- November 29, 2023
- Catagory Data Protection
There are many ways artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning already impact cybersecurity. You can expect that trend to continue in 2024 – both as tools for data protection as well as a threat.
Even as you implement AI and machine learning into your cybersecurity strategy through the adoption of tools like Security Orchestration, Automation, and Response (SOAR), Security Information and Event Management (SIEM) and Managed Detection and Response (MDR), so are threat actors. They will continue to update and evolve their own methodologies and tools to compromise their targets by applying AI and machine learning to how they use ransomware, malware and deepfakes.
With small and medium-sized businesses just much at risk as their large enterprise counterparts, SMBs must take advantage of AI and machine learning as mush possible. AI-directed attacks are expected to rise in 2024 in the form of deepfake technologies that make phishing and impersonation more effective, as well as evolving ransomware and malware.
Deepfake technologies that leverage AI are especially worrisome, as they can create fake content that spurs employees and organizations to work against their best interests. Hackers can use deepfakes to create massive changes with serious financial consequences, including altering stock prices.
Deepfake social engineering techniques will only improve with the use of AI, increasing the likelihood of data breaches through unauthorized access to systems and more authentic looking phishing messages that are more personalized, and hence, more effective.
If hackers are keen on leveraging AI and machine learning to defeat your cybersecurity, you must be ready to combat them in equal measure – just as AI and machine learning will create new challenges in 2024, they can also help you bolster your cybersecurity. While regulations are being developed to foster ethical use of AI, threat actors are not likely to follow them.
AI will also affect your cyber insurance as your providers will use it to assess your resilience against cyberattacks and adjust your premium payments accordingly. AI presents an opportunity for you to improve your cybersecurity to keep those insurance costs under control.
There’s a lot of doom being predicted around the growing use of AI and machine learning. And while it does pose a risk to your organization and its sensitive data, you can use it to bolster your cybersecurity even as threat actors leverage AI to up the ante. A managed service provider with a focus on security can help you use AI and machine learning to protect your organization as we head into 2024.
- October 26, 2023
- Catagory Data Protection
Artificial intelligence (AI) is a threat to your organization’s data security, but it also a critical tool for defending it.
Just as business intelligence has become embedded in software tools and enables you to ride the ups and downs of your industry, AI is getting embedded in cybersecurity solutions to combat increasingly sophisticated threat actors.
This sophistication combined with evolution of connected organizations, including remote work, means attack surfaces are getting larger. Hybrid environments where people are working from home and office via different networks are appetizing targets for hackers. When there are so many devices operating on your network, there’s bound to be some that go unmanaged, and hence are unsecured.
Generative AI is making phishing scams harder to detect, and most data breaches are already due to employees not recognizing fake emails. Even though AI helps threat actors be more deceptive than ever, it can help to automate security so that you can more quickly respond, mitigate, and recover from a data breach.
Detecting patterns has always been a core capability of security solutions, and AI makes this capability more robust so that it can be more preventative – it will advise you of potential breaches, as well as help you set policy and automate tasks to lessen the burden for your IT staff, including the onboarding of new employees and managing their access. AI can even help you set policy as to how your employees are allowed to use AI, including ChatGPT.
If you’re nervous about AI and how will affect your business, including its data security, there’s good news in that it can be a net positive thanks to the many productivity gains. Already it’s become clear that security analysts can’t keep up with every alert and every security threat, so AI and automation are necessary to handle them at scale.
In the longer term, AI is going to be an essential tool for discerning between legitimate activity and security threats. As generative AI becomes more sophisticated and bad actors exploit it to fool unsuspecting users, AI is also going to be able to detect these attempts and allow for immediate, decisive action to prevent data breaches before they happen.
Organizations will also need to deploy fewer security tools as AI capabilities will be consolidated into interoperable security platforms that will reduce the number of vendors and policies that must be managed.
Even as AI streamlines and fortifies your security, it’s still not going to be your core business. A managed service provider can help you navigate the dynamic changes ahead so you can effectively leverage AI to bolster your data security.
- June 15, 2023
- Catagory Data Protection
If you think magnetic tape storage for backup and archives is old school, think again – even the big hyperscale data centers see the benefit due to its low cost.
Hyperscalers are some of the biggest users of magnetic tape because it enables them to store massive amounts of “cold” data cost effectively – a on a cost-per-bit basis, tape storage is cheaper than hard drives, and it makes no sense to store seldomly-accessed information on ultra-fast flash-based SSDs.
Magnetic tape can also play a role in a comprehensive security strategy. By backing up to tape, you can create what is known as an “air gap.” You can back up sensitive data to magnetic tape to protect it from a malware attack since data that is instantaneously replicated to the cloud can be corrupted just as quickly at the backup destination. By backing up to tape periodically and otherwise keeping it off the network, you have a clean version that can be restored in the event of a malware or ransomware attack.
In the meantime, the capacity of magnetic tape is growing fast while the amount of data grows exponentially. Not only is tape the lowest cost for bit compared with other storage media options, but the overall capacity per tape now has a native capacity of 18 terabytes with 500 terabytes on the horizon.
While it may take longer to restore from tape, the media itself has a long shelf life as well – a magnetic tape cartridge stored in the right environmental conditions can last for several decades. If you’re required by government legislation or other regulatory bodies to retain data for years after it’s collected, tape is a great option for archives and backup. Small and medium-sized companies must often comply with the same legal and regulatory requirements as large enterprises, such as Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and Europe’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR).
The financial services and health sectors have data retention requirements, with the latter being required to retain patient records including tests like X-rays for many years.
Magnetic tape is also sustainable because it consumes the least amount of energy compared with other data storage options. And if you’ve embarked on an Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy, tape is more compelling because its overall footprint starting with the raw materials to ultimate disposal is quite low.
All these characteristics make magnetic tape a popular option for many industries – capacity per cartridge, low cost per bit, and low power consumption have made it a preferred option for the oil and gas sector, particularly for seismic data, while the entertainment industry uses tapes like they are big USB drives to move media from one stage of production to another.
And while artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning processes do require fast memory and storage, the vast amounts of information it needs to learn from have to be stored somewhere. If you collect a lot of data via internet of things (IoT) devices, you may want archive it for future use. The capacity of tape is ideal for large data sets.
While there is an upfront cost to investing in magnetic tape for backup and storage, the total cost of ownership is appealing if you’re a small or medium-sized company that’s mindful of its energy bills – you’ll recoup your initial outlay thanks to a low cost of ownership (TCO).
Better still, like most data storage and backup options like the cloud, you don’t necessarily need to set up your own tape storage on-site. There are many service providers who can help exploit benefits of magnetic tape and manage it for you.
- November 16, 2022
- Catagory Data Protection
The cybersecurity landscape is replete with acronyms, and it can be hard to figure out which ones matter to your business. SIEM stands for Security Information and Event Management, and it’s something you should be leveraging to keep your organization safe.
Pronounced “sim,” SIEM is a software-based cybersecurity technology that gives you a single, streamlined view of your data along with your operational capabilities and security at activities to you can better detect, investigate, and mitigate threats. SIEM bolsters your security posture by providing this visibility in real-time and encompasses your entire environment, no matter how distributed – and it likely is in this era of increased remote and hybrid work.
If you’re worried that SIEM is yet another massive software deployment, there’s good news: it can be cloud-based and configured to monitor your on-premises, hybrid and cloud infrastructure while tapping into a broad array of security tools and technologies.
How SIEM works
SIEM thrives on having a lot of data sources to monitor. It ingests as much data as possible on the hunt for unusual activity that represents a threat actor trying to gain access to your systems or making trouble once they’re already in. Combined with its ability to give you a real-time snapshot of your IT infrastructure and keep logs to support your compliance obligations, SIEM gives you the ability analyze data from network applications and hardware, and cloud and software-as-a-service (SaaS) solutions — all in real time so you can stay top of threats, whether they’re internal or external.
SIEM monitors network devices such as wireless access points, routers, and switches, bridges, as well as the software running on them. It also pulls data from security devices such as firewalls, antivirus software, and intrusion detection appliances, as well as devices and activity related to remote work. Users, event types, IP addresses, memory, and processes are all monitored for signs of exceptional activity – everything from potential malware to a failed login so that any deviations are flagged for security analysts to investigate.
Essentially, your SIEM is a security command center that pulls together all event data into a single location but adds useful context for analysts so they can prioritize what to respond to and investigate. Everything is presented on dashboards, including an overview of notable events with details, risk analysis, and a workbook of all open notifications. Intelligence from users, threats, protocols, and the web are all brought together.
How SIEM helps
SIEM offers many benefits for organizations looking to improve their security posture.
It provides a high level of visibility to help your security teams see everything across your IT infrastructure, including remote endpoints. The right SIEM solution also reduces the number of false alerts, so your IT teams aren’t spinning their wheels and are able to focus on detecting and investigating actual threats. SIEM is also flexible so you can integrate it into your environment with all its unique characteristics that are driven by your industry, including any compliance obligations.
Most of all, SIEM is something your managed service provider can help you with, so you’re not faced with another onerous software deployment. They can help you select, deploy, and even manage the right SIEM solution so you can get the visibility you need to improve your security posture.
- August 31, 2022
- Catagory cybersecurity
You don’t use auto insurance as an excuse to drive recklessly, so why would you cut corners on cybersecurity because you have ransomware insurance?
With ransomware attacks doubling in 2021 compared to the previous year – due in large part to the massive shift to remote work – the average cost of a data breach grew to record levels by more than 10% in 2021 as threat actors took advantage of a broader attack surface that resulted from a hybrid work environment.
Much of the costs of these breaches were covered by insurance, including ransom payments, but cybersecurity insurance providers are becoming more selective with their coverage as payouts have increased – qualification processes are more rigorous and the threshold for a payout is getting higher.
If you were depending on cybersecurity insurance without a data protection strategy, you need to seriously rethink how you implement security in your organization.
As ransomware attacks rise, so do premiums
For starters, the number of ransomware attacks is only going to get higher as more and more threat actors with a wide array of experience and expertise look to make money off data breaches – cybersecurity insurance is not going to be enough to save your business.
It’s not that you should cancel your insurance – you should be prepared to pay more – but you must also have people, processes, and technology in place to secure your business and sensitive customer data. Making an insurance claim should be a last resort – no matter how much you pay for it, it won’t bring your data back if you fall victim to a successful attack.
You really don’t want to be paying the ransom, even though many companies go that route – that only emboldens the bad guys to keep at it. Some insurance companies are no longer even covering ransomware payouts. If cybersecurity insurance premiums are going up and not covering what they used to, it’s time to implement better security practices – prevention is much more affordable in the long run.
Your MSP can help you up your security game
Cybersecurity awareness should be something that touches everyone in your organization, including the understanding that a data breach costs the business money – and your insurance provider expects you to raise your game to take a more proactive stance with security.
Even if you’ve put the effort into your cybersecurity, keeping it current and staying on top of all the threats can be daunting. With so many systems, endpoints and users, visibility is you biggest challenge, and understanding the threats, attack surfaces and vulnerabilities requires a great deal of time and resources, including skilled people.
That’s why you should turn to your managed service provider for guidance – they’ve got to contend with rising insurance premiums too and know that prevention is better than getting the cost of a ransomware attack covered. They already have visibility into your infrastructure and can help you put all the people, processes, and technology in place so you can qualify for cybersecurity insurance but hopefully never have to use it.
- June 16, 2022
- Catagory cloud backup
If you want to effectively protection your data, it’s best to keep things simple – complexity is your enemy.
While it’s important to have redundancy for your mission critical applications and data, the more tools and systems implemented to safeguard data, the bigger the likelihood of something going wrong and the greater potential for data loss. Simplifying your data protection systems will make it easier to get back to business in the event of a disruption due to data breach, malware and ransomware, natural disaster or human error.
Less is better
It’s easy to fall into the trap of setting up a complex solution for data protection because your business information systems tend to be complex. But even when you have a wide variety of applications and data to back up, complexity makes your data protection less effective.
The problem is that when lines of business incrementally add Software-as-a-Service (Saas) applications such as Microsoft Office 365 and Salesforce, they often assume data is automatically backed up by the vendor. However, they are just adding to the mix of systems that must be backed up by IT, including multiple endpoints including servers, workstations and laptops, and remote workers and satellite offices. Every time a new software solution, endpoint or physical office is add, incremental data protection is added to keep up with infrastructure sprawl. Complexity is an unintentional side effect because when data protection is put into place, it tends to be done in a silo, not holistically with all other applications and data in mind.
In the same way having more endpoints, network access, and applications creates more attack surfaces for threat actors, having more data protection systems increases the number of potential points of failure in your organization.
More complexity means risk
It may seem daunting to simplify data protection when your data is distributed across different applications and endpoints, especially with rise of remote work and the emergence of the hybrid workplace. Having multiple backup system in place to protect all this information increases complexity and risk of a data breach that can disrupt your operations, cost you customers, and even lead to a breach of regulatory compliance.
And as much as data protection is necessary, you don’t want to create any more work than necessary for your IT teams. Data protection systems must be configured, maintained, and updated, and backups must be verified – double checking backups takes time and people. Each tool you implement requires expertise and training and represents a software license you must pay for and manage.
Overprovisioning your data protection capabilities is an unnecessary expense and doesn’t improve your overall security posture. Running multiple backup solutions with overlapping features and even backing up the same data to different locations, is costing you time and money.
Given the complexity of production systems, it’s not realistic to have a single data protection system for everything, but it’s essential your streamline as much as possible. Settle on a small number of backup tools that will encompass all your system so that your IT team isn’t overwhelmed by their data protection duties. Otherwise, you can end up with misconfigurations that defeat the purpose and result in a data breach.
Most of all, remember that data protection may be essential, it’s not a strategic IT activity, so consider looking at how a managed service provider can consolidate your data protection tools to reduce complexity and ensure all your backups are effectively safeguarding your mission critical information.
- May 26, 2022
- Catagory Data Protection
A robust cybersecurity strategy is not the only way organizations protect sensitive information – having a data backup plan that’s tested regularly is essential to ensure complete protection.
While putting a disaster recovery plan in place can be daunting for small or medium-sized organization, it must be done because it’s only a matter of time before you face a major disruption that threatens your mission-critical business data. However, thanks to the cloud, its easier than ever to implement enterprise-class data backup with the help of an experienced managed service provider.
Your data backup plan should be part of a broader and comprehensive disaster recovery plan, which identifies all the activities, resources and procedures needed to carry out all processing requirements during interruptions to normal business operations. You may be tempted to back up all your data and applications, but ideally, you should focus on identifying the data and applications that are essential for running the business.
Even more important is to make sure your data backup is running properly. It’s easy to get complacent and take for granted that your backups are running on schedule and safeguarding the right data. But whether you maintain your own backup infrastructure or adopt a managed backup service from a outside provider, you must regularly test your backups.
It’s easy to get out of the habit of testing your data backup and assume you’re backing up essential data and applications when there are more pressing demands on your IT staff. However, none of the more strategic technology initiatives you’re pursuing will matter because your business can’t afford the downtime that comes with a disruption related to a data loss – it means lost revenue, productivity, and the loss of current and future customers due to a negative perception of your brand.
Whether it’s your broader disaster recovery plan or just your data backup process, you should be doing regular fire drills. Even if your data backup is still working, it may not be keeping up with changes to your business – your data and applications are not static. Applications and data evolve, and a dynamic environment requires regular monitoring. Whether you do your own backups or outsource it, you should always be testing, and any credible managed service provider will always be testing without you having to ask and part of your Service Level Agreement (SLA).
Knowing the right data is being backed up is not enough either. You should also have peace of mind that you can restore it and any applications quickly to minimize any interruptions in business operations. Your restoration process is a critical aspect of any data backup plan. Your fire drill should demonstrate the ability to mount the backup and access the relevant files quicky and that a virtualized backup copy is bootable. Remember that your storage used for backup is subject to defects, and files can be accidentally erased or overwritten. If your primary storage can fail, so can your secondary.
Even if you do have the capability to maintain a data backup plan in-house, it’s one more thing on the to do list of your IT staff and distracts them from more strategic initiatives, so you should consider engaging a managed service provider that can remotely monitor and manage your backup infrastructure, as well as send your backups to their hosted backup repository. This will reduce your capital expenditures and simplify your data backup.
Remember: It’s just a matter of when, not if, your organization will be faced with major data loss, so no matter how you decide to implement your data backup, regular testing not only minimizes disruptions to operations and your customers, but it also allows you to stay in business.
- November 30, 2021
- Catagory Data Protection
Endpoint backup remains essential, especially with the emergence of the hybrid office and the persistence of remote work, but that doesn’t mean all your data needs to be backed up. The right cloud-based data protection can cover all the bases while being discriminating about what it stores.
The main reason you must back up every endpoint is that business data is distributed across devices and remote locations. Today’s cloud-based data protection makes it easier because it recognizes that employees are more mobile, and their devices have increased in storage capacity and may store critical business information. But you’re certainly not going to want to back up every single bit of data from an employee’s device, especially if they’re a remote worker using a personal device as their workstation.
Discover every endpoint
A key challenge for data protection efforts is that not all endpoints are connected to your corporate network, but you still need to understand what endpoints must be backed up regardless and accommodate both the device type and how it connects.
In some cases, it’s easy to schedule cloud-based data protection at regular intervals based on the value of the data and how frequently it changes because they are on your network or can connect as needed to back up their data. However, laptop connectivity can vary wildly depending on the employee with some remote workers always at home while others may be more mobile. Executives have a reputation for living on their smartphones, putting their entire office in the palm of their hand.
It’s critical that you understand where your critical business information resides, but that doesn’t mean backing up single device, application and server is the answer.
Pick and choose your data
Endpoint backup isn’t necessarily expensive, but do you want to spend money on data protection for information that won’t be missed?
Not all data is created equal, so consider building a data classification strategy. Not only will you not waste time and resources backing up non-essential data, but the exercise will you better understand what digital information is critical to your business operations. By classifying your data, you ensure that the data that truly matters is safeguarded and replicated without overprovisioning your endpoint backup capabilities, whether it’s your on-premises infrastructure or cloud services.
The added benefit of data classification is that you can improve your compliance posture so that you’re applying adequate protection for sensitive information that may be governed with privacy legislation such as Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) and the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). It’s also an opportunity to streamline your production IT—the more systems you have in place, the more complex the data classification and endpoint backup. Standardizing on a single document management system or CRM will make it easier to find where the critical business information resides so it’s consistently backed up.
Regulatory compliance and data classification are a continuum because your critical business information changes and grows in volume in line with your business. For your endpoint backup to remain accurate, consistent, and comprehensive, consider engaging a managed service provider to help you architect a strategy that can help you classify data, create sound policies, and automate where possible so that your critical business information easily accessible in the event of any emergency or disaster.
- November 16, 2021
- Catagory cloud backup
When it comes to data protection, simple is always better, even as remote work and hybrid offices makes things more complex.
Even as endpoints flourish, you should continue to streamline your systems by leveraging cloud backup and combat complexity—the more systems you have in place, the more likely something will go wrong. You must balance redundancy with simplicity.
Even before the pandemic and the massive proliferation of remote endpoints, there were already many different applications and systems needing backup as lines of businesses spun up their own Software-as-a-Service (Saas) applications such as Microsoft Office 365 and Salesforce. Even worse, they assumed data is automatically backed up by the vendor. But in addition to those applications, you need to keep track of your servers, physical and virtual machines, and multiple endpoints that include workstations and laptops, satellite offices, and of course, remote workstations, which may even be an employee’s personal device.
The attack surface has expanded since the pandemic but having multiple data protection systems isn’t the answer. Instead, consider a single cloud backup service with built-in redundancy. As with any application, a data protection system has its own maintenance requirements and processes, so it’s best to have one that’s well-managed and reliable that makes verification simple. That way, you can be confident all your data, regardless of application, server or endpoint, is being consistently backed up. Having as single cloud backup service is also better for your IT budget.
However, depending on your environment, it may not be realistic to have a single cloud backup solution; your best approach is to implement a select few data protection systems to meet user requirements so that your IT team isn’t overwhelmed by too many backup tools as the resulting complexity will lead to misconfigurations and ultimately, a data breach that leads to a business disruption.
Having confidence in your cloud backup isn’t just important for your IT team. Data protection plays a strong role in maximizing business uptime, so you’re not only trying to keep senior IT management happy—the CEO has a stake in data protection, whether they realize it or not.
Like any application you implement to realize business goals, not all data protection and cloud backup systems are created equal. In addition, IT environments are more dynamic than ever thanks to digital transformation efforts, the emergence of the hybrid office, and the persistence of remote work. When selecting a cloud backup solution, be sure they meet all your data protection criteria including compliance, security, and restoration windows. You might want to consider taking the opportunity to replace legacy systems that can be difficult to back up, rather than keeping them going because it will reduce maintenance costs, add data management capabilities, and improve your overall data protection effectiveness.
Remember that data is more portable than ever, too, especially when fewer people are working in the office behind the corporate firewall. If applications and data are spread cross multiple clouds, as well as endpoints and workstations, then your cloud back solutions must consider that your data is distributed across many platforms, as well as understand the built-in data protection of SaaS productivity applications—not just what they can do, but also what they don’t do.
A dramatic increase in the number of remote workers and the emergence of the hybrid office are great reminders that the need for robust data protection is never going to go away. As the year ends, take the opportunity to revisit the cloud backup solutions you have in place and implement a strategy to modernize it as needed to reflect the world of work with the help of an experienced managed services provider.
- December 10, 2020
- Catagory cybersecurity
The trick to protecting sensitive data is understanding not all business information must be protected.
Even organizations that understand the need for robust information security spend heavily on software and hardware without measuring its return on investment (ROI), only to still fail at safeguarding the most sensitive information that’s the lifeblood of their business because they failed to define what it is before apply security controls.
If you want to adequately protect your most valuable data, you must understand which business information is most critical to your bottom line.
Not all data is equal
It’s seems counter-intuitive, but the reason information security often fails to protect sensitive data is the mistaken belief that all information must be protected equally. Even before the pandemic and remote work became the norm, distributed workers, branch offices, mobile devices, and the evolving Internet of Things (IoT) meant organizations have had to become smarter about how they secure sensitive data. Now it’s more important than ever to make the business case for information security.
The business case isn’t a request for a bigger information security or more technology. Rather, it’s about identifying sensitive data, understanding its value, and being clear about what’s necessary to protect it. You need to operationalize a change in mindset that delivers ROI and protects the sensitive data that powers your business. However, it can be difficult for organizations to step back and understand what data is the most valuable when it’s growing exponentially.
One thing is for certain, however: Trying to protect every single bit of data equally isn’t cost effective.
Sensitive data must be defined to be protected
If organizations are to marshal their information security resources effectively, they must narrow their scope and define what constitutes sensitive information. While the definition can be guided by compliance and regulator obligations, it’s just as important to figure what data constitutes as a critical asset to the business.
Just as a fleet of trucks are critical assets for a transportation company, every business today has stored information that is critical to daily operations—that’s the sensitive data that must be protected. Otherwise, there are financial repercussions in the form of lost competitive advantage and fines for non-compliance, both of which lead to lost revenue, as do settlements from litigation and damaged reputations.
While compliance obligations and privacy legislation do dictate that some information be prioritized by information security strategies, they’re just the beginning. A healthcare organization that may have all their patient data effectively secured but not have all their research data protected—it’s just as valuable as it may support patent application or attract grant money, and has the potential to generate revenue. Personally Identifiable Information (PII) is always an obvious candidate for protection because compliance and regulatory frameworks deem it as sensitive, but intellectual property or data that’s essential to running your business is just as critical.
Treat sensitive data like a business asset
If you want get ROI from your information security spending, you need to think differently. You must understand your data on a deeper level so you can assign a value to it. There’s plenty of information residing in your organization that won’t cripple your organization if it’s lost. But your sensitive data must be assigned appropriate valuations that will be the of a business case for information security spending.
Getting an ROI on your information security spending is about anticipating incidents that haven’t happened yet, much like an insurance company considers the likelihood of natural disasters. To determine sensitive data and its value, you must weigh the cost of the protections you put in place with the financial impact of any breach and its likely frequency.
The simplest approach its to categorize data in three ways: data can be shared freely; sensitive data that can be shared with certain audiences in specific ways, and data that must remain confidential to the organization and never shared. The process of segmented and prioritizing data enables to apply the appropriate information security controls, so you understand the complete lifecycle of all data and adequately protect it based on the repercussions of losing it.
Treating sensitive data like a business asset enables you to make the case for information security so ROI can be effectively measured so can protect these valuable assets as you would any other important investment.