• December 29, 2020
  • Catagory Security

Bring in a security partner to ensure effective penetration testing

By : Sanjeev Spolia

Penetration testing must be proactive, but many organizations often do theirs in response to an incident. Since the worst time to learn how to fight a fire is amid an inferno, the right security partner can help create an effective program to ensure regular testing that improves cybersecurity posture.

Before you even select a security partner for network penetration testing, you should set up guidelines for what might prompt such a test—and it’s not an emergency such as a data breach. Instead, think of milestones within the organization that might require a test of your information security. Aside from compliance obligations, common examples include a new web-based application that allow employees to access data remotely, a desktop or operating system refresh, or new network access points such as routers.

All these potentially can be misconfigured and present vulnerabilities that may not be immediately obvious to internal IT teams, who already have a lot on their plate.

Get a second security opinion

A security partner with deep and extensive penetration testing capabilities has experience that enables it to poke holes in information security and find vulnerabilities their customers won’t. It’s their business to be up to speed on the misconfigurations and current threats, including those in the latest software and hardware that might allow a threat actor to steal data or take control of a system.

An outside security partner can put together a penetration testing plan that considers your infrastructure, including new switches and servers, as well the motivations for doing the test: Is to meet compliance objectives? Satisfy a potential customer? Meet industry standards? If you’re not sure why you’re doing penetration testing but do understand it should be part of your information security program, a partner can help you understand the benefits.

Partner for the long term

Just as all penetration tests are created equal, neither are security partners who perform them, so you need clear selection criteria.

Ideally, you want partner with an organization over the long term, so you should take the time to evaluate the methods of a potential service providers, as well as the skill sets of the testers they employ. Understanding your compliance requirements to guide penetration testing is a good start, but you should work with your security partner to define your goals and make sure their capabilities are in alignment with them.

You also need to be prepared for them to find problems—set your ego aside. The whole point of penetration testing is to be able remediate problem areas and improve your overall security posture. Most of all, remember that testing shouldn’t be an occasional, scheduled, tactical activity to tick off boxes on a compliance checklist. It’s part of a broader exercise for protecting sensitive data and is a contributor to your competitive advantage—documenting and certifying your penetration testing can differentiate you in your industry and build trust and credibility with customers.

The right security partner can help you develop a penetration testing regime that’s driven by milestones in your IT environment as well as compliance requirements and critical business information that allows you to remediate threats iteratively and effectively.

  • October 29, 2020
  • Catagory remote work

Improving security for remote workers should be a priority for IT teams

By : Sanjeev Spolia

Improving security for remote workers will hopefully be an inevitable consequence of the Covid-19 pandemic, and despite the inherent challenges, it should be a priority for IT teams.

Recent reports by Cisco looking at the future of secure remote work and consumer privacy found that IT buyers had been caught off-guard by the sudden shift of employees working from home, but are now speeding up adoption of technologies to support remote work. A majority of the 3,000 IT decision makers surveyed by Cisco rate cybersecurity as extremely or more important than it had been before the beginning of pandemic.

Guaranteeing access, securely

The biggest challenge for all IT teams regardless of an organization’s size has been improving security for remote workers, although providing the necessary access to the applications and data they needed came first. It comes at a time when the average consumer also values security and privacy as a social and economic issue, according to Cisco.

However, the company’s own research found there was a lot of work to be done toward improving security for remote workers by IT teams as just over half were somewhat prepared for the accelerated transition earlier this year. Endpoints, including those owned by organization, were cited as being the most difficult to protect, according to the Cisco survey, followed by customer information and cloud systems  with the ability to securely control access to the enterprise network being the biggest challenge.

Improving security for remote workers will no doubt continue to be an priority for IT teams, even post-pandemic, as some employees will continue to want the flexibility of working from home and organizations see continued benefits, including cost savings on office space, by not having everyone in a traditional office environment.

Digital transformation can lead to a more secure cloud infrastructure

While IT teams are likely to see some budget increases that will specifically support improving security for remote workers, there are many initiatives that can help improve overall cybersecurity posture for organizations that are already common steps in a digital transformation journey.

If you haven’t already, you should establish a cloud security strategy that’s part of a broader transition cloud infrastructure transition. This will indirectly go toward enhancing security for remote workers while allowing IT teams to have to worry less about on-premises systems that were unprepared for the sudden shift to remote work. While putting more applications and data the cloud come with their own cybersecurity challenges, they can scale better than on-premises solutions and provide the necessary flexibility for supporting a remote workforce.

The transition to the cloud should also include embracing new tools to stay secure, recognizing that IT teams still have some responsibility for securing cloud applications and data, even as the service provider has a role in securing systems, too. IT teams need visibility into cloud infrastructure as well as their on-premises deployments in a single interface.

At the same time, IT teams should consider what experts are calling “zero-trust security strategies.” A zero-trust approach assumes all users and endpoints could present a threat to the organization, so they must be able to prove they are trusted if they are to gain access to the enterprise network, applications and data.

You can be small and secure

For smaller organizations, improving security for remote workers is just as essential but can be challenge for their IT teams. A managed services provider with experience helping small and medium-sized business with their technology infrastructure can play a key role in accelerating their adoption of solutions that can support remote workers with robust security.

Sanjeev Spolia is CEO of Supra ITS

  • January 27, 2020
  • Catagory Multi-Cloud

Multi-cloud security includes securing public cloud instances

By : Justin Folkerts

Effective, robust multi-cloud security can’t be an afterthought. Securing public cloud instances is one of many significant operational considerations when embracing a multi-cloud strategy.

By making multi-cloud security an upfront priority, you prevent a lot of headaches that would inevitably pop up down the road, including interoperability issues. It also gives you a template for best practices and policy when securing public cloud instances in the future.

Draw a map of your multi-cloud security

Effectively securing public cloud instances should be guided not only by today’s needs from the platform but also how it might meet future business requirements as part of a broader multi-cloud environment. You need to align your business drivers for running multiple clouds with a security strategy so you can reduce—if not eliminate—weak links that can lead to data breaches and non-compliance with regulatory requirements and privacy legislation.

Define cloud workload security requirements

Multi-cloud’s reason for being reflects the trend toward lines of business and different areas of IT wanting to use the best cloud for the workload based on feature and performance needs. But multi-cloud security is no different than hybrid cloud environments in that you must keep in mind data confidentiality, integrity and availability.

Evaluate built-in cloud security features

Each public cloud platform comes with its own built-in security controls but securing public cloud instances will vary from provider to provider, even if the service is the same. How Amazon Web Services (AWS) secures a backup service offering will differ from that of Microsoft Azure, for example, so make you must understand the embedded security controls and tools for each cloud platform, and which ones are switch on by default, such as data encryption. Once you’ve established foundational multi-cloud security, you can augment appropriately on a per-platform basis.

Layer on additional security as needed

Multi-cloud security requires consistency. Once you understand what’s already built into the various cloud platforms you’ve spun up for each workload, you can add more layers, including third party tools, so you’re always applying global security policy automatically no matter how your multi-cloud environment grows or changes. Automation is critical to effectively securing public cloud instances in a scalable manner that keeps your overall environment manageable.

Multi-cloud security means 24/7 monitoring

Securing public cloud instances in a hybrid model usually means relying on security tools from a specific provider or one you’ve selected for monitoring your on-premises environment. Multi-cloud security means you must maximize visibility across your entire portfolio of cloud deployments and any other systems with which they may interact.

Multi-cloud security requires significant forethought if you’re achieve and maintain the necessary visibility to mitigate risk and meet today’s ongoing compliance and regulatory pressures. Securing public cloud instances in a multi-cloud environment also means knowing for certain who’s responsibility for what and establishing practices so you can scale and automate security with the pace of business and a cloud-first strategy.

  • December 11, 2019
  • Catagory Managed IT Services

Be Mindful of Technology Trends for the Coming Year

By : Sanjeev Spolia

Even as 2019 starts to wind down, it’s hard not think about the year ahead and how best to focus our energies—including IT operations. It’s safe to say the more things change, the more things stay the same as many of challenges will continue into 2020 as they have in previous years.

However, these challenges continue to evolve and coming up with a strategy for them can better prepare you for emerging technologies and trends that are bound to affect your business operations and your IT infrastructure, if sometimes only indirectly.

Security

It seems a little obvious to say security is important—most consider it table stakes when deploying and managing IT today—but it can never be overstated that it’s something you must keep on top of. Threats to data and applications, either from human error or malicious threats such as malware and hackers, are never going to go away. If you only make one New Year’s resolution, make it to get your arms around security. The next year will go smoother operationally with better visibility into what’s going on across your network, and what’s happening to your data. Both your C-suite and customers will benefit.

Compliance and Privacy

Security should not be confused with compliance and privacy, and vice versa, but all three are heavily intertwined. Security is an essential part of being compliant with privacy legislation, and there’s consequences for not being able to adhere to the various regulatory frameworks and legislation in play. The European General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) and Canada’s Personal Information Protection and Electronic Documents Act (PIPEDA) aren’t going anywhere, and the state of California has its own privacy legislation in the works. Despite their countries of origins, their impact can penetrate many other jurisdictions worldwide. If you don’t know if and how these and other rules affect you, make 2020 the year you figure out for certain.

Data Governance

Part of compliance is data governance, but even without privacy legislation at play, there’s plenty of reasons to have a strategy in place to manage the exponential growth of information. Whether it’s practical considerations such as storing it cost effectively or making it better available for business applications, the time to get a handle on your data is always now because it’s only going to grow in volume and velocity.

Multi-cloud

As public clouds platforms proliferate and widen their scope to offer more services and handle more workloads, a multi-cloud model has emerged that reflects the reality that business requirements from various cloud platforms differ. Some are better suited for handling the application and data demands of marketing and salespeople, while others are better geared for processing a high volume of transactions, rapidly and reliably. Although a public cloud provider may do everything a business needs, it can also mean compromising on features or performance. A best-of-breed, multi-cloud approach reduces dependence on any single public cloud platform while preserving the flexibility to move workloads between providers.

Business Intelligence and Data Analytics

Getting a handle on your data is essential if you want to make good use of it. No matter than size of your organization, it’s full of information that can help you optimize operations and business processes while improving your marketing, whether it’s by helping you land new customers or keep the current ones happy—even upselling them to buy more of your products and services. Business intelligence certainly isn’t new, but because every organization is swimming in information, it’s no longer a luxury. If you’re not tapping into it for competitive advantage, others in your industry certainly are.

The Internet of Things / Operational Technology

Some of that data is coming from new and interesting place as the Internet of Things and operational technology (OT) devices are increasingly comprising enterprise networks. Traditionally segmented from IT infrastructure, OT endpoints in manufacturing and municipal facilities that deliver water and power are being added to existing IP networks. These pose challenges from a management and security perspective, but also present opportunities to innovate based on the data that’s ingested, as well as optimizing business processes.

Automation 

Gone are the days of throwing more people at a problem. Even if money is no object, it’s no longer feasible to do every task manually—people just can’t keep up. In the rush to try, human error can lead to misconfigurations that impact security posture, compliance and the customer experience. It means your IT teams aren’t focusing on strategic initiatives and you’re not focused on your core business. Whether it’s automating through emerging technologies enabled by artificial intelligence or handing off repetitive tasks to a business process services provider, you need to make smart decisions about who does what and why.

A new year always brings new opportunities and new challenges. No matter the size of your business or industry, all these technology trends are bound to affect you in some way. Understanding how is the first step, and that’s where a managed IT services provider can help. They’ve already helped other customers navigate the terrain and develop best practices that you can implement to move your business forward and improve the bottom line.