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What is Encryption and How to Use it Effectively

When it is used properly, encryption is a valuable tool to help reduce data security breaches. Most business owners and C-level executives know something about the general topic of encryption; however, comprehensive data security reviews consistently show security problems that can be reduced by following the best-practice strategies regarding how to use encryption.

Using Encryption Effectively

Every organization benefits from encryption. Encryption is more effective when it is used comprehensively and always in place. During any part of the data processing, if the data is unencrypted, this creates a point of risk exposure. For example, if a user with authorized access uses an encryption key to decode some encrypted data and then leaves a copy of the unencrypted data on a laptop that they take home, suddenly the entire system is at risk. Encryption is made totally ineffective if an unencrypted copy of the database is on a laptop that can be hacked or stolen.

Avoiding a False Sense of Security

Just because data is encrypted, does not necessarily mean it is protected. There have been many examples of encrypted databases being subject to data breaches because even though the database was protected with encryption, those that had the encryption keys that are needed to read the data failed to protect their encryption key.

An example of this problem occurred in the loss of millions of dollars of cryptocurrency. This happened because the encryption keys, which are the proof of ownership of those assets, were hacked and stolen. They were kept in a database that was not secured. Since the ownership of cryptocurrency is semi-anonymous, protecting the encryption keys is the only way to control the assets. If the keys are lost or stolen the cryptocurrency is simply gone and nothing can be done about it.

Conclusion

To properly implement a comprehensive plan for using encryption effectively, one good strategy is to conduct an IT security review by Sentree Systems that focuses on implementing encryption on a network and protecting the encryption keys.

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Businesses of All Sizes Need to Protect their Data

Data security is a viable part of protecting the operations of any business. Think of this analogy. Even if you own a one-bedroom/one-bath home, which is the first home you ever purchased, this does not mean you be lackadaisical about home security. Having an alarm system with solid locks for windows and doors is just as important for your home as these things are in a luxury mansion.

Some might even say since your first home probably represents the biggest investment you have made so far in your life, it needs more protection than the luxury mansion owned by a wealthy family that already owns many other homes. The same logic applies to your business.

IT Security for All

It used to be that IT security was so expensive that only the larger businesses could afford it. Granted, even now, large businesses spend enormous amounts of money on data security efforts because protecting the data from security breaches is so important. However, just because a small business has a modest budget for IT services, this is no excuse for not having a service contract with a high-caliber security firm that specializes in IT data protection.

There are economies of scale that help keep the cost of IT protection modest when using a skilled firm. The security specialists concentrate on data protection. That is what they do best. They think about this 24/7 non-stop on behalf of their clients. Things that they notice affecting other small business clients are applicable for almost every customer they help.

Conclusion

Just because a business is small does not mean that IT security should be inadequate. Being a small business is not an excuse for having poor IT security policies. The cost for failed security measures can be the loss of the entire business. It is very unwise to risk this.

The key to success is NOT to rely only on in-house staff that does not have the time, energy, experience, and expertise to provide state-of-the-art IT security. Instead, outsource these tasks to a company like Sentree Systems and think of the investment as being similar to having a business insurance policy.

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Data Security Plans for 2018

The beginning of a new year is a great time to have a comprehensive data security analysis and to create a new strategic data security plan. There is plenty to be worried about when it comes to data security. Data security is something that needs to be constantly monitored in order to be effective. New threats are coming up every day.

Luckily, a small-to-medium-sized business does not have to go at this alone. In fact, having a service contract with a specialist in data security is probably one of the smartest things a business can do.

Here are a few significant things to consider when making a strategic data security plan for 2018:

Internal Security Breaches

It does little to stop a security breach if the entire focus is on external attacks and the security breach comes from within. Authorized users have been known to simply make copies of sensitive data files and walk out the door with them. Disgruntled employees can wreak havoc on data security when leaving a job.

Best practices include using high-quality background checks, restricting access to data on a need-to-know basis, and being able to immediately terminate access for any user.

Ransomware

Ransomware is a type of malware that when a user downloads it, it installs itself, and then encrypts the data on a system to lock the users out. An extortion demand is made for a payment in anonymous cryptocurrency like Bitcoins in order to get the encryption key to unlock the data. These extortion demands range from a few hundred dollars to millions. There is not even a guarantee that paying the ransom will get the data back.

Best practices to avoid this risk are to maintain real-time data backups that are made and then kept in protected storage offline. If a ransomware attack occurs, these backups can quickly bring the organization back to current working-status.

Two-Factor Authentication

All external-facing systems need to have a two-step authentication process using one-time use authentication code for the second step. The benefits of this strategy are significant in blocking unauthorized access. The way it works is an authorized user logs in with a complex password and then the second step sends a text message to a secured mobile device that is used by that person to complete the login process. If the mobile device is lost or stolen the second-step is canceled.

Sentree Systems Corp. is a highly-qualified data security consulting company that works with small businesses in Indiana, serving Indianapolis and the surrounding areas including Avon, Carmel, Fishers, Plainfield, and Noblesville Every business should assume they have either been attacked, are being attacked, or will be attacked. Fast detection and swift response are the small business owner’s only defense. Contact us today to learn more about these strategies at www.sentreesystems.com

 

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Best Practices for Risk Management

Data Security is improved by taking a data-driven approach that addresses security issues that are uncovered by a review of security risk data. For example, allowing employees to continue to use software that has known vulnerabilities, which has not had the most recent security patch applied, is a risk that is unnecessary.

Here are a few tips to improve Data Security by using a data-driven approach:

Conduct a Security Assessment and Implement Its Recommendations

It is surprising when an organization goes to the trouble to conduct a security Assessment, which should be done on a regular basis and then does not implement the recommendations. Executives may think that since the security Assessment was done, the security is improved. A security Assessment demonstrates an Impact vs. Likelihood that your organization will have a compromise in the near future, but does not actually stop a breach from happening. It is important to take the next steps of implementing security upgrades as well.

Monitor Data Security News Alerts

By setting up Google alerts and keeping an eye on the latest Data Security News, helps increase awareness about security issues. An example of a Google alert is using the name of the software or IT service combined with the phrase “security flaw.” Moreover, there are industry security news systems that can be regularly checked for alerts such as the Security News notifications in the Security Education Companion.

Organizations that do not have sufficient internal staff for these Data Security issues do well by contracting with an outsourced IT data security company to monitor them on behalf of the organization.

Be Proactive About Advanced Persistent Threats

Advanced Persistent Threats (APT) are socially-engineered attacks that are occurring on a continual basis. Examples of APT attacks included phishing where websites are faked to get people to enter private information, email campaigns that cause people to download attachments that are malware, or websites that load malware when a person visits them.

Sentree Systems Corp. is a highly-qualified data security consulting company that works with small businesses in Indiana, serving Indianapolis and the surrounding areas including Avon, Carmel, Fishers, Plainfield, and Noblesville. Every business should assume they have either been attacked, are being attacked, or will be attacked. Fast detection and swift response are the small business owner’s only defense. Contact us today to learn more about these strategies at www.sentreesystems.com

 

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ALERT: Death Threat Scams

What do email scams, death threats and bitcoin have in common? Together they are being used by scammers to steal money from innocent victims. This is by no means a new threat (it’s been around since 2006) but it’s one that’s getting some new recognition. The FBI recently issued a warning about the uptick in these scams and we know if the FBI is talking about it, it’s a big deal.

Threat: Death Threat Scams

Do You Need to Worry: Yup! Everyone is at risk. The scam goes a little something like this: recipient receives a threat via email and is ordered to pay in virtual currency (like bitcoin) or prepaid cards otherwise they or their family will be harmed. Keep in mind that this scam could also come in the form of a text message and they might be after more than just money – they may try to obtain your personal information, account numbers, etc.  

What Can You Do About It: Contact the police immediately and follow their advice. You should also file a complaint with the FBI’s Internet Crime Complaint Center (IC3.GOV).

 

 

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How to Know if Your Vendors Have Good IT Security

Many small- to medium-sized businesses rely on third-party vendors for some of the critical-path IT functions of a business. When they do this, the responsibility for maintaining IT security is transferred to the vendor. This may increase the risk of potential damage caused by security breaches.

There have been many examples of serious security breaches at vendors that have done major harm to their clients. This is why conducting detailed due diligence is necessary to identify the security risks of using a third party vendor’s services or software tools.

Comprehensive due diligence for security risk analysis focuses on the following areas and specifics:

  • Historical record of problems and how the vendor dealt with security issues.
  • Upgrade policy and rapid response with security patches for vulnerabilities.
  • Use of encryption to protect sensitive data.
  • Vendor’s ability to view, share, or sell data to other parties. Any transfer of data to other parties adds additional security risk.
  • Does the vendor have a dedicated security team?
  • Do they conduct regular security audits and are those reports available to clients?
  • Specific security protocols must be in place if there is a legal requirement for data protection. Examples of this include attorney-client privilege in the legal profession, strict privacy rules under HIPAA for healthcare records, and student information under COPPA and FERPA rules.

IT security risk is a serious issue. Businesses that are not experts in IT security issues benefit strongly by using a specialist consulting firm to help with the due diligence requirements in this area.

Sentree Systems Corp. gives data security advice for clients in Indiana serving the communities of Indianapolis, Avon, Plainfield, Carmel, Fishers, Noblesville and others. We recommend conducting a detailed review of the Service Level Agreement (SLA) from any vendor and a security audit to help identify security risks. It is much better to know in advance of the existence of potential security risks and take steps to mitigate them, rather than being blind-sided by sudden damage from a security breach that is not expected.

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Scam Of The Week: Massive Netflix Phishing Campaign

There is a massive scam campaign going on, this time a very well executed Netflix phishing attack.

The scam targets subscribers telling them that their account is about to be canceled. The well-designed, individualized fake email convinces customers to update their account information to avoid suspension. This results in stolen personal and credit card information.

The email has the subject line “Your suspension notification” and includes a link where the subscriber is taken to a fake Netflix page which requires their log-in information as well as credit card number.

The scam was detected Sunday and it targeted nearly 110 million Netflix subscribers. As mentioned, the fake site includes Netflix’s logo as well as popular Netflix shows like “The Crown” and “House of Cards” to make it seem legitimate.

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New worldwide Ransomware outbreak “Bad Rabbit”

Organizations in Russia, Ukraine and the U.S. are under siege from Bad Rabbit, a new strain of Ransomware with similarities to NotPetya the last horrible outbreak.

The outbreak started Tuesday and froze computer systems in several European countries, and began spreading to the U.S., the latest in a series of attacks.bigstock-Manager-Pushing-Ransomware-Ons-116826572-

Department of Homeland Security’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team issued an alert saying it had received “multiple reports” of infections.
Russia’s Interfax news agency reported on Twitter that the outbreak shut down some of its servers, forcing Interfax to rely on its Facebook account to deliver news.

Bad Rabbit Starts With Social Engineering

The outbreak appears to have started via files on hacked Russian media websites, using the popular social engineering trick of pretending to be an Adobe Flash installer. The ransomware demands a payment of 0.05 bitcoin, or about $275, from its victim, though it isn’t clear whether paying the ransom unlocks a computer’s files. You have just 40 hours to pay.

Bad Rabbit shares some of the same code as the Petya virus that caused major disruptions to global corporations in June this year, said Liam O’Murchu, a researcher with the antivirus vendor Symantec Corp.

Based on analysis by ESET, Emsisoft, and Fox-IT, Bad Rabbit uses Mimikatz to extract credentials from the local computer’s memory, and along with a list of hard-coded credentials, it tries to access servers and workstations on the same network via SMB and WebDAV.

The hardcoded credentials are hidden inside the code and include predictable usernames such as root, guest and administrator, and passwords straight out of a worst passwords list. (Note To Self: all user passwords need to be strong, guide all employees through a strong password training module ASAP.)

As for Bad Rabbit, the ransomware is a so-called disk coder, similar to Petya and NotPetya. Bad Rabbit first encrypts files on the user’s computer and then replaces the MBR (Master Boot Record).

Ouch, that basically bricks the workstation!!!

Learn how to FIGHT Ransomware and stop being a victim!!!

 

 

 

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[ALERT] Don’t fall for the Equifax Scam

When news broke that the credit reporting agency Equifax had suffered a data breach, consumers around the country began to question the safety of their personal information.

After all, credit reporting agencies have access to most of your personal identifiable information (PII): name, address, birth date, Social Security number, and more.Finding out that the PII for more than 143 million US consumers had been stolen was upsetting, to say the least.

Now, consumers are being cautioned about what can happen with that information, and what steps they can take to protect themselves.

1. Beware of phishing attempts in “news” articles:

Immediately after the announcement of the data breach, articles began circulating that contained a link that lets you find out if your data was stolen. While Equifax has a dedicated web page that lets you enter your information and see if you’ve been exposed, it takes no work at all for scammers to create their own link, request your information for “verification” purposes, and then steal your data. Before clicking any links or entering any personal data, make sure you’re using a verified link that was issued by the correct source.

2. Emailed phishing attacks have already been reported:

There are already scam emails in circulation that suggest you check your credit report by using their handy link. The easiest way to verify an email’s sender is to hover your mouse over the sender’s name. The actual address used will appear in a small box. To be on the safe side, don’t click through from any emails you receive; if you’re told to check your credit report, use a verified request service or form instead of the emailed link.

3. Be on the lookout:

Because genuine information was stolen, be extra diligent about monitoring your account statements, looking for unauthorized charges, tracking and reporting any suspicious activity, and keeping a close eye on your credit reports. Never provide your sensitive information for verification purposes; if you receive a warning or alert, contact your financial institution directly using an approved contact method.

To visit Equifax’s verified link to discover if your information was stolen, go directly to Equifax’s website and follow the steps they suggest. If you do experience any strange activity on your accounts, report it immediately, no matter how minor it might seem at first. Be sure your antivirus software is up-to-date to block any malicious threats from fraudulent emails or messages, and consider placing fraud alerts and security/credit freezes on your credit report with the three reporting agencies if your information was accessed.

 

Read More Here @ITRC

 

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Equifax Faces $70 Billion Lawsuit

Most everyone has heard something about the Latest breach of Equifax. Here is some of the latest information.

 

The massive Equifax data breach has already led to the filing of more than 30 lawsuits seeking class-action status. One of the lawsuits, filed in Portland, Oregon, is demanding up to $70 billion in damages.

 

The lawsuits are just one measure of the fury generated by Equifax – one of the three biggest U.S. data brokers – revealing Thursday that it suffered a breach, beginning in May, that exposed to hackers 143 million consumers’ personal details, including information that could be used to commit identity theft.

In its alert issued Thursday, Equifax said that it discovered the breach July 29 and launched a website that consumers can use to see if their data was exposed. The company is offering all U.S. Equifax Faces Mounting Anger, $70 Billion Lawsuitconsumers one year of prepaid credit monitoring, which includes freezing their credit reports on Equifax. But it has not offered to do the same with consumers’ credit reports at other data brokers.

Almost immediately following the breach notification, affected consumers began filing lawsuits – more than 30 by Monday, Reuters reports. Meanwhile, attorneys general in at least five states – including New York and Illinois – have also announced formal breach investigations. And several Congressional committees are launching or eyeing breach-related hearings. Equifax has also promised to work with regulators in Canada and the United Kingdom, where some victims reside.

Hardest hit by the breach, however, were those who live in the U.S. The breach exposed information on nearly half of all U.S. adults, including names, birthdates, addresses, Social Security numbers and in some cases, driver’s license numbers. All of that data is regularly used to verify an individual’s identity, and thus it’s also valuable for identity thieves.

“The quality of data potentially compromised is very valuable to cybercriminals,” cybersecurity attorney Imran Ahmad tells Information Security Media Group. “What these guys are looking for is high value bits of information. The reason they like this type of data is because they can easily on the darknet sell these and create virtual profiles and sell them to others.”

 

Seeking Justice

Numerous security watchers have called for Equifax to publicly atone for the breach – and do so quickly – and have called on anyone who has a choice of data brokers to immediately stop working with Equifax. Some also want to see Equifax CEO Richard Smith ousted.

“Smith should resign. If he does not, his board should fire him,” says information security expert William Hugh Murray, who’s a senior lecturer at the Naval Postgraduate School.

Three other Equifax executives sold stock in the company after it learned of the breach, but before it issued a public notification (see Equifax Breach: 8 Takeaways).

The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission declined to comment to ISMG about whether it will investigate the timing of those stock sales.

Equifax has released a statement saying that the executives – including its chief financial officer – had been unaware that the breach had occurred when they sold shares.

Murray, meanwhile, recommends the three “resign and flee the country before the Feds come after them for insider trading.” And for good measure, he adds, “the CISO should update his resume.” As ISMG has previously reported, however, that job position was, until recently, being advertised as vacant.

 

Lawsuit Seeks Up to $70 Billion

Equifax already faces multiple lawsuits over the breach, including one filed in Oregon by Mary McHill from Portland and Brook Reinhard from Eugene. Their lawsuit seeks class-action status on behalf of everyone affected by the breach and demands damages of as much as $70 billion. It was filed by law firm Olsen Daines PC, together with Geragos & Geragos, which Bloomberg reports is a law firm known for launching splashy, high-octane class actions.

“This complaint requests Equifax provide fair compensation in an amount that will ensure every consumer harmed by its data breach will not be out-of-pocket for the costs of independent third-party credit repair and monitoring services,” according to the complaint.

Reinhard, for example, says that he spent $19.95 to buy “third-party credit monitoring services he otherwise would not have had to pay for.”

The lawsuit also alleges that Equifax failed to invest sufficiently in its information security program. “In an attempt to increase profits, Equifax negligently failed to maintain adequate technological safeguards to protect [individuals’] information from unauthorized access by hackers,” according to the complaint. “Equifax knew and should have known that failure to maintain adequate technological safeguards would eventually result in a massive data breach. Equifax could have and should have substantially increased the amount of money it spent to protect against cyberattacks but chose not to.”

Many breach-related lawsuits, however, have failed, with the cases often being dismissed because plaintiffs failed to prove they suffered unreimbursed financial losses (see Why So Many Data Breach Lawsuits Fail).

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