In the modern era, digital transformation has become necessary to such an extent that it cannot be ignored. In fact, without it, it is not possible to be competitive in the market. To ensure that efficiency is achieved in the market and competitive advantage is maintained, businesses need to transform themselves digitally.
As the world becomes more digitally connected and accessible, the need for online security is increasing multi-fold. From ordering your groceries and food, booking your travel, banking, and even consulting health care providers, everything is done online either through a website or a mobile app.
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As the restrictions for containing the spread of COVID-19 disease begin to lift, businesses in most parts of the world are also starting to reopen. The pandemic has seen companies lay off many employees and a decline in productivity. Besides, the situation has massively affected the relationships between IT service providers and customers in ways, such as managed and outsourcing service agreements and stricter requirements on personnel locations. Therefore, a significant number will be seeking to switch IT service providers to meet the increasing needs as most businesses base their models on technology.
Identify a suitable provider before making the switch.
Rushing to leave the current IT service provider without identifying a suitable replacement can affect business operations significantly. Companies should avoid this by first reviewing IT providers, depending on technological and security business requirements. A thorough review of research and feedback from other businesses can help identify the most suitable service provider. A list containing the non-negotiable IT requirements can facilitate faster and more efficient identification of an appropriate provider. The list should include a comparison of the services offered in the present arrangement and the industry-specific services the business requires. Only then can an enterprise determine a service provider offering the required IT needs.
Retain control of the IT infrastructure
Outsourced IT service providers usually full administrative access to all IT assets and corporate networks. Before making a switch to a new provider, a company’s in-house IT staff should ensure to retain administrative credentials used to access the system infrastructure. At the same time, they must ensure to revoke all access privileges to maintain the integrity and confidentiality of data and IT infrastructure. Make sure to log the password and login information to enable the new service providers to efficiently discharge their responsibilities.
Perform an extensive security check
Once an organization outsources services to the new IT providers, it must collaborate and perform a detailed security audit of the IT systems and networks. The inspection is essential since it reveals existing backdoor access points. Furthermore, a security audit will enable the IT provider to become familiar with the IT infrastructure layout, patch identified security weaknesses, and address all pressing security challenges. A security check ensures the company and IT provider begin a reliable IT service agreement. It also reassures that there won’t be security concerns once the business terminates the arrangement with the outgoing service provider.
Provide timely information to all stakeholders
Company IT resources affect all business operations, and in extension, the performance of individuals relying on them to discharge their roles. Therefore, to optimize the switching process, ensure all team members and stakeholders remain updated on all impending changes. The company leadership should meet with employees and provide reasons informing the need to switch. They must also explain the new protocols and the expected changes regarding IT support and delivery. Informing the teams ensures everyone is on board with the coming changes, facilitating an optimized and smooth switchover. Also, ensure to provide sufficient notice to the current IT provider once the company is ready to make the switch.
Technological solutions are crucial for businesses to thrive in today’s highly competitive environment. Companies use sensitive and personal customer information to realize data-driven business models.
At the same time, hackers continue targeting enterprises to breach critical systems, steal data, and due to monetary gains. Currently, attacks on financial organizations have increased by 238% since the outbreak of coronavirus. Also, 80% of companies have reported a rise in cyber-attacks. Ransomware attacks had risen by 600% as of March 2020. Reputable companies, such as Marriott hotel chains and Nintendo, have been victims of cyber-attacks in 2020. Attacks on the former affected more than 5 million customers, while at least 300,000 Nintendo user accounts were hacked. Understanding emergency actions following a hacking incidence can reduce or prevent adverse impacts.
Initiate incident response measures
The first course of action is to respond to the hacking incidence once it is detected. Companies should use the incident response procedures to contain the attack and prevent further damage. An incidence response plan allows the evaluation of breached systems, stolen or corrupted data, and the identification of the root causes. Some of the measures to consider include disconnecting from the internet and corporate network, isolating the affected platform/service, and revoking access to all resources until the incidence is contained.
Understand motivations behind the incidence
A variety of factors can motivate hackers to target a business. These could be financial gains, accessing crucial information like intellectual property, revenge, or insider threats. While figuring out the reasons can be challenging during a stressful hacking scenario, they inform suitable measures for stopping and preventing the attack. Besides, it enables the affected organization to embark on the recovery journey.
Reset all credentials
Resetting credentials, such as usernames, passwords, and recovery accounts, should be a priority following a hacking incidence. Passwords provide the first line of defense, and a hacktivist incidence means cyber adversaries could have compromised them. Reset passwords of all services, even if only a single platform has been compromised. It is vital to create new, secure passwords since reusing old passwords exposes a company to recurring attacks. Ensure that all devices and account users sign out upon resetting to ensure the new passwords become effective immediately.
Establishing the real intentions of a cyber-attack can be a daunting task. Therefore, it is pertinent to spread the word to all parties once a hacking incident has been detected. These include law enforcement and legal authorities, supply chain partners, customers, friends, among others. Attackers can use a breached network or account to spread malice to other organizations or individuals. Alerting them permits them to detect and report suspicious events that indicate attempted hacking attempts.
Beef up cyber defenses
Many victims often want to move on quickly after containing a hacking incidence and fail to implement measures for enhancing security. After identifying the root causes of the data breach, it is essential to deploy robust controls to avoid a recurrence in the future. Also, victims should strengthen the security of non-affected services using industry-standard practices to enhance information security.
Hackers are leveraging advanced technologies, such as AI, to innovate sophisticated malware variants. Due to the increased integration of digital processes in all industries, cybercrime has risen ten-fold.
Cybersecurity Ventures estimates that cybercrime costs will reach $6 trillion every year by 2021. In a research study drawing thousands of security incidents, researchers found that the primary malware delivery mode is through email, which accounts for 94%. Also, the common vulnerabilities and exploits (CVE) database contains at least 11,000 identified vulnerabilities, with the number rising rapidly. Of these, 34% remain unpatched.
However, a study showing that 60% of data breaches involve unpatched vulnerabilities indicates that most attacks occur despite patch availability. Moreover, Dell conducted a survey that revealed that a silicon- or hardware-level security breach resulted in the data compromise of 63% of the participating companies. With the IoT surface expanding rapidly, companies should brace for increased attacks, since 2019 saw IoT attacks triple.
What is Penetration testing?
Companies turn to penetration testing to protect themselves from attacks. Penetration testing is a simulated attack on a network or computer system to identify exploitable vulnerabilities. The process enables the mitigation of security flaws to protect systems, networks, and data from attacks. WhiteHat Security involved 118 companies in penetration testing research and drew the following conclusions:
|Companies that do penetration testing annually||Companies that don’t do penetration testing|
|Monitoring||Reactive monitoring||Proactive monitoring|
|Average security vulnerabilities||10||22|
|Average time for detecting vulnerabilities||292 days||431 days|
|Average time for mitigating vulnerabilities||168 days||149 days|
There are numerous tools used to perform a penetration testing exercise. They include:
1. Kali Linux OS: Pentesters use Kali as the base pen-testing OS for offensive use. The OS contains most of the tools used for specialized pen testing and, therefore, the default testing OS.
2. Nmap: It is a network mapping tool for detecting open network ports and the activities on the ports. It is indispensable for the recon phase and used to scan networks for large and small organizations.
3. Metasploit: It is one of the most used pen testing tools for establishing exploitable vulnerabilities and the impacts of an attack.
4. Burp: It is a top-rated web vulnerability scanner used by pen-testers and found in numerous testing toolkits.
5. Others: The pen-testing kit features several other tools like Nessus, Fiddler, Wireshark, Aircrack-ng, John the Ripper, Hydra, and OWASP ZAP.
Types of Vulnerabilities Detected Through Penetration Testing
A wide range of companies operates networks and systems with multiple attack vectors that security teams discover through penetration testing. In some cases, ethical hackers succeed in obtaining full control of an organization’s IT infrastructure and critical resources such as SWIFT transfers, ATM control, and ICS equipment. Some of the security issues discovered in penetration testing include use of insecure information transfer protocols, dictionary passwords, vulnerable applications and software versions, storage of confidential data in clear text or exposed to the public, lack of proper user access control, remote code execution, lack of adequate user authentication, and SQL injection. Web application code vulnerabilities are a common problem that causes 75 percent of penetration vectors.
However, penetration testers face ethical challenges when performing tests. They include accessing sensitive personal information, which might violate regulations, such as GDPR and HIPAA. Morality issues also arise when pen testers use malware acquired from external sources to attack a client’s systems and networks.
Technology has changed greatly in the past ten years, and has enabled us to do things now we may not have even thought possible just mere decades ago. We’ve shrunken computers down to fit nicely in one hand, and use them for everything from sending messages to loved ones, to making bank deposits, to online shopping. But this is not news to you — more than likely as you’re reading this on a cell phone, as 88% of Canadian households use a mobile device.1 With mobile phones being so popular and used for so many important tasks, this often exposes both individuals and companies, making us vulnerable to hackers seeking out our confidential data.
While it’s often easy to dismiss these issues as older adults that may have more of a learning curve with smartphones, it’s actually more common amongst the “Millennial” crowd.2 They are more comfortable with technology, and with that comfort can come a naivety or lax attitude regarding security or best practices in guarding their data and keeping it safe. Apparently, hacking is not as hard to do as one would think — in 2017, CBC/Radio-Canada ran an investigation using an ethical hacker to gain access to politician Matthew Dubé’s cell phone, using a weakness in Signalling System No. 7 (SS7) which can allow everything from location tracking, to accessing voicemails that would remain unregistered to the intended recipient.3 This doesn’t just provide issues for individual users, but can also be a major issue for companies that lease phones out to their employees, or unknowingly permit their employees to use poor security practices while conducting business on personal cell phones. Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) is so common, it’s almost expected in this day and age, even across multiple industries.4 Companies can try to mitigate damage by having a plan in place, in the event of a breach of confidential or sensitive company data.5
Here are just some of the security breaches to look out for. Knowing what to expect may help you prepare a response later, if you do fall victim.
Caller ID Spoofing
What is it? Caller ID Spoofing is when the Caller ID information that appears on your phone has been altered from the source that is placing the call. 6 Most of us have seen this, as there are legitimate reasons for Caller ID Spoofing. For example, call centers that make calls on behalf of multiple clients, such as retail customer support, may display information reflecting the client they are representing. 6 However, this becomes illegal if a telemarketer, for example, falsifies their identity with the intention of misleading you.6 This can be done in a variety of ways, all with jargon that can be confusing for everyday mobile consumers 6:
- “Neighbouring” which is when they match the first 6 digits of your cell phone to make it look as if someone nearby is calling you from a number you partially recognize
- “Mirroring” which is when your own number appears on the Caller ID
- Displaying an ID of a recognizable company or brand, common in your region
Red Flags to Consider if you think you may be a victim: Caller ID Spoofing is a bit easier to avoid than other fraudulent attempts. While an illegitimate business or user may be calling you, they generally cannot get information from your phone, however, you must be wary of volunteering information.
How to protect yourself: Do not volunteer valuable or confidential information over the phone if you are unsure or do not feel comfortable. These recorded messages or telemarketers may ask you for credit card or bank account information, but the best response is to hang up if you feel suspicious. Also, you can take further action by registering your number on the National Do Not Call List, file an official complaint, or report the issue to your local police or Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.
For this and more information on Caller ID Spoofing, you can visit the Canadian Radio-television and Communications Commission website.
Port Out Scams & SIM Swapping
What is it? Port Out Scams are described as an “unauthorized mobile phone number porting, where a fraudster uses your stolen cellular account information to transfer (or “port”) your phone number and account to another carrier in order to take control of your phone while also shutting down your account”.7 This can be done using very basic information of yours, including (but not limited to) your Name, Address, Mobile Number and last four digits of your social security number. No proof of identification is necessary, and someone can do this by claiming your phone is “lost or stolen”.7 SIM Swapping is similar, in that someone can request a new SIM card as you, use that SIM card, and render your phone (and thus, “old card”) disabled.
Red Flags to Consider if you think you may be a victim: Your phone may stop working, or only allow Emergency Calls
How to protect yourself: Hide any identifying information on social media accounts, and be wary of how much information you display on public forums or online marketplaces.7 Also, shred any sensitive information displayed on mail before discarding.7
What is it? Phishing has been around for a while, and happens when you are sent a fraudulent email, which often looks legitimate, but prompts you to click on a link, or enter information. By doing so, you can accidentally install something on your phone that sends confidential information to the hacker, without you knowing about it.8
Red Flags to Consider if you think you may be a victim: If it feels odd to be clicking on a link within an email, or a pop up appears on your phone that seems to not match in branding, or there are a lot of misspelled words, back out of the email/screen on your smartphone.
How to protect yourself: Consider why you would be directed to a link within an email, instead of the email stating the information clearly in the body. Also, consider that most alerts and pop-ups stating that you’ve won a great vacation or asking you to “enter to win” are fraudulent.
Vishing & Smishing
What is it? Vishing is just like Phishing, but instead of email, you’ll receive a phone call, and Smishing is done over text message.
Red Flags to Consider if you think you may be a victim: Is the caller asking you to “confirm details” or is it a recording telling you to visit a site to retrieve a gift?8 Or is this a text message demanding an immediate reaction from you to call a number or visit a website due to an account or credit card cancellation?8
How to protect yourself: If it’s vishing, don’t be afraid to end your call, and if it’s smishing, do not respond to the text message, especially if they’re asking for sensitive information. If you worry it was a legitimate business, or have concerns about your accounts/credit cards, look up the legitimate number to the bank or company (not any numbers provided to you by the person who contacted you) and speak to a customer service representative.
What is it? Malware is a program that often goes undetected and can enter your device through certain websites or by downloading corrupted or fraudulent files.8
Red Flags to Consider if you think you may be a victim: Pop-ups that seem odd, slowness in navigation that seems sudden, or an app on your phone that’s running in the background that you don’t remember downloading are some of the possible signs of malware.
How to protect yourself: Don’t click on suspicious links or visit suspicious websites, and do research on apps before downloading to your phone.8 Also, keep your phone in sync with the latest security updates provided by your phone manufacturer.
Missed Call Scam
What is it? You may receive a phone call where the user hangs up after one ring, prompting you to call them back. You then may have to pay a high price for returning the call.8
Red Flags to Consider if you think you may be a victim: A quick call or hangup from a number you do not have stored in your phone or do not recognize is a clear indicator.
How to protect yourself: If you do not recognize the number, do not call back. If the call is official business, they will usually leave a message or call back, letting it ring more than once.
With all of these scams floating about, one can feel rather helpless against the dark side of technology and fraudulent businesses or hackers. Along with the steps listed above, there are other general steps you can take to better defend your phone and protect yourself or your company from identity thieves.
- Two-Step Verification is becoming more common and is a good step in helping to protect your device. Two-Step Verification is used when you combine parts like “something you know” (such as a password or PIN) and “something you possess” (such as your actual phone).9 This helps to thwart remote hackers and is easy enough for any user to implement.
- Two-Factor Authentication is a bit better than Two-Step Verification, in that a one-time use code can be sent to the user, and when combined with another very unique identifier (such as a fingerprint), can provide a more secure layer of protection.9 This works even better when combined with a strong password. Which leads us to the next point…
- A strong password for both your phone and any applications or websites you use is crucial, along with making those passwords unique for each site. According to a recent survey, more than 80% of “millennials” reuse the same passwords across multiple sites. Hackers know this and if they have one password, will try to use it across any other sites you may have visited.9 Using a combination of alpha-numeric characters, as well as special characters and capitalization, is a simple first step to protect yourself and your identity.
The good news is, you don’t have to navigate through this alone. TeckPath is here to help! Reach out for a consultation and learn more about our strategic services and how we can aid in protecting your company.