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Streamlining Security for SMBs

Security, Privacy, & ComplianceStreamlining security is a more balanced message about why and how to protect your business. Over the past year, we have covered the on-going, and increasing, threats to small businesses.  We often highlight the scope and severity of the risk.  Hopefully this information, along with cost-effective solutions, prompts you to act. At times, we may appear to be fear-mongering.

Sound business practices, not fear, should be your motivation to protect against cyber attacks.

The market is awash with security solutions. These range from single-protection products to complex advanced security monitoring and response services.  The number of options, and competing claims, is overwhelming.

Our Recommendation: Focus protections on the most common, and most damaging, types of attacks.

1. Focus on Risks

We know that:

  • More than 80% of cyber attacks start with, or involve email via phishing and other social engineering tactics
  • Ransomware is the most common type of attack
  • Business email compromise (BEC) is the most costly type of attack
  • Attacks via DNS and web content are becoming more of a risk

As such, small and midsize businesses should focus on preventing these types of attacks. Plan to limit your security approach and spending to prevention and recovery from these risks.

2. Use our CPR model as a guide

Communication and Education

Make sure your team knows how to spot an attack and what to do if they suspect an attack.  They should know the risks and steps you are taking to protect your business.

Periodically sharing articles or updates may be sufficient.  Subscribing to a security awareness training service is an affordable way to provide this education. Your cyber insurance policy may require this service.

Protect and Prevent

To protect your business from the greatest risks, put the following solutions in place:

  • Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA)
  • Encrypt data at rest, including on servers, desktops, and laptops
  • Use advanced threat protection (ATP) on all email accounts for inbound messages
  • Ensure your endpoint protection (local anti-virus) is a next-gen solution
  • Use DNS/Web protection to prevent harmful downloads

Specific to business email compromise attacks and ensuring your legitimate emails are not flagged as dangerous, ensure your domain configuration include the following protocols and services:

  • An accurate and complete Sender Policy Framework (SPF) record
  • DomainKey Identified Mail (DKIM) for all sources of email (including marketing tools)
  • Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC)

Respond and Recover

Even with protections in place, cyber attacks can be successful.  Ensure that you can return to operations quickly, even as a full recovery may take time. Your ability to recover and respond should include:

  • Backup/Recover data stored in the cloud (Microsoft 365, Google Workspace, etc.), as well as on local servers, desktops, and laptops
  • Continuity services so you can run images of key servers, desktops, and laptops if they are damaged by an attack

Note that continuity services also protects you from the impact of hardware issues, theft, and other losses.

Start with an Assessment

For a limited time, our Rapid Security Assessment is free of charge. Complete a 3 minute survey and receive a detailed report benchmarking your basic security services with respect to the most common cyber attacks against small and midsize enterprises.  

To learn more, please join us on May 17th at 3:00 PM ET for Streamlining Security, our May 3T@3 Webcast or schedule a no-obligation call with one of our cloud advisors.


Business Email Compromise – The Costliest Type of Cybercrime

Email, Communications, & MobilityWhile the massive number and scale of ransomware attacks get the most media attention, Business Email Compromise (“BEC”) attacks are the costliest type of cybercrime. In a BEC attack, the criminal impersonates you and convinces somebody who trusts you to send money. While successful attacks often begin with unauthorized access to your email account, savvy criminals use email and domain impersonation techniques. They trick others into thinking that you are asking for, or instructing them to complete, a money transfer.

As we noted in this recent post, real estate agents and brokers are prime targets of Business Email Compromise attacks because they regularly discuss transferring large amounts of money with their clients. As noted in this recent article from the Associated Press, however, BEC attacks are hitting a wide range of small businesses, nonprofits, and schools.

Business Email Compromise attacks succeed when cyber criminals are able to collate enough information about you to gain access to your account or impersonate you.  Here is how they do it:

  • Given that you use your email address to log into many systems, a third party breach can provide attackers with your email address and enough information to calculate your password.
  • Third party breaches often provide hackers with enough personally identifiable information (PII) about you to launch a successful phishing attack that captures your username and password.
  • Scanning social media posts can also provide hackers with enough PII to successfully phish for your identity.
  • Malware, known as an Advanced Persistent Threat (APT), that makes it past your endpoint protections can gather usernames, passwords, and other information while running undetected on your computer.

Protect Your Identity

To keep your email account secure, you need to protect your identity.

  • Understand the risks and follow practical advice for safe online hygiene. Use unique, complex passwords across systems; avoid oversharing personal information; and learn to recognize phishing and impersonation attacks.
  • Use “Next-Gen” endpoint protections to prevent zero-day attacks, APTs, and more traditional forms malware.  These solutions use heuristics, AI, and behavioral analysis of files to identify an attack. They can also “roll back” changes to stop an attack.

Secure Your Email Service, and All of Your Services

Even as you protect your identity, you still need to secure your email service.

  • Advanced Threat Protection (ATP) protects your account from phishing attacks, bad links, infected attachments, and other risks. ATP verifies sender information and test links and attachments in a “sandbox”, allowing safe messages to arrive in your inbox.
  • Two-Factor Authentication (2FA), or Multi-Factor Authentication (MFA), can prevent access to your accounts if your username and password are compromised.
  • Ensure that all of your information is encrypted at-rest and in-motion. Your email service should use Transport Layer Security (TLS) to encrypt messages between sending and receiving services.  Encrypt files on your local disk, on any file servers, and in the cloud.

Prevent Email and Domain Impersonation

As noted in this recent blog post, you can use three (3) levels of protection to prevent email and domain impersonation.

  • Sender Policy Framework (SPF): Authenticates addresses you use to send email.
  • DomainKeys Identified Email (DKIM): Digitally signs messages to ensure emails are not altered en-route.
  • Domain-based Message Authentication, Reporting, and Conformance (DMARC): Authenticates email origin and instructs recipients how to process bad messages. A DMARC service will track and report any potential issues.

These protocols and a DMARC monitoring service offer the best protection against BEC and impersonation attacks. They also help improve the deliverability of your email. Our ebook, Email Security: Good, Better, Best, dives deeper into this topic.

For a limited time, our Rapid Security Assessment is free of charge. Complete a 3 minute survey and receive a detailed report benchmarking your basic security services with respect to the most common cyber attacks against small and midsize enterprises.  

 

Phishing Attacks Spike Amid COVID-19 Crisis

Cyber AttackIt should be no surprise to you that we are seeing a surge in phishing and other cyber attacks, as criminals look to take advantage of the COVID-19 crisis. A sample of recent news reports illustrates the scope of the problem.

  • In April, the FBI issued a warning about COVID-19 stimulus package scams (CNET).
  • In mid-April, Google reported the daily volume of malware and phishing attack emails jumped to more than 18 million per day (The Verge).
  • Last week, TechRepublic reported a surge in phishing emails trying to exploit DocuSign and COVID-19.
  • Hackers are impersonating Zoom, Microsoft Teams, and Google Meet for phishing scams (The Verge 5/12/20).

Understand the Risk

The risk to your business, employees, and customers is greater at time when your systems may be less secure.

If your employees are using home computers while following stay-at-home orders and guidance, your risk of falling victim to an attack is significantly greater.  Most home computers do not have commercial-grade, next-generation endpoint protections and many run outdated versions of the consumer-grade products installed.

CPR is Still the Best Practice

Our model remains the best, holistic method of avoiding attacks at the human and tech levels, and for responding should something slip through.

Communicate & Educate

  • Remind your employees to be on the look out for suspicious emails, phone calls, web links.
  • Encourage your team to get help and verification if a message or interaction appears or feels suspicious in any way (better safe than sorry).
  • Consider testing employees with simulated attack messages and identify those that may need additional training and guidance.

Prevent & Protect

  • Deploy multi-factor authentication (MFA) and, optionally, single sign-on (SSO) services to prevent the use of compromised accounts.
  • Install Advanced Threat Protection solutions for inbound and outbound email to catch phishing, ransomware, and other illegitimate message.
  • Deploy “next generation” endpoint protection on computers and mobile devices to detect, prevent, and undo damage from dangerous files and applications.
  • Put Web and DNS protection services in place to prevent downloading attacks from hacked websites and identity impersonation.
  • Monitor the “dark web” for direct and third party breaches that may compromise your employees’ business accounts.
  • Take advantage of data loss prevention features built into G Suite and Microsoft 365, and consider tools to identify and prevent unauthorized access, permission errors, and data loss.
  • Eliminate the use of “shadow IT” services, particularly free or consumer-grade services by providing those capabilities to employees and making sure they know how to use them.

Restore & Recover

  • Ensure that you back up and can recover your data, regardless of location.  Your data is not just on your physical or virtual servers, it resides in your Microsoft 365 or G Suite environment, in SaaS applications like Salesforce, on desktops and laptops, and on mobile devices.
  • Put business continuity systems in place with affordable services that let you spin up and run images of your servers and workstations in a cloud data center while you recover your primary systems.
  • Have a breach response plan and service in place as an increasing number of attacks are stealing information, as effective data breach response involves:
    • Forensic analysis and recovery
    • Legal compliance with reporting requirements
    • Legal strategies to minimize liability
    • Increased customer service demand
    • Communications with customers, stakeholders, and the media
    • A potential need to provide consumer protection services
    • Cyber Insurance claims management

Fortunately for most businesses, putting these protections in place is affordable and can be done with minimal impact on your employees and their productivity.  Understand your needs, assess the value proposition (include the risks and costs of doing nothing), and deploy a solution that is the best fit for your business.


Please contact us for assistance as you evaluate your risks, needs, priorities, and solutions.