With cybersecurity a priority for every business that depends on their IT, there are a lot of different strategies being utilized out there to keep threats off of networks and data safe. One of the most advanced strategies being used today is enlisting a service that runs a Security Operations Center (SOC). Today, we’ll investigate what a SOC is and how it works to keep threats at bay.
What is a Security Operations Center?
The Security Operations Center is a lot like the Network Operations Center (NOC), but its whole purpose is to monitor computing networks and devices and eliminate threats to their efficient operation. While that description may seem simple, business computing infrastructures are typically complex with a lot of end users, making network and device security a complicated endeavor.
Today’s businesses have computing infrastructures and networks that run around the clock, and the SOC is staffed to facilitate that 24/7/365 demand for security monitoring and services. Working hand-in-hand with your NOC (and perhaps other IT administrators depending on the complexity of your business’ IT), the SOC typically handles the overarching cybersecurity strategy.
Typically, businesses want their IT to align with how they want to run their business and part of that is maintaining uptime and keeping threats off of the endpoints, networks, and the vast amount of infrastructure that makes up the network. After all, all it takes is one vulnerability to be exploited and it can create major problems. The SOC deploys a myriad of tools and strategies all designed to do one thing: stay ahead of threats to the network.
How the SOC Operates
As we stated previously, the SOC functions much like a NOC in that its main purpose is comprehensive around-the-clock monitoring and notification. If something goes wrong on the network, the SOC will log the issue and do what it can to mitigate the issue. As these things happen it will notify the IT administrator (the NOC) of the issue to keep them in the loop. Let’s take a brief look at some of the services the SOC will provide:
The discovery process is a major part of how the SOC can be most effective. In being aware of all the hardware, applications, and other tools on the network(s) your business needs, the SOC can ensure that everything is monitored continuously.
Not only will the SOC monitor software and traffic trends, it will also monitor user and system behaviors as a way to identify issues.
Keeping large computing networks secure is a big job, and a lot of your executive and managerial team don’t have the knowledge or the time to stay on top of threats as they come in. Keeping logs of every action the SOC makes, including communications with vendors/employees and steps taken to keep the network and infrastructure free from threats is a great way to provide a layer of oversight to the security process. It’s also an important factor in staying compliant with any regulatory mandates.
Comprehensive Incident response and investigation
This is where the SOC really becomes a major benefit for the security of your company’s IT. Not only do SOC technicians respond quickly to any incident, they also work fast to investigate what caused the issue in the first place. Going further than your typical IT management, the main benefit of the SOC is the mitigation of efficiency-sapping issues such as malware and other manners of attack.
If you think your business could use a Security Operations Center service to keep your growing network and infrastructure clean from threats and working for your business, give Point North Networks, Inc., a call today at 651-234-0895.
How often do you find yourself stressing out about who has access to which data or internal resources on your company network? What about who has access to open the front door of your office or who has access to important physical resources within your building? Ensuring the security of your business’ assets is critical, and access control tools can help your company ensure that only authorized individuals have access to specific parts of your organization’s infrastructure, be it physical or digital.
What is Access Control?
Access control is, at its core, a way to restrict access to specific resources within your company based on user or role. It generally involves authorization of some sort and demands that the user verify their identity before being granted access to said resources. Think about it like asking the network for permission before being allowed onto it; once the network or infrastructure has confirmed the identity of the individual, they will have access to the resources.
Access control can be broken up into two groups: digital or cyber access control and physical access control. We’ll go over some of the benefits for both types of access control and how they can help your business keep itself safe.
Cyber Access Control
Your business undoubtedly has data on its infrastructure that should only be accessed by specific individuals and no one else. This might include sensitive employee data, applications or resources, financial records, and so on. You should be limiting access to important information like this specifically because the fewer people who have access to it, the less likely it will be compromised. Through access control tools, you can control which employees have access to specific data, applications, or resources on your network, based on their role within your organization.
Physical Access Control
Sometimes you want to keep certain users out of specific parts of your office. This is where physical access control comes into play. Physical access control might involve key cards, code-guarded doors, and even biometric scanners, with the intention of securing various parts of your office. One example of how you might use it is if you have sensitive records stored in a specific part of your office. You might keep that door locked, only accessible to specific individuals within your organization. Another example might be an access gate open only to employees of your business.
Get Started Today
Point North networks, Inc., knows how complex it can be to implement new security solutions, especially if they require a certain level of management and maintenance, like access control systems do. We want to help your business take advantage of these solutions in a way that minimizes the additional duties and responsibilities of your organization. Through Point North, you can implement, manage, and maintain these systems without dedicating your internal resources to them; instead, you can outsource the responsibility to us! Our technicians are more than happy to assist you each step of the way.
To learn more, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.
Cyberattacks can cost businesses a lot of money. They’re also more prevalent today than ever before. It seems you can’t go a couple of news cycles without hearing about some organization that has been hacked or scammed and it’s resulted in the sensitive data the organization holds being sold online, vast operational downtime, or worse. For this reason, many organizations have deliberately built up their cybersecurity infrastructure, enhanced their policies, and invested in training to ensure that they aren’t the next victim. Unfortunately, this attention doesn’t always work.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation has found that cyberattacks increased about 400 percent from 2019 to 2020. Doing what you can to keep your organization’s computing resources secure is extremely important. The cybersecurity outlays made by businesses and other organizations have been immense, and that has led to a sobering reality. Most of any organization’s security problems, especially relating to malware deployment, is due to their employees’ lack of conscientious decision-making when faced with problematic situations.
It doesn’t matter how much more secure or how much smarter you make your organization’s information system security, it can all be for naught if one employee doesn’t do what they should. This is extremely frustrating for IT people, since it is one of their core responsibilities to keep these systems secure. Let’s take a look at how employees fail to keep their credentials secure and what you can do to remedy this worrisome trend.
Employees as Attack Vectors
Increasingly, workplace strategies have been altered significantly. In fact, millions of workers are currently working remotely now, effectively distributing a business’ operational network. For the IT professional who is in tune with the current threat landscape, workers that don’t do everything they can to protect organizational data and infrastructure are typically viewed as ignorant; or worse yet, as a saboteur. Unfortunately for everyone, the driving factor is not negligence or a willingness to do their organization harm, it is out of workplace stress, a factor that is difficult to quantify, and harder yet to eliminate.
A study conducted by the Harvard Business Review found some interesting results about the role stress plays in maintaining their assumed role in protecting their organization’s cybersecurity. The study found that two-of-every-three workers failed to fully adhere to organizational cybersecurity policies at least once in the 10 workdays where the study was conducted. During the study, it was found that employees simply ignore the cybersecurity policies around five percent of the time. This may not seem like a lot, but if you consider that it only takes one non-compliant action to result in a major data breach, having dozens of such instances happen each day is putting organizations in jeopardy.
You may be asking yourself, “If they follow procedure 19 times out of 20, why don’t they follow it that other time?” Well this is where this seemingly clear issue gets cloudy. The study got the answer to this question. The top three were:
- “To better accomplish tasks for my job.”
- “To get something I needed.”
- “To help others get their work done.”
In fact, of all the respondents, 85 percent that were non-compliant to their organizational cybersecurity policies responded with one of these three answers. These employees knowingly broke the rules and in doing so put their organization in jeopardy, but not because they were lazy or they just had it, it was because that was the only way they could efficiently get the work done. Situations where a person is damned if they do and damned if they don’t, they tend to pick the priority.
To most workers, they weren’t hired as cybersecurity professionals; they are hired to do a job and if cybersecurity policy gets in the way, they will choose productivity over security every time. If you consider that only three percent of policy breaches were acts of true defiance or sabotage, the 97 percent of the rest are likely perpetuated by dutiful employees. It’s hard to justify stern reprimand for a person who thinks they have the business’ best interests in mind.
Redefining the Importance of Cybersecurity
For the average employee, following procedure is typically going to be a distant second to maintaining productivity. After all, there are very few instances over time where someone was labeled as “great at their job” because they didn’t accidentally start a cyberattack. Moreover, most organizations’ IT support team can’t really give people the benefit of the doubt; most employees that don’t follow security procedures are looked on as negligent or deliberately working against their best efforts. The truth is most training platforms and policies (as they are known to the employee) don’t take into account that there are gray areas that don’t line up with the expectations put on employees by their managers.
To this end, it is more important than ever for employees to be involved in the creation and development of workable cybersecurity policies that take into account that business moves fast and sometimes a person that is focused on doing the best job they can, isn’t going to be focused on maintaining network security. Managers also need to ensure the members of their team know what they need to do and what those actions accomplish to reinforce the importance of their cybersecurity efforts.
Most businesses celebrate employees that excel at their jobs. Today, their job is actively changing and they have to know why straying from procedure is a major problem. The problem is that one wrong move and the company is dealing with malware and reputation troubles, and loss of revenue. While it might be ridiculous to celebrate adherence to corporate cybersecurity policies, people have had cake for less.
If your business needs help balancing productivity with their cybersecurity policies, give the IT security professionals at Point North Networks, Inc., a call today at 651-234-0895.
We don’t like it any more than you do, but if we have learned anything at all over the past several years, it’s that security absolutely needs to be a priority for all small businesses.
In the face of high-profile ransomware attacks that can snuff companies out of existence, what are you doing to keep your own business secure?
To put things in perspective, we’ve put together a list of some of the more common threats that all companies should be able to address.
Common Security Threats for Businesses
The following list of threats should give you an idea for how to start securing your business. You can never prepare too much for a potential security breach, so take the time now to get ready for what will inevitably come down the line.
Some viruses are little more than an irritation, whereas others are incredibly disruptive to operations. They are basically bits of code that can harm your computer or data. Viruses are known for being able to spread from system to system to corrupt data, destroy files, and other harmful behavior. You can get viruses through downloading files, installing free software or applications, clicking on infected advertisements, clicking on the wrong links, or opening email attachments. Fortunately, modern antivirus software has gotten really good at protecting computers, provided that your software is up-to-date. For businesses, it’s best to have a centralized antivirus on your network that controls and manages all of the antivirus clients on your workstations.
Malware is malicious software that performs a specific task. A virus can also be considered a type of malware, albeit more simplistic in nature. Malware comes in various forms according to its purpose, such as spyware for spying on infected machines and adware for displaying ads in extremely intrusive or inconvenient ways. The major takeaway here is that you don’t want to deal with malware in any capacity. It’s often installed on devices under the radar, and unless you are actively looking for it, it’s entirely possible that it can run in the background and cause all kinds of trouble without being detected. You can get malware through the same processes as viruses, and the same antivirus solutions can help you to resolve malware as well.
Phishing attacks are mediums to spread other types of threats rather than actually being threats in and of themselves. Hackers might try to send out spam messages with links or infected attachments aiming to get the user to download them or click on them. When they do, the device is infected. Some phishing attacks are so inconspicuous that they can be hard to identify.
There are other types of phishing attacks as well, some of which try to get the user to share sensitive information or send money to the cybercriminal. Cybercriminals can spoof legitimate-sounding email addresses and use psychological hacks to convince the user to act in a certain way. It’s the most common way that hackers see results, so you should be aware of it.
Ransomware is so dangerous and high-profile that it is deserving of its own section. Ransomware locks down files using encryption and forces the user to pay a ransom in order to unlock them, usually in the form of cryptocurrency. Recent ransomware attacks are also threatening to release encrypted data on the Internet if the ransom is not paid, something which basically forces the user to pay up and gets around the possibility of restoring a backup.
Denial of Service (DDoS)
Denial of Service and Distributed Denial of Service attacks occur when a botnet, or a network of infected computers, repeatedly launches traffic at a server or infrastructure to the point where it just cannot handle the load, effectively disrupting operations and forcing it to shut down. Sometimes this happens with websites or services, so it’s no surprise that businesses can suffer from them, as well.
Trojans (also called backdoors) install themselves on devices and work in the background to open up more opportunities for hackers later on. These can be used to steal data, infiltrate networks, or install other threats. Basically, if a hacker installs a backdoor on your network, they can access it whenever they want to; you are essentially at their mercy.
Zero-day vulnerabilities are those that were previously unknown to developers but are currently in use by cybercriminals. These zero-day vulnerabilities are problems because when the developer discovers them and issues a patch, cybercriminals can identify the vulnerability based on the patch, and then exploit users who haven’t installed the patch yet. There is not much to be done besides keeping your software up-to-date, monitoring your networks for issues, and trusting the developers to issue patches as they discover security problems.
User error is a critical issue for many businesses. Your business is made up of people who perform tasks and work toward objectives. If one of these employees makes a mistake, it could leave your business exposed to threats. Thankfully, a combination of best practices and security solutions should be enough to minimize user error, and with some security training under their belt, your employees should have a good idea of how to handle it.
Get Started with Security Solutions
Point North Networks, Inc., can equip your business with the tools you need to be successful when protecting your organization. To learn more, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.
For small businesses with limited budgets and workforces, getting the type of maintenance needed to keep complicated pieces of machinery and technology in tip-top shape seems like a tall order. Sometimes it might be a budgetary issue, where it costs too much to hire in-house staff to handle this burden. Other times it might seem like you just can’t find any talent in your location. Thanks to modern technology—remote monitoring and management technology, in particular—you are no longer stuck by these limitations
We would be poor technology consultants if we told you that not having the resources to properly care for your technology is a good excuse. Thanks to remote technology, this type of maintenance is easier and more accessible than it has ever been before. Here’s what you can expect when you work with Point North Networks for remote monitoring and maintenance services.
If nothing else, RMM tools promote accessibility for small businesses by breaking down the barriers of entry that have traditionally stopped them from leveraging this type of technology. By this, we mean things like price and talent pool. For price, RMM services fall into the operational costs category, meaning that they are the equivalent of a monthly payment compared to adding additional salaries to your expenses. As for the talent pool, since the majority of services can be administered remotely, physical location is not as much of an issue unless you need on-site maintenance.
Proactive Maintenance and Monitoring
It’s not easy to run a business while also keeping an eye on all of the little things that could go wrong at any moment, be it hardware hiccups or security discrepancies. When you implement RMM services, you have your outsourced provider keeping a close watch on your network for all of those small things that might fly under the radar normally. When your network is monitored in this way, we can catch small issues before they spiral out of control.
Sometimes issues need to be resolved quickly, and in these situations, you cannot wait for a technician to travel to your office. Remote desktop solutions allow technicians to remote right into the system itself, see the issue first-hand, and resolve the issue quickly and efficiently without the need for an on-site visit.
Implement a RMM Tool Today!
Ultimately, RMM services are incredibly beneficial for all businesses, big or small. They save time, money, and resources that you can then spend elsewhere for your business, such as growing your customer base or innovating with new ideas or services. Point North Networks, Inc., can provide your organization with remote monitoring and maintenance services; all you have to do is reach out to us at 651-234-0895.
It’s easy to focus on threats that are external to your business, like viruses and malware that are just waiting to infiltrate your network, but what about threats that exist from within?
While insider threats are not particularly common in the dramatic, over-the-top way that they are made out to be in movies and media, they are still a very real issue that should be addressed by your organization’s network security protocols.
In a lot of ways, insider threats are even harder to identify because of the fact that it is difficult to discern what activity is acceptable and what activity is not. According to Gartner, there are four types of insider threats. Believe it or not, most insider threats don’t necessarily have malicious intent; rather, they just have a gross negligence for network security and rules put into place that protects your organization’s intellectual property.
Let’s meet some of these insider threats, shall we?
Those Who Are Tricked
Also known as the “pawn,” this category includes those who are more or less tricked into becoming complicit with hackers’ agendas through the use of social engineering scams or phishing campaigns. In these cases, hackers are simply taking advantage of others who may not know enough to not go along with it.
Those Who Cooperate
Those who cooperate with third parties to disclose sensitive information or trade secrets, also known as the “collaborator,” are dangerous in their own right. Not only do they leak important information, but they do so with the deliberate intent to harm or create problems for your organization.
Those Who Make Mistakes
Sometimes people just make mistakes because they don’t take security standards seriously or deliberately fly in the face of policies. These folks fall into the category of the “goof,” and their arrogance and negligence is what leads them to make such mistakes. Goofs often make choices that benefit themselves, even if they make things significantly less secure in the process.
Those Who Act on Their Own
Sometimes insider threats emerge on their own without being a part of a bigger effort from a hacker or third party. These threats, dubbed the “lone wolf” insiders, are particularly dangerous if they have high-level access to sensitive information. The reasons for lone wolf insider threats acting the way they do might vary, but even if they are made for ethical reasons, like leaking suspicious practices or dangerous activity, this does not change their status as insiders, as they are still acting with a deliberate intent to damage the organization they work for.
Point North Networks, Inc., can help to secure your business from threats of all types, including insiders. To learn more about the methods we use to determine legitimate or illegitimate network activity, reach out to us at 651-234-0895.
There is an entire litany of stereotypes that are commonly linked to the term “hacker”… too many for us to dig into here, especially since they do little but form a caricature of just one form that today’s cybercriminal can take. Let’s go into the different varieties that are covered nowadays under the blanket term of “hacker,” and the threat that each pose to businesses today.
To give this list some semblance of sensible order, let’s go from the small fish up to the large players, ascending the ladder in terms of threats.
The Ethical Hacker
First and foremost, not all hackers are bad. Certified Ethical Hackers are high-profile cybersecurity experts that are designed to think like a cybercriminal. They can be employed to determine how secure your organization is.
The Unintentional Hacker
We all make mistakes, and we can all get a little bit curious every now and then. Therefore, it stands to reason that this curiosity could get people into trouble if they were to find something—some mistake in its code or security—on a website. This is by no means uncommon, and the question of whether this kind of hacking should be prosecuted if the perpetrator reports their findings to the company has been raised by many security professionals.
Regardless, if someone can hack into a website without realizing what they are doing, what does that say about the security that is supposed to be protecting the website… or, by extension, a business’ network? Whether or not you take legal action, such events should never be glossed over and instead be addressed as growth opportunities for improving your security.
The Thrill Seeker
Each of the hackers we’ll cover here has their own motivation for hacking into a network. In this case, that motivation ties directly back to bragging rights (even if the hacker only ever brags about it to themselves). While these hackers were once far more common, the heightened accountability and legal consequences that such behaviors now bring have largely quashed the interest in such hacking. Many of those that would have once been interested in this kind of hacking are now focused on modifying hardware over software, turning to interest-based kits like the Raspberry Pi and others to scratch their “hacking” itch.
Adware—or a piece of software that hijacks your browser to redirect you to a website hoping to sell you something—is a real annoyance, as it wastes the user’s valuable time and energy. It also isn’t unheard of for otherwise well-known and legitimate companies to use it in their own marketing, despite the risk they run of having to pay regulatory fines due to these behaviors.
While the real damage that adware spamming can do may seem minimal, it is also important to put the nature of these efforts into perspective. An adware spammer will use the same tactics that other serious threats—things like ransomware and the like—are often spread through. If you’re finding your workstations suddenly inundated with adware, you are likely vulnerable to a much wider variety of threats than you might first assume.
The Botnet Recruiter
Some threats to your network aren’t even technically directed toward your business itself. Let me ask you this: would you see it as a threat to have your computing resources taken over and co-opted for another purpose? After all, the result is effectively the same as many more directly malicious attacks—greatly diminished productivity and efficiency.
This approach is quite literally how a botnet operates. Using specialized malware, huge numbers of otherwise unassociated machines can be taken under control and have their available resources directed toward some other means. A particularly famous example of a botnet’s power came just a few years ago, when a botnet was utilized to disrupt the services of Dyn, a DNS provider. This took popular websites like Twitter and Facebook down for several hours.
Missing or neglected patches are one of the simplest ways for a botnet to claim your resources as its own—particularly when login credentials haven’t been changed.
While political activism can be a noble cause, the hacktivist goes about supporting their cause in a distinctly ignoble way. Operating in sabotage, blackmail, and otherwise underhanded tactics, a hacktivist that targets your company could do some serious damage—despite the good that most of these groups are truly attempting to do.
Of course, the law also doesn’t differentiate between different cybercrimes based on motive, making this form of protest particularly risk-laden for all involved.
The recent cryptocurrency boom has seen a precipitous uprising in attacks that try to capitalize on the opportunity, using tactics that we have seen used for good and bad for many years now. Above, we discussed the concept of a botnet—where your computing resources were stolen to accomplish someone else’s goal. However, the practice of utilizing borrowed network resources is nothing new. The NASA-affiliated SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute once distributed a screen saver that borrowed from the CPU of the computers it was installed on to help with their calculations.
Nowadays, cybercriminals will do a similar thing, for the express purpose of exploiting the systems they infect to assist them in hashing more cryptocurrency for themselves. The intensive hardware and utility costs associated with mining cryptocurrency often prohibit people from undertaking it on their own—so enterprising hackers will use their malware to find an alternative means of generating ill-gotten funds.
Despite the dismissive view that many have towards video games and their legitimacy, it is important to remember that the industry is worth billions (yes, with a “B”) of dollars, massive investments into hardware and hours poured into playing these games. With stakes that high, it is little wonder that there are some hackers that specifically target this industry. These hackers will steal in-game currency from their fellow players or launch their own distributed denial of service attacks to stifle the competition.
The online gig economy has become well-established in recent years—where a quick online search can get you a professional to help you take care of your needs, whether that be for childcare or for car repairs or any other letter of the alphabet. Similar services exist for directed cybercrime efforts as well.
Using a combination of home-developed malware as well as examples that they’ve bought or stolen themselves, these professionals will license out their services for a fee. Whether it’s a governmental body seeking sensitive intel or a business seeking to undermine a competitor, these mercenaries can pose a significant threat against anyone who lands in their crosshairs.
On a related note, a lot of modern cybercrime is simply a digitized version of crimes we have seen in years past. Without another stagecoach to hold up, highway robbery has simply been shifted to the information superhighway, the stick-‘em-up translated to ransomware, dating scams, or denial-of-service attacks. The overarching motivation behind most of these efforts is simple: illegitimate fiscal gain.
The Corporate Crook
Corporate spying is a decidedly more direct version of the pro-for-hire trend that we discussed above, where a hacker will target a business’ documents and resources to help their competition in any way they can. While there may not be honor among thieves, there can be amongst the businesses that these thieves will try to sell stolen data to, as some companies have reported the theft after being approached.
The Nation State
Finally, we come to perhaps the biggest threat out there to many: massive teams of professional, government-employed hackers working to undermine the operations and machinations of other nations—both in their governments and their industries. This is generally intended to put the other nation in a diminished position should hostilities ever erupt.
If you remember the 2014 satirical movie The Interview—and more pertinently, the hack that Sony Pictures suffered in retaliation for the film—you’re aware of a very recognizable example of this kind of threat actor.
Clearly, the idea of a hacker that so many have is far too minimalistic to be relied upon anymore… especially if you’re staking your company’s cybersecurity preparedness on it. That’s why Point North Networks, Inc., is here to help. Our professionals are well-versed enough in best practices to help prepare you to deal with a much more realistic cyberattack. You just have to reach out to us at 651-234-0895 to get started.