Target Breach One Year On: Email Is at the Heart of Supply Chain Security

One year after the Target data breach, there’s never been a better time to consider how vital email security is to maintain the sanctity of the supply chain. Email, by its very nature, directly connects companies large and small together creating opportunities for hackers to turn suppliers, partners or customers into unwitting victims of malware.

An obvious example of these dangers to the supply chain can be found in the Target breach which ran from November 27th – through December 15th last year and exposed credit card and personal data on more than 110 million consumers. The breach at Target appears to have begun with a malware-laced email phishing attack sent to employees at a heating, air conditioning and refrigeration firm that did business with the nationwide retailer.

Target logo

Traditionally businesses have used security scanning or gateway services to make it harder for traditional spam or phishing attacks but these only usually protect users on the network and corporate managed devices. But determined attackers are increasingly using a combination of sophisticated social-engineering and targeted or spear-phishing emails in their attacks.

Securing your relationships with suppliers and third parties is quickly becoming a top priority for those who have learned a lesson from the Target breach. Since the evolution of BS7799 part 2, into its current form of ISO27001, considering how to secure suppliers’ systems and imposing your security controls on those third parties has been a key part of security best practice. It is, therefore, not a new idea, that we ought to ask our suppliers how they store, process and secure our data, transactions and connections.

At Mimecast we have elected to adopt ISO 27001 as the cornerstone of Mimecast’s Information Security Management System as it is globally recognized as the best framework to demonstrate audited and continual improvement and on-going security management. Recent additions to this framework (ISO 27001:2013) added greater emphasis on keeping supply chains secure. But this isn’t a guarantee of security, it’s only part of a much wider scope of protection, both theoretical and technological.

I also believe protection must be available to employees no matter the device used to access corporate email systems and without adversely affecting user experience.

For example, our own Targeted Threat Protection service immunizes all embedded links by re-writing them to point to Mimecast’s global threat intelligence cloud. This real-time security check protects against delayed exploits or phishing techniques that direct people to good websites at first, only to arm their dangerous payloads afterward.

Enterprises must protect the user when they actually click, so in the (un)likely event you experience the same fate as Target, you’ve supplied the best protection technologically available. This last line of defense has become the only defense against those who seek to abuse the trust we have in our business relationships.


Mimecast’s Email Security Highly Commended by SC Awards

Last week, Mimecast was thrilled to be recognized at the 2014 SC Magazine Awards Europe ceremony for our Email Security service. The judges, drawn from the senior ranks of the information security profession based on their experience and impartiality, selected Mimecast’s Email Security service to receive the status of ‘Highly Commended’ in the ‘Best Email Security Solution’ category.

Mimecast’s Email Security received the status of ‘Highly Commended’ in the ‘Best Email Security Solution’ category

Mimecast’s Email Security received the status of ‘Highly Commended’ in the ‘Best Email Security Solution’ category

Mimecast’s Email Security provides a comprehensive, cloud-based service to mitigate email risk –gaining ‘Visionary’ status in the Gartner Magic Quadrant for Secure Email Gateways 2013. It provides customers with 100 percent anti-virus protection, including zero-day threat protection SLA, and a 99 percent anti-spam protection SLA, without the need to deploy any on-premise hardware or software.

The majority of Mimecast’s competitors have acquired their security technology and bolted together point solutions to form an offering. The Mimecast Email Security platform is unique in that it’s built specifically for purpose. From the Message Transfer Agent up, Mimecast builds, owns and manages the technology to process and protect customers’ email. This means more straightforward deployment, setup and management for IT teams and a more valuable and integrated experience for users.

It’s recognition of the success we’ve enjoyed in delivering simple yet effective corporate email security, minimizing IT overheads and improving user productivity. If you’d like to find out more about Mimecast’s Email Security you can find videos and supporting documentation here.


Rogue Access Points Make Prime-time with The Doctor

Clara Oswald

Doctor Who: Series 7 Part 2, The Bells of Saint John.

There’s something in the WiFi. You know you’ve made it as an actor and as a security issue when you appear on Doctor Who. If, like me, you tuned-in to (showing my age there, who “tunes-in” anymore?) the new series of Doctor Who last weekend, you may have chuckled at the use of WiFi networks as a medium for evil. Rogue Access Points that upload the soul of their users, leaving them trapped inside a Spoonhead, sorry server, somewhere in London’s Shard building. Kudos to the script writers for the plot, and for renaming servers, spoonheads – I’ll be in the spoonhead room.

“I don’t know where I am… I don’t know where I am…” is a cry most IT managers, administrators and help desk staff have heard in their time; usually from hapless users trying to find their way onto the network or perhaps around their desktop, rather than being trapped inside an evil WiFi network. That wasn’t lost on me, nor was the uploading of souls; something we might think Facebook has in their roadmap–or at least the curating of your own soul. The evil walking WiFi base stations, hoovering up data and people, did remind me of Google Street View cars that were caught hoovering up WiFi networks, but I’m sure that’s coincidental.

Now, while not all WiFi networks are this evil there are certainly many we should avoid. I’m still amazed to see the SSID “Free Public WiFi” whenever I’m on a train or at an airport; while not necessarily unsafe, it does indicate an old an unpatched version of Windows XP is running somewhere – which in itself is terrifying. Others are certainly more dangerous; there’s often a looky-likey network at conferences or near popular coffee shops, designed to trick you into joining and routing your traffic through them. This is just plain unsafe and even on open public networks you should always use a VPN or at least HTTPS connections. Firesheep was an excellent demonstration as to how vulnerable unencrypted web traffic is on open wireless networks.

As IT professionals we’re constantly reminding our users of the security risks associated with the unknown; like free or open WiFi networks as well as clicking links in email. Hopefully now Rogue Access Points have made it to prime-time this job will be a little easier.

I’m waiting to see if there is another episode of Doctor Who dedicated to Phishing emails, or perhaps password sniffing, but in the mean time I’m trying to work out how to change my SSID to that funky font used in Doctor Who.

Remember, if you’re looking for WiFi and sometimes you see something a bit like this, don’t click it.

Stay safe!


Postini Exit: Time to Choose

If you’re a Google Postini customer, or even an observer of the market, you’ll be well aware that Google has brought the curtain down on its Postini email services. To paraphrase Google, it’s “transitioning Postini services to the Google Apps platform beginning in 2013.”

“Transitioning”, is another way of saying we’re cutting you off and you better do something about it. As an IT professional you’ve probably been cursing the day you found this out; I bet the idea of an unplanned migration of such a core service is something you wished happened more often, isn’t at all disruptive is it?

 Part of the worry about moving to a new platform will be the completeness of said platform. The Google transition FAQ tells us there is some core functionality missing. For example; you won’t have a quarantine summary until Q1, 2013. Users won’t be able to manage their quarantines online, like they do now, until Q2, 2013, along with reporting. Outbound filtering won’t be with you until Q3, 2013. And, if you want any sort of admin quarantine the best estimate you’ll get from Google is 2013.

Sadly, the list of missing or unsupported features goes on, ultimately ending in a couple of shockers that leave you worse-off in terms of SLA too.

Frustrated? Worried? Considering your options?

By now you’ll have noticed the veritable feeding frenzy that email security vendors have got into. Some offering 6 months of service free, others touting free migrations to their platforms. Ultimately betting the farm on a gimmick in a hope they can attract you. They’re not really considering the financial impact on their business-model of ‘free’ stuff in this, already cut-throat, market. Race to zero anyone?

The problem I have with this race to the bottom, is it undermines the value of email security and the gateway and is a dis-service to you, the customer. The last thing you need is a vendor who’s sold themselves to dirt cheap technology in a mad dash to gain market share. In a year or two it’s likely you’ll be migrating away from that vendor too as they run out of money and innovation.

The knock on effect of this market behaviour is also a lack of investment in R&D, which you’ll notice when you start to conduct your own due diligence on these vendors. Offering a free migration to a service could well be covering up weaknesses in technology that are likely to be a show stopper if you dig deeper. If you’re in this situation as the vendor about their ‘cloud infrastructure, and whether it’s really cloud or not; chances are it’ll be a hosted version of their on-premise gateway technology. I don’t need to point out that’s not cloud, nor is it scalable, and it’s bound to hurt sometime down the line.

Faced with the choice between incomplete and imperfect it makes sense to take some time out from worrying about this unplanned migration, put aside the hysterical marketing from the ‘look at me’ vendors and consider your options.  We’ve put together a short video that makes this point and might help you decide what steps to take next.

Yours in email.