by

Top Priorities for CIOs over the next Year

We’ve come a long way on the timeline of enterprise information security. About ten years ago we’d finally become used to the idea of a second firewall upgrade and were thinking about dedicated security teams and policies that had a reach much farther than just the IT team.

Today, and into the next twelve months, the list of priorities for CIOs and CISOs is far more complex and only bears a passing resemblance to the past.

The future looks far more advanced, from a security perspective, which by right is an accurate reflection of the nature of the threats that we now face. Traditional security technologies are struggling to keep up, and in many ways have seen their day. Today’s shopping list of security tools would include Mobile Device Management (MDM) services, next generation firewalls and threat detection tools as well as new more active types of host anti-virus; altogether more complex and advanced than the types of tools we were buying just a few years ago.

Also on the agenda are the softer, more human components of information security. Compliance tools and processes have never been more important, neither, and perhaps surprisingly for some, are formal enterprise privacy agreements for users. The latter in response to growing privacy concerns driven by major data leakage and snooping scandals, and the former—your staff—being a new frontier for soft security technologies and training, that seek to secure one of the weakest lines of defense in enterprise.

So all things considered, here are my predictions for the types of projects you’ll be seeing this year:

- Cloud identity and authorization: With the rise of cloud based services in the enterprise, IT teams will need to ensure access control requirements are met across all services. Using third party identity and authorization services that integrate with the cloud and on-premise directory services will be essential to enable the use of cloud services that can match your enterprise authentication policies.

Cloud encryption: If not provided by a cloud security vendor already, more CIOs will demand their data be encrypted in the cloud with a separate cloud encryption tool. Public cloud services will be affected most to guarantee the confidentiality of data for the enterprise as CIOs seek to find ways to protect their information regardless of its storage location.

- Formal privacy programs: Privacy is critical to both customer and end user trust in your organization, with the added benefit of helping you comply with local laws and customs. CIOs will be creating privacy protection controls for their sensitive customer data and personal information that balance business enablement with business protection. This is a new concept for many, but as the line between enterprise and personal computing is increasingly unclear, CIOs will need to establish clear boundaries for data access, storage and monitoring.

- Next generation tech: The ‘next generation’ is never well defined, but we know the current generation of technologies is fast being outmoded. Security technology in particular has become easy for attackers to circumvent, so vendors are responding with next generation, more advanced, security solutions. Spear-phishing is a great example – all the most recent high profile attacks have bypassed traditional email security technologies, by the use of very well crafted malicious emails.

- Threat detection and response: Similarly, as threats change and become more stealth we need to address how we detect and respond to them, given the possibility we may not be able to prevent them all. End point and host detection will play a large role in these new projects as businesses look for ways to quickly detect the outbreak of a problem on an end point and seek to lock it down or remote wipe it as quickly as possible.

- Security governance: This has always been a growing part of a CIO’s responsibilities, and we’ll see IT GRC management and ITSM increase as rigor is brought to bear on the IT department, and the buy-in of IT initiatives by the rest of the organization becomes more normal.

- Mobile device management: BYOD has come and gone, or at least embedded itself in our everyday IT policy. Users, not satisfied with your policies being enforced on their personal devices, appear to be much happier with the containerized or compartmentalized use of business data and apps on those devices. Simply letting users bring their devices into your network is no longer acceptable as it once was, controlling the use or your data on their devices is now essential.

- Testing and training: Security training has always been part of our routine for users. Most new users are given a ‘sheep dip’ when they join, and a rare few given ongoing training thereafter. But, as the value of training is diminished by more successful attacks in the face of well trained staff, real-time testing becomes a more viable solution. There are numerous open source tools available to help you socially engineer your staff; we should expect to see these sort of activities being offered as services in the near future, and should take advantage of them – even if you’ve shied away from classic “pen-testing” in the past.

by

Forrester and Mimecast Webinar: Protecting Against Targeted Attacks

As the torrent of malicious content and spam moved away from our enterprise inboxes to more consumer and social platforms, we were perhaps lulled into a false sense that we’d finally beaten the spam problem.

But this simply isn’t the case. The risks to our enterprise inboxes and data have morphed into more harmful and effective security threats.

Forrester and Mimecast Webinar ‘Protecting Against Targeted Attacks’ - join us next Tuesday, September 30th, at 10am Eastern (1500 UK, 1600 RSA). Register free here:

Forrester and Mimecast Webinar ‘Protecting Against Targeted Attacks’ – join us next Tuesday, September 30th, at 10am Eastern (1500 UK, 1600 RSA). Register free here: http://mim.ec/Zdm7qY

Spear-phishing, or targeted attacks by email, is the next generation of threat our IT teams are scrambling to deal with. Plus, as more high profile security breaches hit the headlines, where spear-phishing is often the initial point of entry, it’s a threat that has got the attention of the C-suite.

So Mimecast is hosting another webinar in our series of ‘Expert Webinars’ to share essential advice on how to protect your business against spear-phishing and targeted attacks -  the webinar is next Tuesday, September 30th, at 1000 Eastern (1500 UK, 1600 RSA) and you can register for free here.

I’ll be joined by two industry experts; Rick Holland, the well-known Forrester Research analysts and IT security commentator, as well as Steven Malone, Mimecast’s own Security Product Manager.

Spear-phishers are specifically targeting you and your business in an effort to steal your intellectual property, customer lists, credit card databases and corporate secrets.

Whereas old style phishing was a scatter gun attack, spear-phishing is specifically targeted at a handful of individuals within a business. The attackers research their targets over many months, often using social media platforms to gain useful information about you. Like phishing, email is the main attack vector for spear-phishing, with well-crafted social engineered emails being the tool of choice.

During the webinar we’ll be discussing: the biggest threats and most dangerous attack tactics. Recent high profile case studies. The real life cost of attacks and the practical steps you can take to protect and educate your users.

Do leave a comment under this post or @reply me at @orlando_sc if you’ve any particular areas you want us to cover next week.

by

Feeling Insecure About Security

Earlier this month, as you’ve no doubt heard, a batch of private pictures of celebrities were circulated widely on the Internet, having been either leaked or stolen from a storage medium the celebrities considered private and trustworthy.

One security breach doesn't prove that the cloud is unsafe. It’s still safer than the alternatives.

One security breach doesn’t prove that the cloud is unsafe. It’s still safer than the alternatives.

On the theory that one person’s misfortune is another’s teachable moment, the Internet has been flooded, not by the pictures, but by well-meaning explanations of how users can protect themselves from such privacy violations. Most of them give advice that is mostly good; it’s certainly true that most people take far too few precautions with their most sensitive information. But some of it’s misleading, perhaps even betraying an ulterior motive and a hidden agenda.

While experts can agree on the vast majority of things you should do to be safe — which I won’t reiterate here — sometimes their advice reflects unspoken assumptions or agendas. While there’s a great deal of consensus about how to protect data stored in a given manner, there’s much more debate about whether one type of storage is fundamentally more secure than another.

Consider the lowly flash drive. Some would tell you that the safest place to put your data is on such a drive. It’s true that the lack of networking on a storage card makes it immune to network-based attacks, but instead it’s vulnerable to physical ones — those tiny drives are easy to steal, or to lose. Is your security better overall with the flash drive? It’s not easy to say.

Similarly, in the recent disclosure of scandalous pictures, some have rushed to say that this shows the insecurity of the cloud. Leaving apart the fact that Apple ultimately concluded that the pictures were not stolen from their cloud service, there’s a legitimate (albeit misplaced) question here: Is cloud storage less secure than other forms of large-scale storage?

Obviously it depends on what you look at. As I’ve said, USB vs cloud strikes me as too close to call on the personal side. But for business users, the right comparison is to on-premises systems. Many executives feel safer knowing that the data doesn’t leave their site, where they believe they have complete control. However, while that control might be complete for a small number of businesses, the typical business is far from expert in matters of security, whereas for cloud providers it’s a live-or-die issue. With very few exceptions, I think business data is more secure with a good cloud provider than with on overextended, undertrained IT team on premises.

So, does that mean the cloud is more secure than on-premise storage? Again, the answer isn’t black and white. How do you know how good your cloud provider is? Do you trade off professional security in the cloud with perceived security in your organization? There’s room for disagreement and nuance, for sure.

However, we should all beware of self-interested pundits who draw overly broad conclusions.  Not only was the recent leak not a cloud leak after all, but even if it had been, we can’t read too much into an isolated event, remembering that nothing is perfect. One security breach doesn’t prove that the cloud is unsafe, any more than one accident with a change machine proves that change machines are a menace.

Life is dangerous. The only way to know how much a particular thing endangers us is to look at some longer-term statistics. An isolated event means nothing, but when someone uses such an event to broadly generalize, it can tell you a good deal about their own agenda.

by

Six Email Continuity Mistakes – and How to Avoid Them

The 2014 Atlantic Hurricane season is in full swing through November, putting your organization – and mission-critical systems, like email – at sudden risk of exposure to tropical storms, floods and fires.

Ask yourself: When was the last time you tested your business continuity plan? If the answer is one year or longer, you risk significant network downtime, data leakage and financial loss. According to Gartner, depending on your industry, network downtime can typically cost $5,600 per minute or more than $300,000 per hour, on average. Don’t wait for disaster to strike. Treat email like the critical system it is, and avoid making these six mistakes that could jeopardize business continuity – and your job.

Combat downtime during hurricane season by planning ahead.

Combat downtime during hurricane season by planning ahead.

  1. Not testing your continuity solution. You’ve devised and implemented what you believe to be a solid continuity solution, but you’ve not given it a production test. Instead, you cross your fingers and hope when (and if) the time comes, the solution works as planned. There are two major problems with not testing your plan from the start. First, things get dusty over time. It’s possible the technology no longer works, or worse, maybe it was not properly configured in the first place. Plus, you might not be regularly backing up critical systems. Without testing the solution, you’ll learn the hard way that data is not being entirely backed up when you perform the restore. Second, when it comes to planning, you need a clear chain of command, should disaster strike. If your network goes down, you need to know who to call, immediately. Performing testing once simply is not enough. You need to test your solution once a year, at a minimum. Depending on the tolerance of your business, you’ll likely have to test more frequently, like quarterly or even monthly.
  2. Forgetting to test fail back. Testing the failover capabilities of your continuity solution is only half the job. Are you prepared for downtime that could last hours, days or even weeks? The ability to go from the primary data center to the secondary one – then reverting back – is critical, and this needs to be tested. You need to know that data can be restored into normal systems after downtime.
  3. Assuming you can easily engage the continuity solution. It’s common to plan for “normal” disasters like power outages and hardware failure. But in the event of something more severe, like a flood or fire, you need to know how difficult it’s to trigger a failover. Also, you need to know where you need to be. For example, can you trigger the fail over from your office or data center? It’s critical to know where the necessary tools are located and how long it’ll take you or your team to locate them. Physical access is critical. Distribute tools to multiple data centers, as well as your local environment.
  4. Excluding policy enforcement. When an outage occurs, you must still account for regulatory and policy-based requirements that impact email communications. This includes archiving, continuity and security policies. Otherwise, you risk non-compliance.
  5. Trusting agreed RTP and RPO. In reality, you’ve got to balance risk and budget. When an outage happens, will the email downtime agreed upon by the business really stick? In other words, will the CEO really be able to tolerate no access to email for two hours? And will it be acceptable for customers to be out of touch with you for one day? The cost associated with RTO and RPO could cause a gap in data restore. If you budget for a two-day email restore, be prepared that during an outage, this realistically means two days without email for the entire organization. As part of your testing methodology, you may discover that you need more or less time to back up and restore data. It’s possible that, as a result, you may need to implement more resilient technology – like moving from risky tape backup to more scalable and accessible cloud storage.
  6. Neglecting to include cloud services. Even when you implement cloud technologies to deliver key services, such as email, you still have the responsibility of planning for disruptions. Your cloud vendor will include disaster recover planning on their end to provide reliable services, but mishaps – and disasters – still happen. Mitigate this risk by stacking multi-vendor solutions wherever possible to ensure redundancy, especially for services like high availability gateways in front of cloud-based email services, or cloud backups of key data.

With the proper testing and upfront business continuity preparation, you can significantly reduce – or even prevent – email downtime, data leakage and financial loss after disaster strikes.