5 steps to secure your data

February 1, 2011

There are five steps to creating a good security plan: assess, plan, execute, monitor and repeat.

  • Risks Assessment. Identify key digital assets and information that need to be protected, including hardware, software, documentation and data. Review the threats and risks. Make a prioritized list of items to protect.
  • Plan. Create a work plan for preventing, detecting and responding to security threats. Identify who will be responsible for implementing and monitoring the plan. Agree a timetable for implementation.
  • Execute. Communicate with staff. Train where necessary. Remediate until all know threats are mitigated.
  • Monitor. Continue to monitor for new threats and followed with prompt remediation. Build a mindset that security is a discipline and build this mindset into your culture. Software tools alone can’t secure your data. Continue to educate end users and those that have access to the data. Update and modify the plan as changes occur in personnel, hardware or software.
  • Repeat. Plan for a complete review periodically. Consider assessing quarterly but not longer than a time from of six to twelve months after you complete the first plan or when your business goes through significant changes.

Commit to the program and don’t wait until an incident disrupts your business. It isn’t the breach that will really cost you it is the tarnished image that businesses get following the breach is the most costly. Statistics show that customers, typically the high profile ones, will abandon a company or system if they feel uncomfortable with the security of it.

Here is a great example.


9 myths of safe web browsing

January 20, 2011

Myth #1: The web is safe because I have never been infected before.
You may not even know you’re infected. Many web malicious software (aka malware) attacks are designed to steal personal information and passwords or use your machine for distributing spam, malware or inappropriate content without your knowledge

Myth #2: My users aren’t wasting company time surfing the web
The fact is that more than 40% of corporate internet use is inappropriate and going unchecked—an average of 1 to 2 hours per day per user. To make matters worse, the potential for employees being exposed to inappropriate content can have serious legal ramifications to any organization. The internet is full of studies related to internet use in the work place, from gambling and pornography to less nefarious activity such as social networking and travel planning. Furthermore, incidents of internet addiction disorder are increasing, with current estimates suggesting up to 5% to 10% of internet surfers have some form of web dependency.

Myth #3: We control web usage and our users can’t get around our policy
Anonymizing proxies make it easy for employees to circumvent your web filtering policy and visit any site they like. Anonymizing proxies are readily available and regularly exploited by school kids and employees alike. Hundreds of new anonymizing proxies are published daily. If you don’t think this is an issue, you can simply Google “bypass web filter” to see there are over 1.8 million ways to do this.

Myth #4: Only porn, gambling, and other “dodgy” sites are dangerous
Hijacked trusted sites represent more than 83% of malware hosting sites. That’s correct. The majority of infected sites are websites that you trust and visit daily—they’ve just been hacked to distribute malware. Why? Because these sites are popular, high-traffic venues that silently distribute malware to unsuspecting visitors. Download the infected sites list to see just a small sampling of these kinds of sites.

Myth #5: Only naive users get infected with malware and viruses
Malware from drive-by downloads happens automatically without any user action, other than visiting the site. Therefore, it doesn’t matter what level of computer expertise you have. The fact is, if you are visiting sites on the internet, you are at risk.

Myth #6: You can only get infected if you download files.
Most malware infections now occur through a “drive-by” download. Hackers inject the malicious code into the actual web page content, then it downloads and executes automatically within the browser as a by-product of simply viewing the web page.

Myth #7: Firefox is more secure than Internet Explorer
All browsers are equally at risk because all browsers are essentially an execution environment for JavaScript, which is the programming language of the web and therefore used by all malware authors to initiate an attack. In addition, many exploits leverage plug-ins such as Adobe Acrobat reader software, which runs across all browsers. Although the more popular browsers may get more publicity about unpatched exploits, it’s the unpublicized exploits you should be most concerned about. The fact is, there is no safe browser.

Myth #8: When the lock icon appears in the browser, it’s secure.
The lock icon indicates there is an SSL encrypted connection between the browser and the server to protect the interception of personal sensitive information. It does not provide any security from malware. In fact, it’s the opposite because most web security products are completely blind to encrypted connections: it’s the perfect vehicle for malware to infiltrate a machine.

Myth #9: Web security requires a trade-off between security and freedom
While the internet has become a mission critical tool for many job functions, whether it’s Facebook for HR or Twitter for PR, it’s completely unnecessary to create a trade-off between access and security. A suitable web security solution provides the freedom to grant access to sites that your users need while keeping your organization secure.

source: Sophos

Reasons how your data will be compromised

January 11, 2011

If you notice all of these reasons have to do with your employees and their awareness (or lack there of). Firewalls, passwords and other popular security measures won’t stop your data from ending up in the wrong hands. Start a security awareness program within your organization, remind them often (at least quarterly) and make it a priority (or they won’t care).

  1. Employees taking information from the office to work at home.
  2. Failure to recognize and report adverse information about a co-worker.
  3. Processing data on unapproved computer systems.
  4. Employee reluctance to challenge strangers in restricted areas.
  5. Business travelers not reporting suspicious contacts or foreign travel.
  6. Employees falling for social engineering ploys for sensitive data (hoax, spam, etc).
  7. Cleared workers’ failure to recognize potential approaches from foreign spy services.
  8. Improper handling and disposal of sensitive data.
  9. Workers bringing unauthorized portable devices into work and opening up the network to hackers, spies and information thieves.

End User Awareness – The key to security

December 27, 2010

We already know that completely securing our data will never be solved. This problem can only be minimized through a holistic approach and mindset. Dave Stelzl uses the illustration of a house to further this point. Stelzl states that you can not keep criminals out of our homes using traditional locks, bolts, fences and other prevention mechanisms. I know this because I have all of these security measures on my home and we still had an intruder come in and take valuables one evening a couple of years ago. Security is the same no matter what you are trying to protect, including your family or your corporate data. I’m not advocating that you don’t try, in fact I’m suggesting just the opposite. You wouldn’t just take the locks, bolts, alarm systems and weapon of choice out of your home, right? I’m suggesting applying the protection, detection and response mindset that we have with our homes onto our data.

Our employees have access to pretty much all of our data and they need access to it to perform their job and help operate the business. So if the largest cause of security breaches are simply because an end user of the information miss handled it, typically on accident, then wouldn’t it make sense to educate them and make the aware of this? Of course! Here is a video from the CEO of AVG, a security software company, making this very point. Oddly most of these software/hardware manufactures will make you believe that simply installing their product will solve all of your problems.

Transitioning employees to a security program

December 13, 2010

Getting employees to make a change can be agonizing, this I know all about! Most changes are abandoned before the the first meeting is over and the culture and moral just went down the drain with your efforts. Getting your employees to care about your corporate data might not be that difficult but implementing security measures can put you in the “worse boss ever” category. Making this change has to come from the person that owns the data (or at least it will greatly increase the likelihood it will succeed). I decided to make a few user education and training videos that you can share with your team to prepare and help transition them to this new way of thinking and more importantly support the program.

Be on the lookout for videos from time to time and I’ll add a category called “security program” so you just see these posts to make it easier to sort them them as time goes and I add them. Please let me know if I can help you make this a success, it truly is our passion and mission to help companies secure their information and we know that end user education is critical and probably the most difficult part of the process.

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