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5 Cyber Security Trends from 2020 and What We Can Look Forward to Next Year

Today’s cybersecurity landscape is changing a faster rate than we’ve ever experienced before. Hackers are inventing new ways to attack businesses and cybersecurity experts are relentlessly trying to find new ways to protect them. Cost businesses approximately $45 billion, cyber-attacks can be disastrous for businesses, causing adverse financial and non-financial effects. Cyber-attacks can also result in loss of sensitive data, never-ending lawsuits, and a smeared reputation. 

 

With cyber-attack rates on the rise, companies need to up their defenses. Businesses should take the time to brush up on cybersecurity trends for the upcoming year, as this information could help them prepare and avoid becoming another victim of a malicious attack. Given the importance of cyber security in the current world, we’ve gathered a list of the top trends seen in cybersecurity this year and what you can expect in 2021.

INCREASE IN SPENDING

 

It’s no secret that cybersecurity spending is on the rise. It has to be in order to keep up with rapidly changing technology landscape we live in. For example, in 2019 alone, the global cyber security spending was estimated to be around $103 billion, a 9.4% increase from 2018. This year the US government spent $17.4 billion on cybersecurity, a 5% increase from 2019. Even more alarming is the fact that cybercrime is projected to exceed $6 trillion annually by 2021 up from $3 trillion in 2015. The most significant factor driving this increase is the improved efficiency of cybercriminals. The dark web has become a booming black market where criminals can launch complex cyberattacks.  With lower barriers to entry and massive financial payoffs, we can expect cybercrime to grow well into the future.

 

Learn more about how Microsoft is teaming up with US National Security to defeat threatening malware bot.

COMPANIES CONTINUE TO LEARN

 

Demand for cybersecurity experts continued to surpass the supply in 2020. We don’t see this changing anytime soon either. Amidst this trend, security experts contend with considerably more threats than ever before. Currently, more than 4 million professionals in the cybersecurity field are being tasked with closing the skills gap. Since the cybersecurity learning curve won’t be slowing anytime soon, companies must come to grips with strategies that help stop the shortage of talent. Options include cross-training existing IT staff, recruiting professionals from other areas, or even setting the job qualifications at appropriate levels in order to attract more candidates. 

 

Most organizations are starting to realize that cybersecurity intelligence is a critical piece to growth Understanding the behavior of their attackers and their tendencies can help in anticipating and reacting quickly after an attack happens. A significant problem that also exists is the volume of data available from multiple sources. Add to this the fact that security and planning technologies typically do not mix well. In the future, expect continued emphasis on developing the next generation of cyber security professionals.

THE INFLUENCE OF MACHINE INTELLIGENCE DEVELOPS

 

Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning (ML) are progressively becoming necessary for cybersecurity. Integrating AI with cybersecurity solutions can have positive outcomes, such as improving threat and malicious activity detection and supporting fast responses to cyber-attacks. The market for AI in cybersecurity is growing at a drastic pace. In 2019, the demand for AI in cybersecurity surpassed $8.8 billion, with the market is projected to grow to 38.2 billion by 2026. 

 

Find out how the US military is integrating AI and ML into keeping our country safe.

MORE SMALL BUSINESSES INVEST IN CYBER PROTECTION

 

When we think of a cyber-attack occurring, we tend to envision a multibillion-dollar conglomerate that easily has the funds to pay the ransom for data retrieval and boost its security the next time around. Surprisingly, 43% of cyber-attacks happen to small businesses, costing them an average of $200,000. Sadly, when small businesses fall victim to these attacks, 60% of them go out of business within six months.

 

Hackers go after small businesses because they know that they have poor or even no preventative measures in place. A large number of small businesses even think that they’re too small to be victims of cyber-attacks. Tech savvy small businesses are increasingly taking a preventative approach to cybersecurity. Understanding that like big organizations, they are targets for cybercrimes, and therefore adapting effective cybersecurity strategies. As a result, a number of small businesses are planning on increasing their spending on cybersecurity and investing in information security training.

 

We have the ultimate cure to the ransomware epidemic plaguing small business.

CYBER-ATTACKS INCREASE ON CRITICAL INFRASTRUCTURES

 

Utility companies and government agencies are extremely critical the economy because they offer support to millions of people across the nation. Critical infrastructure includes public transportation systems, power grids, and large-scale constructions. These government entities store massive amounts of personal data about their citizens. such as health records, residency, and even bank details. If this personal data is not well protected, it could fall in the wrong hands resulting in breaches that could be disastrous. This is also what makes them an excellent target for a cyber-attack. 

 

Unfortunately, the trend is anticipated to continue into 2021 and beyond because most public organizations are not adequately prepared to handle an attack. While governments may be ill prepared for cyber-attacks, hackers are busy preparing for them. 

 

Curious About the Future of all Internet Connected Devices? Read Our Blog here

WHAT CAN WE LOOK FORWARD TO IN 2021?

Going forward into a new year, it’s obvious that many elements are coming together to increase cyber risk for businesses. Industry and economic growth continue to push organizations to rapid digital transformation, accelerating the use of technologies and increasing exposure to many inherent security issues. The combination of fewer cyber security experts and an increase of cyber-crime are trends that will continue for some time to come. Businesses that investment in technologies, security, and cybersecurity talent can greatly reduce their risk of a cyber-attack and  increase the likelihood that cybercriminals will look elsewhere to manipulate a less prepared target.

4G on the Moon – NASA awards Nokia $14 Million

Cellular Service That’s Out of This World

As soon as 2024, we may be seeing humans revisit the moon. Except this time, we should be able to communicate with them in real time from a cellular device. Down here on Earth, the competition between telecom providers is as intense as ever. However, Nokia may have just taken one giant leap over its competitors, with the announcement of expanding into a new market, winning a $14.1 million contract from Nasa to put a 4G network on the moon.

Why put a communications network on the moon?

Now, you may be wondering, “why would we need a telecommunications network on the mood?” According to Nokia Labs researchers, installing a 4G network on the surface of Earth’s natural satellite will help show whether it’s possible to have human habitation on the moon. By adopting a super-compact, low-power, space-hardened, wireless 4G network, it will greatly increase the US space agency’s plan to establish a long-term human presence on the moon by 2030. Astronauts will begin carrying out detailed experiments and explorations which the agency hopes will help it develop its first human mission to Mars.

Nokia’s 4G LTE network, the predecessor to 5G, will deliver key communication capabilities for many different data transmission applications, including vital command and control functions, remote control of lunar rovers, real-time navigation and streaming of high definition video. These communication applications are all vital to long-term human presence on the lunar surface. The network is perfectly capable of supplying wireless connectivity for any activity that space travelers may need to carry out, enabling voice and video communications capabilities, telemetry and biometric data exchange, and deployment and control of robotic and sensor payloads.

Learn more about “radiation-hardened” IT equipment used by NASA in our blog.

How can Nokia pull this off?

When it comes to space travel and moon landings in the past, you always hear about how so much can go wrong. Look at Apollo 13 for instance. Granted, technology has vastly improved in the past half century, but it still seems like a large feat to install a network on the moon. The network Nokia plans to implement will be designed for the moon’s distinctive climate, with the ability to withstand extreme temperatures, radiation, and even vibrations created by rocket landings and launches. The moon’s 4G network will also use much smaller cells than those on Earth, having a smaller range and require less power.

Nokia is partnering with Intuitive Machines for this mission to integrate the network into their lunar lander and deliver it to the lunar surface. The network will self-configure upon deployment and establish the first LTE communications system on the Moon. Nokia’s network equipment will be installed remotely on the moon’s surface using a lunar hopper built by Intuitive Machines in late 2022.

According to Nokia, the lunar network involves an LTE Base Station with integrated Evolved Packet Core (EPC) functionalities, LTE User Equipment, RF antennas and high-reliability operations and maintenance (O&M) control software. The same LTE technologies that have met the world’s mobile data and voice demands for the last decade are fully capable of providing mission critical and state-of-the-art connectivity and communications capabilities for the future of space exploration. Nokia plans to supply commercial LTE products and provide technology to expand the commercialization of LTE, and to pursue space applications of LTE’s successor technology, 5G.

Why did Nokia win the contract to put a network on the moon?

An industry leader in end-to-end communication technologies for service provider and enterprise customers all over the world, Nokia develops and provides networks for airports, factories, industrial, first-responders, and the harshest mining operations on Earth. Their series of networks have far proven themselves reliable for automation, data collection and dependable communications. By installing its technologies in the most extreme environment known to man, Nokia will corroborate the solution’s performance and technology readiness, enhancing it for future space missions and human inhabiting.

Introducing the Apple M1 Chip

Over 35 years ago in 1984, Apple transformed personal technology with the introduction of the Macintosh personal computer. Today, Apple is a world leader in innovation with phones, tablets, computers, watches and even TV. Now it seems Apple has dived headfirst into another technological innovation that may change computing as we know it. Introducing the Apple M1 chip. Recently, Apple announced the most powerful chip it has ever created, and the first chip designed specifically for its Mac product line. Boasting industry-leading performance, powerful features, and incredible efficiency, the M1 chip is optimized for Mac systems in which small size and power efficiency are critically important.

The First System on a Chip

If you haven’t heard of this before, you’re not alone. System on a chip (SoC) is fairly new. Traditionally, Macs and PCs have used numerous chips for the CPU, I/O, security, and more. However, SoC combines all of these technologies into a single chip, resulting in greater performance and power efficiency. M1 is the first personal computer chip built using cutting-edge 5-nanometer process technology and is packed with an eyebrow raising 16 billion transistors. M1 also features a unified memory architecture that brings together high-bandwidth and low-latency memory into a custom package. This allows all of the technologies in the SoC to access the same data without copying it between multiple pools of memory, further improving performance and efficiency.

M1 Offers the World’s Best CPU Performance

Apple’s M1 chip includes an 8-core CPU consisting of four high-performance cores and four high-efficiency cores. They are the world’s fastest CPU cores in low-power silicon, giving photographers the ability to edit high-resolution photos with rapid speed and developers to build apps almost 3x faster than before. The four high-efficiency cores provide exceptional performance at a tenth of the power. Single handedly, these four cores can deliver a similar output as the current-generation, dual-core MacBook Air, but at much lower power. They are the most efficient way to run lightweight, everyday tasks like checking email and surfing the web, simultaneously maintaining battery life better than ever. When all eight of the cores work together, they can deliver the world’s best CPU performance per watt.

Wondering how to sell your inventory of used CPUs and processors? Let us help.

The World’s Sharpest Unified Graphics

M1 incorporates Apple’s most advanced GPU, benefiting from years of evaluating Mac applications, from ordinary apps to demanding workloads. The M1 is truly in a league of its own with industry-leading performance and incredible efficiency. Highlighting up to eight powerful cores, the GPU can easily handle very demanding tasks, from effortless playback of multiple 4K video streams to building intricate 3D scenes. Having 2.6 teraflops of throughput, M1 has the world’s fastest integrated graphics in a personal computer.

Bringing the Apple Neural Engine to the Mac

Significantly increasing the speed of machine learning (ML) tasks, the M1 chip brings the Apple Neural Engine to the Mac. Featuring Apple’s most advanced 16-core architecture capable of 11 trillion operations per second, the Neural Engine in M1 enables up to 15x faster machine learning performance. With ML accelerators in the CPU and a powerful GPU, the M1 chip is intended to excel at machine learning. Common tasks like video analysis, voice recognition, and image processing will have a level of performance never seen before on the Mac.

Upgrading your inventory of Macs or laptops? We buy those too.

M1 is Loaded with Innovative Technologies

The M1 chip is packed with several powerful custom technologies:

  • Apple’s most recent image signal processor (ISP) for higher quality video with better noise reduction, greater dynamic range, and improved auto white balance.
  • The modern Secure Enclave for best-in-class security.
  • A high-performance storage controller with AES encryption hardware for quicker and more secure SSD performance.
  • Low-power, highly efficient media encode and decode engines for great performance and prolonged battery life.
  • An Apple-designed Thunderbolt controller with support for USB 4, transfer speeds up to 40Gbps, and compatibility with more peripherals than ever.

The Best Way to Prepare for a Data Center Take Out and Decommissioning

Whether your organization plans on relocating, upgrading, or migrating to cloud, data center take outs and decommissioning is no easy feat. There are countless ways that something could go wrong if attempting such a daunting task on your own. Partnering with an IT equipment specialist that knows the ins and outs of data center infrastructure is the best way to go. Since 1965, our highly experienced team of equipment experts, project managers, IT asset professionals, and support staff have handled numerous successful data center projects in every major US market. From a single server rack to a warehouse sized data center consisting of thousands of IT assets, we can handle your data center needs. We have the technical and logistical capabilities for data center take outs and decommissions. We deal with IT assets of multiple sizes, ranging from a single rack to a data center with thousands of racks and other equipment. Regardless of the requirements you’re facing, we can design a complete end-to-end solution to fit your specific needs.

 

Learn more about the data center services we offer

 

But that’s enough about us. We wrote this article to help YOU. We put together a step by step guide on how to prepare your data center to be removed completely or simply retire the assets it holds. Like always, we are here to help every step of the way.

Make a Plan

Create a list of goals you wish to achieve with your take out or decommissioning project.  Make an outline of expected outcomes or milestones with expected times of completion. These will keep you on task and make sure you’re staying on course. Appoint a project manager to oversee the project from start to finish. Most importantly, ensure backup systems are working correctly so there is not a loss of data along the way.

 

Make a List

Be sure to make an itemized list of all hardware and software equipment that will be involved with the decommissioning project or data center take out. Make sure nothing is disregarded and check twice with a physical review. Once all of the equipment in your data center is itemized, build a complete inventory of assets including hardware items such as servers, racks, networking gear, firewalls, storage, routers, switches, and even HVAC equipment. Collect all software licenses and virtualization hardware involved and keep all software licenses associated with servers and networking equipment. 

 

Partner with an ITAD Vendor

Partnering with an experienced IT Asset Disposition (ITAD) vendor can save you a tremendous amount of time and stress. An ITAD vendor can help with the implementation plan listing roles, responsibilities, and activities to be performed within the project. Along with the previous steps mentioned above, they can assist in preparing tracking numbers for each asset earmarked for decommissioning, and cancel maintenance contracts for equipment needing to be retired. 

Learn more about our ITAD process

 

Get the Required Tools

Before you purchase or rent any tools or heavy machinery, it is best to make a list of the tools, materials, and labor hours you will need to complete this massive undertaking. Some examples of tools and materials that might be necessary include forklifts, hoists, device shredders, degaussers, pallets, packing foam, hand tools, labels, boxes, and crates. Calculate the number of man hours needed to get the job done. Try to be as specific as possible about what the job requires at each stage. If outside resources are needed, make sure to perform the necessary background and security checks ahead of time. After all, it is your data at stake here.

 

Always Think Data Security

When the time comes to start the data center decommissioning or take out project, review your equipment checklist, and verify al of your data has been backed up, before powering down and disconnecting any equipment. Be sure to tag and map cables for easier set up and transporting, record serial numbers, and tag all hardware assets. For any equipment that will be transported off-site, data erasure may be necessary if it will not be used anymore. When transporting data offsite, make sure a logistics plan is in place. A certified and experienced ITAD partner will most likely offer certificates of data destruction and chain of custody during the entire process. They may also advise you in erasing, degaussing, shredding, or preparing for recycling each piece of equipment as itemized.

Learn more about the importance of data security

 

Post Takeout and Decommission

Once the data center take out and decommission project is complete, the packing can start. Make sure you have a dedicated space for packing assets. If any equipment is allocated for reuse within the company, follow the appropriate handoff procedure. For assets intended for refurbishing or recycling, pack and label for the intended recipients. If not using an ITAD vendor, be sure to use IT asset management software to track all stages of the process.

US Cyber Command & Microsoft launch attack on TrickBot Malware

With one of the biggest, most impactful elections in United States history just hours away, there is growing concern over voter fraud, rigged election results, and involvement from third parties influencing the results. Sadly, one of these has become reality as the Trickbot malware botnet was caught. Recently, an alliance of major tech companies organized an effort to take down the backend infrastructure of the TrickBot.

Companies fighting the good war against this bot include Microsoft’s Defender team, FS-ISAC, ESET, Lumen’s Black Lotus Labs, NTT, and Broadcom’s cyber-security division Symantec. Even the U.S. government cyber security teams got in on the takedown. Prior to the attempted takedown the companies launched investigations into TrickBot’s backend infrastructure of servers and malware modules. 

 

Over a period of months, the team of tech corporations collected more than 125,000 TrickBot malware samples, analyzed the content, and extracted mapping information about the malware’s inner workings, including all the servers the botnet used to control infected computers. With evident to back their claims, Microsoft went to court asking for legal rights to counterattack and for control over TrickBot servers. 

 

Read Microsoft’s legal documents  

 

However, even with some of the most advanced tech giants in the world firing a counterattack against the malware bot, it still hasn’t gone away. The TrickBot botnet has survived a takedown attempt. TrickBot command and control servers and domains have been taken and substituted with a new infrastructure. The Trickbot takedown has been described as temporary and limited but gives its current victims time to breathe until a more permanent solution can be implemented. 

 

Even from the early planning phases, the tech companies anticipated TrickBot making a revival, and actually planned ahead for it. But why not kill it off all at once instead of just taking it out slowly. This multi-phased method to dismantling TrickBot is a result of the botnet’s complex infrastructure, much of which runs on bulletproof hosting systems, which are unresponsive or slow to react to takedown attempts.

Microsoft’s Victory in Court

Unbeknownst to many, the attempted take down of TrickBot played another role, one that could have ramifications long down the road. The court case that paved the way for the takedown also helped Microsoft set a new legal standard. In court, the tech giant argued that TrickBot’s malware abused Windows code for malicious purposes, against the terms of service of the standard Windows software development kit, on which all Windows apps are used.

Microsoft successfully argued that TrickBot was infringing on Microsoft’s copyright of its own code by copying and using its SDKs for unethical purposes.

Some have applauded Microsoft for this strategic legal maneuver. In the past, Microsoft had to present evidence to prove that the malware was causing financial damages to victims, which resulted in the long and laborious task of identifying and contacting victims. The new legal tactic Microsoft used in court focused on the misuse of its Windows SDK code. This method was easier to prove and argue, giving Microsoft’s legal team a more agile approach to going after malware groups. I wouldn’t be surprised to see Microsoft or other tech companies use the same approach in the future. 

Microsoft and Cyber Command Working to Save the US Election 

Microsoft was largely concerned that the masterminds behind Trickbot would use the botnet to upset the US election through ransomware. Attackers could lock down systems keeping voter rolls or reporting on election night results. When Microsoft began their investigations into the malware bot, it wasn’t expected to coincide with the US government’s own investigation. United States Cyber Command, the relative of the National Security Agency, had already started hacking TrickBot’s command and control servers around the world back in September. Microsoft only discovered this effort while launching its own.

In both investigations, the anti-TrickBot plans were meant to disrupt any possible Russian attacks during the next few critical days. However, it’s still not clear whether Russia intended to use Trickbot for a malware campaign, but this takes the option away before the vote on November 3rd.

The collaborative efforts of both Microsoft and government agency fast-tracked cyberconflict resolutions in the final days before the elections. Cyber Command, following a model it created in the 2018 midterm elections, kicked off a series of covert pre-emptive strikes on the Russian-speaking hackers it believes could interrupt the casting, counting and certifying of ballots on election day.

Trickbot and Malware as a Service (MaaS) 

So now that we’ve gotten to the bottom of how the malware botnet was discovered and potentially thwarted enough to find by time to find a permanent solution, we can dive deeper into how the Trickbot operates. 

The dual anti-threat efforts weren’t only dedicated to taking down TrickBot servers, which they knew would only be temporary, but also adding extra costs to TrickBot authors and delaying current malware operations. Additionally, security researchers also aimed to damage TrickBot’s reputation in cybercrime circles.

TrickBot is currently ranked as one of the Top 3 most successful Malware-as-a-Service (MaaS) operations in the cybercrime industry. The innovative bot uses email spam campaigns to infect computers, downloads its malware, and then steals data from infected hosts that it later resells for profit. Even more impressive is Trickbot’s ability to rent access to infected computers to other criminal groups, which makes a substantial amount of its revenues. The customers that rent this unauthorized access include infostealer trojans, BEC fraud groups, ransomware operators, and nation-state hacking groups.

A network bot like Trickbot that has potential to be disrupted risks revealing the operations of customers, most of which would prefer not to be exposed to law enforcement tracking. If Trickbot can be disrupted it would prove unreliable businesswise, especially for regular customers who are paying substantial fees to have access to infected systems at specific times.

Emotet, a Trickbot Malware, is kept alive in server spots like this one.

NCSAM WEEK 4 ; The Future of Internet Connected Devices

A decade ago, the average household would not be able to answer their front door from miles away via a smartphone, or order dinner by simply speaking to a small box. These things may have been customary in Hollywood spy films, but now they can be found in nearly every home across America. These internet connected devices are what is known as the Internet of Things.

 

The internet world is flourishing. It’s not just about computers, laptops, tablets, and smartphones anymore. There are now thousands of devices that are internet-connected. The list of devices has grown to washing machines, robotic vacuum cleaners, door locks, toys, and toasters. Because all of these devices are connected to one another through the internet, we must be more aware of these devices and their settings to protect our data and our privacy.

New Internet-connected devices provide a never before seen level of convenience in our lives, but they also require that we share more information than ever. The cars we drive, appliances we use to cook, our watches we use to tell time, the lighting in our homes, and even our home security systems, all contain sensing devices that can talk to another machine and trigger other actions. We have devices that direct that control the amount of energy we use in our homes and the energy in our bodies by tracking eating, sleeping, and exercise habits.

The security of the information users share with these devices is not always guaranteed. Once the device itself connects to the Internet, it is vulnerable to all sorts of risks. It is important than ever that we secure our devices, with more entering our homes and workplaces each day.

Upgrading your organizations network devices is easier than ever with DTC

Future Predictions about Internet Connected Devices

 

There will be more than to 21 billion IoT devices by 2025.

In 2016, there were more than 4.7 billion devices connected to the internet, and by 2021 it is expected to increase to nearly 11.6 billion devices.

There will be more “smart” cities.

Household consumers aren’t the only ones that use the power of internet connected devices. Cities and companies are also adopting smart technologies to save both time and money. Cities are able to automate, remotely manage, and collect data through things like visitor kiosks, video camera surveillance systems, bike rental stations, and taxis.

See how some cities are using AI to help crisis management

Artificial intelligence (AI) will keep growing

Smart home hubs, thermostats, lighting systems, and even TVs collect data on your habits and patterns of usage. When users set up voice-controlled devices, the allow them to record what is said and store the recordings in the cloud. The data is collected in the creation of what is known as machine learning. Machine learning is a type of artificial intelligence that helps computers “learn” without someone having to program them. 

Network routers become more secure and smarter

Most internet connected devices exist in the home and don’t have security software installed, leaving them vulnerable to attacks. As manufacturers rush to get their products to market in a rapid manner, security becomes an afterthought. 

The router is the entry point of the internet and gate keeper into your home, giving it the ability to provide protection to all of the connected devices. A conventional router provides some security, like password protection, firewalls, and the ability to allow only certain devices on your network. In the future, router manufacturers will continue to find new ways to increase security.

5G Networks Will Drive IoT Growth

Wireless carriers will continue to implement 5G (fifth generation) networks, promising increased speed and the ability connect more smart devices at the same time. Faster network speeds translate into increased data collected by your smart devices to be analyzed and managed, driving innovation and growth. 

Cars Will Continue to Get Smarter

The emergence of 5G will impact the auto industry like never before. The development of driverless cars and internet connected vehicles will advance from data moving faster. New cars will increasingly analyze your data and connect with other IoT devices, including other high-tech vehicles on the road.

5G Connected Devices Will Open the Door to New Security Concerns

Eventually, 5G internet connected devices will connect directly to the 5G network than via a Wi-Fi router, making those devices more vulnerable to direct attack. Devices will be more difficult for in-home users to secure when they bypass a central router.

 

For more information on CyberSecurity & how to be #CyberSmart, visit the CISA website today:

Click Here: https://www.cisa.gov/national-cyber-security-awareness-month

Securing Internet-Connected Devices in Healthcare

Now more than ever, the healthcare industry is depending on internet-connected devices to improve patient care, organizational productivity, response time, and patient confidentiality. With the recent COVID-19 outbreak, the development of telemedicine and patient portal apps has come to the forefront in the industry. Along with digital health records and internet-connected medical devices, the healthcare industry has also never been more vulnerable to a cyber-attack.

As the global epidemic spread across the nation, doctors, dentists, and other medical professionals such as therapists were forced to rely on online visits with their patients. The increase in virtual appointments also brings new concerns of patient confidentiality. Patients want to know how safe is the information shared during these online visits. Are cybercriminals able to steal their personal information? Unfortunate, the answer is yes. The healthcare industry is vulnerable just as is any other industry. However, there are steps healthcare providers can take to protect patient privacy during virtual visits.

Read more about how we help the healthcare industry with their IT needs.

What are the privacy risks associated with internet connected healthcare?

With virtual visits becoming more common place, cyber criminals are licking their chops. Hackers look to take advantage of these opportunities by stealing the private medical and billing information of patients. Cybercriminals could try intercepting emails or video chats with information about preexisting conditions or personal problems you may be having. Once the information is obtained, they could potentially sell it on the dark web, use it for blackmail, or sell it to drug manufacturers who overload customers with advertisements.

Healthcare records are particularly valuable on black markets due to the information they contain can be used to steal your identity. The information they hold might consist of your birth date, Social Security number, medical conditions, height, weight, home address, and even a picture of you. Hackers can use this information to take out credit cards or loans in your name. 

Providers may give their patients the option of ending their virtual visit by receiving health records through email or the medical provider’s online portal. Hackers may be able to steal the contents of your email messages or track the keystrokes you use to log onto your medical provider’s online portal. Just as medical providers are required to protect user information, so are all business entities. 

Learn more about how we can help your business stay compliant.

5 Ways to Secure Your Healthcare Connected Devices

  1. Control everything that connects into your network.  Managing network segmentation can help with risk mitigation and controlling a breach if one does occur. Network visibility is critical. And, in so many cases, the network acts as your key security mechanism to stop the spread of an attack. Network intelligence, scanners, and security solutions can all help reduce the risk of an attack or breach. 
  2. Create security based on context and layers. Your security platform must work for you and question devices coming in to really understand where they’re coming from. When it comes to IoT and connected devices, contextual security can help isolate IoT solutions to their own network. Set up policies to monitor anomalous behavior and even traffic patterns. Set up additional filters for extra security; like shutting the network segment down if there’s a sudden rise in traffic. 
  3. Centralize and segment connected devices. If you’re going to work with IoT and connected devices, create a separate network, monitor those devices properly, and set monitors to make sure you can manage all these connected tools and use IoT aggregation hubs that help further the control of devices. 
  4. Align users and the business when it comes to more connected devices in healthcare. Ensure there is complete alignment between business and IT leadership units. This is the best way to gain the most value out of these devices and ensure you don’t fall into an IoT device hole.
  5. Always test your systems and maintain visibility.  Never lose sight of your devices and build a good monitoring platform. The more things that connect into the network the harder it will be to monitor them all.

A plan for guarding against ransomware in the healthcare industry

So, what can hospitals, medical centers, dentists, and other healthcare providers do to guard against the threat of cyber-attack?  Here is a simple five-point plan that will go a long way to helping healthcare professionals secure their defenses.

Stay up to date

Make sure that servers and PCs are up to date with the latest operating systems and antivirus solutions.

 

Retire unused IT assets

Consider if older machines, which are beyond updates or support, could be replaced or retired. The cost of doing so, and inconvenience of replacing older equipment will probably be less than the impact of a data breach.

 

Sell Your Retired IT Assets for Cash

 

Educate employees

Make sure everyone in the organization is familiar with ransomware methods and can recognize attempts to gain password credentials or circulate harmful links and attachments. Hospitals employ so many different and diverse professionals, covering a multitude of functions, that there needs to be a culture of vigilance across the entire organization.

 

Be prepared for an attack

Use different credentials for accessing backup storage and maybe even a mixture of file systems to isolate different parts of your infrastructure to slow the spread of ransomware. Healthcare organizations that follow the “1-10-60” rule of cybersecurity will be better placed to neutralize the threat of a hostile adversary before it can leave its initial entry point. The most cyber-prepared healthcare agencies should aim to detect an intrusion in under a minute, perform a full investigation in under 10 minutes, and eradicate the adversary from the environment in under an hour.

 

Create an Airgap

Three copies of your data, on at least two different media, with one stored offsite (e.g. cloud or tape) and one stored offline (e.g. tape). Having your data behind a physical air gap creates perhaps the most formidable barrier against ransomware. Tape can greatly speed up your recovery in the hours and days that follow an attack, especially if your primary backups have been disrupted. Tape is also supremely efficient for storing huge amounts of infrequently accessed medical records for a very long time. Tapes can also be encrypted so that even if they did fall into the wrong hands, it would be impossible for thieves to access or use the data.

 

Learn more about how to create an Airgap

NCSAM Week 2 ; Securing Devices at Home and Work

Securing Devices at Home and Work

 

According to a 2018 study by CNBC, there were over 70% of employees around the world working remotely at least one day per week. With the recent COVID-19 pandemic, many organizations have had to make full-time remote work an option just to stay in business. As full-time remote workers are progressively more common, there still aren’t many resources that focus on the cybersecurity risk created by working remotely.

With the latest surge in working from home (WFH) employees, businesses are forced to rely on business continuity planning. This means that organizations must find ways to protect their customer’s sensitive data simultaneously granting workplace flexibility. Provided the current conditions we are all facing and in celebration of Cyber Security Awareness Month (CSAM), we thought we should share a few tips to help your business increase its cybersecurity.

Security tips for the home, office and working from a home office

Secure your working area

The first and easiest piece of security advice would be to physically secure your workspace. Working remotely should be treated the same as working in the office, o you need to lock up when you leave. There have been way too many instances when laptops with sensitive data on them have been stolen from living rooms, home offices, and even in public settings such as coffee shops. Never leave your devices unattended and lock doors when you leave.

See why laptop and home office security is so important. 

Secure your router

Cybercriminals take advantage of default passwords on home routers because it is not often changed, leaving any home network vulnerable. Change the router’s password from the default to something unique. You can also make sure firmware updates are installed so known vulnerabilities aren’t exploitable. 

Use separate devices for work and personal

It’s important to set separate restrictions between your work devices and home devices. At first it may seem like an unnecessary burden to constantly switch between devices throughout the day, but you never know if one has been compromised. Doing the same for your mobile devices, can decrease the amount of sensitive data exposed if your personal device or work device has been attacked.

Encrypt the device you are using

Encryption is the process of encoding information so only authorized parties can access it. If your organization hasn’t already encrypted its devices, it should. Encrypting the devices prevents strangers from accessing the contents of your device without the password, PIN, or biometrics. 

Below is a way to encrypt devices with the following operating systems:

  • Windows: Turn on BitLocker.
  • macOS: Turn on FileVault.
  • Linux: Use dm-crypt or similar.
  • Android: Enabled by default since Android 6.
  • iOS: Enabled by default since iOS 8.

Check that your operating system is supported and up to date.

Usually, operating system developers only support the last few major versions, as supporting all versions is costly and the majority of users upgrade when told to do so. Unsupported operating systems no longer receive security patches, making your device and sensitive data at risk. If your device does not support the latest operating system, it may be time to look into updating the device.

Here’s how to check if your operating system is still supported:

  • Windows: Check the Windows lifecycle fact sheet
  • macOS: Apple has no official policy for macOS. That said, Apple consistently supports the last three versions of macOS. So assuming Apple releases a new version of macOS each year, each release of macOS should be supported for roughly three years.
  • Linux: Most active distributions are well supported.
  • Android: Security updates target the current and last two major versions, but you may need to check that your manufacturer/carrier is sending the security patches to your device. 
  • iOS: Like macOS, Apple has no official policy for iOS but security updates generally target the most recent major version and the three prior. 

Read more about Android security here

Create a strong PIN/password only YOU know

Everything mentioned prior to this won’t matter if you don’t use a strong password. A common tip for creating a strong password is to avoid using repeating numbers (000000), sequences (123456), or common passwords such as the word password itself.

More tips on creating a strong password include:

  • Avoid using anything that is related to you
  • Avoid using your date of birth
  • Avoid using your license plate
  • Avoid using your home address
  • Avoid using any family members or pets’ names.

 

 A good pin/password should appear arbitrary to everyone except you. Consider investing in a password manager. A good password manager can help you create strong passwords and remember them, as well as share them with family members, employees, or friends securely. 

Learn more about how to create a strong password

 Install antivirus software

An antivirus software is a program that detects or recognizes a harmful computer virus and works on removing it from the computer system. Antivirus software operates as a preventive system so that it not only removes a virus but also counteracts any potential virus from infecting the device in the future.

Authorize two-factor authentication

Two-factor authentication is an authentication method where access is granted only after successfully presenting two pieces of evidence to an authentication mechanism.  This method has been proven to reduce the risk of successful phishing emails and malware infections. Even if the cybercriminal is able to get your password, they are unable to login because they do not have the second piece of evidence.

The first and most common evidence is a password. The second takes many forms but is typically a one-time code or push notification. There are several applications that can be used for two factor authentication such as Google Authenticator. 

Erase data from any devices you plan to sell

This should be the number one rule on any cybersecurity list. It is only a matter of time until your devices are obsolete, and it is time to upgrade. The one thing you don’t want is to have a data leak because you failed to properly erase the data from your device before selling or disposing of it. Returning the device to factory setting may not always be enough, as some hackers know how to retrieve the data that has been “erased”. Before doing anything, always remember to back up your data to multiple devices before clicking that “delete” button. 

Consult with your operating system to see how to properly reset your device to factory settings. If you are certain you do not want the data on your device to be accessed ever again, we can help with that. Here is a list of data destruction services we provide:

Security tips for employers handling a remote workforce

Train employees on cybersecurity awareness

As cybercriminals are always looking for new ways to bypass security controls to gain access to sensitive information, cybersecurity isn’t something that can just be taught once. It must be a continual learning and retention. Here are a few things that a business can teach their staff in order to help thwart a cyberattack:

  • Avoid malicious email attachments and other email-based scams
  • Identify domain hijacking
  • Use operations security on their social media accounts and public profiles 
  • Only install software if they need to 
  • Avoid installing browser plugins that come from unknown or unidentified developers

Use a virtual private network (VPN)

A virtual private network (VPN) extends a private network across a public network, enabling you to send and receive data across shared or public networks as if you are directly connected to the private network. They do this by establishing a secure and encrypted connection to the network over the internet and routing your traffic through that. This keeps you secure on public hotspots and allows for remote access to secure computing assets. 

Microsoft’s Project Natick: The Underwater Data Center of the Future

When you think of underwater, deep-sea adventures, what is something that comes to mind? Colorful plants, odd looking sea creatures, and maybe even a shipwreck or two; but what about a data center? Moving forward, under-water datacenters may become the norm, and not so much an anomaly. Back in 2018, Microsoft sunk an entire data center to the bottom of the Scottish sea, plummeting 864 servers and 27.6 petabytes of storage. After two years of sitting 117 feet deep in the ocean, Microsoft’s Project Natick as it’s known, has been brought to the surface and deemed a success.

What is Project Natick?

 

Microsoft’s Project Natick was thought up back in 2015 when the idea of submerged servers could have a significant impact on lowering energy usage. When the original hypothesis came to light, Microsoft it immersed a data center off the coast of California for several months as a proof of concept to see if the computers would even endure the underwater journey. Ultimately, the experiment was envisioned to show that portable, flexible data center placements in coastal areas around the world could prove to scale up data center needs while keeping energy and operation costs low. Doing this would allow companies to utilize smaller data centers closer to where customers need them, instead of routing everything to centralized hubs. Next, the company will look into the possibilities of increasing the size and performance of these data centers by connecting more than one together to merge their resources.

What We Learned from Microsoft’s Undersea Experiment

After two years of being submerged, the results of the experiment not only showed that using offshore underwater data centers appears to work well in regards to overall performance, but also discovered that the servers contained within the data center proved to be up to eight times more reliable than their above ground equivalents. The team of researchers plan to further examine this phenomenon and exactly what was responsible for this greater reliability rate. For now, steady temperatures, no oxygen corrosion, and a lack of humans bumping into the computers is thought to be the reason. Hopefully, this same outcome can be transposed to land-based server farms for increased performance and efficiency across the board.

Additional developments consisted of being able to operate with more power efficiency, especially in regions where the grid on land is not considered reliable enough for sustained operation. It also will take lessons on renewability from the project’s successful deployment, with Natick relying on wind, solar, and experimental tidal technologies. As for future underwater servers, Microsoft acknowledged that the project is still in the infant stages. However, if it were to build a data center with the same capabilities as a standard Microsoft Azure it would require multiple vessels.

Do your data centers need servicing?

The Benefits of Submersible Data Centers

 

The benefits of using a natural cooling agent instead of energy to cool a data center is an obvious positive outcome from the experiment. When Microsoft hauled its underwater data center up from the bottom of the North Sea and conducted some analysis, researchers also found the servers were eight time more reliable than those on land.

The shipping container sized pod that was recently pulled from 117 feet below the North Sea off Scotland’s Orkney Islands was deployed in June 2018. Throughout the last two years, researchers observed the performance of 864 standard Microsoft data center servers installed on 12 racks inside the pod. During the experiment they also learned more about the economics of modular undersea data centers, which have the ability to be quickly set up offshore nearby population centers and need less resources for efficient operations and cooling. 

Natick researchers assume that the servers benefited from the pod’s nitrogen atmosphere, being less corrosive than oxygen. The non-existence of human interaction to disrupt components also likely added to increased reliability.

The North Sea-based project also exhibited the possibility of leveraging green technologies for data center operations. The data center was connected to the local electric grid, which is 100% supplied by wind, solar and experimental energy technologies. In the future, Microsoft plans to explore eliminating the grid connection altogether by co-locating a data center with an ocean-based green power system, such as offshore wind or tidal turbines.

Celebrating National Cyber Security Awareness Month

Celebrating National Cyber Security Awareness Month

 

Every October since 2004, National Cyber Security Awareness Month (NCSAM) is observed in the United States. Started by the National Cyber Security Division within the Department of Homeland Security and the nonprofit National Cyber Security Alliance, the NCSAM aims to spread awareness about the importance of cybersecurity. The National Cyber Security Alliance launched NCSAM as a large effort to improve online safety and security. Since 2009, the month has included an overall theme, for 2020 we celebrate “Do Your Part, #BeCyberSmart”. Weekly themes throughout the month were introduced in 2011. This year, our weekly themes will be as follows:

  • Week of October 5 (Week 1): If You Connect It, Protect It
  • Week of October 12 (Week 2): Securing Devices at Home and Work
  • Week of October 19 (Week 3): Securing Internet-Connected Devices in Healthcare
  • Week of October 26 (Week 4): The Future of Connected Devices

If You Connect IT. Protect IT.

 

October 1, 2020, marked the 17th annual National Cybersecurity Awareness Month (NCSAM), reminding everyone of the role we all play in online safety and security at home and in the workplace. Brought forth by both the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) and the National Cyber Security Alliance (NCSA), NCSAM is a joint effort between government and industry to make sure every American has the resources they need to stay safe and secure online. 

To kick off National Cyber Security Awareness Month, here are some tips to stay say online:

Enable multi-factor authentication (MFA). This ensures that the only person who has access to your account is you. Use MFA for email, banking, social media and any other service that requires logging in.

Use the longest password allowed. Get creative and customize your standard password for different sites, which can prevent cybercriminals from gaining access to these accounts and protect you in the event of a breach. Use password managers to generate and remember different, complex passphrase for each of your accounts.

Protect what you connect. Whether it’s your computer, smartphone, game device or other network devices, the best defense against viruses and malware is to update to the latest security software, web browser and operating systems. 

Limit what information you post on social media.  Cyber criminals look for everything, from personal addresses to your pet’s names. What many people don’t realize is that these seemingly random details are all cybercriminals need to know to target you, your loved ones, and your physical belongings. Keep Social Security numbers, account numbers and passphrases private, as well as specific information about yourself, such as your full name, address, birthday and even vacation plans. Disable location services that allow anyone to see where you are.

Stay protected on public networks. Before you connect to any public Wi-Fi be sure to confirm the name of the network and exact login procedures with appropriate staff to ensure that the network is legitimate. Your personal hotspot is a safer alternative to free Wi-Fi. Also, only use sites that begin with “https://” when shopping or banking online.

Introducing CISA, the Federal Governments Protection Against Cyber-Attacks

 

On November 16, 2018, the United States Congress formed the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA) to detect threats, quickly communicate the information and aid in defense of the nation’s critical infrastructure. The new federal agency was created through the Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency Act of 2018, which was signed into law by President Donald Trump. That legislature made the National Protection and Programs Directorate (NPPD) of the Department of Homeland Security’s (DHS) the new Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency, reassigning all resources and responsibilities within. Before the bill was passed, the NPPD handled all of DHS’s cybersecurity-related affairs.

 

Why the CISA was Formed

In April 2015, IT workers at the United States Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the agency that manages the government’s civilian workforce, discovered that some of its personnel files had been hacked. Sensitive personal data on 22 million current and former federal employees was stolen by suspected Chinese hackers. Among the sensitive data that was stolen, were millions of SF-86 forms, which contain extremely personal information collected in background checks for people requesting government security clearances, along with records of millions of people’s fingerprints. 

In the wake of the massive data breach, it became even more evident that the Department of Homeland Security was not effectively positioned to respond to the growing threat of cyber-attacks, both foreign and domestic.  As more foreign invasions into U.S. IT infrastructure and other forms of cybersecurity attacks increased, industry experts demanded the creation of a new agency that would be more aligned to handle the issue of cyber security.

DHS’s cybersecurity strategy, made public in May 2018, offered a strategic framework to carry out the government’s cybersecurity responsibilities during the following five years. The strategy highlighted a unified approach to managing risk and lending greater authority to the creation of a separate cybersecurity agency. Besides the need for a new approach to the nation’s cybersecurity threats, CISA was created to solve what security professionals and government officials frequently referred to as a “branding” problem DHS faced with NPPD. CISA would be a clear and focused federal agency.

Learn more about the 2015 OPM Attack

What Does CISA Do?

 

In a nutshell, CISA is in charge of protecting the nation’s critical infrastructure from physical and cyber-attacks. The agency’s mission is to build the national capacity to defend against cyber-attacks and to work with the federal government to provide cybersecurity tools, incident response services and assessment capabilities to safeguard the .gov networks that support the essential operations of partner departments and agencies. Below is a list of other responsibilities the CISA has undertaken as a newly formed federal agency:

  • Coordinate security and resilience efforts using trusted partnerships across the private and public sector
  • Deliver technical assistance and assessments to federal stakeholders as well as to infrastructure owners and operators nationwide
  • Enhance public safety interoperable communications at all levels of government 
  • Help partners across the country develop their emergency communications capabilities
  • Conducts extensive, nationwide outreach to support and promote the ability of emergency response providers and relevant government officials to continue to communicate in the event of a natural disaster, act of terrorism, or other man-made disaster

Visit the CISA official government page

Who Leads the CISA?

 

The CISA is made up of two core operations that are vital to the agency’s success. First, is the National Cybersecurity and Communications Integration Center (NCCIC), which delivers 24×7 cyber-situational awareness, analysis, incident response and cyber-defense capabilities to the federal government. The NCCIC operates on state, local, tribal, and territorial government levels; within the private sector; and with international partners. The second is the National Risk Management Center (NRMC), which is a planning, analysis and collaboration center working to identify and address the most significant risks to the nation’s critical infrastructure.

The CISA is led by a team of eight highly respected and experienced team of individuals.

  • Director, Cybersecurity, and Infrastructure Security Agency (CISA), Christopher C. Krebs 
  • Deputy Director, Matthew Travis 
  • Assistant Director for Cybersecurity, Bryan Ware 
  • Assistant Director (Acting) for Infrastructure Security, Steve Harris
  • Assistant Director, National Risk Management Center, Bob Kolasky 
  • Assistant Director (Acting) for Emergency Communications, Vincent DeLaurentis 
  • Assistant Director for Integrated Operations, John Felker
  • Assistant Director (Acting) for Stakeholder Engagement, Bradford Willke

You can learn more about the CISA leadership team and their structure here.

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