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Email Security – Good, Better, and Best

When launched Cumulus Global 15 years ago to provide small and midsize businesses (SMBs) with email security and security solutions. As early adopters, we saw how cloud solutions made enterprise grade solutions affordable and effective for small businesses.  While much as changed over the past decade and a half, we still face email-based threats.

Email Attacks are Easy

According to Verizon’s 2021 Data Breach Report, email remains one of the most common vectors for attacks. And, phishing attacks are at the top of the list. Email phishing attacks remain prevalent because they are relatively easy. Cyber attackers are able to say one step ahead of our defenses, in large part to the rise in social engineering. With more of our personal information available through social media, attackers can use psychological tactics and personalized messaging to target specific individuals (spear phishing) and business leaders (whaling). In doing so, they garner sensitive information and gain access to systems and data.

Business Email Compromise

Business Email Compromise (BEC) attacks impersonate your email domains or emails for specific users. In most instances, BEC attacks look and feel like legitimate emails from your business. Combined with social engineering tactics and personalize information, they are hard to spot and often successful.  Attacks can be “internal” that target your employees, or “external” that use your business to defraud your customers and associates.

Email and Domain Impersonation

Preventing email and domain impersonation attacks bypass account level security, including multi-factor authentication. To prevent these attacks, recipients should only accept email that can be authenticated as coming from your domain.

Protection: Good, Better, Best

Currently, you have three levels of email domain security that can protect your business and your identity: Good, Better, and Best.

Good: SPF Sender Policy Framework

SPF verifies emails sent from valid IP addresses, either from your domain or authorized senders. While most small businesses have an SPF record configured, errors cause individual emails, or emails from marketing and CRM systems, to be flagged as spam by the recipient. Cyber attackers can spoof email addresses to give the appearance of a validated sender.

Better: DKIM DomainKeys Identified Mail

DKIM verifies that have been digitally signed by the sending domain, or by services sending email on behalf of the domain. Proper configuration is technical and involves cryptographic key management; errors can lead to fake messages with valid DKIM signatures. Cyber attackers can remove the DKIM signature using sophisticated relay attacks.

Best: DMARC Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting,
and Conformance

DKIM authenticates email origin by aligning identifiers from SPF and DKIM, and instructs recipients to deliver, quarantine, or reject failed emails by policy. DKIM helps improve email deliverability. Is the best protection against email and domain impersonation attacks, whether they target your employees, vendors, or customers. Reporting enables you to see email sources and manage your policies.

Call to Action

While you set up SPF and DKIM with DNS record entries, DMARC is best implemented as a service. Doing so provides you access to settings, reports, and analysis tools. For most small and midsize businesses, the level of protection DMARC provides is worth the minimal cost.

You can learn more with our eBook: Email Security: Good, Better, Best.

To discuss your email security configuration, make an appointment with one of our Cloud Advisors, send us an email, or fill out our contact form.

Four Cornerstones for Cloud Security

October is Cyber Security month.  In what seems like a never-ending process, we continue to face new and advancing threats to the integrity of our data, identities, and businesses.  For those of use with small and midsize businesses, we need to ensure our systems and information are secure. At the same time, we want to keep our IT systems simple and manage our budgets.

Strategy

To strike the right balance, we need to assess our current security foundation, identify gaps, and fill in services where needed. Doing so creates a security foundation that covers your basic needs.  From there, you can add services and build the security footprint you need to meet industry expectations and regulatory requirements.

A sound cloud security foundation is built on four cornerstones for cloud security.

1 Basic C/I/A

Ensure the confidentiality, integrity, and availability (C/I/A) of information you create, receive, maintain, or transmit.

This cornerstone establishes your basic security infrastructure that protects against attacks and prevents breaches across your IT systems.  It also creates your ability to respond to issues and recover, key to ensuring business continuity and resilience.

2 External Threat Protection

Identify and protect against reasonably anticipated threats.

This cornerstone focuses on the attacks and threats from outside your business. From phishing, ransomware, and business email compromise, to DNS and advanced persistent threats, the focus is on protecting your data, applications, systems,  and people from harm.

3 Data Loss Protection

Identify and protect against reasonably anticipated uses and disclosures.

Data breaches and data loss result from configuration issues, application errors, and individual actions. Permission errors, inappropriate sharing, and other actions are often accidental, resulting from a lack of understanding of policies and/or how systems work. They can, however, result from intentional acts of misconduct. Solutions that set this cornerstone protect against these internal risks and threats.

4 Compliance

Ensure workforce and business compliance.

Nearly all businesses must meet basic legal requirements to protect sensitive information. Most businesses must also adhere to industry and additional legal requirements.  This cornerstone encompasses the policies and procedures that ensure your team, and your business meet your compliance requirements. IT also includes the tools and methods to enforce policies and report on compliance.

Tactics

To ensure your cornerstones are set and your security foundation is place, conduct a security footprint assessment.  For each cornerstone, identity the services you have in place and those that may be needed. The assessment should cover the “CPRs” of security:

  • Communication/Education
  • Protect / Prevent
  • Respond / Recover

For more information, send us an email or complete our contact form.

More Than 40% of SMBs Face Dark Web Risks

We offer a monitoring service for dark web risks.  In August, we received a alerts for more than 40% of the companies we monitor.

Threats from information mining and third party breaches continue to pose a risk.  The level of risk varies based on the source, scope, and nature of the breach.

Direct and Indirect Threats

Third party breaches pose direct and indirect threats. A direct threat, as the name implies, represented a compromised identity with direct access to your system.  Indirect threats are breaches with information that enables more advanced attacks against your systems and user identities.

Direct threats, while less common, represent a breach of usernames and passwords for your system.  The source of direct threats may not be your systems. Hackers with access to valid email addresses and similar passwords will try permutations and patterns to gain access.  While they may then use the compromised credentials themselves, they may also put them up for sale or lease on the Dark Web.

Indirect Threats take many forms.  Identities with similar passwords are sold to hackers that will use them to gain access.  Personal identifying information is valuable to hackers looking to create effective spoofing and phishing attacks.  Repetitive breaches identify targets more easily compromised and/or more likely to respond to a phishing attack with personal information.

Threat Sources

Sources for Dark Web threats vary.  Most common is a third party breach, for example the LinkedIn breach in 2018.  Given that many people use their work email address as an identity for LinkedIn, along with identical or similar passwords, the breach gave hackers a means to test access to core businesses services.  Simple testing of leaked passwords, permutations, and common patterns provides access to core businesses systems, including accounts on Microsoft, Google, Salesforce, and others.

Growing in frequency, hackers grab personally identifying information matched to known email addresses.  While first and last names may not appear to create much risk, cyber criminals can use PII to create sophisticated spoofing and phishing attacks.  Your zip code, home address, job title, role in your company, and who you work with and for can all be used to create more effective attacks.  When matched to data from social media accounts — where you shop, foods you like, answers to “survey” questions that mirror security prompts — criminals can refine their attacks and sell your data for more.

Protecting Yourself and Your Business

More than 70% of people use the same or similar passwords across systems.  When employees use work email addresses for other services, the nature of their passwords creates risks when any of these third party systems experiences a breach. Compromised third-party passwords reduce the effort required for cyber criminals to compromise other accounts. LinkedIn, Egnyte, Dropbox and other reputable services have all experienced breaches over the past few years.

An additional risk from third-party systems is the risk of personally identifying information, or PII.  With a valid email address and leaked or breach PII, cyber attackers have access to information that allows them to personalize phishing emails and other attacks.

Monitoring the Dark Web for these third party breaches, and responding appropriately, helps protect your employees and your business.

 

Data Breaches are Still a Thing

As we speak with small and midsize business executives, we sometimes hear that cyber attacks and the risk of data breaches are no longer seen as a threat serious enough to warrant attention and spending.  We understand this hesitancy. Even with the level of media visibility, the prevalence of security solutions and a weariness of the constant focus on security can lead to the conclusion that we can let our guard down.

The reality, however, is that the rate of cyber attacks jumped about 600% in 2020.  More businesses are getting attacked and more attacks are successful.

A List of Breaches

For perspective, in the last 4 weeks, the cyber security experts at ID Agent have published data on these major breaches. Many are likely to be familiar to you or represent a major government entity.

  • Metropolitan Police Department of the District of Columbia
  • Pennsylvania Department of Health
  • The Resort Municipality of Whistler
  • CNA Financial
  • OfficeDepot
  • Personal Touch Holding Corp
  • Facebook
  • Hobby Lobby
  • Illinois Office of the Attorney General
  • Wyoming Department of Health
  • Eversource Energy
  • California State Controller
  • LinkedIn
  • The New York Foundling
  • University of Maryland Baltimore
  • CareFirst BlueCross BlueShield Community Health Plan District of Columbia (CHPDC)

The Case for Concern

The list, above, is only a sample and only represents larger breaches.  Cyber attacks hit small and midsize businesses on a daily basis. Even so, we often view protection and recovery services as insurance.  We do not want to pay for coverage; we hope we never need to use it; and we do not see the value until we are a victim.

A Model for Success

Cyber security differs from insurance. We can reduce the risk of successful attacks with foresight, planning, and protections. Our CPR Cyber Security Model balances awareness, prevention, and response.

Communicate and Educate

Involve everybody in the solution. Communicate the risks and your commitment to protecting the business and your employees. Educate your team on the risks, how to spot and report attacks, and how their behavior can prevent or help an attack.

Protect and Prevent

Implement multi-layer, multi-vector protections that focuses on your people (identities), data, applications, and systems. Use “next gen” solutions that analyze behaviors and that can learn as risks evolve.

Respond and Recovery

No defense is perfect. Have services in solutions in place that let you recover and return to operations within a time frame that protects the health of your business. More than getting data and systems back on line, we recommend that you put in place the forensics, legal, public relations, and customer service resources you will need in a cyber attack emergency.

Want to learn more?  Want to assess your cyber security protections and risks? We can help.  Email us or complete our contact form to schedule a complimentary meeting with one of our Cloud Advisors.

 

Lessons Learned: Remote Workforce Security

As part of its Global Year in Breach – 2021 report, security firm ID Agent found that remote workforce security is more difficult than generally thought. With many of the changes in how we work expected to continue, as business leaders we need to embrace hybrid work as the way of the future.

Pandemic Triggers Panic

2020 and the onset of the global COVID-19 pandemic presented new challenges. The biggest challenge was cybercrime. The mix of understaffed IT departments, maintenance failures, unpreparedness, record-breaking cybercrime, and employee stress taxed IT teams and services. Cybercriminals took advantage of this golden opportunity, and businesses were hit hard.

Businesses needed to rapidly shift to remote operations. For those with older technology, this shift was especially difficult. Everybody became a remote worker. IT teams needed to become instant experts in remote workforce security. For too many businesses, it was a mad scramble to to get their teams remotely or face shutting down entirely. Many employees lacked training in remote work; many IT teams had never managed remote security at scale. A barrage of unintentional, insider threats assaulted IT teams daily.

Stress Creates Vulnerabilities

Why was the massive shift to Work from Home such a boon to cybercrime?

IT departments were unprepared and understaffed.  Only 39% of IT executives polled felt they have adequate IT expertise on staff to assist with remote work issues. Only 45% of organizations reported having and adequate budget to support remote work.

At the same time, employees were dealing with unexpected stress at home and more likely to make cybersecurity mistakes. Over 50% of respondents admitted they were more error-prone while stressed. 40% said they made more mistakes when tired or distracted. Altogether, 43% of workers surveyed acknowledged mistakes resulting in cybersecurity repercussions for themselves or their company while working remotely.

Cybercrime Complications

Chaos and confusion created opportunities for cybercriminals. Experts estimate that overall cybercrime was up by 80% in 2020. Much of that increase was from phishing attacks. Cybercriminals took advantage distracted, stressed workers, with limited IT support, and immense numbers of email. In 2020, phishing attacks skyrocketed by more than 650%. Attacks hit 75% of companies and accounted for almost 80% of all cybercrime.

Successful ransomware also jumped more than 145%. In 2020, 51% of all businesses and 40% of small and midsize businesses experienced a ransomware attack. 50% of attacks on SMBs used vicious double extortion ransomware. Ransomware will continue to top the list of cybercrime trends in 2021.

Next Steps to Stay Ahead of Remote & Hybrid Workforce Risk

Stopping ransomware and decreasing your company’s risk of a successful cyberattack against remote and hybrid workers starts with stopping phishing and its destructive effects. We have tools that help your IT team support and protect your people and your business, while also protecting your budget.

To learn more about you cyber risks, and solutions to fit your needs and budget, contact us and schedule a complimentary Cloud Advisor Session.

 

Cyber Protection Solutions for SMBs

Data protection iconAs our businesses become even more reliant on technology and cloud services, the frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks continue to accelerate. Your Cyber Protection 

Cyber Protection Needs

We need our businesses — and our people — to be aware, protected, and able to recover.

At Cumulus Global, our CPR model maps the necessary components of cyber security into three areas.

  • Communicate & Educate
    • Ensure you team understands the risk, educate them so they can avoid falling prey, create a culture of security and data privacy.
  • Protect & Prevent
    • Leverage advanced and “next gen” technologies to prevent attacks and to protect your networks, systems, data, and people from attacks.
  • Recover & Respond
    • No system is perfect; make sure you can recover your data and systems, return to normal operations, and respond to the technical, legal, and communication challenges.

Successful Cyber Protection relies on your policies and procedures, technologies, and people working in sync. Across more than a dozen focus areas, you need to balance the level or protection you need with the costs and with the risks of not doing enough. You need to balance external requirements, such as government and industry regulations, with internal priorities.

Your Cyber Protection Solution

To design and implement an affordable, integrated, and effective cyber protection solution for your business, start with a Cyber Protection Assessment (CPA).  A CPA will assess your needs, within the context of your business, and preferred solutions across 15 areas of focus:

  • Written Information Security Plan
  • Patches and Updates
  • Email Encryption
  • Data Destruction
  • Background Checks
  • Written Information Response Plan
  • Antivirus and Intrusion Detection
  • Email and Web Security
  • Account and Identity Management
  • Employee Training
  • Firewalls
  • Backup / Continuity / Disaster Recovery
  • File Encryption
  • Network Access Security
  • Responsible Parties

Using the results of the Cyber Protection Assessment, you can plan and implement your levels of protection in each area to create the balance that is best for your business.

Next Steps and Resources

Your best next step is to contact us and discuss your cyber protection status and needs with one of our Cloud Advisors. Consider using our Cyber Protection Assessment to understand your needs, current protections, gaps, and priorities.

Related Resources:

4 More Protections for Your Business

Data protection iconIn our last blog post, we identified 3 must-have protections for any business using Google Workspace or Microsoft 365.

  • Backup/Recovery
  • Advanced Threat Protection
  • Multi-Factor Authentication

In combination, these protections help prevent successful attacks and give you the ability to recover should an attack be successful.

Here are 4 more protections for your business

Putting these protections in place improves your ability to prevent attacks, and your ability to survive.

1 Next-Gen Endpoint Protection

Basic anti-virus protection is not enough. Scanning files for known or similar patterns will not protect you from modern malware or ransomware.

Next-Gen Endpoint Protection solutions use advanced heuristics, behavior analysis, and machine learning to assess threats in real-time.  These solutions identify attacks, prevent them from running, and roll-back damaging activity.

2 DNS and Web Protection

Cyber attacks are not all breaches. Attackers can use DNS to block your use of the Internet or to impersonate you and your business. Both types of attacks hurt your business and your reputation.

Between 15% and 20% of malware is downloaded without your knowledge from websites. This malware is often hidden in third party content on websites your trust.

DNS protection creates a protective barrier that prevents others using your DNS service against you. Web Protection blocks dangerous web sites and prevents malware downloads to your devices.

3 Employee Communication and Education

Ignorance is not bliss. Employees who know are less likely to make a mistake and trigger an attack or breach. You want your team to understand:

  • The danger of cyber attacks and how to avoid them
  • The likely damage form cyber attacks
  • What to look for
  • What not to do

Employee communication and education is key to creating an aware and resilient team. Combined with testing and guidance, a communication and education program reinforces positive behaviors with on-going guidance and support.

4 Business Continuity for On-Premise Systems

Most small and midsize businesses still have some on-premise systems. The connectivity and integration across systems creates an increased risk for damage and loss. Even with backup/recovery in place, restoring systems, databases, applications, and data can take days. You want, and need, to be back in business quickly — in minutes or hours.

Business Continuity/Disaster Recovery (BCDR) solutions enable you to resume operations within minutes using images of your systems running in cloud data centers. With BCDR in place, your business runs smoothly while you recover your on-premise systems.

Failing to protect your data and systems is a failure to protect your business.  Contact us for a free assessment of your data and business protection needs.

3 Must-Have Protections for Microsoft 365 and Google Workspace

Data protection iconMicrosoft 365 and Google Workspace protect your data using a shared responsibility model.  They provide redundancy and backup to ensure your service is performing, available, reliable, and secure.  You are responsible for controlling access, managing permission, and protecting your data from loss.

Here  are 3 Must-Have Protections for your Microsoft or Google Cloud Services

 

1Backup Protection for your Data

Data in the cloud is just like data stored on local servers and workstations. Information in in Microsoft 365 or Google Workspace can be lost due to accidents or malicious acts.

  • User action — overwrites and deletes — can destroy content and files, whether accidental or deliberate.
  • Malware and ransomware corrupt files that sync to OneDrive, SharePoint, and Google Drive, can damage or delete your files.
  • Integrated third party apps can damage or delete information.

You need, and want, the ability to restore files, emails, contacts, and other information. A secure backup/recovery solution protects your data, and your business.

2Advanced Threat Protection

Cyber attacks come in many forms. The most common and most effective attacks still use email. Cyber criminals use behavior science and advanced phishing techniques to access your systems, collect personal information, steal data, and ransom your business.

Advanced Threat Protection (“ATP”) is more than “spam and virus protection.” ATP uses machine learning, advanced analytics and heuristics, and behavior analysis to identify and prevent cyber attacks from reaching your inbox. Methods like sandboxing safely test links and attachments before delivery.

Even an educated and aware team can and will fall prey to attacks. Prevention is key.

3  Multi-Factor Authentication

Your team members are human. While they may understand and respect the need for robust and unique passwords, human nature always tries to balance convenience.  Studies show that 70% of us will use the same, or substantially similar, passwords across systems. A hack or breach in a third-party tool poses a significant risk to your employees’ work identities.

A compromised identity does not enable access when you have additional authentication steps. Authenticator apps, dynamic security codes, and security tags/fobs each add physical verification to your digital access.

With cyber attacks on the rise, better protection is worth the minor inconvenience of multi factor authentication. Multi factor authentication delivers one of the best protections against breaches and unauthorized access.

Failing to protect your data in Google Workspace or Microsoft 365 is a failure to protect your business.  Contact us for a free assessment of your data and business protection needs.

Customer Notice Update: Email Advanced Threat Protection

Data ProtectionGiven the demand and need to improve your protection from the devastating impact of ransomware, crypto attacks, and other forms of cyber attacks we are extending the Advanced Threat Protection Priority Opt-in discount period through March, 2020. We understand that adding a service, even a critical service, impacts your budget and costs. Our Priority Opt-In discounts, and other measures (see below), intend to minimize the impact.

Email Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) and Multi-factor authentication (MFA) are necessary, baseline services for protecting your business

Beginning April 1, 2020, we require Advanced Threat Protection for all of our customers’ email service, unless you specifically opt out. Opting out is appropriate if you already have an advanced threat protection service in place.

If you opt out, the cost of our data recovery efforts will not be covered under our unlimited support plans (See our Support Services SLA). When we add ATP to your service, we will discuss with you when we can add MFA.

We will mitigate the cost.

We are sensitive to your budget.

  • ATP requires a technical setup and typically incurs a setup fee along with the monthly or annual subscription.
  • We are discounting both the setup and subscription fees for all customers. For customers requesting Priority Opt-In, we will waive the ATP related setup fees completely.
  • MFA implementation is covered by our support plans as an administrative change.  If you do not have on of our support plans, we will provide an affordable, discounted quote for the project.
  • For customers without an unlimited support plan and/or those that choose to Opt-Out, we will discount our hourly fees for recovery work.

For more information on specific discounts and pricing, and to let us know if you want to Opt-In, to have Priority Opt-In, or to Opt-Out, please visit this web page and complete the form.

We realize that this is a significant change for most of our customers.  We also understand the importance of these protections.  Please contact us with questions or concerns

Thank you for being part of our community,
Allen Falcon
CEO & Pragmatic Evangelist

Customer Notice: Email Advanced Threat Protection

Data Protection

(Updated January 20, 2020)

We continue to witness the devastating impact of ransomware, crypto attacks, and other forms of cyber attacks on our customers.  The recovery cost and frequency of attacks are increasing at alarming rates. The average cost for a small or midsize business (SMB) to fully recovery from a cyber attack has increased to between $145,000 and $180,000. This includes loss of direct business, remediation costs, damage to reputation, and employee downtime.  At the same time, the number of ransomware attacks so far in 2019 has doubled when compared with the same period in 2018.

As a managed cloud service provider, you have heard from us that you “should” have more protections in place. Our position is changing: these protections are a “must”.

Multi-factor authentication (MFA) and email Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) are necessary, baseline services for protecting your business. 

Beginning April 1, 2020, we will require and will begin adding Advanced Threat Protection to all of our customers’ email service unless you specifically opt out. If you opt out, the cost of our data recovery efforts will not be covered under our unlimited support plans (See our Support Services SLA). When we add ATP to your service, we will discuss with you when we can add MFA.

We will mitigate the cost.

We are sensitive to your budget.

  • ATP requires a technical setup and typically incurs a setup fee along with the monthly or annual subscription.  We are discounting both the setup and subscription fees for all customers. For customers requesting Priority Opt-In, we will waive the ATP related setup fees completely.
  • MFA implementation is covered by our support plans as an administrative change.  If you do not have on of our support plans, we will provide an affordable, discounted quote for the project.
  • For customers without an unlimited support plan and/or those that choose to Opt-Out, we will discount our hourly fees for recovery work.

For more information on specific discounts and pricing, and to let us know if you want to Opt-In, to have Priority Opt-In, or to Opt-Out, please visit this web page and complete the form.

We realize that this is a significant change for most of our customers.  We also understand the importance of these protections.  Please contact us with questions or concerns

Thank you for being part of our community,
Allen Falcon
CEO & Pragmatic Evangelist

Webcasts

Next Normal: IT Efficiency

3T@3 Webcast Series: Tuesday, Feb 23rd at 3:00 PM

COVID-19 and the events of the past 10 months have, and continue, to change the way we run our businesses.  While some of these changes are temporary, many will become part of our next normal. For many of us, these changes came in a scramble to work from home. With respect to IT, this has many businesses using new, often redundant apps and systems.

Are the IT choices made during the crisis the best for your business in the long term?

This month’s 3T@3 Webcast, is the first in our “Next Normal” series looking at how we adapt, prepare, and respond to economic, social, and business changes.  We start the series exploring “IT Efficiency.”  We see where many small businesses signed on to services in order to adapt to mandatory closures, reduced office capacity, and parents’ need to be present for children learning remotely. Many of these service duplicate features in other systems, resulting in excess cost and lost productivity.  Join Cumulus Global CEO Allen Falcon to identify how you may streamline your IT services, reduce costs, and improve efficiencies.

Watch the recording on-demand



Data Protection & Security

library

15 Best Practices for Cyber Protection

eBook Source: Cumulus Global

As our businesses become even more reliant on technology and cloud services, the frequency and sophistication of cyber attacks continue to accelerate. We need our businesses — and our people — to be aware, protected, and able to recover.

At Cumulus Global, our CPR model maps the necessary components of cyber security into three areas.

  • Communicate & Educate
  • Protect & Prevent
  • Recover & Respond

Policies and procedures, technologies, and people are all part of the equation, as is cyber insurance for financial protection. Deciding where and how to invest is a value proposition balancing costs, benefits, and the risks of inaction. 

In this eBook, we look at 15 Best Practices for Cyber Protection. We rank solutions from “bad” to “best”. Your business may not need the “best” solution for every area; you can match services and costs to your risks and needs. 

These best practices improve your protection, mitigate liabilities, and facilitate affordable cyber insurance coverage.

Please confirm you information below to view and download the eBook.