaknesses in the supply chain had the biggest potential to cause the most damage in the next 12 months. 
  • But sharing information with suppliers is essential for the supply chain to function. Most organisations go to great lengths to secure intellectual property (IP), personally identifiable information (PII) and other sensitive data internally, yet when this information is shared across the supply chain, it doesn’t get the same robust attention. 
  • The demand for greater resilience across supply chain operations in 2021 will require businesses to move quickly to overhaul existing tech investments and prioritise data governance. Organisations must ensure basic controls are implemented around their suppliers’ IT infrastructure and that they have robust security measures in place. 
  • Advanced data classification capabilities will deliver assurance and control to numerous industries including finance, defence and government. HelpSystems advises organisations to ensure their suppliers have a robust approach to security and information risk with security frameworks such as ISO 27001 and Cyber Essentials in place. 
  • Organisations should implement a data classification scheme and embed data risk management into the procurement lifecycle processes from start to finish. By effectively embedding data risk management, categorisation and classification into procurement and vendor management processes, businesses will prevent their suppliers’ vulnerabilities becoming their own and more effectively secure data in the supply chain. 
Data Privacy Regulations set to Increase
  • An increased focus on data privacy and protection of personal data and the continuing shift in privacy law, as reflected in the EU’s landmark GDPR in 2018 and, this year, the US’s CCPA, and the CPRA set to take effect in 2023, has changed the data regulatory landscape. We can expect to see similar US compliance rulings come into force beyond California through 2021.
  • In addition to individual state privacy rulings, we can expect to see federal US-wide regulation come into force. 
  • This new phase in privacy regulation will be complex and enforcement will demand changes in people, process and technology - proper corporate data governance programmes, employee training and solid data management systems in every organisation to counter reputational risk and hefty fines. 
  • Data automation will also be a priority as companies struggle to deliver relevant data protection strategies for every level of business and its users, across all platforms and infrastructures to conform with individual state and international laws. 
  • HelpSystems’ unified security, compliance and data classification solutions simplify compliancy reporting enabling business to easily generate the documentation necessary to identify security issues, give auditors the information that they need and prove compliance. 

The Dangers of Security Vulnerability Scoring Dependency

Article by Nathan King, Director, Cyberis

Vulnerability scoring has an important role in most enterprise threat and vulnerability management programmes because it provides multiple benefits to internal security teams when identifying any weaknesses. Additionally, it can also help verify control performance.

The Common Vulnerability Scoring System (CVSS) is a free and open industry standard for assessing the severity of computer system insecurities and attempts to assign scores to them, allowing responders to prioritise their feedback and resources according to the threat.
CVSS is an open industry standard for assessing the severity of computer system insecurities
This system, among similar others, has gained widespread industry adoption because it is simple to understand and usually produces repeatable results. However, adopting such systems can also result in failures to detect, manage and respond to security defects. The main reason for this is that vulnerability scoring systems are pretty good at measuring vulnerabilities, yet are unsuited to handling weaknesses. 

The Difference between Vulnerabilities and Weaknesses
The MITRE Corporation (an American not-for-profit organisation which manages federally-funded research and development centres) simply defines a weakness as “a type of mistake in software that, in proper conditions, could contribute to the introduction of vulnerabilities within that software”. This definition can be expanded to a general notion that “weaknesses are errors that can lead to vulnerabilities”, making it applicable to other assets, not just software and including systems, networks and controls.

CVSS v3, for example, cannot really be used to measure the characteristics and severity of a weakness that has no currently defined vulnerability. We encounter this problem routinely when customers request CVSS ratings for application penetration tests where weaknesses are usually more evident.

Manage the Weaknesses
How weaknesses are managed alongside vulnerabilities is critical to the success of technical risk management programmes. It is common to see weaknesses inadequately assessed, measured and remediated and they are often overlooked, or fall off the radar completely. This is because remediation of critical and high severity vulnerabilities with verified scores are prioritised by overstretched security teams.

Let’s consider BlueKeep, a security vulnerability discovered in Microsoft’s Remote Desktop Protocol (RDP) implementation, which allows for the possibility of remote code execution. It is a remotely-exploitable, wormable vulnerability present in older versions of the RDP implementation.

If we ran a perimeter vulnerability scan today, which identified a notably unpatched RDP service, it would be scored by CVSS as 9.8 or in other words, ‘critical’. But how would the vulnerability scanner report the exposure of the same RDP service prior to BlueKeep’s public disclosure? Potentially in several different ways, but more than likely it would misclassify the exposure, despite it requiring immediate treatment as an obvious weakness, given its poor security reputation alone.

Another example where problems arise is in unsupported systems where vulnerabilities have not yet surfaced. The weakness here is obvious, but unsupported systems alone cannot be systematically scored. We often find that vulnerability scanners fudge high CVSS values to compensate, so perhaps this is a pragmatic, qualitative approach to handling weaknesses which cannot be measured. But if this qualitative approach is not applied to all weaknesses, unidentified gaps and inconsistencies, will be inevitable in the assurance activity.

Both examples consider vulnerability scanners, which are intrinsically affected by vulnerability scoring, but any service or security process that uses vulnerability scoring at its core is at risk of mishandling the weaknesses.

The Advice
It is important to review any tools and internal processes which assess security defects by vulnerability scoring at their core. Understand how they identify and interpret the severity of weaknesses alongside vulnerabilities. And remember that CVSS assumes that a vulnerability has already been discovered and verified; anything outside of this scope may be misrepresented or missed entirely.

Also, do not dismiss qualitative approaches in your threat and vulnerability management programme because they can be invaluable in gaining a comprehensive view of technical security issues and assurance. Although qualitative assessments are also subject to bad press, they can be pragmatic, particularly when conducted by someone who is an authority in a particular subject area.

A varied programme of technical assessments should provide a broader view of priorities, both short and long term. Make sure your assurance programme delivers across all your particular objectives, by reviewing your vendor’s way of working carefully. For example, high-quality penetration tests should provide context and visibility of application and system weaknesses over a longer-term, not just a snapshot of the verified vulnerabilities.

Pandemic Working and Remote Access Vulnerability Trends
The continued working from home protocol has meant organisations’ IT systems are still being stretched to the limit, with many new challenges coming to the fore and without the traditional visibility into their infrastructures. Solutions that were rolled out in an emergency when the COVID-19 pandemic hit are still in use nearly a year on. Perimeters have become more porous, and in many cases, rarely-used remote access systems became critical business infrastructure overnight. These business trends provide opportunities for adversaries, who will be looking for vulnerabilities in remote access software and remote access components.

Considering weaknesses pragmatically, and the possible exposure if a vulnerability is identified, is crucial to maintaining information security and managing the commensurate risks in the current environment. A simple score from a vulnerability scan of the perimeter simply does not capture the risk.

Additional sources:

Cyber Security Roundup for December 2020

A roundup of UK focused Cyber and Information Security News, Blog Posts, Reports and general Threat Intelligence from the previous calendar month, November 2020.

Manchester United FC remains impacted by a seemly major cyber-attack, which I covered in a blog post titled The Multi-Million Pound Manchester United Hack. At this point, United have provided few details about their cyber-attack which has been impacting club's IT systems for well over a week. However, the UK media are widely reporting United's leaky IT defences was unable to prevent a ransomware attack and data theft.  London's Hackney Borough Council have also been tight-lipped about what they describe as "a serious cyber-attack" which has impacted its service delivery to Londoners. Like United, this attack has all the hallmarks of a mass ransomware outbreak. Both Manchester United and Hacknet Council said they are working UK's National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC).

Man.Utd hit by ransomware, who's next?

Street Fighter games maker Capcom also reported to be compromised by a ransomware attack, with up to 350,000 people said to be affected, along some of Capcom's financial information stolen. The Ragnar locker hacker group were said to be behind the attack, although indications are that Capcom hasn't given in to their ransom demands after an ominous message appeared on the Ragnar group's website, which said Capcom didn't "make a right decision and save data from leakage". 

The ransomware attacks will be going from bad to worse in 2021 according to Sophos. In its annual threat report, Sophos anticipates ransomware tactics, techniques and procedures are to become more evasive, with criminal threat actor operating more like nation-state attackers. Sophos also expects an increase in the number of entry-level, apprentice-type attackers looking for menu-driven, ransomware-for-rent, meaning the technical barrier preventing general nefarious folk orchestrating ransomware attacks is getting lower.

Its likely COVID-19 has saved Ticketmaster from a more substantial DPA/GDPR fine after the Information Commissioners Office (ICO) announced it had fined the gig ticket selling company a mere £1.25 million for failing to keep 9 million of its customer's personal data and payment cards secure.  The ICO investigation concluded a vulnerability in a third-party chatbot installed on Ticketmaster's online payments page was exploited and used to access its customer card payment details. Following the breach, 60,000 Barclays bank customers were victims of fraud, while online bank Monzo had to replace 6,000 payment cards due to fraud. Ticketmaster said it would appeal against the ICO ruling. 

An interesting new UK law is in the offing which proposes fines of 10% of turnover or more than £100,000 a day for telecoms operators that use of Huawei network equipment within their 5G networks. The bill provides the UK government new powers to force out Huawei usage with the UK telecoms giants, the threatened sum of £100,000 a day would only be used in the case of "continuing contravention" according to number 10.

Consumer group Which warned security flaws in popular smart doorbells are placing UK consumers at risk. The watchdog tested 11 smart doorbell (IoT) devices purchased from popular online marketplaces like Amazon, the dodgy products were said to have been made by Qihoo, Ctronics and Victure. The most common security flaws found by Which were weak password policies and a lack of data encryption. Two of the devices could be manipulated to steal network WiFi passwords, providing the opportunity for an attacker to then hack other smart devices within the home.

The NCSC released its annual review, confirming what we already know about the commonality of ransomware attacks on UK organisations.  The NCSC also accused Russia of trying to steal vaccine-related information through cyber-espionage, advising an "ongoing threat" of nation-states targeting the UK vaccine research-and-delivery programmes. The NCSC were not alone in pointing the finger at nation-state threat actors going after COVID-19 vaccines, Microsoft also reported state-backed hackers from Russian and North Korea were targeting organisations working on a coronavirus vaccine. The Russian group "Fancy Bear" and North Korean groups "Zinc" and "Cerium" were fingered by Microsoft as the culprits behind a spate recent cyber-attacks. Microsoft said Fancy Bear were brute-forcing accounts with millions of different passwords combinations, while North Korean groups sent spear-phishing emails posing as World Health Organisation officials, in an attempt to trick researchers into handing over their login credentials and research data. 

Stay safe and secure.

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    Advice: Protecting Lone Workers Through Covid Restrictions

    Protecting lone workers is an issue that businesses may not have come across previously, especially those based in busy city centre office blocks pre-coronavirus. Yet with many thriving business districts deserted through a lockdown and not everyone able to work from home, it’s an issue more management teams are having to consider. 
     Firms could be inadvertently putting employees at risk of security, mental health/wellbeing and medical risk
    Here, Jonathan Fell of digital security provider Digital ID, outlines some of the ways to protect members of staff who find themselves lone working during lockdown number two.

    “Most businesses have got to grips with the challenges around managing teams remotely, but what about the needs of those employees who can’t or won’t work from home. In the following Government guidelines, firms could be inadvertently putting employees who need to stay office-based at risk in other areas – security, mental health/wellbeing and medical suitability being just a few of the potential causes for concern.

    “Even if there are a small number of employees in the workplace you should still put procedures in place for times in the day when workers will be alone for example lunchbreaks and variations in contracted hours.”

    Security and Access Control
    “Security is one of the main concerns,” said Jonathan. “Ensuring that staff members are not put into dangerous situations in the workplace. Don’t forget, empty offices could be a potential target for robberies, leaving staff on their own more vulnerable to theft. Your lone worker will need briefing and support on how to identify and report threats. 

    Empty offices are targets for robberies, lone office workers need support on dealing with such threats

    “An update to the security system will be needed to reflect who is coming in and out of the building. In terms of ID cards that means making sure your policies are updated to include new procedures relating to lone workers and the building.

    “Someone should be appointed to monitor the login records to ensure staff arrive and leave at the expected times – luckily that’s easy to do remotely with a digital ID card system. If your current access control system doesn’t allow you to do this, you should really think about upgrading your system.”

    Find out more about this over on the Digital ID blog: https://www.digitalid.co.uk/blog/to-upgrade-or-not-to-upgrade-why-2020-is-the-time-to-migrate-your-access-control-system

    “Having someone on call and close enough to respond in an emergency is another important consideration. A tip here is to print emergency contact details onto the reverse of their ID or access cards. Given that these should be kept on the person at all times, it means contact numbers easy to find and use if a person needs help quickly.

    “Things like checking your employee has good mobile phone coverage in the place of work is something a lot of people don’t think about but is very important these days. If they don’t, then they’ll need an active landline within easy access.

    “If photo ID is connected to an access control system, you may need to restrict access to some of the building in light of any new changes. Think about where needs to be accessed and how frequently by the lone worker, perhaps moving some things around within the building to ensure they can stick to a smaller footprint that will put them less at risk.

    “A final thought on security is that coming in and leaving at exactly the same time every day carrying laptops or other equipment could make them a target for personal theft, this needs to be weighed up against travelling at times when it’s dark and isolated. All should be covered in a full risk assessment.

    “It’s worth remembering that as a business you’re responsible for workers lone working at home too, so where there will not be complicated access concerns here, looking after the mental health and wellbeing of your team should remain a priority. As well as making sure they know what to do in a medical emergency”.

    Digital ID is the UK’s largest ID card company offering a complete service. For 25 years the organisation has to help businesses and their employees stay secure. It provides a range of products and services including plastic ID card printing, ID card printers and lanyards tailored to meet the requirements of its customers. Find out more at www.digitalid.co.uk

    Making a Difference: Global Payments

     

    The PCI Security Standards Council (PCI SSC) recently announced the nomination period for the next PCI SSC Board of Advisors. The Board of Advisors represents PCI SSC Participating Organizations worldwide to ensure global industry involvement in the development of PCI Security Standards. As strategic partners, they bring industry, geographical and technical insight to PCI Council plans and projects. In this post, we talk with 2018 - 2020 PCI SSC Board of Advisor Member Stacy Hughes, Chief Information Security Officer, at Global Payments about the role of the PCI SSC Board of Advisors in shaping payment security globally.

    Securing an Agile and Hybrid Workforce

    Guest article by Andrea Babbs, UK General Manager, VIPRE

    2020 has forced businesses to revise many of their operations. One significant transition being the shift to a remote working model, for which many were unprepared in terms of equipment, infrastructure and security. As the government now urges people to return to work, we’re already seeing a shift towards a hybrid workforce, with many employees splitting their time between the office and working from home.

    As organisations are now reassessing their long-term office strategies, front and centre to that shift needs to be their IT security underpinned by a dependable and flexible cloud infrastructure. Andrea Babbs, UK General Manager, VIPRE, discusses what this new way of working means long-term for an organisation’s IT security infrastructure and how businesses can successfully move from remote working to a secure and agile workforce.

    Power of the Cloud
    In light of the uncertainty that has plagued most organisations, many are looking to options that can future-proof their business and enable as much continuity as possible in the event of another unforeseen event. The migration of physical servers to the Cloud is therefore a priority, not only to facilitate agile working, but to provide businesses with greater flexibility, scalability and more efficient resources. 

    COVID-19 accelerated the shift towards Cloud-based services, with more data than ever before now being stored in the Cloud. For those organisations working on Cloud-based applications and drives, the challenges of the daily commute, relocations for jobs and not being able to ‘access the drive’ are in the past for many. Cloud services are moving with the user – every employee can benefit from the same level of security no matter where they are working or which device they are using. However, it’s important to ensure businesses are taking advantage of all the features included in their Cloud subscriptions, and that they’re configured securely for hybrid working. 

    Layered Security Defence
    Cloud-powered email, web and network security will always underline IT security defences, but these are only the first line of defence. Additional layers of security are also required to help the user understand the threat landscape, both external and internal. Particularly when working remotely with limited access to IT support teams, employees must be ready to question, verify the authenticity and interrogate the risk level of potential phishing emails or malicious links. 

    With increased pressure placed on users to perform their roles faster and achieve greater results than ever before, employees will do what it takes to power through and access the information they need in the easiest and quickest way possible. This is where the cloud has an essential role to play in making this happen, not just for convenience and agility but also to allow users to stay secure – enabling secure access to applications for all devices from any location and the detection and deletion of viruses – before they reach the network. 

    Email remains the most-used communication tool, even more so when remote working, but it also remains the weakest link in IT security, with 91%of cybercrimes beginning with an email. By implementing innovative tools that prompt employees to double-check emails before they send them, it can help reduce the risk of sharing the wrong information with the wrong individual. 

    Additional layers of defence such as email checking tools, are removing the barriers which slow the transition to agile working and are helping to secure our new hybrid workforce, regardless of the location they’re working in, or what their job entails. 

    Educating the User
    The risk an individual poses to an organisation can often be the main source of vulnerability in a company’s IT infrastructure. When remote working became essential overnight, businesses faced the challenges of malware spreading from personal devices, employees being distracted and exposing incorrect information and an increase in COVID-related cyber-attacks. 

    For organisations wanting to evolve into a hybrid work environment, their IT security policies need to reflect the new reality. By re-educating employees about existing products and how to leverage any additional functionality to support their decision making, users can be updated on these cyber risks and understand their responsibilities.

    Security awareness training programmes teach users to be alert and more security conscious as part of the overall IT security strategy. In order to fully mitigate IT security risks and for the business to benefit from an educated workforce, both in the short and long term, employees need to change their outdated mindset. 

    Changing the Approach
    The evolution of IT and security over the past 20 years means that working from home is now easily achievable with cloud-based setups, whereas in the not too distant past, it would have been impossible. But the key to a successful and safe agile workforce is to shift the approach of full reliance on IT, to a mindset where everyone is alert, responsible, empowered and educated with regular training, backed up by tools that reinforce a ‘security first’ approach. 

    IT departments cannot be expected to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals and adapt to new threats on their own. They need their colleagues to work mindfully and responsibly on the front lines of cyber defence, comfortable in the knowledge that everything they do is underpinned by a robust and secure IT security infrastructure, but that the final decision to click the link, send the sensitive information or download the file, lies with them. 

    Conclusion
    As employees prove they can work from home productively, the role of the physical office is no longer necessary. For many companies, it is a sink or swim approach when implementing a hybrid and agile workforce. Introducing and retaining flexibility in operations now will help organisations cope better with any future unprecedented events or crises.

    By focusing on getting the basics right and powered by the capabilities of the Cloud, highlighting the importance of layered security and challenging existing mindsets, businesses will be able to shift away from remote workers being the ‘exception,’ to a secure and agile workforce as a whole.

    Countering Cybercrime in the Next Normal

    Guest post By Tom Kellermann, Head of Cybersecurity Strategy, VMware Carbon Black

    COVID-19 has reshaped the global cyberthreat landscape. While cyberattacks have been on the rise, the surge in frequency and increased threat sophistication is notable. The latest VMware Carbon Black Global Incident Threat Report, Extended Enterprise Under Threat – Global Threat Report series, found cybercriminals have seized the opportunity, taking advantage of the global disruption to conduct nefarious activity.

    COVID-19 has Exacerbated pre-existing Cyber Threats
    The VMware Carbon Black latest global survey of Incident Response (IR) professionals found that COVID-19 has exacerbated pre-existing cyberthreats. From counter incident response and island hopping to destructive attacks. Remote work then compounds this bringing additional cybersecurity challenges as employees access critical data and applications from their home networks or with personal devices outside of the corporate perimeter. Cybercriminals are also targeting the cloud, which organisations rely on to enable remote work. If you’re a cybercriminal, the pool of people you can trick now is exponentially larger, simply because we are in a global disaster.

    As the threat landscape transforms and expands, the underlying methodologies behind the attacks have remained relatively consistent. Attackers have just nuanced their threat strategies. For example, last Christmas, the number one consumer purchase was smart devices, now they’re in homes that have fast become office spaces. Cybercriminals can use those family environments as a launchpad to compromise and conduct attacks on organizations. In other words, attackers are still island hopping – but instead of starting from an organisation’s network and moving along the supply chain, the attack may now originate in home infrastructures.

    Next-Generation Cyberattacks require Next-Generation IR
    While more than half (53%) of the IR professionals reported encountering or observing an increase in cyberattacks exploiting COVID-19, this isn’t a one-sided battle and there is much security teams can do to fight back.

    Next-generation cyberattacks – with adversaries increasingly working to maintain persistence on systems – call for next-generation IR, especially as corporate perimeters across the world breakdown. To this point, here are seven key steps that security teams can take to fight back:

    1. Gain better visibility into your system’s endpoints: Doing so can empower security teams to be proactive in their IR – rather than merely responding to attacks once they come, they can hunt out prospective threats. This is increasingly important in today’s landscape, with more attackers seeking to linger for long periods on a network and more vulnerable endpoints online via remote access.
    2. Establish digital distancing practices: People working from home should have two routers, segmenting traffic from work and home devices. They should have a room free of smart devices for holding potentially sensitive conversations. And they should restrict sensitive file sharing across insecure applications, like video conferencing tools.
    3. Enable real-time updates, policies and configurations across the network: This may include updates to VPNs, audits or fixes to configurations across remote endpoints and other security updates – even when outside the corporate network. It’s important to keep in mind the security architecture when making these changes, otherwise, things get changed without having the proper controls in place to react.
    4. Enhance collaboration between IT and security teams – and make IT teams more cybersecurity savvy: As noted, 92% of IR professionals agree that a culture of collaboration between IT and security teams will improve enterprise security and response to cyber risks. This is especially true under the added stress of the pandemic. Alignment should also help elevate IT personnel to become experts on their own systems, whether it’s training them to threat hunt on a Windows box or identify anomalous configurations on certain SaaS applications.
    5. Expand Cyber-Threat Hunting: Threat hunting provides ground truth and context which is essential for defence. Situational awareness is dependent on ground truth which is based in the assumption of breach. One must proactively explore their environment for abnormal activity. The cadence of threat hunting must be increased, and the scope should extend to the information supply chain as well as Senior Executives laptops as they work from home.
    6. Integrate Security Controls: Integration allows organisations to uniquely see across traditional boundaries/silos providing richer telemetry and allowing for defenders to react seamlessly.
    7. Remember to communicate: Now more than ever, organizations must motivate IT and SECops to get on the same page and prioritize change management while maintaining clear lines of communication – about new risk factors (application attacks, OS exploitation, smart devices, file-sharing applications, etc.), protocols and security resources.
    As we move into the next normal, the workforce will largely remain remote and distributed. Organisations will need to prioritise sharpening their security defences and gaining a clearer picture of the evolving threat landscape to inform today, tomorrow and the challenging months to come.

    Securing the COVID-19 ‘New Normal’ of Homeworking

    The COVID-19 pandemic has put into motion a scale of remote working never before seen. Our teams are no longer just grouped in different office locations – but working individually from kitchen tables, spare rooms and, for the lucky ones, home offices! It’s therefore inevitable that this level of remote working will reveal security pitfalls for remediation, with improvements that can be carried forward when this period is over.
    Attackers are taking advantage of heightened anxiety and homeworking
    Tony Pepper, CEO at Egress, provides his insight below, as well as his six tips to improve data security while working from home.

    Phishing

    It’s sad, but it’s no surprise that phishing attacks have increased due to COVID-19– and businesses need to be prepared. Attackers are taking advantage of an environment of heightened anxiety and disrupted work settings to trick people into making mistakes, and they’re unlikely to stop until at least the main wave of the pandemic has passed.

    Research shows that phishing is a major security issue under normal circumstances. Egress’ recent Insider Data Breach survey found that 41% of employees who had accidentally leaked data had done so because of a phishing email. More worryingly due to their level of access to data and systems, senior personnel are typically the most likely group to fall victim to phishing attacks, with 61% of directors saying that they’d caused a breach in this way.

    And education and training can only go so far. Of course, we must continue to encourage employees to be vigilant to suspicious emails and to do things like hovering over links before clicking on them. We also need to reduce blame culture and free up employees to report genuine mistakes without fear.

    But this can only go so far. People will always make mistakes. The good news is that advanced technology like contextual machine learning can remediate the targeted attacks, like conversation hijacking, that usually do the most damage to businesses.

    Productivity and Security
    Even in our tech-savvy world, there are still organisations that don’t have VPN access set up or enough laptops, mobile devices or processes to enable home working. But while IT teams try to quickly sort this situation out, we’re seeing employees finding workarounds, for example by sharing files using FTP sites or sending data to personal devices to work on.

    We talk a lot about ‘human layer security’ technologies, which find the right balance between productivity and security. Right now, as well as looking at technologies to help securely move meetings, events and other activities online, businesses should also check that usually easy routine tasks can still be carried out safely – such as sharing large files or sending sensitive data via email. In particular, technologies like contextual machine learning and AI can identify what typically ‘good’ security behaviour looks like for individual users and then prevent abnormal behaviours that put data at risk.

    For example, with people working on smaller screens and via mobile devices, it’s more likely they might attach the wrong document to an email or include a wrong recipient. Contextual machine learning can spot when incidents like this are about to happen and correct the user’s behaviour to prevent a breach before it happens.

    Human Error
    People are the new perimeter when it comes to data security – their decisions and behaviours can put data at risk every day, especially at a time of global heightened anxiety.

    We know from our 2020 Insider Data Breach Survey that over half of employees don’t think their organisation has sole ownership over company data – instead believing that it is in-part or entirely owned by the individuals and teams who created it. And we also know that people are more likely to take risks with data they feel belongs to them than data they believe belongs to someone else. When they don’t have access to the right tools and technology to work securely – or they think the tools they do have will slow them down, especially at a time when the need for productivity is at its highest – they’re more likely to cut corners.

    Maintaining good security practices is essential – and the good news is there are technologies on the market that can help ensure the right level of security is applied to sensitive data without blocking productivity.

    Six Tips to improve Data Security while Working from Home 
    We can all agree that times are incredibly tough right now. For security professionals looking to mitigate some of the risks, here are six practical tips are taken from the conversations we’re having with other organisations right now:

    1. Look for security software that doesn’t hamper productivity. It’s generally the aim of the game anyway – but right now, employees are feeling increased pressure to prove their productivity. If you’re finding yourself selecting new solutions, it’s never been more crucial to select technologies that don’t add difficult extra steps for them or anyone they’re working with outside the organisation.
    2. Choose collaboration/productivity solutions that have security baked into them. The other side to the coin of the point above, really: when choosing any new solution to implement at this time, make sure that security measures are part of a product’s standard design, and not an after-thought.
    3. Automate security wherever possible. If it’s possible, take decisions out of end users’ hands to ensure the security of sensitive information in line with policy, reducing the risk of someone accidentally or intentionally not using security software.
    4. Engage employees over security best practices. Phishing is a good example of this. Some inbound risks will evade the filters on your network boundary and end up in users’ mailboxes. Effort to proactively engage employees through e-learning and other educational measures can help them to know what to do with emails they think are suspicious (for example, hovering over links before clicking on them).
    5. Look to AI and machine learning to help solve advanced risks. Use cases like conversation hijacking, misdirected emails or people attaching the wrong files to documents can now be mitigated by intelligent technology like contextual machine learning, which determines what “good security behaviour” looks like for each individual, and alerts them and administrators to abnormal incidents – effectively stopping breaches before they happen.
    6. Implement no-fault reporting. People often don’t report security incidents because they’re concerned about the repercussions. Where it’s appropriate to do so, implement no-fault reporting to encourage individuals to report incidents in a timely manner, so you can focus on remediating the problem as quickly as possible.