What to do when hit by ransomware

Do you remember the WannaCry attack from May 2017?  How about the NotPetya attack in June 2017? While the WannaCry attack made national headlines, other attacks may have slipped your mind. But the $300 million lost by pharmaceutical giant Merck to NotPetya won’t be forgotten in a hurry.

It goes without saying that businesses of all sizes need to be cautious of ransomware, but what should they do when faced with an attack?

Featured on Digitalisation World, Nigel Crockford, Business Development Manager of IT consultancy eSpida, explains the steps to take.

The article is available in full here.

Retail outlet

TheWorks.co.uk grows store capacity with IT improvements

TheWorks.co.uk is set to continue growth in its ecommerce business as well as the number of physical stores it operates. Following a successful transition to a new IT infrastructure with the help of IT consultancy eSpida, TheWorks.co.uk was able to move to a new head office in Warwickshire at the start of 2017. The success of the project can be viewed in a short film on the case studies page.

As part of the milestone move in 2017, eSpida helped TheWorks.co.uk automate its warehouse operations to improve distribution to its network of over 400 physical stores and ecommerce business. The move was managed using a phased transition, which involved all-round upgrades to virtual servers, storage and security, which has subsequently resulted in a 60 per cent improvement in productivity.

“Since the project was delivered by eSpida at the start of 2017, we’ve seen some drastic improvements to our business,” explains Tom Scott, IT Director at TheWorks.co.uk. “We’ve been opening one new store per week for the last three years and we needed a new platform to help us do this.

“Our ecommerce business is now handling 30 per cent more transactions like-for-like compared to the previous year. eSpida helped us to make crucial upgrades to our IT infrastructure to improve our capacity and our ability to deliver fast, accurate distribution and stock management to our network of 440 physical stores, up from 280 stores three years ago.

“We are now 60 per cent more productive with the same size of team. Where our IT infrastructure team was previously spending 80 per cent of its time on support activities and only 20 per cent on new business development, we’ve been able to flip this so that 80 per cent is now spent on new development projects.

“The increase in capacity means we can spend more time as a business thinking more strategically. It has given us better use of a new development environment for testing new software; we’ve been able to upgrade our email system and roll out better encryption in preparation for new general data protection regulations (GDPR).”

Better automation helped to free up much of this capacity. The warehouse, for example, uses an improved order-picking system where the WiFi controlled picking is better managed through handheld terminals.

“It’s not always easy for companies to instigate change in their organisation,” explains Nigel Crockford, Business Development Manager at eSpida. “Many companies find it difficult to go from their ‘as-is’ status-quo to their desired ‘to be’ status where they can offer valuable growth and improved efficiency to their bottom line.

“Peak seasonal events such as Black Friday can put any business under strain. However, we helped TheWorks.co.uk manage this easily by making key improvements to their communication network across their shops and back to the centralised data centre, as well as better disaster recovery and improved bandwidth.”

With the help of eSpida, TheWorks.co.uk has also been able to increase the amount of time available to the IT staff after the day to day running of IT is dealt with, giving them greater proactive management capacity.

“We can now log on in the morning and access up-to-date sales data that helps us to quickly and easily analyse the previous day’s performance,” explains Scott. “This not only improves stock management, it allows us to deliver customer orders faster and puts us in good stead for our growth plans for the next three to five years.”

eSpida has produced a short film about its project with TheWorks.co.uk, which can be viewed at http://www.espida.co.uk/2017/08/14/working-with-infrastructure-specialist/. This video will help anyone considering upgrading their ageing infrastructure and explain how a specialist such as eSpida can help to safely and securely manage this change.

Cybercrime prevention with Forcepoint

GDPR – 50 days and counting

The General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is being dubbed as “the greatest change in data privacy regulation in over 20 years”. It will replace the Data Protection Act 1998 and comes into play on May 25th 2018.

With only a third of businesses said to be currently prepared for GDPR, many organisations are reportedly rushing to hire data protection officers. Whilst companies with more than 250 employees or public authorities are required to appoint a Data Protection Officer; those below the threshold are not obliged to do so.

However, all businesses are required by law to comply.

When the new regulations are enforced, businesses must have recorded consent before they can use personal data or risk severe penalties. A data breach can result in administrative fines of up to 4% of annual global turnover or €20 million – whichever is greater.

So how can technology be used in the quest to become GDPR compliant?

Data policies
Look at the way data flows through your business, review your data model and implement an end-to-end data protection strategy to meet GDPR regulations.

Data Classification
Consider the types of data flowing through your business:

• Is it freely available?
• Does it contain personal information?

Data should be protected by the authority in a data classification system.

Encryption
Encryption translates data into code, so that only people with access to a key or password can read it. At present it is one of the most widely used data security methods in the protection of data and its confidentiality across all devices.
By encrypting information, businesses can take control over their data by validating users and ensuring data authenticity when data is used and transferred.

Data Loss Prevention (DLP)
Data loss prevention software uses detection techniques to recognise sensitive data. It enables businesses to determine why and how information is being used and therefore identify any data breaches or misuse. It is highly recommended to protect businesses from insider threats.

Two-factor authentication (2FA)
Most standard online security procedures involve a username and password. With the ever increasing level of cybercrime, an extra layer of security is recommended to ensure data is adequately protected.

Two-factor authentication, also known as 2FA involves the use of a traditional username and password as well as a piece of information that only the user knows, such as a PIN or fingerprint.

Anti-virus/Anti-ransomware
With more than half of UK businesses already being affected by Ransomware, it is said to be a case of not IF, but WHEN an attack occurs. This is a scary prospect for any businesses, regardless of size which is why antivirus & anti-ransomware software are so important. By scanning systems, the software wipes out any identified ransomware attempts.

Device management
Device Management enables IT teams to control the security, monitoring, integration and management of devices such as laptops, mobile phones and tablets in the workplace to ensure the network and its data is fully secure and GPDR compliant on all devices throughout the business.

Access/identity management
Many businesses do not validate employees’ access rights and permissions to use data. To achieve GDPR compliance, businesses will need to take a much more controlled approach to minimise unauthorised access to critical information using stronger and more centralised access and identity management

Backup
With the increase in cybercrime coupled with the new laws, data backup has never been more important than it is now. Backups are vital in the event of information being destroyed, be it accidentally or maliciously.

Exploit prevention
An exploit attack is designed to slow down your computer, cause sudden application failure and/or expose your personal data to hackers.
Exploit prevention protects the applications and files that are prone to these attacks and cleverly mitigates the methods attackers use to exploit software vulnerabilities.

Patch Management
Patch management involves keeping software on computers and network devices up to date and capable of resisting low-level cyber-attacks. With older software versions, companies are far more vulnerable to cybercrime and leave obvious gaps for hackers to intercept.
It sounds basic, but the simplest technological solution in the fight against cybercrime is good patch management. By keeping software up to date and capable of resisting low-level threats, businesses are far less vulnerable to cybercrime.

For further details on GDPR I recommend visiting eSpida’s dedicated GDPR page where you can find information on preparing your business for GDPR, useful links as well as our ‘Preparing for GDPR’ whitepaper.

IT Security webex: How to protect your organisation

Our webinar brings you an update on IT security.

With cybercrime on the rise, keeping your security strategy up to date is imperative to the protection of your organisation. And with the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) May 2018 deadline looming, data security is now critical to legal compliance.

Watch our webinar with our resident IT security expert, Nigel Crockford to learn:

  • The changing landscape of IT security
  • The security challenges facing your organisation and its leadership team
  • GDPR and the practical implications for business
  • How to build robust security strategy to meet tomorrow’s threat

For more information about data security and how we can help you to protect your business, please get in touch on 0344 880 6145 or email info@espida.co.uk

 

DLP and CASB

An Introduction to CASB and DLP

With the introduction of Bring Your Own Device (BYOD) into the workplace, holes have appeared within many organisations’ security and compliance applications.  Holes which some IT users are blind to.

Software programs such as OneDrive, GoogleDrive and Dropbox that users install on their personal equipment to move files to work on outside of the workplace, are highly susceptible to such “holes”.  These transferable documents may contain sensitive data and can pose a threat to any organisation if compromised.

Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) and Data Leakage Protection (DLP) software is designed to eliminate such issues.

What is CASB?

  • CASB stands for cloud access security broker.
  • It is an application that separates the company’s own on-premises infrastructure and an external cloud provider’s infrastructure.
  • CASBs identify active cloud applications and detect high-risk users and applications.
  • CASB extends organisational security policies beyond internal infrastructure.

What is DLP

  • DLP stands for data loss prevention.
  • DLP products enable network administrators to regulate the business data that users can transfer to ensure confidential or sensitive data is not sent outside the business network unless authorised.
  • DLP applications use predefined rules to categorise and protect confidential information to prevent users from sharing such data, be it accidentally or maliciously.

Forcepoint CASB and DLP

Forcepoint has developed its Cloud Access Security Broker (CASB) and Data Leakage Protection (DLP) applications to offer organisations an effective and efficient way to protect business-critical, sensitive data.

Forcepoint CASB along with its sister product Forcepoint DLP allows organisations to monitor who, what and when with regards the movement of information and data between the organisation and the cloud applications installed on user devices.

The software allows IT departments to discover and assess the risks of the unsanctioned cloud apps and will also enable tighter control of sanctioned cloud apps, facilitating a greater understanding of organisational data flow and the prevention of critical data loss.

These two Forcepoint products have been recognised as the market leaders in this area by analysts.  They provide industries with the most complete data protection platform, utilising its functionality in data discovery and data leakage prevention and as such provide a secure base for organisations to meet industry compliance requirements such as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).

Never has an IT department’s role in the protection of data been as crucial as it is today.  Educating employees is a fundamental starting point. And to take care of the inevitable mishaps, having the right protection in place is imperative.

Take a look at the Forcepoint webpage to find out more.

Have your customers given consent?

As new technologies are developed, consumers have multiple devices and channels to interact via, allowing marketers to access more data than ever. However with the general data protection regulation (GDPR) deadline nearing, marketing departments must consider how they collect, store and process any data moving forward in order to meet the required level of GDPR compliance.

Featured in Digital Marketing Magazine, Nigel Crockford, Business Development Manager at IT security consultancy eSpida, explains the ways in which marketers must adapt within the thought provoking article ‘Have your customers given consent?’

The article can be read in full here

 

Ransomware: headline news for the Oxford Dictionary, everyday news for IT teams

More than 1000 new words have been added to the Oxford English Dictionary (OED) for 2018. Words such as hangry and mansplaining! But a word you might not be surprised to see in the latest OED is ransomware, which the OED has described as:

A type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid.

Following incidents such as the 2017 WannaCry attack on the NHS, the British public now have a far greater awareness of cyber-attacks.  The publicity surrounding the attack almost undoubtedly contributed to ransomware being added to the dictionary.

It is interesting that the word ransomware has only now been announced by the OED, not only because it has been in use by IT professionals for some time, but also as two of its sister editions have contained this definition since at least July 2017, these being the Oxford Dictionary of English and the New Oxford American Dictionary.

A sign of the times

With nearly seven in ten large businesses identifying at least one breach or attack in the last 12 months, the statistics show that businesses across the UK are now being targeted more and more frequently by cyber criminals. The number of ransomware attacks is growing and businesses are becoming increasingly concerned with how to prevent such attacks.

Businesses which have identified attacks or breaches admit to suffering temporary loss of files, software and system corruption, third party system damage and websites sabotage.  Such incidents have frequently resulted in numerous counts of financial loss and damaged reputations.

The term ransomware has now become a word synonymous on every IT professional’s lips and rightly so should be recognised as a dictionary defined word.

Businesses of all sizes must continue to invest in cyber security and take a proactive approach to IT security in order to protect themselves from falling victim to ‘a type of malicious software designed to block access to a computer system until a sum of money is paid’.

And just in case you were wondering…

Hangry is being bad-tempered or irritable as a result of hunger and Mansplain is (For a man) to explain (something) to someone, typically a woman, in a manner regarded as condescending or patronising.

Visit www.espida.co.uk/it-security for more information or take a look at our Forcepoint partner page to see what cyber security solutions we can offer.

Protecting yourself in 2018’s IT landscape

protect against cybercrime

The May 2017 ransomware attack on the NHS crippled 47 trusts across England and Scotland. At least 6,900 appointments were cancelled and seven A&E departments were forced to turn ambulances away. This demonstrates the significant damage that cyber-attacks can cause. Here, Nigel Crockford, business development manager of IT consultancy eSpida, discusses what businesses must consider to protect themselves in 2018’s IT landscape.

 Back in 1995, when Bill Gates set up Windows 95, there were very few IT applications and, according to www.internetlivestats.com, only 0.8 per cent of the world’s population had internet access at home. Therefore, the risk of cyber-attacks was relatively low.

Since then, the IT landscape has changed dramatically. It was estimated by www.internetlivestats.com that in 2016, 46.1 per cent of the world’s population had internet access at home — a huge increase since 1995. A single device is now capable of processing an extraordinary number of applications and cloud technology means data can be easily shared between devices. These technological advancements have considerably increased the risk of cyber-attacks.

There are things that every business must do to protect its employees, customers and stakeholders from the potentially damaging effects of attacks such as the ransomware attack on the NHS.

Everybody is a security officer

The task of ensuring cyber security in a business can no longer fall to one or two security officers. Everybody must have an awareness of the potential threats, how to protect against them and how to respond in the case of a security breach.

The cyber-security of a business increases considerably if everybody takes simple but effective protective measures. These measures must include installing antivirus software, keeping all software updated, identifying suspicious popups and regularly changing passwords. Common sense is the first line of defence.

Comply with GDPR

In May 2018, the new general data protection regulations (GDPR) will enforce new mandatory requirements for businesses. In essence, you will need to know exactly where all data is stored, how it is held and how it can be accessed.

By complying with these regulations, you will be helping to keep your business’s data and IT systems safe from cyber-crime.

Have a strategy in place

The key to dealing with cyber-crime is to protect, detect and respond. Once an attacker has access to data, it’s extremely difficult to retrieve it. Therefore, prevention is better than cure.

Regardless of how well you protect your business, cyber-attacks may still occur, so everybody must know the signs. According to a 2017 cyber security breaches survey from the Government’s department for digital, culture, media and sport, 46 per cent of organisations had experienced a cyber-attack in the past twelve months. However, many others may have been attacked but did not realise.

To make sure you detect any cyber-attacks that you may fall victim to, look out for unusual password activity notifications, slow network speed and suspicious e-mails or popups — all of which could indicate a breach.

Businesses must also be prepared to respond to a cyber-attack. As of May 2018, the GDPR will state that a cyber breach must be reported in 72 hours. Failure to comply could result in a fine of up to €20 million or four per cent of your business’s global turnover. In addition to reporting the attack, the breach should be contained by shutting down all IT equipment and assess all systems that could have been compromised.

The May 2017 attack was the largest cyber-attack the NHS has ever fallen victim to. NHS England stated that no patient data was compromised and the staff response was commendable. However, this attack may potentially have been avoided if the NHS had been more diligent in its cyber protection measures.

If you are worried about your current security set up and need some advice, contact eSpida today on 0344 880 6145 or email info@espida.co.uk 

The multinational impact of GDPR

GDPR will affect multinational organisations

Many businesses are yet to understand the sheer scale and breadth of changes their company data processing policies will need to undergo to comply with the general data protection regulation (GDPR). Here, Nigel Crockford, Business Development Manager at IT consultancy eSpida, explains how the regulation will impact multinational businesses — and how they must prepare themselves.

Benjamin Franklin once said, “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail”. This statement will ring especially true for multinational businesses in the coming months as the GDPR comes into force across the European Union (EU).

By uniting 28 different EU member state laws under one data protection law, GDPR is set to harmonise data protection laws throughout the EU, giving greater rights to individuals.

Taking effect as of May 25, 2018, every business will need to alter their existing procedures to ensure the correct mechanisms to comply with GDPR are in place. Failure to comply with the regulation will result in costly penalties of four per cent of global annual turnover or €20 million, whichever value is greater.

Non-compliant businesses could also be faced with bans or suspensions on processing data, in addition to the risk of class actions and criminal sanctions.

GDPR and multinationals
To enforce the regulation, each country will have its own national data protection act (DPA) regulator that will oversee and manage any breaches. Businesses operating in multiple EU countries have frequently asked since the announcement of GDPR, how an authority will be chosen to enforce action if found non-compliant with the regulation, or if an authority from each EU affiliate would take action.

If a business has conducted non-compliant cross-border data processing activities, only one national DPA regulator must act on the complaint. For instances where a business’ data controller operates in multiple EU countries, the DPA regulator that will take action must be located in the same country as the organisation’s main establishment, or where it’s central administration takes place.

Non-EU affiliates of a multinational business will also be impacted by the GDPR, depending on whether the data is accessible from one central system to affiliates across the globe. Companies operating on this scale will need to have a clear understanding of how data flows in the company to ensure that cross-border data transfers are compliant.

This is just one example of how GDPR is introducing formal processes for issues not previously covered by the DPA. Another area that the ruling focusses on is when a data breach occurs.

In 2016, it was revealed that Yahoo had suffered a cyberattack that resulted in three billion users having their account details leaked. What was appalling to the public, however, was that the attack had taken place three years prior to the incident being reported.

Unfortunately, this is not an isolated incident. In 2017, Uber revealed that data of its users had been held to ransom by hackers in 2016, prompting similar backlash to the Yahoo breach.

Under GDPR, companies are required to report a breach within 72 hours of its discovery. This includes notifying the country’s DPA regulator, which in the UK is the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO), and the people it impacts. Businesses should also consider taking additional steps to avoid the detrimental impact cyber breaches can have on its employees and customers.

Preparing to succeed
Identity management is just one example that allows companies to restrict access to certain resources within a system. Identity management can define what users can accomplish on the network depending on varying factors including the person’s location and device type.

With the rise in cloud computing among businesses, extra measures should also be taken to safeguard this data. A survey found that 41 per cent of businesses were using the public cloud for their work, with 38 per cent on a private cloud network. By implementing security measures like encryption software, businesses can prevent unauthorised access to digital information.

Taking these precautionary steps is necessary for businesses with more than 250 employees. This is because a business of this size, following the introduction of GDPR, must detail what information they are collecting and processing. This includes how long the information will be stored for and what technical security measures are in place to safeguard the information.

In addition to identity management and encryption software, businesses can also consider various other security tools for their systems, including anti-ransomware, exploit prevention and access management.

Another notable change for companies that have regular and systematic monitoring of individual data, or process a vast amount of sensitive personal data, is that they will now be required to employ a data protection officer (DPO). Sensitive data refers to genetic data and any personal information such as religious and political views.

GDPR will have a wide-ranging impact on multinational businesses. Although some may be more prepared than others, each business’ status in complying with GDPR is different, with no one solution suiting all. By investing in GDPR compliance specialists like eSpida, businesses can avoid costly fines because of discrepancies with the regulation.

It’s fair to say that the GDPR is the most meaningful change in data privacy law since it was first established over twenty years ago. Despite it currently only being enforced in the EU, many believe this will spark a revolution across the globe for the protection of data for individuals.

Businesses must prioritise updating their current systems to ensure their processing policies are compliant with the GDPR. Depending on the current position of a business, some may need more preparation than others. For example, not every business will be required to employ a DPO, but others may need to reorganise its HR team to help enforce GDPR compliance across a company.

With May just around the corner, businesses who have not already started preparing need to act now to avoid financial punishments and reputation repercussions.

IT security solutions

Security Best Practices

Most IT security professionals would agree that it is no longer a matter of if you get breached, it is a matter of when. And with the media awash with news informing us of businesses or government organisations suffering data breaches and high-profile attacks, security teams are being held accountable for addressing risks – externally as well as internally.

It is now more important than ever that IT departments take a structured approach to their organisations cyber security. While there are some basic network security measures that every IT department is aware of, such as the use of firewalls and antivirus software, there are also other best practices, policies and procedures that some organisations do not yet follow.

The following IT security best practices should all be taken into consideration:

Update of Software and Systems

Cyber criminals are constantly inventing different techniques and finding new vulnerabilities.  The majority of malware does not target new and unknown security vulnerabilities, it seeks out well-known and established exploits that have been fixed in the latest versions of firmware in the hope that organisations do not update.

To keep your network protected and optimised ensure that software and hardware security is up-to-date with the latest patches and firmware.

Backup of Data

Data backups are a basic security measure that has gained increased relevance over the past few years.  With the rise in Ransomware attacks, designed to encrypt all of an organisations data until the decryption key is paid for, a complete and current backup of all data is crucial.

Backed up data must be properly protected and encrypted with backups made frequently so if a backup does need to be utilised, the information is as up-to-date as possible.

Prevent Data Loss. Protect Your Data

A lot of organisations do rely on the trust and honesty of their employees. However, this does not stop data from leaving the organisation in one shape or form.  In truth users with or without knowing it allow data to be breached, leaked or stolen with more and more IT security teams admitting that the top security concern in recent years has been data leaving an endpoint.

It is now more important than ever to control user access, monitor activity and know what is happening with company data.

Monitoring User and Third Party Activity

Users with privileged accounts have an increased level of trust, but at the same time can pose one of the biggest threats to data security.  These users have the tools to pilfer sensitive data from organisations and go unnoticed. When undetected, insider threats can be costly to organisations.

The monitoring of user activity allows IT security teams to detect unauthorised behaviour and verify user actions so they do not violate security policies.

Educate and Train Users

When we talk about cyber security, users are generally considered the weakest link. However, raising user’s awareness around the cyber threats the business faces and educating users on cyber security best practice enables organisations to limit the risk of data breach and loss.

End user training can include topics such as:

  • The ability to identify malicious emails (Spam, Phishing).
  • The importance of creating strong passwords.
  • The risks surrounding the removal of valuable data from the company via various media.

Use Two Factor Authentication

Organisations are being encouraged to apply this security standard to their user accounts as added protection.  It employs an additional device such as a security token or mobile device (for soft tokens) to confirm the identity of the user.

Two factor authentication adds a second layer of security to your network and provides a very reliable procedure for user login activities.

Changing Default Passwords

Many systems now come with a set of default credentials hard coded into the device’s software. These are usually freely available to obtain on the internet and are relatively well known by cyber criminals.

Most malware targeting networks are looking for system that have not had the default credentials changed in order to hijack them.  The only way to ensure that your devices cannot be so easily hijacked and infected is to change all default passwords as soon as possible and ensure that the replacement passwords are complex and unique and are changed on a regular password management cycle.

Handling Passwords Securely

With two factor authentication providing user accounts with extra security, organisations cannot afford for users to view this as an excuse to overlook password handling security policies.

Employees need to be educated to ensure their passwords are long, complex and fully unique.  They must also not share credentials with one another. While they may find this convenient, it is placing the organisation in an unsafe position and at a heightened risk of data breach or leak.

While this seems a lot to implement, once the majority of practices are in place they require very little intervention.  They should be monitored in the background and will only require attention if a security issue arises.

Don’t wait for the worst to happen.  Adopt these security best practices and be prepared for the worst.