Which is the Most Secure Browser for Safety and Privacy Protection?

With so much of your information online, your privacy is always at risk. Using a is an important first step to keeping confidential information safe. For example, your browser may house your browsing history and login credentials, can have cookies and other trackers, and contain autofill information like your credit card numbers. The most secure browsers have customizable security features and regular updates, but they also must be user friendly. Which are the best? Let’s look at ten browsers including some of the safest, and most popular.

Brave

Brave is ranked as the most secure browser by BestVPN.org, a VPN review site. A relatively recent Chromium-based browser, Brave offers a bunch of features, including a password manager, a script blocker and one-click anti-fingerprinting functionality. It particularly excels at blocking ads and tracking cookies. Brave is open-sourced, which means the code can be thoroughly researched and scrutinized by the Internet community to ensure there is no hidden tracking or anti-privacy spyware. Brave also supports most Chrome extensions, which (as we’ll explain in a moment) is both a blessing and a curse.

Brave is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS.

Chrome

Google Chrome controls nearly 65% of all web browsing, followed by Safari (at around 16%), and then Firefox at around 4%.

Chrome gets high marks for security, and offers continual security updates, which is excellent. But Google is also notorious for data collection, tracking and other privacy violations. One blogger found more than 11,000 cookies that would have been placed on his Chrome browser after just a week of surfing (all of which were automatically blocked by Firefox, which we’ll discuss below). Since Chrome is not an open-source browser—Google is somewhat notorious for their tech secrecy—it’s impossible to know everything they are tracking. They offer many security and privacy preferences, but it takes a great deal of time and effort to research them. There are many user-friendly Chrome extensions, but these are also a constant target for hackers and malware, and can introduce viruses and spyware, making it far from the most secure browser.

Chrome is available for Windows, Linux, macOS, iOS and Android.

Chromium

Chromium is a 100% open source project created to provide a Google Chromium browser, without Google’s privacy issues: settings require manual activation rather than Chrome’s default settings. It receives security updates nearly every day—an unmatched frequency—but since each have to be manually installed, users need to be vigilant. Because Chromium is so tightly affiliated with Chrome, and uses basic Chrome functionality, it is highly user-friendly. But that also means it is still susceptible to many of the same malware infections as Chrome, including being flooded by pop-ups and unwanted re-directs.

Epic

The full name of this browser is the “Epic Privacy Browser,” and according to its website it “blocks ads, trackers, fingerprinting, crypto mining, ultrasound signaling and more.” Every privacy setting is turned on by default and they send “Do Not Track” requests, block cookies, ads and data-tracking web analytics systems.

Epic doesn’t offer auto-syncing, spell-check, auto-fill, any plug-ins, and does not store your history, login data or databases. While this all makes Epic extremely secure, it also makes it impractical for most daily use. One additional concern: Epic has been claiming they would open source the code since 2014, but they still haven’t. Why? Some experts are suspicious.

Epic is available for macOS and Windows.

Firefox

Online privacy and security website Restoreprivacy.com rated Firefox as the best browser for privacy and security. It is also rated as the most secure browser by bestantiviruspro.com and nordvpn.com. Firefox is the only mainstream open-source browser. Like most other major players, it offers a private browsing mode that includes malware and phishing protection, pop-up blocking and anti-fingerprinting protection. It doesn’t gather data, doesn’t show targeted ads, is frequently updated and has many easily-customizable privacy settings. On the negative side, it is not quite as fast as the more popular Chrome.

Firefox is available for Windows, macOS, Linux, Android and iOS.

Microsoft Edge

Microsoft Edge replaced Internet Explorer, a infamously poor browser for security, as Microsoft’s Windows optimized web browser. Edge is only updated twice a year, which means it’s vulnerable to the latest malware and viruses.

Edge does have some nice security and privacy features, but mostly the ones everyone else provides such as the ability to block pop-ups. It has limited extension support which means there is less of a chance of installing malware, but limits its user friendliness.

Edge is available for Windows, Windows Mobile, Xbox One, Android and iOS.

Opera

Opera is a popular browser that boasts a variety of security features such as fraud and malware protection as well as script blocking. It offers updates every four or five weeks, which is excellent. But it is not close to being the most secure browser, mainly because it is owned by a China-based company who collects and monitors user data and regularly share that data with third-parties. While users can add some additional layers of privacy and protection by customizing settings, it can be complicated to set up.

Opera is available for Windows, macOS and Linux.

Safari

As the default web browser for all Mac and OS systems, Safari is the second most popular web browser in the world, although it is only a fraction of the size of Chrome.

Safari has plenty of small but useful features like a password generator, machine learning based protection and anti-fingerprinting tools. It also runs your tabs in separate sandboxes (keeping different programs separate from one another), which helps prevent malicious code from accessing your data.

Safari offers a private browsing mode, as do many other browsers, but Apple has been caught collecting browsing history even with private browsing on, which is worrisome. Safari is partly open-sourced, but not all of it.

Safari is available for macOS and iOS.

Tor

The Tor browser Is endorsed by Edward Snowden, and is often associated with the dark web. The browser blocks Flash, RealPlayer, QuickTime and other plug-ins that can be manipulated into revealing your IP address. Tor also protects you from tracking and automatically clears your cookies and history.

With Tor, all your traffic is encrypted three times and is decentralized and operated by volunteers. This makes it possibly the most secure browser available. But while all its elaborate decentralization means you get unmatched privacy protection, it also slows things down substantially. In fact, the slow connection speed makes Tor impractical for everyday use.

Tor is available for Windows, macOS and Linux.

Vivaldi

Vivaldi calls itself “The Browser that Puts You in Control” due to its highly customizable interface and functionality. Its extensive customization options also extend to its privacy settings, which are numerous. You can, for example, set different default search engines for when you’re using regular and private browsing modes, and create different security settings for both.

Vivaldi is compatible with most Chrome browser extensions, which is good for user friendliness, but also means it can be infiltrated with malware. Vivaldi also offers end-to-end encryption for syncing between devices, but it does not yet have mobile device support which is a major problem. Also questionable: Vivaldi collects IP addresses and stores them on their database in Iceland. They claim this is done merely to determine their total number of users, but some experts are wary.

Vivaldi is available for Windows, macOS, Linux and Android.

Single Path can help you find the most secure browser for your needs.

From helping you find the most secure browser that’s best for your organization, to assessing your desktop security risks, the certified and highly skilled security specialists at Single Path are here to help assist you. Let us help provide the network security solutions and advice you need to protect your business, your school, or yourself.

Contact us to learn more.

Why Schools Are Now More At Risk From Ransomware Attacks

Ransomware attacks—when hackers use malware to lock organizations out of their own computers until a ransom is paid—grew by 118% in 2019 across all sectors, according to McAfee. But ransomware attacks have hit schools and school districts particularly hard. In fact, it was recently reported that 54 school districts and colleges, accounting for more than 500 schools, were hit by ransomware attacks over the first three quarters of 2019. That includes 15 school districts and more than 100 schools over a two-week span in September.

Those numbers, while alarming, might actually be low. Antivirus maker Emsisoft released a similar report. They claimed to have identified 62 ransomware incidents impacting more than 1,000 schools and higher education institutions over the same time period.

Ransomware Attacks are Getting Worse

A recent report by BakerHostetler, a national law firm with considerable expertise representing firms hit by ransomware attacks, has also recently warned of a sharp increase in school district attacks. What makes the recent ransomware attacks particularly alarming is the increase in intensity and costs. In previous years, a ransomware attack might have hit one or two devices in an organization. More recent attacks have hit dozens or hundreds of devices simultaneously, effectively shutting down all the organization’s operations. The amount of money demanded has also gone up. While during the last few years the average ransom paid was less than $50,000, recent ransomware attacks have demanded payment in the hundreds of thousands, or even millions of dollars. For example, Rockville Centre School District in New York had to pay nearly $100,000 after ransomware shut down its network in August, according to CBS Channel 2 News.

Other examples include:

  • Hackers shut down Crowder College in Neosho, Missouri demanding 1.6 million dollars. The college did not pay, and as a result, students went for months without Wi-Fi in dorms, use of their computer labs, access to emails and more.
  • Louisiana public schools have been hit by a number of ransomware attacks, causing Governor John Bel Edwards to declare a state of emergency in July, and again in November.
  • Moses Lake School District, which encompasses 16 schools in Washington state, was hit with a ransomware demand for $1,000,000. Rather than paying, they restored servers from backups, but lost about five months of data.
  • As we reported in an earlier blog post, the Leominster Public School district not only paid $10,000 to decrypt files after a ransomware attack, but it then had to spend more than $400,000 to update their system to ensure it couldn’t happen again.

Ryuk Amok

Of all the recent school ransomware attacks, approximately one third of them have been caused by the Ryuk ransomware, one of today’s most active ransomware strains. Ryuk was created by the Russian eCrime group WIZARD SPIDER and they have successfully extorted millions of dollars (payable via Bitcoin) since Ryuk was first introduced in September 2018.

There seems to be little geographic communality for these attacks, as Ryuk ransomware attacks have hit schools in Missouri, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Nebraska, Florida, Illinois, Georgia, Oklahoma, Virginia and Washington. None have been targeted at schools in Connecticut, although that state has the dubious honor of suffering the most school ransomware attacks with 104 schools being hit.

Why Are Schools Being Targeted by Ransomware Attacks?

Schools may seem like an odd choice for these cyberattacks, as many are already struggling with meeting their budgets. But as cybersecurity company Blue Bastion explains, their tight budgets actually work against them, since that also means many institutions have limited funds for IT staff and infrastructure. Most primary schools, junior high schools and high schools typically focus their IT budgets on equipment for faculty, equipment for student labs, and basic networking—and not cybersecurity.

Secondly, many educational institutions have to satisfy many different users including faculty, staff, labs, student Wi-Fi access and so on. This not only leaves security holes that can be easily exploited, but because computer access is so important to so many different subgroups, schools need to resolve problems quickly or face wide-spread disruption.

What Options Do You Have?

Organizations hit by a ransomware attack have only three options:

  1. Restore systems from available backups. This is the least costly approach, but is only viable if backups are routinely kept, and if they were encrypted (and so not affected by the attack).
  2. Pay the ransom to obtain a decryption tool (and hope the hacker fulfills his or her side of the bargain).
  3. Continue operations without using any of the encrypted data—an option that is not always feasible and, at best, creates significant and long-lasting issues that cannot easily be resolved.

What You Should Do Now

The most important thing you need to do … is not to sit on your hands doing nothing. If you’re not backing up your data, you need to start immediately. If everyone with computer access is not following best practices for security, you need to educate them. At Single Path, we help many organizations prepare for such problems, such as creating the secure infrastructure and developing the response processes for when an attack happens. From security solutions to consulting services we can help you stay safe and prepared.

Ask us how to get started.

What’s the Difference Between Vulnerability Testing and Penetration Testing?

vulnerability testingAll networks, regardless of their size, are at risk from many cyber security threats.

To successfully protect your organization from these threats, you can’t rely on a single line of defense. For example, your cybercrime protection strategy should include both vulnerability testing and penetration testing. These terms are often confused with each other, but they are quite different. As Tripwire recently reports, “It amazes me how many people confuse the importance of vulnerability scanning with penetration testing. Vulnerability scanning cannot replace the importance of penetration testing, and penetration testing on its own cannot secure the entire network.”

Vulnerability Testing, Explained

Vulnerability testing is the act of identifying known vulnerabilities in your network devices including firewalls, routers, switches, servers and applications. It’s usually performed by specific software, often set to run automatically and continually (antivirus software is a form of vulnerability testing). Because the scanners rely on published and regularly updated lists of known cyberthreats, vulnerability testing will only red flag vulnerabilities that are known, and that can be fixed. As you might imagine, there are many cyberthreats that aren’t known, or have no known fix. The latter is called a “zero-day vulnerability”—a vulnerability that is discovered but does not yet have a patch (It’s called “zero day” because developers have “zero days” to fix the problem since it could immediately be exploited by hackers). Google is just one of many companies who have recently reported a “zero day” issue (they reported a vulnerability in their Chrome web browser).

Due to the scope of organizational networks, vulnerability testing may require many different automated tools to manage a company’s assets, and many of those tests will need to be product-specific. For this reason, these tests are usually installed and managed by administrators or the IT team.

Penetration Testing, Explained

While vulnerability testing looks for known network vulnerabilities, penetration testing goes beyond that, examining sloppy business processes, lax security settings, or other weaknesses that a hacker could exploit. Issues that might be found include the transmission of unencrypted passwords, password reuse and forgotten databases storing valid user credentials.

Often, these tests take the form of authorized attacks, simulated on a computer system. The tests can determine if and how effectively an attack can be stopped. They can involve a script and exploit technology and people (including phishing strategies to trick employees). While they don’t need to be conducted as often as vulnerability testing, they should be done at least once a year.

While a vulnerability scan can be automated, a penetration test requires active participation. This usually means using a third-party vendor who can mimic the actions of an external hacker. While vulnerability testing can be done relatively quickly, penetration testing can take days or even weeks. Due to their more hands-on and involved nature, penetration testing costs can be much higher than that of vulnerability testing.

Security Testing Reports

Both vulnerability testing and penetration testing will produce reports detailing the problems found. Vulnerability testing reports are long but straightforward, listing the source of the problem, a description of the problem, and remedial action, which is usually to install a patch.

The report from a penetration test, on the other hand, will list fewer items and won’t be as straightforward. The report will describe what and how the attack was performed, but exact details may be vague. A remedy will be suggested, and while that fix could be simple, such as limiting team access to certain applications, it also may require a lot of time and effort, including staff training. A strong report will provide detailed recommendations.

A Third Party Vendor You Can Trust

When choosing a third party source for penetration testing, or to set up your vulnerability testing, you will want a team with significant breadth and depth of experience, especially in your organization’s area of business. At Single Path, we work with many organizations in such a capacity, with a particular expertise in small-to-medium sized businesses and schools and school districts. Our security solutions also include security risk assessment, data loss prevention solutions and more. We can help protect your organization in many ways.

Contact us for more information!

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.

Why DDoS Security is Critical for your School (and what is DDoS, anyway)?

If you regularly follow our blogs, you’ve read about the dangers of Phishing and Ransomware, but there’s a third method of cybercrime that can be just as damaging: a DDoS attack, or “Distributed Denial of Service.” A DDoS attack occurs when a hacker takes control of thousands of computers and aims traffic at a single server, overwhelming its network to knock it offline or slow it to a crawl. Without appropriate DDoS security protocols, an attack can cause mass and immediate disruption.

EdTech Magazine reports that DDoS attacks “are on the rise. For schools, the attacks can shut down websites, phone systems and prevent users from accessing the internet and applications.” Here are some recent examples of school-related DDoS security issues in recent years,:

  • The Miami-Dade County Public school system was unable to provide online testing for three days after a series of DDoS attacks crippled their new, high-touted computer-based standardized testing system.
  • Minnesota Department of Education twice had to suspend its state testing when a DDoS attack kept students from logging into its online assessment system.
  • The St. Charles, Illinois school district lost online access for employees and all of their 13,000 students. According to a report from eSchool News, “the hackers cut off the entire district’s internet access for four hours at a time and then repeated the process 10 more times over the following six weeks.” Eventually, two students were charged in the attack.
  • Rutgers, Arizona State and University of Georgia have all been victims of recent DDoS attacks. After an attack, Rutgers spent $3 million dollars and raised tuition 2.3% just to upgrade their DDoS security, and then became a DDoS victim again less than a year later.

The Simplicity of a DDoS Attack

Many schools, even those that are on the alert to cyberthreats, may not be paying much attention to their DDoS security. But it doesn’t take a cyber-genius to launch a DDoS attack. You can find relatively simple how-to videos on popular sites such as YouTube. The ease of launching such an attack, combined with inadequate DDoS security, makes this scheme popular with a wide variety of groups as a form of protest, as an act of “revenge,” as a distraction from another cyberattack, or even just for “fun.”

The lack of DDoS security can also harm schools through their vendors or partners. In September of last year, millions of families across 45 states were impacted by a DDoS attack on the app Infinite Campus, which provides a “Parent Portal” allowing parents and students the ability to check grades and other information.

How To Implement Your DDoS Security

Schools have become a target for cybercriminals, accounting for 13 percent of all data breeches in the first half of 2017, which involve nearly two billion student and parent records. But schools can incorporate numerous strategies to increase security, including their DDoS security, such as by switching to cloud networking, monitoring cyber-traffic for abnormal patterns, and adding backup internet service providers to keep networks up and running. School districts can also upgrade their firewall protection and their network architecture. Sounds like a lot of work? It can be.

That’s why Single Path partners with schools to help protect their IT technology from hackers, and to make upgrades and changes as easy and as turnkey as possible. We consult and implement, provide continual monitoring, and can also educate your staff on data security best practices. We also provide a wide variety of Managed/Cloud Services. DDoS security can be challenging, which is why you need a team like Single Path to help protect your organization from harm.

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!