Thursday, 8 October 2020

Securing an Agile and Hybrid Workforce

Guest article by Andrea Babbs, UK General Manager, VIPRE

2020 has forced businesses to revise many of their operations. One significant transition being the shift to a remote working model, for which many were unprepared in terms of equipment, infrastructure and security. As the government now urges people to return to work, we’re already seeing a shift towards a hybrid workforce, with many employees splitting their time between the office and working from home.

As organisations are now reassessing their long-term office strategies, front and centre to that shift needs to be their IT security underpinned by a dependable and flexible cloud infrastructure. Andrea Babbs, UK General Manager, VIPRE, discusses what this new way of working means long-term for an organisation’s IT security infrastructure and how businesses can successfully move from remote working to a secure and agile workforce.

Power of the Cloud
In light of the uncertainty that has plagued most organisations, many are looking to options that can future-proof their business and enable as much continuity as possible in the event of another unforeseen event. The migration of physical servers to the Cloud is therefore a priority, not only to facilitate agile working, but to provide businesses with greater flexibility, scalability and more efficient resources. 

COVID-19 accelerated the shift towards Cloud-based services, with more data than ever before now being stored in the Cloud. For those organisations working on Cloud-based applications and drives, the challenges of the daily commute, relocations for jobs and not being able to ‘access the drive’ are in the past for many. Cloud services are moving with the user – every employee can benefit from the same level of security no matter where they are working or which device they are using. However, it’s important to ensure businesses are taking advantage of all the features included in their Cloud subscriptions, and that they’re configured securely for hybrid working. 

Layered Security Defence
Cloud-powered email, web and network security will always underline IT security defences, but these are only the first line of defence. Additional layers of security are also required to help the user understand the threat landscape, both external and internal. Particularly when working remotely with limited access to IT support teams, employees must be ready to question, verify the authenticity and interrogate the risk level of potential phishing emails or malicious links. 

With increased pressure placed on users to perform their roles faster and achieve greater results than ever before, employees will do what it takes to power through and access the information they need in the easiest and quickest way possible. This is where the cloud has an essential role to play in making this happen, not just for convenience and agility but also to allow users to stay secure – enabling secure access to applications for all devices from any location and the detection and deletion of viruses – before they reach the network. 

Email remains the most-used communication tool, even more so when remote working, but it also remains the weakest link in IT security, with 91%of cybercrimes beginning with an email. By implementing innovative tools that prompt employees to double-check emails before they send them, it can help reduce the risk of sharing the wrong information with the wrong individual. 

Additional layers of defence such as email checking tools, are removing the barriers which slow the transition to agile working and are helping to secure our new hybrid workforce, regardless of the location they’re working in, or what their job entails. 

Educating the User
The risk an individual poses to an organisation can often be the main source of vulnerability in a company’s IT infrastructure. When remote working became essential overnight, businesses faced the challenges of malware spreading from personal devices, employees being distracted and exposing incorrect information and an increase in COVID-related cyber-attacks. 

For organisations wanting to evolve into a hybrid work environment, their IT security policies need to reflect the new reality. By re-educating employees about existing products and how to leverage any additional functionality to support their decision making, users can be updated on these cyber risks and understand their responsibilities.

Security awareness training programmes teach users to be alert and more security conscious as part of the overall IT security strategy. In order to fully mitigate IT security risks and for the business to benefit from an educated workforce, both in the short and long term, employees need to change their outdated mindset. 

Changing the Approach
The evolution of IT and security over the past 20 years means that working from home is now easily achievable with cloud-based setups, whereas in the not too distant past, it would have been impossible. But the key to a successful and safe agile workforce is to shift the approach of full reliance on IT, to a mindset where everyone is alert, responsible, empowered and educated with regular training, backed up by tools that reinforce a ‘security first’ approach. 

IT departments cannot be expected to stay one step ahead of cybercriminals and adapt to new threats on their own. They need their colleagues to work mindfully and responsibly on the front lines of cyber defence, comfortable in the knowledge that everything they do is underpinned by a robust and secure IT security infrastructure, but that the final decision to click the link, send the sensitive information or download the file, lies with them. 

Conclusion
As employees prove they can work from home productively, the role of the physical office is no longer necessary. For many companies, it is a sink or swim approach when implementing a hybrid and agile workforce. Introducing and retaining flexibility in operations now will help organisations cope better with any future unprecedented events or crises.

By focusing on getting the basics right and powered by the capabilities of the Cloud, highlighting the importance of layered security and challenging existing mindsets, businesses will be able to shift away from remote workers being the ‘exception,’ to a secure and agile workforce as a whole.

Thursday, 1 October 2020

Cyber Security Roundup for October 2020

A roundup of UK focused Cyber and Information Security News, Blog Posts, Reports and general Threat Intelligence from the previous calendar month, October 2020.

COVID-19 wasn't the only virus seriously disrupting the start of the new UK academic year, with ransomware plaguing a number of University and Colleges in September.  Newcastle University was reportedly hit by the 'DoppelPaymer' crime group, a group known for deploying malware to attack their victims, and behind leaking online documents from Elon Musk's SpaceX and Tesla companies. The northeast university reported a personal data breach to the UK Information Commissioner's Office after its stolen files were posted online, along with a Twitter threat to release further confidential student and staff data if a ransom payment was not paid. In a statement, the university said "it will take several weeks" to address the issues, and that many IT services will not be operating during this period", that statement is the hallmark of recovery from a mass ransomware infection.

Doppelpaymer Ransom notice

On the back of the Newcastle University cyberattack, the UK National Cyber Security Centre (NCSC) issued a warning to all British universities and colleges about a spike in ransomware attacks targeting the British educational sector. NCSC's director of operations Paul Chichester said the agency had seen an increase in the "utterly reprehensible" attacks over the past 18 months and was concerned they would disrupt young people's education.  The NCSC's guidance for organisations on defending against ransomware attacks is available here.

Across the pond, healthcare giant Universal Heather Services (UHS), which operates nearly 400 hospitals and clinics, was said to be severely disrupted by the Ryuk ransomware. According to Bleeping Computer, a UHS employee said encrypted files had the telltale .ryk extension, while another employee described a ransom note fitted the Ryuk ransomware demand note. A Reddit thread claimed “All UHS hospitals nationwide in the US currently have no access to phones, computer systems, internet, or the data center. Ambulances are being rerouted to other hospitals, the information needed to treat patients – health records, lab works, cardiology reports, medications records, etc. – is either temporarily unavailable or received with delay, affecting patient treatment. Four people died tonight alone due to the waiting on results from the lab to see what was going on”. In response, UHS released a statement which said, “We implement extensive IT security protocols and are working diligently with our IT security partners to restore IT operations as quickly as possible. In the meantime, our facilities are using their established back-up processes including offline documentation methods".

'Dark Overlord', the handle of a British hacker involved in the theft of information as part of "The Overlord" hacking group was jailed for five years in the United States and ordered to pay $1.5 million in restitution, after pleading guilty to conspiring to commit aggravated identity theft and computer fraud, in other words, orchestrating cyber exportation attacks against US firms.


ZeroLogon:  IT Support Staff must Patch Now!
A critical Microsoft Windows Server Domain Controller vulnerability (CVE-2020-1472) is now causing concern for IT staff, after the Microsoft, CISA, the UK NCSC, and other security bodies warned the vulnerability was being actively exploited in mid-September. Dubbed 'Zerologon', Microsoft issued a security fix for the bug, which scored a maximum criticality rate of 10.0, as part of their August 2020 'Patch Tuesday' release of monthly security updates. Since that public disclosure of the flaw, there have been multiple proofs-of-concept (PoC) exploits appearing on the internet, which threat actors are now adapting into their cyberattacks. There are no mitigation or workarounds for this vulnerability, so it is essential for the CVE-2020-1472 security update is installed on all Microsoft Windows Domain Controllers, and then ensure DC enforcement mode is enabled. 

Stay safe and secure.

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