Eight Negative Impacts of Technology

Negative Impacts of TechnologyAs a company that specializes in providing digital solutions for organizations of many shapes and sizes, we often witness the excitement generated by the access to new technology. But we also see the negative impacts of technology, especially with kids. As financial company Credit Donkey warns, “In a world of instant gratification and continual distractions, technology has the ability to make users easily distracted, impatient and continually bored. Technology can also make users forget important information, communicate in shorthand, and be incapable of deep thinking.” But of the many negative impacts of technology, we believe these are the eight most important.

1. Depression and Other Mental Health Issues

A University of Michigan study found that Facebook use led to a decrease in happiness and overall life satisfaction. The cause of depression may be exaggerated expectations triggered by online reality, and unrealistic social comparisons. Says Saju Mathew, M.D., a Piedmont primary care physician, “When we get on social media, we are looking for affirmation, and consciously or not, we are comparing our life to the lives of others,” he says. “As a result, we may not enjoy what’s in the moment.”

Also, research from the University of Gothenburg in Sweden found a link between heavy cell phone use in young adults and depressive symptoms. This is what some call “Chronic Smartphone Stress,” which is caused by constant anticipation of a message, email or other notifications, and the depression that might follow from the lack of them.

2. Lack of Sleep

Most adults sleep with their cell phones nearby, and so do their children. In fact, four out of five teens sleep with their cell phones in their room, and nearly a third of them sleep with the phones on their beds. Unfortunately, as The Washington Post reports, “The blue light emitted by the screens of mobile devices has been associated with poor sleep, researchers say, but mobile devices also can cause emotional stimulation—through violent games or engaging forms of social media—that also can impair sleep or simply delay the moment when people fall asleep.” A lack of sleep impacts your health and personality.

3. ADHD

As any school administrator can tell you, there has been a tremendous rise in ADHD over the last 15 years. In fact, there has been a 43% increase in ADHD or ADD diagnoses between 2003 and 2016 according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). While the exact connection between technology and ADHD is incomplete, a study published in the Journal of American Medical Association reports teens who frequently use modern digital media platforms, such as social media, also show an increased risk of ADHD. And a study done at Duke University found that, at-risk adolescents experienced more conduct problems and higher ADHD symptoms on days they used technology frequently.

4. Obesity

The increased obesity in children has been well documented. According to the CDC, 18.5% of America’s youth is now considered “obese,” compared to just 5% a few decades earlier. One cause of obesity is a lack of physical activity, and children who overuse electronic devices are less physically active. While play time has been shown to improve mood and increase self-esteem, sedentary activities (such as Internet use) not only lead to decreased physical activity, but have been linked to feelings of social isolation and depression.

5. Learning Barriers

As Credit Donkey reports, “Studies show that students, and people in general, are less apt to remember information because they know they can find it within seconds online. The study also shows that students are more likely to remember where to get the information rather than remembering the information itself.”

Additionally, a survey by antivirus company McAfee found that 21% of students admitted to using their internet devices to cheat, such as by texting a friend, looking up answers or even sending pictures of their exams to others. The same survey reports that 47% of those students reported knowing someone who used a device to cheat.

While the Internet can be a great source of learning, these reports remind us that they can also be a barrier to it, and one of the negative impacts of technology.

6. Decreased Communication and Intimacy

According to a Pew Research study, 25% of married couples admit to texting each other while home at the same time. Also, 25% of couples have felt their spouse or partner was distracted by their cell phone when they were together—and that number jumps to 43% for younger adults (18 to 29-year-olds). While the study reports that 74% of adult Internet users say the Internet had a positive impact on their marriage or partnership, 20% said the Internet impact was mostly negative.

7. Cyberbullying

You may already know that cyberbullying is the use of the Internet, cell phones, video game systems or other technology to send or post messages intended to hurt or embarrass someone else. A 2007 Pew Research study found 32% of teens were victims of cyberbullying. Nearly a decade later, a 2016 study by the Cyberbullying Research Center found those numbers were nearly identical. The National Crime Prevention Council puts that number even higher, at 43%. The NCPC also reports:

  • Nearly 20 percent of teens had a cyberbully pretend to be someone else in order to trick them online or get them to reveal personal information
  • Seventeen percent of teens were victimized by someone lying about them online
  • Thirteen percent of teens learned that a cyberbully was pretending to be them while communicating with someone else

Yet only 11% of teens speak with their parents about incidents of cyberbullying.

8. Loss of Privacy

With a few clicks, anyone can discover someone’s Facebook page and collect contact information, pictures and much more. The information can then be used for hacking and viruses. Anyone with email knows that hackers are constantly scheming to get people to reveal credit card information, social security numbers and so on.

Stopping the Negative Impacts of Technology

Many of those negative impacts of technology can be avoided with better and more open communication along with increased cyber education. This not only provides a greater awareness of one’s own actions, but helps users recognize the actions of others. As a leading provider of Internet security services, as well as cloud services and other technology solutions, we see the good and bad of technology every day. Technology can be a wonderful thing, bringing people closer together, delivering a nearly unlimited access to knowledge, promoting freedom of expression and providing countless conveniences from shopping to learning. And while the pitfalls are also numerous, so are the resources available to combat them.

If you have any questions about the negative impacts of technology, please reach out to us at Single Path. As experts on cybersecurity, we are always eager to share our knowledge and advice, just as we are always delighted to discuss the many services we provide for schools and businesses.

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The Top 9 Cyber Security Myths and the Top 9 Cyber Security Truths

You might think your business is too small for a cyberattack, your security is too strong or your data is too insignificant. Unfortunately, we have some bad news: no organization is safe from the continually growing threat of a cyberattack regardless of size, industry or best efforts. Here are the top nine cyber security myths, and the harsh realities behind them.

  1. Cyber Security Myth: Only big organizations are at risk of a cyberattack.
    Reality: Half of all data breach victims are SMBs.

According to the 2018 Verizon Data Breach Investigations Report, 58% of data breach victims are small businesses. That’s because SMBs are often seen as more vulnerable than bigger businesses and as having fewer security protocols in place. A recent study by the Poneman Institute, The 2018 State of Cyber Security in Small and Medium Size Businesses, revealed that 70% of small businesses have experienced a cyberattack in the last 12 months. According to the report, only 28% of small businesses rate their ability to mitigate threats, vulnerabilities and attacks as “highly effective.”

  1. Cyber Security Myth: Hackers aren’t interested in my industry.
    Reality: Any organization with sensitive information is vulnerable.

Malware and viruses don’t discriminate; any machine or network can pick up a Trojan Horse or face a ransomware scheme. While financial services and healthcare are among those industries hit by the most cyberattacks, wide nets are cast and can land anywhere. Across the world, ransomware attacks are up 350% and IoT attacks are up 600%. If your business has a network or a computer, it’s at risk.

  1. Cyber Security Myth: I’m only at risk from outside cyberthreats.
    Realty: Insider threats are frequent and often harder to detect.

From rogue employees to careless ones, from third-party contractors to business partners, research suggests insider threats account for up to 75% of all security breaches. According to a recent article from Security Magazine, 32% of companies can’t even determine the root source of a data breach after 12 months–so that 75% could be even higher.

  1. Cyber Security Myth: Cyber security is the IT department’s responsibility.
    Reality: Cyber security is the responsibility of every member of your team.

According to some reports, more than 90% of malware is installed over email. If your employees aren’t trained on cyber security best practices, such as how to identify phishing emails and the risk of clicking on unsafe links, they could be leaving your organization in peril. Some email hacking ploys are quite sophisticated, and employees are not always on guard. Regular cyber security awareness training is critical.

  1. Cyber Security Myth: You’ll know immediately if your network is infected.
    Reality: Modern malware is stealthy and hard to detect.

It takes an average of 191 days for a business to detect a data breach, and then another 66 days to fully contain it. The longer a breach occurs, the more files may be compromised, the more data can be stolen (and perhaps sold on the black market) and the more likely your organization is to suffer irreparable harm.

  1. Cyber Security Myth: My anti-virus and anti-malware software keeps me safe.
    Reality: Software can’t protect against everything.

In 2016, the cybersecurity company McAfee says it found four new strains of malware every second. Who knows how many they never detect? There is no way updates can keep up with the evolution of cyberthreats. Making matters worse, many businesses don’t immediately install security patches, either due to ignorance of difficulty. As reported by online security site CSO, “People aren’t too dumb or lazy to install patches. They want to do the right thing. But patching can be difficult for a multitude of reasons, and those roadblocks explain why patching is performed so poorly in most organizations.”

  1. Cyber Security Myth: My passwords are strong enough.
    Reality: You need two-factor authentication.

When multiple employees have access to the same system, that system is only as strong as the weakest password. But even a strong password isn’t without risk: an employee can be duped into sharing a password via a phishing scheme, or re-use a password that is compromised somewhere else. Two-factor authentication can reduce much of this risk.

  1. Cyber Security Myth: Our organization has never faced a cyberthreat, so we’re safe.
    Reality: That’s what everyone says right before they go out of business.

Are you familiar with the Identity Theft Resource Center (ITRC) breach list? Every month this list is updated with newly reported business data breaches, most of which never make the front page. You won’t have to look long to find an organization like yours, whether it’s a business your size, in your industry, in your state, or all of those. This list also details how the breach occurred and what was affected. It can be eye opening for many small businesses, especially with 60% of small businesses folding within six months of a cyberattack.

  1. Cyber Security Myth: Complete cyber security is achievable.
    Reality: No, never. Which is why you need a partner like Single Path.

In 2017, a cyberattack cost small-to-medium sized businesses an average of $2,235,000 per attack. Keeping your business safe from cyberthreats is a critical job; it can also be a full-time one. That’s why you need a partner like Single Path. We have helped thousands of organizations like yours protect themselves. From employee training to managed cloud services, from hardware procurement to our full slate of security solutions, we can implement the protocols you need to have a safer, more cybersecure organization. Because the biggest cyber security myth of them all is that your organization is safe.

Ask us how to get started now.

How to Perform a Cyber Security Risk Assessment in Five Steps

How safe is your organization from cyberthreats? The best way to answer that question is by performing a thorough cyber security risk assessment. A cyber security risk assessment—the process of identifying, analyzing and evaluating risk­s—is the only way to know which cybersecurity controls you need, and how to prioritize them. Without such an assessment you could waste time, money and resources on events which might have minimal impact, and be ill-prepared for events that might have significant ones.

These Are the Steps You Need to Perform Your Own Cyber Security Risk Assessment:

  1. Review Your Resources

Before you can assess risk, you should review all the resources you need to protect.  Don’t just audit the resources you think might be at risk. Assess everything that connects to your network. Hackers will.

For example, did you know smart watches can be hacked to steal ATM PIN numbers and passwords, merely based on your hand movements? Or that someone can take control of a presenter’s screen and screen controls by hacking into video conferencing technology? In your cyber security review include IoT devices, unused desktops, and everything you use on a daily basis including telephones (landline and smart phones), applications and routers. A cybersecurity risk assessment will identify not only hardware but customer data and software.

  1. Identify Threats

Threat identification should include anything that can damage your infrastructure, cost you money from lost revenue, threaten intellectual secrets or infringe customer (or employee, or student or family) privacy. While a professional will be able to identify those threats more thoroughly than you can yourself, you can still perform a cursory review of them. For example, malware and viruses are obvious network risks.

The hardest part, and why a professional cyber security risk assessment is important, is identifying those lesser known risks, such as from your printer or voice mail. A professional will check to see if firmware updates have been made, as well as the status of your firewall and antivirus software.

Don’t forget to consider threat assessment from an internal standpoint as well. As

Jorge Rey, chief information security officer for accounting firm Kaufman Rossin recently said, “I think small businesses [are] worried about threats that [aren’t] even affecting them. They’re all freaking out about hackers, but they’re not even looking at their own employees and their access to systems and … data.”

  1. Rate Risks

Not every risk listed in your cyber security risk assessment is a high priority, and determining the risks, and impact of those risks, will help you determine where to focus your security attention and dollars. You should rate each risk on a scale of low to high. This will help you prioritize your initial and longer term efforts. For example, you could rate your risks according to this scale:

  • High – Substantial, possible crippling and unrecoverable impact
  • Medium – Damaging, but recoverable or inconvenient
  • Low – Impact is minimal and easily worked around

An example of a high-risk resource would be your perimeter routers. A router with outdated firmware could let hackers run rampant. Conversely, a low risk resource might be data or documents that do not have sensitive information, or that is publicly available.

  1. Analyze Protection

You likely have basic protocols in place, but how much protection do they really provide, and where are you the weakest? Hiring a professional (like Single Path) may be critical in completely understanding how well you are protected from each possible threat. DDoS security, adequate cyber security monitoring services, and employee training are basic proactive protection measures you should be taking (and which we have written about many times before on this site).

  1. Calculate Risk

Calculating risk will also help you determine what areas to prioritize, and what threats need immediate financial support in order to implement. Two questions to ask are: What is the chance of each incident occurring, and what amount of risk, if any, am I willing to accept? Your type of organization, such as whether you are a business or school, or a public or private entity, will no doubt greatly influence that decision.

When determining the likelihood of each event, you will need to list every breach point and possible point of origin for an attack, both external and internal. Depending on network complexity, this could involve dozens of breach/source pairings.

Single Path Can Help

Creating a cyber security risk assessment is not an undertaking that can be finished in an afternoon. It takes careful analysis, and quite a bit of experience. After you finish your initial steps, and have a basic grasp of your potential risks and vulnerabilities, you will want an outside expert to fill the gaps and take an unbiased, knowing look. At Single Path, we’re well-versed at doing exactly this. Single Path can help identify trouble spots, give advice on how to prevent problems, and also provide guidance if problems do happen. Our impressive menu of security solutions will go a long way to protect your valuable assets, and your organization from risk. A cyber security risk assessment is a critical step in protecting your organization. Ask us how to get started.

What You Don’t Know Can Hurt You: The Perils of Inadequate Cyber Security Asset Management.

cyber security asset managementWe’re often surprised at how frequently companies fail to adequately track their IT resources. But while tracking the life cycle of your IT devices is important to assure you maximize their value, it is also a critical safety issue. BYOD devices, mobile devices and third party cloud service providers only enhance the need for effective cyber security asset management.

A Wake Up Call

A recent, much read and passed around blog post from cybersecurity expert Daniel Miessler detailed many of the issues regarding lax cyber security asset management. Miessler wrote: “Asset management is arguably the most important component of a security program, but I know of virtually zero companies that have a single person dedicated to it.” He goes on to point out that, “Companies pay hundreds of thousands a year to keep snacks in the break rooms. They pay to send people to training and conferences that usually have very few tangible benefits … But pay 100K a year to have a list of what we’re actually defending? Nope.”

The Life Cycle of IT Assets

An IT asset life cycle refers to the stages that an information technology asset goes through during its time of ownership. Determining the current life cycle stage for each IT asset is a necessity for effective cyber security asset management and may look like this:

  1. Procurement. It should be a matter of course that, whenever an asset is purchased, it is recorded in your organization’s asset management system, and your IT devices and software should be no exception. Information should include model numbers, serial numbers, name of manufacturer and the department the equipment was purchased for.
  2. Distribution of assets. Recording to whom the assets are distributed, or redistributed, is the next necessary step to take for cyber security asset management. Many organizations lose track of who has what devices, and this can only get more muddled as employees leave, shift departments and so on. You’ll also want to tightly control what devices run which software assets; employees who have access to programs they won’t use or don’t need may only needlessly impair security.
  3. Maintenance and Upgrade. Software and hardware updates often have security patches (see our earlier post about the importance of patching). Each update or patch should be recorded, and verified. An organization should also record the last time a device was scanned or antivirus software run, or antivirus schedules.

Be thorough. In 2014, JP Morgan Chase overlooked one of their network servers when providing a security update. Hackers were able use this exposed server to steal data from roughly 83 million customers.

Maintaining devices also means making sure employees aren’t uploading or using unauthorized or unmanaged software. This software may be benign, or it could be an entry point for a hacker to invade

  1. A list of log-in users for each device. Even if a device is assigned to one specific employee, a device may be shared or passed around. Keeping a list of every user for each device can help protect them, especially when a staff member leaves, as a reminder their log in should be deleted.
  2. Disposal/Retirement. When a piece of equipment has run its course, don’t forget to verify that all the information on it has been wiped clean, so that company data is not vulnerable to hackers. You also may want to cancel or transfer licenses.

Keep in mind that cyber security asset management cannot be a one-time only chore; it’s success hinges on its continuity. You have to know when each asset changes hands, becomes outdated, needs updating and so on.

As cybersecurity company Compuquip says, “IT asset management is a lot of work—which may explain why so many companies fall behind on this critical task. But, the importance of asset management for your company’s IT components cannot be overstated.”

Let’s Get Started With Your Cyber Security Asset Management

Our recent blog post on cyber security monitoring stressed the importance of being proactive in keeping your organization safe form cyber threats. Cyber security asset management is a critical component of proactive security, and can be the difference between rebounding quickly after a cyberattack and not recovering at all. Understanding the importance of an active cyber security asset management system is a first and proactive step, but you also need to put that understanding into action. Single Path can help. We offer a wide selection of security offerings including infrastructure patch management, 24/7/365 network monitoring services, proactive desktop and server security and more.

Let us help get your asset management program started. Contact us for more information.

The Benefits of Proactive Cyber Security Monitoring

cyber security monitoring A business team can take a wait-and-see reactive approach to cyber security, delaying action until it is a victim. Or, it can play a proactive role in anticipating the risks, finding the weaknesses, and putting the processes in place that may prevent or soften a cyber crime from even happening. Cyber security monitoring is one such proactive move that can pay back an initial investment many times over.

Cyber security monitoring involves the collecting and analyzing of information to detect suspicious or unauthorized behavior or changes on a network, triggering alerts, and often taking automatic, precautionary actions. Think of it as a high quality security alarm. You can leave your doors unlocked and check every now and then to see if anything has been stolen and, if so, notify the insurance company. That’s reactive. Or, you can set an alarm and not only will you know when a break-in occurs, but the system can notify the police, lock doors, and stop the break-in its tracks.

Now, or never?

Even the most secure system can be broken into, and even the most experienced IT professional can leak a password. But with proactive cyber security monitoring you can find and respond swiftly to these mistakes, and threats. In contrast, a reactive cyber security policy leaves you vulnerable, and recovery can be slow. According to the Ponemon Institute, it takes an average of 191 days for a business to detect a hack. The consequences of being hacked for days, weeks or months before noticing it may be substantial, with data continuously compromised or leaked, used and shared across a broad network of cyber criminals. The immediate and long-term ramifications of such a delay is likely to far eclipse any cyber security monitoring investment. Just a few months ago for example, Marriott International announced their network had been hacked since 2014, and wasn’t discovered until September, 2018. Information from 500 million customers was compromised.

As one security industry company writes, “You need to assume that your business will be breached at some point and have appropriate monitoring controls and procedures in place to mitigate the risks.”

Cyber Security Monitoring Basics

Cyber security monitoring utilizes a variety of mechanisms to continuously keep tabs on network traffic, and then send out alerts or take action at the right moment. As international cyberthreat intelligence provider Blueliv reports, there are typically four stages to the lifecycle of a breach:

  1. Attempting to get the information, like passwords and network credentials (via phishing or other schemes)
  2. Collecting the information (from people falling for the schemes)
  3. Validating the information (to make sure the information works, often though an automated bot)
  4. Monetizing the information (selling it to a third party, using it to steal data, and so on).

With the right threat intelligence, however, an IT security team can step in and stop the lifecycle midstream. With cyber security monitoring, action can be taken while attackers are still attempting to validate the information, or before they’ve finished fully collecting it.

Proactive Help

From hackers to disgruntled employees, to outdated devices to third-party service providers, companies are routinely exposed to security threats, often from unexpected sources. Quick response time is essential, and automated, continuous cyber security monitoring is the key to fast threat detection and response.

At Single Path our proactive monitoring services have saved our clients countless times, not only from outside threats, but from a whole host of unexpected issues. For example, our proactive cyber security monitoring for the Chicago White Sox revealed signs of imminent failure within their Contact Center Server. We were able to apply a patch to the server before it failed, preventing any disruption to customer service. At Single Path, our 24/7 proactive cyber security monitoring and problem-solving are part of what make us an outstanding partner in the continual battle against cyber security breaches or issues, and is just one of our many IT as a Service offerings.

Contact us to find out more.

6 Ways to Improve Employee Cyber Security Awareness, for Businesses and Schools

According to Accenture’s Cost of Cyber Crime Study, the average cost of cyber crime in the United States reached $21.22 million per organization last year (compared to $17.26 million the year before). But you can’t depend solely on your IT department for your cyber security. After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link. Improving cyber safety means increasing employee cyber security awareness throughout your entire business or school.

Here are the 6 top ways you can get your employees on board to increase engagement and improve employee cyber security awareness.

  1. Education

Do your employees or staff know:

  • Working remotely using an unsecure Wi-Fi connection leaves computers vulnerable to attacks?
  • Using personal, unsecured devices for work can open the door to compromising an organization’s network?
  • What employees say and do on social media can be tracked by cybercriminals and used against them in the workplace?

Chances are, some if not all of those points may surprise some people on your team. Most experts agree that the #1 key to cyber security compliance at a business or school is educating staff on the risks. For example, in addition to the above bullet points, does everyone on your team know how to spot a Phishing email (see our earlier blog post, How to Spot a Phishing Email), or the risks of using a thumb drive (see our post, USB Security Risks: When Flash Drives Become Dangerous)? An educated team, with increased employee cyber security awareness, makes for a more secure organization.

  1. Assign Mandatory Training

Recently we came across an article in Forbes Magazine that recommended, “Employees and management from all industries should be assigned mandatory cyber security compliance training every year.” This requirement can be administered with computer-based training modules and tied into annual reviews. When implementing training you’ll want to ensure executive and management support, a way to measure success, and also consider incentivizing participation (for more information, check out our earlier blog post, We’re Only Human: The Importance of Security Awareness Training.)

You may want to work with an outside partner to implement training, such as Single Path. We’re well versed in educating and training staff in the most up-to-date cyber security best practices.

  1. Establish and Promote Simple Procedures

More often than not, employees are happy to follow procedures as long as they are aware of them, and they are easy understand. Create organization-wide procedures for your team to follow. Make sure they are functional, actionable and simple.

Once you have those procedures in place, figure out the best way to communicate them within the organization. Keep communication friendly, and avoid hard-to-understand cyberspeak. Says Ashwin Ramasamy, co-founder of marketing intelligence company PipeCandy, “We use comic book-like imagery and sci-fi and comic language in posters across the office that reinforces the message without being suffocating.” Choose a method of communication that will resonate with your team.

  1. Encourage Reporting of Incidents

The best-trained employees can still fall for a hacking ploy from time to time, such as opening a file or clicking a link without thinking. Even IT professionals fall for these tricks. But if a user feels foolish for falling for an attack, and are embarrassed, he or she is less likely to report it. Create a reporting system that rewards staff for reporting suspicious messages, and that allows them to share mistakes without penalty or stigma.

  1. Have Employees Manage Initiatives

Rather than protocols created only by management, make cyber security policy an employee-managed initiative. Create a committee with representatives from every department, and make it their responsibility to set procedure, communicate policy and enforce compliance. Department participation, where everyone feels included, helps ensure individual buy-in.

  1. Make Awareness a Part of New-Employee Orientation

Employees expect to learn rules and processes when they start a new job, and making cyber security a part of their new-employee orientation stresses its importance, and immediately lays the groundwork for your expectations. An employee handbook is also a great place to publish protocols and procedures.

Your Employee Cyber Security Awareness Partner

To implement an employee cyber security awareness program it helps to have a proven partner. Single Path has helped countless businesses, schools and other organizations create a robust, living program that connects employees and staff to best practices. We can help you create a functional and effective cyber-threat strategy for your school or business. Single Path Security offerings are extensive, collaborative and modern.

Ask us how to get started!

Five Top Cyber Security Threats for 2019

Cyber security concerns have been around for as long as there has been cyber-anything. The first computer virus was found infecting computers in the early 1970’s and the first malware author was convicted in 1988. Those early infections were primitive compared to today’s hacking threats, which continue to grow more complex and sophisticated. While it’s vital to be prepared against any contingency, no matter how remote, we consider these to be the top cyber security threats for 2019.

Cryptojacking Rising

Ransomware has grown by 350% according to a report by Dimension Data, and accounts for 7% of all malware. It has been reported that ransomware costs American businesses north of 75 billion dollars a year, with most attacks never publicly disclosed. The biggest increase in ransomware is expected to take the form of Cryptojacking, also known as “Cryptomining malware.” We discussed the problem of Cryptojacking in a recent blog post, in which we described how hackers can hijack computer processing power to mine cryptocurrency. We expect these cyber security threats for 2019 to continue to grow.

Software Subversion Expanding

As Security magazine reports, “While exploitation of software flaws is a longstanding tactic used in cyber attacks, efforts to actively subvert software development processes are also increasing.” In other words, the software you download may be infected, giving hackers a back channel into an entire network. Malware has even been detected in open source software libraries. Another variant is this: hackers may offer software that is spelled slightly different than a popular application (such as adding an “s” or leaving out a letter), with the only other difference being the inclusion of malware. So be careful what you download, even if it’s from a seemingly trusted source.

Cybercriminals Uniting

One of the top cyber security threats for 2019 is due to the expanding resources available to cybercriminals. Historically, many cybercriminals have worked alone, or in small groups. That’s starting to change. The proliferation of hacker forums and chat groups have launched a robust black market where cybercriminals buy and exchange malware, botnets and other criminal resources. The availability of these rogue offerings means that even inexperienced, or less able, hackers can launch sophisticated attacks. These “malware-as-a-service” opportunities will only continue to grow, which will result in an increased number of cyberattacks, especially in regards to identity and credit card theft. If you think the threats are numerous now–and they are–an aggressive and nearly overwhelming wave of attacks may be on the horizon.

Synergistic Threats Increasing

GandCrab has been in the news frequently. Discovered in January, GandCrab is a ransomware Trojan horse, encrypting files on a computer and then demanding payment to decrypt them. Just recently, the group behind GandCrab has targeted users visiting adult websites, asking for money to keep silent about their potentially embarrassing visits. This, however, is just a ruse to mask their real intent. When a user clicks on the email link, he or she inadvertently installs the GandCrab ransomware onto his or her computer.

GandCrab has grown to be so large, they are actually soliciting cybercriminals to partner with them. As McAfee reported, “At the end of September, the GandCrab crew started a ‘crypt competition’ on a popular underground forum to find a new crypter service they could partner with.” This will let the GandCrab organization expand its criminal activities in new, unforeseen, ways.

In 2019, many experts, including Security magazine, predicts attackers will continue to combine tactics to create multi-faced, or synergistic, threats. To combat them, organizations will also need to synergize their defenses.

Social Media Misinformation Mounting

The proliferation of Russian-originated Facebook pages influencing the 2016 U.S. presidential elections has been well documented by news sources across the world. So it shouldn’t be a surprise that cybercriminals are eyeing social media as offering rich opportunities for criminal enterprise, with posts and pages displaying an impressive degree of professional-looking design for dishonest purposes. Botnet operators are able to test messaging just like a marketer, including the use of hashtags, to determine the success rates of their misinformation.

Social media platforms are aware of the potential abuse, and are focusing their resources on stopping it, but with so many users, and so much data available on sites, criminals will further focus their resources on these big-scale platforms.

Protect your business from the Cyber Security Threats for 2019

These five cyber security threats for 2019 are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more threats out there, many of which we may not even be able to imagine yet. The only thing an organization can do is to be prepared with smart, sophisticated technological resources and by adhering to best Internet safety practices. Consider Single Path your partner in anti-crime. Single Path Security Offerings run the gamut from employee training to insider threat solutions. We’ll help you be prepared for the cyber security threats for 2019 and also those still to come.

Ask us how to get started!

Six Steps to Creating an Effective Business Continuity Plan

You take all the recommended cybersecurity precautions. You back up. Your staff is trained on processes. You have firewalls in place, passwords that are hard to decipher, and the most recent security patches in place. Yet, you still worry. You’re not alone. According to a recent survey, businesses ranked cyberattacks as their #1 threat, with data breach a close second. But if you are victimized by a cybersecurity incident, what do you do now? If you have a business continuity plan in place, the answer to that question is easy: follow the business continuity plan.

A business continuity plan is not the same as a disaster recovery plan, although they have a lot of similarities. As CIO magazine explains, a BC plan is about “maintaining business functions or quickly resuming them in the event of a major disruption,” while DR “focuses mainly on restoring an IT infrastructure and operations after a crisis.” In other words, DR is specific to IT, while a business continuity plan is concerned with the continuity of the entire organization (we discussed the six things you needed to include in your disaster recovery plan in an earlier article).

When you create your business continuity plan, make sure you take into account these six criteria:

  1. Conduct a business impact analysis

As Ready.gov reports, your business continuity plan should start with a complete analysis of the consequences of a business disruption and can include:

  • Lost sales and income, or delayed sales or income
  • Increased expenses (e.g., overtime labor, outsourcing, expediting costs, etc.)
  • Regulatory fines
  • Contractual penalties or loss of contractual bonuses
  • Customer dissatisfaction or defection
  • Delay of new business plans

Your Business Impact Analysis should also detail various risk scenarios and prioritize the order of events for restoration.

  1. Get everyone involved

If you are making the assumption that IT security is solely the responsibility of the IT department, think again. Your entire organization should be working together to protect its data and systems. Consider holding a brief workshop on IT security, create a business continuity management committee with members within and outside the IT department, and consider the impact and recovery on each member of your staff.

One crucial area of involvement is with your leadership team. As reported by Disaster Recovery Journal, it’s important for executives to support a culture of collaboration and to be transparent. “If executives support a culture of transparency, people will be more willing to reveal and troubleshoot problem areas in your organization’s processes. Down the road, this could help the organization mitigate a major vulnerability.”

  1. Establish work-arounds

Ready.gov paints this scenario: “Telephones are ringing and customer service staff is busy talking with customers and keying orders into the computer system. The electronic order entry system checks available inventory, processes payments and routes orders to the distribution center for fulfillment. Suddenly the order entry system goes down. What should the customer service staff do now?”

Developing manual workarounds eliminates uncertainty. For example, listing contact personnel (along with phone numbers and contact information) and providing specific details, such as how to document transactions manually, gives your team direction. You may need to reassign staff or even bring in temporary assistance if systems fail. How will you do that? Plan it all out now in your business continuity plan.

  1. Keep data on the cloud

The best way to ensure your business can continue to run, is by backing up all your data on the cloud. A cloud service ensures that an organization’s critical data and processes are secure off-site. An organization can then quickly ramp up their systems in the case of a disaster. If you’re not already on the cloud, check out our earlier posts, 12 Reasons to Move Your Business to the Cloud and 9 Facts to Know About the Risks of Moving to the Cloud, and How to Manage Them.

  1. Ready crisis communication efforts

How prepared is your organization to quickly and effectively respond to and communicate with the public—and each other–during or after a cybersecurity incident? If you are hit by a breach, you may need to issue statements to the press, customers, partners, vendors and staff. We recently posted an article about emergency communication preparedness, in which we stressed the importance of drafting some templates that cover various scenarios. As we wrote: “it’s faster and easier to tweak a message than to write one from scratch for a multitude of mediums, and even multiple languages, if needed.”

  1. Test your business continuity plan

The time to ensure your business continuity plan is effective is before you need it. Is it comprehensive? Are there gaps? For example, are contact phone numbers correct? Are you able to restore data from the cloud without significant barriers or challenges? Since the network may be down, are there hard copies of the business continuity plan, and are they distributed to all the members of the team?

As suggested by CIO magazine, testing options for your business continuity plan include a table-top exercise in a conference room with the team looking for gaps, a structured walk-through or “fire-drill,” often with a specific disaster in mind, and disaster simulation testing in which an actual disaster is simulated involving all the equipment, supplies and personnel (including business partners and vendors) that would be needed.

  1. Call Single Path

While all the steps above are important there’s a seventh step that may be just as vital: call an outside partner like Single Path. As experts in cloud services, IT security solutions and more, Single Path works with businesses, schools and other organizations to protect them from cyberattacks and help them recover when they’re hit. Planning, monitoring and adhering best practices go a long way to protecting your customers or clients, team members, vendors and your own business. Calling a partner like Single Path, and getting your business continuity plan published, are important first steps.

Ask us how to get started!

School IT Safety: Five Tips for Smarter Physical Security

At Single Path, we spend a lot of time thinking, acting and working on ways to protect computers electronically—backing up data in case of system failure, keeping private information away from hackers, ensuring safe and trouble-free 1:1 learning environments and more. But we know that keeping schools safe also must include physical security, and technology can play a vital role in maintaining it. Physical security includes the use of on-premise safeguards to monitor and protect the facility from theft, intruders, sabotage and even stopping vandalism.

The mere presence of physical safeguards will strongly discourage malicious acts and provide peace of mind for those in the school. But how can you build a secure and safe school environment? Following these five steps is a start, and will go a long way to keeping your school safer.

1. Build a Culture of Security

An organization’s employees are its first line of defense. Train your staff on security awareness, such as locking and encrypting their systems, choosing safe passwords and only sharing confidential information with those who need to know. Making security top-of-mind and habitual is an important component to overall school security.

2. Teach Safety

It takes a village to ensure safety: go beyond your staff to educate everyone. Computers are great resources for children in both learning and social interaction, but schools should also educate them on how to protect their information online and offline, especially in school environments where personal devices may be used. Mark Hickman, COO of global data security company WinMagic said—as quoted in an article from School Planning and Management Magazine—“Teaching about Internet safety and data security is fundamental in providing the tools and knowledge required for youth to understand their role in protecting their valuable personal information.”

3. Secure Rapid Communications

We recently wrote a post, How to Create Your School Cyber-Threat Strategy in which we detailed one of the most important physical security measures you can take—installing or incorporating a robust and simple communication system. The ability to send timely alerts, warnings and information is vital in times of imminent threat such as from a natural disaster or intruder.

4. Assign a Security Manager

An in-depth guideline from the National Center for Education Statistics (NCES) highlights the need for a security manager to lead security efforts. That manager can be a current staff member or a new hire. According to NCES, the Security Manager should have four main responsibilities:

  1. Increase staff awareness of security issues.
  2. Provide for appropriate staff security training.
  3. Monitor user activity to assess security implementation.
  4. Educate the staff and leadership on the importance of security for both the individual and the organization.

5. Be Smart

One of the keys to staying safe is simply being smart and avoiding common mistakes. The folks at biometric software and security service provider Bayometric detailed some common security mistakes. This list is relevant to all organizations, including schools and school districts, and includes:

  • Not keeping and following documented standard operating procedures for security
  • Poor employee awareness about security, not conducting any training or workshop
  • Not taking security breaches or crimes seriously within the organization
  • Cutting budget to security measures to save money
  • Not aware of the security breaches or crimes happening in neighborhood
  • Not listening to safety concerns of employees
  • Poor disposal practices of sensitive documents
  • Unattended security measures or poorly maintained security equipment

Find a Partner

We titled this post “Five Tips” but really, we probably should have made it six—as this final tip is just as important. Find a partner to help. We know you and the staff at your school or organization are busy. We know how easy it is to put things off for later. That’s where we come in. At Single Path, we have worked with businesses, government organizations and schools to provide complete IT and Security Solutions. We can review your current security protocols and make recommendations for improvement, train staff, find, buy and install optimal technology solutions and so much more. Waiting can be a mistake; you never know when security is needed, and tomorrow may be too late. We can help keep your school safe, including staff and students, by providing you with smart security choices now.

Ask us how to get started!

 

How to Create Your School Cyber-Threat Strategy

Cyber-threats are on the rise in our school districts, which often lack the resources to protect themselves, the training to use the resources they have effectively, and even the knowledge to identify which resources are needed.

We wrote about the cyber-threats facing schools in our last blog post. But these problems are epidemic to school districts across the country. As reported by technology and digital learning news source Edscoop.com, “A recent trend in cybercrime indicates that online attackers are increasingly targeting a demographic they know people will rush to protect: K-12 students.” The article details more than three dozen large-scale breaches of student data from cybercriminals from January through October, 2017.

The risk of a cyberattack will only continue to grow, so establishing a holistic cyber-security strategy is critical. Any strategy should include the following elements. Many of these are highlighted in a recent document published by the Council of the Great City Schools, an organization comprised of 70 of the nation’s largest urban public school systems.

1. Physical Security and End-Point Security

On-premises security isn’t only needed to protect students, but the network and computer devices housed inside the school. Using a school-owned computing device is often the easiest way to get access to confidential information. Data centers and control rooms need be locked and monitored. Classroom or office equipment may also be vulnerable to theft, so modern, video surveillance can be a powerful tool, as is locking away machines when not in use, and carefully tracking equipment and reporting lost devices promptly.

2. Employee Training and Network Security

Your network is only as secure as the staff who uses it; an unsecured password can be all a cybercriminal needs to get into your network and see, abuse or share sensitive information. Employee training for proper security protocols is critical for network security, especially for staff who use personal devices in 1:1 environments.

Monitoring who has access to information is also a critical component of network security. As reported by the online security and risk management magazine CSO, “Given the high volume of users entering and exiting a school’s network, establishing the means to identify who can and can’t gain access and which resources they have access to is crucial. For effective cybersecurity, schools should use solutions that can easily identify users and then dynamically assign access to network segments accordingly.

3. Application Security

Hackers can also gain access to your systems directly through your software applications. Downloading and installing regular updates and patches are critical, as we reported in a recent blog post detailing a Cisco networking hack that cut off Internet access and infected more than half a million devices. In that case, those who did not download security patches were left considerably more vulnerable. For that reason, your staff should only use software from trusted sources.

4. Cloud/Data Center Security

With schools moving more and more towards cloud-based solutions, the security of their cloud-based data is a critical component to security. We have touched on the advantages of using cloud computing in a number of past blog posts, including “12 Reasons to Move Your Business to the Cloud”. Cloud computing makes accessing information easier, but demands strict security processes and protections. Still, the benefits far exceed the risks (for many of those risks please see our post, “9 Facts to Know About the Risks of Moving to the Cloud and How To Manage Them”) as cloud computing provides significant back-up security should your data be destroyed or become inaccessible due to disasters both natural and hacker-made.

At Single Path, we are well versed at working closely with school districts to determine their vulnerabilities, providing solutions, and even training staff to ensure policies and protocols are understood and followed. We’re always eager to discuss our many products and services, including Security Solutions and all our Managed/Cloud Services. Let us help you chart a more secure and safer path for your organization.

Ask us how to get started!