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5 Network Security Technologies to Be Thankful for This Thanksgiving
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Thanksgiving is the time to reflect on all we are thankful for. While 2020 may have not been an ideal year, we have decided to focus on the aspects of network security that we are thankful for in any case.

2020 was a major year for the network security industry. While organizations made the shift to working from home overnight, the inevitable move to remote work was accelerated and securing the network became top priority for IT teams.

This past year we saw improvements in network security throughout the space and here at Perimeter 81, we are grateful for all the different ways that relevant technologies and solutions have evolved in the last year.

From faster and more effective authentication technologies to remote work networking infrastructure, 2020 has proved that network security is headed in the right direction.

As we take a look at the past year and move forward, here are the 5 network security technologies we are most thankful for.

Secure Remote Access 

Before COVID-19, most employees did not have the option to work outside the office. Although remote work and the “digital nomad” lifestyle has been steadily on the rise over the past few years, it was far from the norm. 

Suddenly, in March, all of that changed, and employees were required to work from home for the foreseeable future. Now organizations have implemented secure remote access solutions that provide their employees with a fast and secure remote network connection that don’t lag. 

Most remote users are connecting to their work environments that reside on the cloud and need to be granted full network access to reach their environments. Over the past year, more organization’s are dissolving their VPNs and providing teams with a more scalable and secure remote access solution. 

Encouraging a more user-centric model, organizations are providing their remote workers with a quicker and more secure network connection to their corporate resources and applications.

Multi-Factor Authentication

It’s 2020 and MFA is everywhere. Multi-factor authentication (MFA) is one of the key technologies in use today for verifying the identities of users. With its roots in the RSA tokens and then Google’s Beyond Corp, MFA requires that a user requesting access has not only something that they know (ie. their credentials) but also something that they have. 

This kind of verification might be carried out with a device or by an application on the user’s device like Google Authenticator, push notification to their mobile, or in the worst of cases an SMS. The hope is that if an attacker has stolen the credentials from a breach, data dump, etc, then they will be denied access when challenged with MFA.  

A large amount of today’s massive data breaches are due to the result of the lack of password hygiene that fails to provide enough protection. In the past, a single authentication login may have been enough, but as hackers have become more sophisticated it has forced multi-factor authentication (MFA) to become a must when authenticating a user. 

By requiring users to login using their account password and then go through a second step, you can reduce your company’s potential risk exposure.

Micro-Segmentation

When mitigating risks inside an organization, it’s best not to put all your eggs in one basket. Micro-segmentation in network security refers to breaking up the different data or other resources into smaller and segmented sections, decreasing the chances of an attacker gaining access to all the critical resources and applications. 

Even if hackers breach a part of a network they won’t be able to gain access to all the data on the network just a small amount. Forrester Research recommends dividing network resources at a granular level, allowing organizations to tune security settings to different types of traffic and create policies that limit network and application flows to only those that are explicitly permitted. 

Adopting the network micro-segmentation approach provides IT and security teams with the flexibility to apply the right level of protection to a given workload based on sensitivity and value to the business.

Limited Privilege Access

With everyone working remotely, providing access is key but not every employee needs access to everything. This is the idea of limited privilege access: the model that users should only have access to resources they absolutely need in order to do their job well while also respecting security. 

Insider threats or the possibility that a user’s account has been compromised are common concerns that can be mitigated if we are able to limit what users are supposed to have access to in the first place. So even while we still require verification for every user, we need to provide everyone with the minimal level of privileges that they need for their job, hopefully making it harder for adversaries to access more valuable bits of information or controls. 

By the same token, we should be monitoring user behavior throughout all of their interactions to ensure that they are behaving like they are expected to. Chances are that Steve from accounting probably does not need to have access to your users’ passwords or other sensitive data that is unrelated to his job.

Secure Device Management

Nowadays, everyone is connecting from everywhere and different devices. This has created a challenge for IT and security teams to ensure their connection is secure at all times. By providing all your employees access to every resource in your organization, they are potentially creating more points and levels of risks. 

To keep it simple, only give network access to employees that have provided and passed the authorization process for each device. By limiting access, you will be safeguarded from potential leaking of your organization’s sensitive information (personal information, financial information) of the organization that shouldn’t be seen by your entire staff.  

With machines calling in for access from around the world, verifying that each device has proper authorization is essential. These may be mobile devices belonging to employees or an AWS server, verification becomes necessary before granting them access.

As you are checking the timer while cooking your Thanksgiving Turkey, catching up with family in person or virtually and jumping for joy while watching the big game, don’t forget to be thankful for the different technologies that keep us safe this thanksgiving. We certainly are.

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5 Top Networking Mistakes and How to Avoid Them
Reading Time: 4 minutes

“To err is human” and as we know, everyone makes mistakes. Some can be harmless or slightly embarrassing, but there are mistakes that can topple an entire organization. Oftentimes, we assume the bigger the mistake, the faster we will respond in order to fix it but it is important to understand that even the slightest error can have immense consequences. 

IT teams have the all-important responsibility of ensuring that the corporate network is working smoothly and securely according to the organization’s policies. It’s their job to configure and update the network to the latest best practices for networking. Whether fixing security patches or adopting the latest technology on the network and its infrastructures they have to be aware of the possible mistakes that can occur in their position.

If your IT team is inattentive or doesn’t sufficiently prepare and strategize for possible changes in the network, it can result in massive mistakes that can put the network and even the organization at risk. 

The first step to solving mistakes in IT is understanding and acknowledging that errors and mishaps can and will occur. The next step IT managers need to take is understanding what action they need to implement to fix the mistake that occurred under their watch. Instead of overthinking how these networking errors happened and what could have been done ahead of time to avoid these mistakes, it’s best to do some research on best practices that will help avoid future networking mistakes to occur. 

To help avoid possible networking mistakes, here is our list of popular mistakes that IT teams tend to make with networking and how to fix them:

Forgetting To Set Access Controls 

Most organizations are storing sensitive data and resources inside their system whether in the cloud or on-premises. To gain access to these critical resources, users need to connect to the network where the resources are located. If access controls policies and regulations are not set properly then it will allow unauthorized users to easily gain access to the critical resources. 

To prevent any unauthorized access to your network environment and resources, IT teams need to implement the right amount of access control regulations. By implementing the proper access regulations it will prevent unauthorized users from gaining access to your organization’s network and resources. By enforcing access controls inside your organization, users will be only able to access the network and resources that they need to do their job. 

Ignoring Communication 

Communication is key, especially when it comes to working in networking. Despite IT managers working in a field where data is being communicated between devices and networks, many networking professionals are lacking proper communication in their day-to-day job.   

Neglecting proper communication occurs across all the different management levels of networking. When new features need to be applied to network infrastructure, or if a network security solution is being integrated, there must be open communication between the IT team and the rest of the organization. Without any communication, it could create massive mistakes which can increase security risks or internal setbacks. 

Overlooking Network Device Logs 

When possible, it’s best to have complete visibility of the network. Luckily, networking device logs can provide IT managers with better visibility into their users’ network activity. Network professionals at all organizations should be continuously checking their user’s network device logs. Each user device generates different logs that provide network visibility information that can help IT managers gain a better picture of the network. 

If the network team overlooks logging and ignores to collect the information in the logs of the network devices, then they are making the mistake of gaining valuable network insights in their organization’s network. To fight off these mistakes, it’s best to use networking solutions that come with an event logging feature (SIEM) integrated within the solution. IT managers will have a better understanding of the user’s history, network event logs, security events, and a more complete network visibility.

Not Expecting Any Updates to a Network

Organizations are more agile than ever before. Launching new features, applications and updates weekly. With every new launch, another situation is created where the organization is relying on the network to operate normally. This creates the situation for IT managers to be ready for any changes that are thrown their way. The IT team needs to anticipate every kind of change or integration to be added to the network before it occurs.

By strategizing ahead of time for different changes on the network, IT managers can account for network scalability and network space needed for future changes inside the network.  By planning ahead, IT managers will be ready for any kind of update on the network no matter the situation. 

Neglecting to Update Network Device Passwords

Passwords are seen as one of the most common forms of security, and they can be highly effective when used properly to protect the privacy of data stored on networks. When installing a new device on a network, the first thing that IT managers need to do is to update the password on the device from the default password that came with it. While this task might seem negligible, too often security teams forget to update the password, putting the organization’s network security at risk. 

No matter the level of the device, each password should be unique and be updated every few weeks. Implementing a stronger password-protection company-wide policy with periodic expiration of the password and multi-factor authentication can provide an additional layer of security against hackers.

While these five networking mistakes happen more often than any IT manager would like to suggest, with proper strategy and understanding of possible networking mistakes will allow IT teams to work more productively without worrying if they are in the wrong.

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What Do Successful IT Leaders Identify as Their Top Remote Work Challenges?
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Network security is our expertise at Perimeter 81. With this in mind, we are excited to announce that we have released our State of Network Security report for 2020. The purpose of the report was to get a better understanding of the different secure network access challenges, facing IT managers from companies of all sizes and industries. We sought to determine the key IT and security insights they encountered since the shift to remote work, and the result provides insights into the IT landscape and how its leaders think during these transformative times.

The COVID-19 Pandemic Accelerated Remote Work

2020 has proven how important network security truly is. Due to COVID-19 health concerns, businesses were required to enforce company-wide work-from-home policies overnight. For many organizations, this new reality found entire teams working remotely for the first time ever. It was common for employers to focus the first two months of quarantine on ensuring that employees were healthy, devices were connected and projects continued to move forward, all while adjusting to the home becoming the new office. Now, with no real end in sight, businesses are facing the possibility that they will be managing their remote teams permanently, at least for some portion of the traditional workweek.

More than ever remote work is now considered a key element of effective business operation due to results including greater agility, employee satisfaction and productivity, and reduced costs. This incoming shift has created an unprecedented set of challenges for IT managers, however, who may not have experience leading their businesses’ networking and security remotely. 

With more employee devices and endpoints, IT teams are experiencing the challenge of lower visibility and potential network exposure, as their legacy security infrastructures can’t cover an increasingly dispersed and cloud-reliant workforce. With each passing month, IT and security teams are implementing more cloud-based SaaS vendor solutions on top of their network. While this may help businesses gain agility and boost productivity, it comes with security and networking challenges that must be addressed sooner rather than later.

Key Takeaways From The Report 

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Majority of Organizations Poised to Adopt Cloud-Based Security Solutions

As technology advances by the day so do business networks. Thanks to the cloud, networks are now faster and more accessible than ever. However, as more devices connect and transfer large amounts of data between off-premises resources, it puts a massive obstacle in front of IT and security teams.

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These obstacles exist because until now, IT secured remote workforces with legacy technology, which creates bottlenecks and limits network visibility in situations where workers exclusively connect from home. Legacy solutions like VPNs – currently in use by 66% of IT managers – and firewalls make security difficult, because they are unable to scale to many different connections, each with various characteristics and risks.

To ensure that their growing number of remote employees are connecting securely to their hybrid-cloud network, no matter where they work from, IT and security teams are overwhelmingly looking to adopt secure information access solutions to replace or complement their legacy tools. This has meant an embrace of cloud-friendly security for a multitude of reasons.

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According to IT managers, their organizations are now more likely to invest in modern, secure information access solutions to support the remote workforce. With it they can complement their existing cloud infrastructure and replace old solutions that limit agility, security, and cost-effectiveness.

Increased Remote Worker Productivity But Network Performance Presents Obstacles

With remote work further ramping up investment in the cloud, companies are now concerned with making their hybrid-cloud networks as efficient as possible. The cloud is already beneficial in terms of reducing infrastructure costs and boosting accessibility for remote workers, but to maximize ROI, organizations want to help employees using the cloud perform as best as they can. For many, this has meant achieving the same low latency conditions that workers used to experience when they accessed resources that were hosted nearby.

In a network that’s accessible to remote workers, a wide array of different connections occur simultaneously across multiple resources. Unsurprisingly, for the majority (43%) of respondents, latency is sometimes experienced across these networks. This comes in the form of lag time when users connect and input data or commands into applications.

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Scalability, Budget Top Challenges for IT Leaders as Remote Work Becomes Permanent

A corporate network that is optimized for remote workers is crucial for satisfying operational goals and ensuring business continuity in the “new normal”, but these aren’t the only concerns for a growing company. The survey results reflect this idea well. Because new resources (such as SaaS applications) and users are added to the network as the organization matures, the scalability and visibility of user access enters the picture.

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With time, it’s possible for IT to make any remote access solution work well for a static number of apps or users. If they don’t do it in a scalable manner, however, the team must invest similar effort every time the network changes slightly. Accordingly, when asked about obstacles in the way of a secure remote workforce, most companies agreed that difficulty finding a scalable technical solution will likely loom the largest.

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Another interesting takeaway is that scalability and budget availability are neck-and-neck regarding secure remote work challenges, at 39% and 38%, respectively. In many ways, this makes sense: What’s the point in finding a scalable remote access solution if there’s no room in the budget for it, or alternatively, what’s the use in a non-scalable yet affordable solution?

Ultimately, workforces everywhere are already embracing the remote work status quo, and organizations have added tools that help them do their jobs from anywhere. The issue has then become how to increase the efficiency of the remote work security apparatus now that it’s in place.

Final Thoughts 

Remote work is here to stay, during and after COVID-19. The change it’s had on the business world, or more specifically the information technology supporting the business world, has IT managers thinking differently than they once did. Data gathered on various topics posed to these managers, surrounding remote work and networking trends, gives us a glimpse into how decision-makers in the industry see things moving forward.

Read additional valuable takeaways from this research and access the full report 

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5 Security Tips in Honor of Cybersecurity Awareness Month
Reading Time: 3 minutes

Each October, security professionals kick off Cybersecurity Awareness Month. First launched by the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA) and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security in October 2004, Cybersecurity Awareness Month is helping internet users all over the world stay safe and secure through awareness and training.

In 2020, cybersecurity awareness has taken on a new meaning. While in the past, IT and security teams have carried the main burden of securing their organization’s network, data, and resources, the last six months have proven that this is not enough. Now that home is the new office and entire organizations have shifted to remote work, each employee shares equal responsibility for the safety and security of their company’s network.

Before the transition to working from home, it may have been enough to require employees to lock their computers when leaving their desks, or enforce frequent password updates. Now, each employee has become the CISO of their home office, and most of them lack the proper training, opening the door to security hacks and breaches with simple mistakes.

Cybersecurity awareness and training for employees has always been important, but with the work from home model here to stay, CISOs and IT managers have been adjusting their business continuity plans and cybersecurity strategies accordingly. Whether working from home, from the office, a combination of both, or on the go, employee awareness should always be at the top of the security team’s mind.

In honor of Cybersecurity Awareness Month, we’ve compiled our top 5 tips for protecting your organization’s network and employee data, whether your workforce is remote or back in the office.

1. Increase employee awareness

“Only amateurs attack machines; professionals target people.” This quote by famous cryptographer Bruce Schneier in 2000 is still true 20 years later. Hackers seek out vulnerabilities in human beings – phishing attacks, social engineering, weak passwords, etc. Making employees aware of the different types of attacks and explaining their significance will put employees on alert to questionable links and downloads. Instilling the idea of shared responsibility among all workers is paramount to protecting everyone’s sensitive information.

2. Train employees on an ongoing basis  

The Aberdeen Group found that security awareness training for employees can reduce the risk of socially engineered cyberthreats by up to 70%. However, they emphasized the importance of ongoing training to counter the different methods of cyberattacks that are constantly evolving. It is important to not only make your employees aware of the various risks, but to have ongoing training that is both engaging and interactive.

3. Implement a Zero Trust solution

Even the most security-aware employees might occasionally drop the ball. The Zero Trust model means that no one is trusted by default from inside or outside the network, and verification is required from everyone trying to gain access to resources on the network. While we want to believe that everyone in our organization is trustworthy, we can’t make this assumption. Limiting access to resources to only those who are authorized can significantly lower the risk of attacks and data breaches.

4. Audit and monitor your network

Log management plays a key role in your digital security strategy. Collecting logs and monitoring your network is important in order to respond to a security incident in real-time. Complete network visibility is pertinent in order to focus on network events of interest and react accordingly to potential threats. Additionally, collecting logs and monitoring your network will help you to learn employees’ behavior and to adjust your training and awareness plan accordingly.

5. Ensure that your security strategy is user-friendly 

End-users should not be preoccupied with security issues yet must be able to adhere to the guidelines laid out by the security team. Adopting user-friendly solutions presented clearly and effectively (and not highly-technical documentation that will be lost on the average layperson) is paramount in having employees cooperate with the security strategy.

While your organization may rely on the security and IT teams to create and implement a strategy, employees share responsibility to adhere to the guidelines set out by security professionals. Above all, educating employees and increasing awareness will help your team manage cybersecurity risks and vulnerabilities. If everyone does their part, we decrease the risk of data hacks and breaches, creating a safer world for everyone.

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Can You Prove ‘Work From Anywhere’ Employees Are Secure?
Reading Time: 5 minutes

Before 2020, the idea of working from anywhere wasn’t the way most companies operated. A small number of open-minded organizations were the early adopters of a more flexible way of working but not many. Despite further adoption of remote workers, popular tech giants, corporate companies, and even startups weren’t as open to the idea.

While working remotely isn’t a new idea it has gained more traction in recent years due to an expanding array of benefits for organizations and their employees. Some of the benefits include increased work productivity, better retention of employees and cost savings. One of the key benefits that people tend to forget is work-life balance. As organizations allow their employees to work from anywhere they choose, whether it’s from home, a cafe, or even a different country, the flexibility of where and when you want to work can provide employees a mindfulness that adds to productivity and job satisfaction.  

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More disparate branch offices and employees isn’t the only factor that is encouraging more organizations to go remote; we can’t forget about the technology. The idea is like the chicken and the egg: technology has advanced remote workforces and remote workforces demand more powerful technology. With the help of tech advancements made on behalf of remote workforces and the modern shift in our collective work culture, the future of work from anywhere is brighter than ever.

From a Benefit to a Necessity

Before COVID-19, most organizations saw remote work as a benefit to dole out to trusted employees, and less as a necessity. This has been thrown out the window in our current pandemic driven lifestyle. Over the past year, we have all experienced this idea – that in some way part of our professional responsibilities have gone mobile, and that is may likely become the new norm.

Close to 70% of businesses are in favor of shifting to work from anywhere permanently. Ironically, some of the major tech giants who were originally against working from anywhere have become its biggest supporters, largely due to their success during the pandemic. By 2030, Facebook said it expects that at least half of its 50,000 employees will be working from home permanently.

While the idea of everyone working from anywhere sounds ideal, it’s not without challenges. One of the most pressing is that it creates many security and networking obstacles for IT teams. IT managers need to protect hundreds or thousands of users, devices and faraway cloud applications even when they have no idea where users are connecting from – and even worse – who they are or what they’re doing in the network.  

This ongoing challenge has frustrated every security professional in every organization since early March. When their users suddenly were forced to work from home, IT teams scrambled to make sure these users could easily and securely connect to their network and resources overnight. They also discovered that the task was harder than initially anticipated.

Working from Anywhere Comes With Network Challenges

While the idea of working from anywhere comes with many benefits, organizations need to implement the right technology that will offer users a fast and secure network connection that isn’t lagging. Most remote users are connecting to their work environments that reside on the cloud, so security teams need to make sure that their security model can provide connections that are both secure and fast, no matter the location of the user. This means doing away with outdated security models.

By offering a more user-centric approach for secure network access it will allow for quick and secure connections to corporate resources and applications. Organizations that continue with the site-centric approach will be stuck with slower connection speeds which will result in decreased productivity for their workforce – and no stronger security to show for it. 

Organizations that will continue to depend on outdated network security technology will experience ongoing difficulties to the endless number of perimeters and endpoints that come with the transition to remote work. By not offering more modern and cloud-friendly network security policies, organizations’ attack surfaces are wider, and leave more doors to critical resources open for hackers. 

Even if it’s an easy social engineering attack or a spear-phishing attack, when not adopting the most up-to-date network security technology, organizations are not equipped to adequately protect a growing pool of remote employees, roles and identities, devices, and sources of data. This has forced many organizations to ask themselves how they can secure connections to the cloud when employees are working from outside the office.

Organizations Need to Be Security Ready for the Unthinkable

Organizations need to rethink how they will offer their remote workers secure access to work applications and resources. Until recently, the average organization forced employees to work with a VPN to gain remote access to corporate resources on the cloud. While this was a good idea at the time, this approach creates challenges such as latency issues when users are exclusively remote. A domino effect occurred which also reduced visibility over the organization and therefore risked compliance as well.

Instead of neglecting the proper up-to-date network security technology, organizations need to get with the times and adopt cloud-edge-based, secure remote access solutions that can integrate with the resources in use within the organization and help segment them for custom access policy. Automated policies, monitoring, and edge-networking deconstruct the barriers that previously bottlenecked IT and standard workflows. Companies can also be sure that their remote employees will stay productive no matter what unforeseen situations arise. 

The Hunt for the Right Security Solution for Remote

Organizations can adopt what they think is the right solution for secure remote access, but there will always be a risk of data exposure to attackers. It’s essential that organizations understand which network and security features are best suited to their ‘work from anywhere’ workforces. 

Here are three key features that every secure remote access solution should provide for better secure access.

Complete Network and Data Visibility

Full visibility of corporate resources, data and network are critical when working with unmanaged devices. When organizations don’t have the capability to clearly see and manage user network activity to all company endpoints, it reduces agility in threat response, which can result in hackers gaining data access within the network to exploit it. 

It is vital that the organization’s IT teams are provided complete visibility and control over data across all resources on the network. By adopting a software-defined solution that promotes interoperability within cloud and local resources, organizations can ensure that unauthorized access from malicious actors is harder to obtain and more visible should it ever occur. 

Identity and Access Management

Identity and access management should be a requirement for all secure remote access solutions. By implementing identity and access management solutions like multi-factor authentication (MFA) IT teams can put an extra verification barrier in front of would-be attackers. What’s great about MFA for organizations is that it requires their employees to provide a second form of identity verification that authenticates identities to ensure the user is who they say they are.

Organizations should also require that employees implement a single sign-on (SSO) feature as it securely authenticates users across all their cloud applications with one (strong) password. By simplifying the authentication process for remote workers, security and efficiency are a result. 

Agentless Security

Organizations should implement agentless security when protecting corporate resources and data for their remote workers. IT teams that are continuously using agent-based tools or solutions will require ongoing software update installments on remote devices which will decrease productivity and the privacy of each device. Organizations that adopt agentless tools will help IT and security teams to offer their remote users better compliance and security without needing any updates on the user side. When network teams take advantage of agentless security, they provide a more agile and seamless work environment for remote workers.

Future of Remote Workers

As working from anywhere is here to stay, IT and security teams need to look at the current status of their network solutions and understand the different roadblocks they put in front of remote workforces – and their security. It’s important to clearly understand what’s working and what isn’t and to quickly acclimate to the new network shape that we all experience. By enabling less obtrusive security that suits remote workforces, companies are safer and more agile, bringing operational goals in line with IT.

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Can Companies Afford IoT Inclusivity?
Reading Time: 4 minutes

The Internet of Things grows more massive with each passing year, as devices gain internet connectivity and impart new convenience on our lives – and in many cases new novelty. No matter if the “thing” in question is a manufacturing robot or a Brita that automatically reorders filters upon expiration, if it can receive instruction from and send data to the greater internet, then there’s an IT guy somewhere worrying about how it may expose his or her network.

This goes double for IT personnel in companies that make good use of IoT for work purposes, but bad use of IoT security by neglecting to factor in the network’s exposure. Addressing this idea is now part of IT’s list of responsibilities, and when creating a plan for how to walk the line between trusting IoT and being wary of it, multiple factors come into play. Thankfully, this part of the job is getting easier.

IoT’s Slow Security Onboarding

IoT is useful for countless industries, and its benefits far outweigh security risks in any circumstance. In healthcare, for example, IoT data is used to more deeply understand what conditions patients are in, and how practitioners should respond. Internet-connected devices that record patient outputs such as heartbeat, blood pressure, blood sugar levels and other biological metrics feed their data to centralized IT systems, telling hospital admins where frontline staff are most urgently needed, and how.

But IoTs vital role in cases like these is also its weakness. IoT boosts mobility in many business environments, so much so that security is something that it has always grappled with as an afterthought. For businesses, the advantages of IoT have meant securing these devices is a second step, and the world is slow to wake up to the careful security deliberation that IoT requires. Ransomware, for instance, used to be hardly considered a credible threat to networks.

Ransomware attacks on IoT devices were long thought of as low-value for hackers and therefore not a pertinent worry for IT, given that these devices had little to no information on them (mostly in the cloud). There are also so many types of IoT devices that the economics of hacking them doesn’t work in the hacker’s favor – it’s too expensive and not worthwhile. Besides, even those hacked would likely never pay the ransom, because IoT devices aren’t known for having screens that relay information (like a ransom note).

Increasing IoT Popularity Opens Paths for Attack

However low-value IoT devices used to be, they’re now ubiquitous and hold a lot of importance for critical business functions. Security implications have changed as well, as hackers have changed their strategy, and no longer seek to crack the devices for their data but to interrupt these functions and create urgency and the risk of lasting damage. Take for example the IoT controller that adjusts how much of certain ingredients are added to drugs, an IoT-connected pacemaker, or a hacked power grid controller that determines electricity consumption for a small town. The ability to power these down or alter with their settings is dangerous enough to justify a ransom.

Traditionally weak entry points on IoT devices need to be shored up if we want IoT benefits to continue to outweigh its risks. However, most of the time patching is on the manufacturer, and low prevalence of hacks thus far has prevented manufacturers from acting with urgency, so companies using IoT devices are often unprotected from within and without. The internal awareness isn’t there yet, with many IoT connections unencrypted when connecting to the network, offering hackers a way inside when the device relays to or receives info from the internet. 

In the split second it takes for the device to grab data, hackers can slide in undetected and set up shop in an undefended company’s network. Hijacked or rogue IoT devices were present in over 46% of companies this year, according to a report on “shadow IoT” devices found on their corporate networks, demonstrating just how prevalent this dangerous exploit is. 

IoT Security Solutions Must Provide Visibility

Fortunately, most of the issues stemming from IoT come from how invisible they are on the network, and how unrestricted their permissions tend to be. IoT devices are easily discoverable by hackers, even using public resources like Shodan, so they must be at least this visible to internal IT teams as well. The key to allowing IoT freedom to participate in the network but also to respect its boundaries resides in some of the components of a single solution – Secure Access Service Edge – which was introduced just last year and seems nearly purpose built for IoT.

SASE is a cloud-based networking and security product, unified in its functionality and present on the edge of an organization’s network. A foundation of SASE is software-defined networking ideas, which are more inclusive to a variety of devices connecting to the network because there is no hardware setup required, and cloud nativity to easily match the infrastructure of any ecosystem. When an IoT device connects to the network, it will be easily visible in the cloud admin panel, but more importantly this identification also empowers IT to set identity-based access policies, which limit the extent to which specific parts of the network are exposed to these endpoints.

Enforcement is also about security and not just about how much attack surface is laid bare to IoT devices. Pushing all networking through a centralized, software-defined system also enables IT to demand all network connections happen through encrypted tunnels exclusively, so any IoT device (or company laptop, or mobile phone) that isn’t encrypted cannot connect to the network in the first place. It also helps IT layer even more security on top of IoT devices, even solutions like SSO, so that password management across thousands of devices will finally be feasible (and safe).

Why SASE Brings IoT Home

The combination of visibility, network access restriction, and security enforcement for IoT devices gives SASE a winning use case, and it’s already making headway. Internets, whether world wide webs or “of Things”, are deep and murky. Companies pushing for maximum interoperability can be free to brave the IoT waters confidently with SASE to help them stay on course, and avoid the icebergs lurking out there for us all.

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Programming Intent: IT Teams Take a Shortcut to Better Security
Reading Time: 4 minutes

In today’s fast paced business world, organizations have been forced to become more proactive and faster to react to their customers’ requests. Despite this shift to a more agile business mindset, IT and security teams have been slow to catch up. 

Today, these teams are often forced into a no-win scenario. They are constantly critiqued about how fast they can deploy their organizations’ applications, features and network augmentations, while also making sure the data is secure from an increasingly threatening landscape. This is much harder to manage than one might think.  

When rolling out a new feature or application to the cloud, the time table that ensures security and segmentation complement one another often spans from days to weeks. But it’s all worth it: Syncing security and communication between applications plays a major factor in ensuring that unauthorized access will not occur by malicious actors.

To refrain from adding new vulnerabilities with each new feature, teams will run through hundreds of different in-house security checkpoints before deploying on corporate servers. Ignoring any of these policy rules can create major security and networking risks for IT and security teams, even if it means faster deployment and pleased superiors.

Instead of looking to cut corners on security policies or worse – build a burdensome and ever-growing security checklist – IT teams need to be more communicative about the different challenges they encounter when working on a project. The moment they have an idea of what their intent is for deployment, IT teams need to know how to communicate this and translate it into automated changes that occur on the network level. This is where intent-based networking comes into place.

What is Intent-Based Networking?

       Image Credit: Cisco, 2018

Intent-based networking is the idea that IT teams need to simply explain what their intentions are and devise how the network can easily translate their intent into policy. This means creating suitable configuration settings across the network environment while relying on the use of automation. 

Until recently, this task required hours of manual effort by network engineers to modify each server and device that would be affected by each change. Intent-based networking increases the speed at which implementations happen and leverage machine learning and AI to make sure that the newly deployed applications are behaving as intended.

What makes intent-based networking crucial for agile IT teams is when automated policies fail.  Intent-based network systems then recognize the failure and notify the networking team to suggest an action that will aid the reconfiguration process, once more ensuring the networks are compliant with the organization’s policies. 

While intent-based networking is still being designed and adopted by different organizations, the roots for intent-based networking are in front of our eyes. Early adopters of Software-Defined networking are already familiar with automated network access policies, for example, and more will soon see the benefits of intent-based networking architecture.

To deliver proper intent-based networking, organizations must include these three key elements:

Intent: The first and most important element is intent. In simple terms the “intent” is what you want to accomplish, it’s what you want the objective or outcome to be. The intent is communicated via the network system, which translates it into a policy that can be implemented across the network no matter which infrastructure is deployed. Intent is therefore itself supported by technology and prearranged processes. The idea is to simplify all operations and compliance conditions into policies that define user access level and security while also providing a more continuous understanding of the network. 

Automation: Once IT teams have established their intent and policies, it’s key to success to automate all processes if possible. By adopting automation network teams save time when implementing current and future changes that are needed on the network. As organizations grow in the number of employees and other new factors (IoT, remote workers and the cloud), automation will be a vocal element to help network admins reach the business and security demands of the organization.

Assurance: The last element but possibly the most crucial is the ability to assure that services put in place are working. Assurance begins with complete network visibility throughout the network and connected endpoints. The intent and visibility shouldn’t be only limited to devices but in fact should provide complete visibility of the user’s interactions with machines, applications on the cloud and the user’s location. 

The intent-based networking system will need to provide network-wide interactions and offer the option for predicting the results of changes with the intent and policies in place. To achieve this network environment, machine learning and AI are required. By enforcing real-time detection in the network your organization will be able to mitigate risks in a fraction of the time. 

Moving Forward with Intent-Based Networking 

As the network expands and more sophisticated security risks evolve, the importance of adopting a more agile intent-based network will become more clear for organizations. It will offer IT teams a system that allows them to detect and respond to incoming threats on the network while leaning on responsive policies that will provide another layer of defense versus attacks.

Most importantly to executives, intent-based network security in place provides organizations the opportunity to invest their attention in more pressing business needs, while being able to assume that network applications are being maintained and managed automatically. Total forward momentum on the business end, without leaving security behind.

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WireGuard: The New Gold Standard for Encryption
Reading Time: 4 minutes

It’s easy to underestimate the impact of complexity on an average enterprise-level organization’s security strategy. Solutions like firewalls, multi-factor authentication, traffic encryption, DNS security, and more are carefully orchestrated to together defend against any and every type of attack, yet the “security sprawl” approach is getting a lot of bad press in the industry lately. 

As IT teams struggle to manage the exposure resulting from a growing number of security tools, endpoints, and attack vectors, simplification is a prerequisite to defense. Efforts to streamline have resulted in the embrace of consolidated cloud solutions like SASE, which enable more manageable security tactics like Zero Trust. Simpler also applies to encryption with the WireGuard protocol.

What is WireGuard?

Originally developed by Jason Donenfeld, WireGuard is one of the most relevant examples of how simplicity can transform and improve upon the oldest parts of the status quo: secure network traffic. In a time when more people are working remotely, secure access to organizational resources has spiked as well, leading to widespread adoption of traditional VPNs. 

Yet these solutions and the older encryption protocols they use – OpenSSL and IPSec, for instance – are relics of the past. They are overengineered and ill-equipped to gracefully handle our collective traffic in the “work from home” era, hard to set up, and known to suffer from crashing or hanging tunnels when burdened by too many clients at once. 

WireGuard is a speedier and more flexible encryption protocol that has until now been merely a third-party addition to many security solutions. Standing next to other commonly-used VPN implementations, WireGuard is significantly smaller in terms of raw code, at just 4,000 lines versus the 600,000 that make up OpenSSL, or the 400,000 lines of code inside an IPSec VPN installation. 

That it’s two full orders of magnitude less heavy gives WireGuard a relatively tiny attack surface, and enables it to be audited quickly by a single security professional rather than teams of them. And fully audited it is: by countless security researchers and professionals. While this means a lot less can go wrong, and fewer flaws can be found, it also means that WireGuard is much simpler to set up.

Besides being astonishingly basic, WireGuard also uses stronger and more modern cryptography, which despite its smaller cryptographic keys, gives it unique advantages and makes it likely to replace other protocols as the foundation for a new era of performance-centric traffic privacy.

WireGuard Performance

WireGuard has a noticeable speed advantage over alternative protocols.

 

Latency is lower when connecting via WireGuard

Benefits of WireGuard

WireGuard’s addition to the default Linux kernel in March 2020 comes just in time. This is because it has already proven the gold standard of encryption, being both simpler and stronger than alternatives, and useful for a time when VPN usage is through the roof. 

Now that WireGuard is available in all operating systems, downstream users and solutions will be able to benefit from its smaller attack surface, easy configuration, stronger algorithms, faster connections, and stealthier operation.

Easy Configuration: The point of WireGuard is that its configuration is just about the least amount of data necessary to create an encrypted tunnel. Streamlined in its genetic makeup, WireGuard abandons the concept of “cryptographic agility”, meaning there is no choice of different encryption, hashing, or key exchange algorithms. Its limited yet thoroughly audited cryptographic primitives are very difficult to set up incorrectly.

Fewer configuration options means that less needs to be negotiated between the client and the server in order to create a secure tunnel. Accordingly, less is observed about the connection for hackers operating a Man in the Middle attack, and less can go wrong in the orchestration of WireGuard with one’s technology stack.

Stronger Algorithms: In place of cryptographic agility, WireGuard relies on crypto versioning, which means that if one of its foundational primitives is compromised, a new version of WireGuard (2.0, for example), can quickly be agreed upon by the client and server rather than negotiating each primitive or key one-by-one. The basic cryptographic primitives that WireGuard relies on are as follows:

  • Symmetric Encryption: ChaCha20 authenticated with Poly1305. This is better performing than AES, especially on embedded CPUs which don’t accelerate cryptographic hardware.
  • Elliptic Curve Diffie-Hellman (ECDH): Curve25519
  • Hashing/Keyed Hashing: BLAKE2s, which is faster than SHA-3.
  • Hashtable Keys: SipHash24
  • Key Derivation: HKDF

Faster Connection: The long handshake time common among OpenSSL VPNs, for example, begs the addition of text inside the client that assures users that “something” is happening while they wait. WireGuard’s own benchmarks show that connection time and connection speed are both up to four times faster than alternative protocols on the same hardware. This also means that if the connection drops (a lower chance of this happening as well), that reconnection takes significantly shorter, and you’ll be back in your tunnel almost without realizing anything occurred.

Stealthier Operation: WireGuard is designed to run unobtrusively, and even to hide its presence against network scans. Since the protocol doesn’t respond to packets from unrecognized peers, it’s difficult to tell that it’s even there. Moreover, peers are able to act as both clients and servers at the same time, and can silence their connection when data isn’t being transferred between them.

A New Standard for a New Era

At a time when VPNs are the bare bones security solution for remote access, and the en masse transition to working from home is still in full swing, reinforcing security ideas with simpler and stronger pillars (like encryption) is a must. It’s no coincidence that WireGuard made its way into the Linux kernel during the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic, but it will prove useful well into the future and slowly replace alternatives. It’s rare that a shift in the security landscape has such a drastic impact on end users, making it hard to overstate the importance of WireGuard’s rise.

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Zero Trust Brings Shadow IT Into the Light
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Shadow IT is an aptly-named phenomenon. It’s the notion that obscured in the shade of official information technology processes, companies often have unofficial tools that aren’t in IT’s direct line of sight. As sources of data, employees who input sensitive information or integrate into unsupported applications will unintentionally expose their companies to untold cyber risk. This isn’t entirely the fault of IT teams, but also managers and employees who choose to use applications that they prefer, rather than the ones chosen by experts looking out for their best interests.

The funny thing about shadow IT is that it often makes these managers’ or employees’ working lives more convenient, or is even a boon for the business. By not going through the proper channels, however, shadow IT can have a severe cost to the organization: one that is often paid with its security. To avoid being on the receiving end of this bill, companies are removing trust from their network access models, to help regain visibility over where their datastreams are exposed, and at the same time reinforce the parts of shadow IT that aren’t necessarily bad.

Shadow IT’s Besmirched Name

At its core, shadow IT is a cultural issue. If managers and veteran employees – the ones ultimately responsible for leading by example – feel like they can sidestep IT guidelines and introduce new products into the network then other employees will feel safe doing the same. This practice is surprisingly common, even for organizations that pride themselves on education, personal security hygiene, and a strong overall security posture.

Employees engaging in shadow IT are usually only trying to make their tasks easier to accomplish, and this is something to applaud, when done correctly. According to a Gartner report, IT now sets aside over 40% of its enterprise budget for shadow IT, and some measurements put the number over 50%. It’s only natural that employees would gravitate towards technology that makes their lives easier. But if IT isn’t supplying or supporting it, then the problem isn’t only that it doesn’t acknowledge or secure shadow IT, it’s that IT isn’t aligned with greater business goals.

For this reason, it’s important for IT professionals to embrace good shadow IT and make fighting bad shadow IT a part of their responsibilities. That means identifying solutions that defend the corporate network from security threats, while also letting employees pursue productivity. Technologies that enable an idea called Zero Trust are most relevant to finding this balance, and with some supplementation offer a quick win against bad shadow IT.

Zero Trust is Low-Touch, High-Security

Bad shadow IT is the IT department focusing on its own goals and ignoring the possibility of employees using unsecured tools to interact with company data. Good shadow IT is the IT team’s recognition that employees will always chase convenience and that this is generally good for the business. It’s also the support for this notion: providing a forum for employee tech discussion, using flexible self-service solutions and incorporating technology that enable an idea called Zero Trust.

IT can use Zero Trust to address some bad shadow IT risks, simply by reducing the impact that any single individual can possibly have on the overall network. If they decide to use an unsupported tool, the damage they can do should their user be hacked is limited – and also immediately obvious to administrators. This is accomplished by revamping the perimeter-based security models of yesteryear, and replacing them with tools that refocus access policies and permissions on users, not on resources. 

To refocus IT teams on supporting employee tech preferences, organizations should first establish the correct processes and technologies. In an age when most of the tools employees choose are cloud-based, adding Cloud Access Service Broker (CASB) and micro-segmentation to the network security arsenal ensures IT has control over all cloud-adjacent tools. 

This software-defined model extends and deepens security policies beyond the traditional network perimeter, limiting users’ mobility and trust within the network. Most importantly, it also monitors their activity at all times, to watch for breaches of official shadow IT guidance.

Fight Bad Shadow IT with ZT and DevOps

The Zero Trust model described above is designed to be a relatively effective safety net for the inevitable breach of shadow IT policy. Even with an IT department that encourages employees to bring new tools into the fold, this process alone will always create too much friction for the busy salesperson, for instance, resulting in bad shadow IT. 

For this reason, employees need as much productivity encouragement as they do security enforcement, and while Zero Trust helps, it does not proactively stop employees from engaging in shadow IT, it merely limits the damage they do and helps IT become aware of it.

To truly combat poor shadow IT practices, the best long-term solution for any organization is to invest in a DevOps department whose purpose is to align with overall business goals, understand departmental pain points, and push the IT team to implement them. A good strategy that DevOps might target is to find tools that allow employees to self-service rather than find a workaround. It could take the form of a data platform where employees can generate reports themselves, and avoid waiting for their ticket or request to be pushed through the BI team.

These types of technology implementations are only possible with a DevOps team that runs parallel to the business needs instead of IT goals. It shows employees that their tech preferences are heard, and can be integrated seamlessly at the speed of business. With this type of corporate culture and with Zero Trust as a backdrop, bad shadow IT is outpaced by worker productivity.

 

 

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digital nomads
Fostering Digital Transformation One Nomad at a Time: How Both Organizations and Employees Benefit from Remote Work Strategies
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Digital Nomad, a term coined twenty years ago by Hitachi executive Tsugio Makimoto in his book by the same name, predicted that technology combined with our natural urge to travel would let people live, work, and exist on the go rather than being tied to an office desk or physical work location.

Today, 4.8 million independent workers in the United States describe themselves as digital nomads with 17 million more aspiring to become nomadic workers according to findings by MBO Partners. Digital nomads are defined as a population of independent workers that embrace a location-independent, technology-enabled lifestyle that allows them to travel and work remotely, anywhere in the world.

The rise of the digital nomad also embodies the essence and promise of digital transformation. The Workplace Evolution study by the Harvard Business Review found that “Digitization is impacting every aspect of business, radically changing the ways in which companies grow and compete. The speed and scale at which technological breakthroughs are emerging have no historical precedent and have created an imperative for businesses across industries to respond rapidly with their own digital transformations in order to drive growth and create competitive advantage.”

Organizations that move forward with new digital transformation strategies, products, services, cloud computing infrastructures and business models, also must develop new ways for their global ecosystem of workers to engage and add value. A worker’s ability to connect anywhere, anytime to collaborate with coworkers can determine the level of productivity possible within an enterprise, beyond independent contractors that would normally be considered remote workers. The Workplace Evolution study also found that an organization’s workplace strategy can be a key enabler of or hindrance to digital transformation illustrating the need for organizations to adopt new modes of work to maximize productivity.

Digital Native Expectations

By 2025 digital natives, those technologically adept with the expectations of a nomadic work lifestyle will make up 75 percent of the global workforce, according to a future of work-study by Microsoft. This new breed of workers expects work flexibility including where and when they work with flexible office spaces on demand to connect and collaborate with coworkers when necessary. Generationally, digital natives demand the lifestyle afforded to digital nomads, something that 75 percent of Millennials would like to do more of. Millennials and Generation Z are also looking for increased employer flexibility about where and when they work with staying connected being key to both their work and personal lives.

Digital natives have grown up with technologies such as smartphones and social media being the primary way they communicate with friends and coworkers. “For them, forming and conducting relationships with people through mobile technology tools and platforms is simply how the world is supposed to operate, including at work. These digital natives are also more likely to prioritize a sense of purpose when considering where to work and are often motivated as much by the desire to ensure their work has a positive impact on society as they are by more traditional measures of success,” states Microsoft.

Benefits of Working Remotely

In the last 20 years, the number of remote workers has quadrupled. And today 43% of all U.S. employees work off-site at least part-time, according to Gallup’s State of the American Workplace report. Research also shows that employees believe working remotely is not a productivity barrier with the majority of Americans believing that remote workers are just as productive as those who work in an on-site office.

Providing employees with the ability to work remotely benefits both businesses and workers. According to Microsoft, in addition to increased productivity, businesses save over $11,000 per remote worker per year on decreased real estate costs, electricity, staff turnover and absenteeism.

Enabling employees to work remotely also benefits the environment by reducing greenhouse gas emissions by 54 million tons per year, roughly the equivalent of taking 10 million cars off the road. With the average round-trip work commute standing at 54 minutes a day, employees who work from home can save the equivalent of 30 work days per year that normally would have been spent in a car.

Online Security for Digital Nomads and Remote Workers

As companies embrace both digital nomads and digital natives desiring remote teamwork and open information sharing, online security is becoming more critical than ever as organizations must plan to protect their digital assets and customer data in a new work world. With 85 percent of corporate assets already digital and more information existing outside of a company than inside a company due to the rise of cloud computing, an unprecedented rise in cyberattacks is taking hold.

In 2017, the number of security breaches more than doubled compared to the previous year. For businesses, the stakes are high as it takes companies an average of more than 99 days to discover a security breach and roughly 50 days to address the breach itself. A study of 65 public companies that experienced cyber attacks since 2013 found stock market valuations fell by as much as 15 percent in the most severe cases. And it is estimated that cybercrime will cost approximately $6 trillion per year on average through 2021. 

Even more critical is the potential impact on brand reputation and trust: data breaches that expose customer information can be devastating not only to a company’s reputation but also its balance sheet.

Identity as the New Perimeter

 As the methods that malicious online actors use to attack organizations continue to evolve and increase in sophistication, organizations must stay ahead and deploy strategies to protect both their critical information assets and workers.

Organizations cannot rely solely on the traditional model of securing an organizations’ perimeters as identity itself has become the new perimeter due to digital transformation and remote workers, contractors, partners and suppliers all interacting with critical and private data across the globe on a daily basis. The need to identify who is accessing what information or online resource and when is quickly becoming a critical component of every modern cybersecurity strategy today.

With more businesses adopting open and collaborative work cultures that embody the ethos of the digital nomad, they are also risking the security of their information assets by allowing the open flow of data across devices, people, and physical locations.

The future of work styles enabled by digital technology and cloud computing necessitates a new way to secure and protect information as perimeters become porous with the distance between attacker and employee or contractor being only access credentials. New security models must start with an individual’s identity to identify data and digital resource breaches at the worker level so that the breach can be quickly stopped before they spread.

Companies today and in the future will need to deploy security solutions that maximize worker productivity while balancing the desire for digital nomads and digital natives to work and collaborate freely with coworkers globally. By providing remote workers, contractors, partners or suppliers with remote access tools and technologies that include critical identity access solutions, organizations will be able to protect not only their own information assets but also their worker’s data, devices and apps and resources any time, anywhere.

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real estate
The Real Estate Industry as an Unexpected Target for Hackers
Reading Time: 4 minutes

Over the past decade, companies in the technology, government, finance, and retail industries have become a common target for cybercriminals, but additional – and less obvious – industries are at risk as well. One of these unexpected targets is real estate, which has recently grabbed the attention of hackers as a source of data that’s easy to dip their fingers into. 

The real estate industry does not immediately bring to mind data security, password management, or networking. However, it is important to consider the amount of personal data stored in the networks of real estate firms. Between contracts, personal information, bank accounts, and other details – data floating around the real estate industry is much more valuable (and exposed) than previously assumed.

Real estate companies and agents often work online with housing listings and hosted real estate systems. While these systems offer many modern benefits for real estate agents, they also increase the exposure to different security risks including outdated software, limited password policies, and system vulnerabilities. While these systems are critical for real estate agents to do their job, they must consider the different security risks that can threaten clients’ data and personal information. 

The average real estate agent or employee does not consider the security risks that come along with their job. In order to protect their clients’ information, it is pertinent that real estate workers understand what they can do to avoid falling victim to a cyber attack.

Why is the Real Estate Industry an Attractive Target? 

real_estate_infographic

 

 Image from One Step Secure IT, 2018

The real estate industry accounts for a large number of financial transactions that involve sensitive information. This information tends to include bank account numbers and the buyer’s personal data based on the real estate system stored via the cloud. With a large amount of sensitive data on the cloud, hackers are finding real estate data is more accessible than ever before.  

The most famous attack on the real estate industry occurred in 2019 with a data breach of real estate and title insurance giant First American. The data breach exposed the sensitive financial data of over 885 million customers. This is just one example of recent attacks on the industry. It makes sense to aim at the real estate industry as its market value is evaluated at over $32 trillion: a ripe target that makes it clear why hackers are attracted to this sector.

Hackers enjoy learning more about their victims by taking the time to research the ins and outs of their targets. When attacking targets in the real estate industry they run phishing campaigns to gather personal information in order to exploit the different accounts of real estate agents, sellers, buyers, and anyone involved in the sales process. After gathering the requisite information, hackers might casually wait when the sale of the property is final, and when it’s time to transfer funds they will imitate the person they are hacking and redirect the funds into their own accounts. 

Easy Targets to Attack 

Many real estate companies are not up to date with the most recent security risks, which can make them an easy target for hackers. In general, the real estate industry is less security-minded than other industries, lending itself to a weaker security posture. 

Unlike governments or financial regulators, which enforce some level of compliance or security policy on various sectors, the real estate industry has relatively less oversight and has not entertained any law requiring relevant companies to adopt policies to protect their client’s data or their network systems and resources.  

Even with regulations in place, merely implementing security policies isn’t enough for real estate businesses. Unlike other industries that have been dealing with cyber attacks for years and are more prepared against attacks, the real estate industry is far from safe and must do extra reinforcement. 

Most real estate firms are still implementing outdated and non-cloud friendly network solutions to run their infrastructures. These systems don’t have the modern security features in place to fight off more sophisticated attacks. 

The systems, and how to revamp them, are not the only problems that real estate players tolerate. They must also be aware of the popular types of attacks that hackers will implement and how they can direct their resources to defend against them:

Business Email Compromise

The most popular attack used by hackers on real estate companies is a business email compromise (BEC) attack. A BEC attack convinces businesses to wire funds to an account by impersonating the business (in the case of real estate it would be the sellers of the property). In most cases, the hackers will send an email from a fake account that looks similar to the employee in the business. Often they will use the name of the CEO or the name of the trusted party in the transaction. According to the FBI, over $3 billion of losses have been due to business email attacks.  

Ransomware 

Cybercriminals send out malicious emails to victims with the sole intention to click on a link in the email. If the person falls victim, the hacker can easily encrypt all of the victim’s data and resources. A successful ransomware attack results in blocking access to the exploited data and resources, making it unusable until the ransom is paid to the hacker. Real estate is targeted frequently with ransomware attacks due to massive amounts of employee data, significant sums of money in bank accounts, and confidential information that can be exploited. 

Cloud Vendor Flaws

Real estate businesses are following the popular trend of adopting cloud-based services for implementing corporate resources on the cloud. While the cloud offers many benefits it does come with some security risks. Cybercriminals won’t need to attack your business to gather your sensitive information, instead they can target cloud vendors to access your data. By adopting a cloud service provider you might think you are decreasing security risks but in fact  organizations need to take extra steps internally to stay secure. Stay up to date with securing business devices and enforce strong password protection. 

Looking Forward

It is important for the real estate industry to understand the risks involved in storing sensitive data without proper security precautions. For the employees who are leading IT and security efforts at real estate firms, it’s vital to think about security on a daily basis and learn to face the ramifications of a poor cyber security policy. Not doing so risks the erosion of the industry and also faith in one of the strongest and most foundational markets in the world.

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Choose SASE for better performance and security
Don’t Neglect SASE’s Impact on Network Performance
Reading Time: 3 minutes

In the end-of-2020 cybersecurity word cloud – a swarm in which floats the most frequently seen, heard, and spoken words in the industry – one four letter acronym will appear bigger and bolder than all the rest: SASE. When discussing Secure Access Service Edge, most of the excitement surrounds its unifying characteristics and how IT finally has a consolidated tool for both networking and security from the cloud.

SASE will improve security and make it easier to achieve, but along with this simple idea comes other benefits. Anticipated less frequently (given that these solutions aren’t being widely consumed yet) is how SASE also delivers better performance across the organization in terms of throughput and productivity. Performance is a complement to the security delivered to companies, thanks to multiple factors including SASE’s presence on the edge, its low-touch quality in terms of IT effort, and the clarity it brings to networks.

A Measurable Network Boost

A central tenet of SASE is that the network is no longer organized around resources that are held in the headquarters, so security needs to match this arrangement. SASE therefore exists in the cloud where its network security functions can be easily integrated into both local and cloud architecture, and managed from a single panel. 

Key to the networking chops of SASE is that providers with a global backbone of data centers are able to put resource access portals closer to where employees and branch offices reside. Instead of every employee connecting to the same resource through a single point, they can do so with their individual devices through gateways nearby. This offers employees around the globe lower-latency access to the tools they need for work.

Speed is increased further due to the lower amount of network congestion that occurs due to SASE’s user-focused access policies. Because it’s built on SD-WAN, organizations using SASE for distributed, secure remote access are able to also create custom rules for certain sources of traffic. This reduces the bandwidth allowed to low-priority users or guests on the network, for example, and it all happens with rules that trigger based on granular qualifiers such as location, device, role and more. With the visibility that SASE provides over network endpoints and resources, it’s easy to “direct traffic” autonomously and efficiently.

Finally, since SASE is a unified solution, customers of a single SASE provider such as Perimeter 81 have multiple choices even within individual security tools. For example, if a company’s network is seen to enjoy faster connection times and lower latency while using the WireGuard encryption protocol, instead of the IPSec or SSL protocols available with other vendors, then they can freely switch to it or even create rules that determine under which traffic conditions these various protocols are applied.

For IT and Employees, SASE Aids Productivity

With traffic controls, segmentation, better visibility and local gateways pushing resources to the edge, it’s no wonder that networks on SASE run seamlessly and smoothly. However, that’s only half the equation. SASE also reduces costs and simplifies the processes that IT engages in, which improves departmental performance significantly.

IT employees no longer have to navigate several different misaligned security solutions each with various ways to control access – they need only to login to their centralized SASE panel, on which all functions related to networking (access policies, segmentation, creation of users and groups, traffic rules, gateway building etc.) and security (enforcement of tools like 2FA, DNS filtering, encryption etc.) reside. 

The sheer amount of time saved maintaining, patching, configuring, and returning to the same tools every time the organization adds a new resource or user is astounding. Not only does this cut costs in terms of the raw number of solutions managed by any organization, it also cuts the burden of time invested from IT’s side, and gives IT managers more leeway to assign proactive, performative, and potentially profit-seeking IT activities to their staff.

With SASE as a multitool – almost a Swiss Army knife of network and security functionality – organizations can clean house and quickly consolidate the various security vendors and subscriptions they used to consume. Suddenly having the same total utilities but concentrated into one tool is a self-explanatory advantage, but the residual benefits – mostly performance related – will be more visible as SASE gains market share.

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