Data protection is critical for all small businesses

Small businesses that misuse data or fall victim to breaches not only risk financial loss, but also reputational damage.

Small businesses that misuse data or fall victim to breaches not only risk financial loss, but also reputational damage.

A study from Gigya showed that 69% of consumers have reservations about brands handling their personal information, while nearly half of UK firms were affected by a data breach in 2017.

By failing to implement sufficient mechanisms to protect customer data, companies not only risk incurring financial loss by having to pay hefty fines and mitigate damage caused by breaches, but they also risk reputational damage.
Facebook, for instance, has been criticised for taking a lacklustre approach to data privacy after it was discovered that that the social media site somehow let marketing firm Cambridge Analytica gain unauthorised access to an estimated 87 million user accounts.

With the compliance deadline for the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) on 25 May 2018, most firms should be considering what they can do to boost and improve their data protection procedures and prevent breaches.

Customer trust is paramount for small businesses

As the compliance deadline for the GDPR looms, firms have increasingly been exploring ways they can improve their security mechanisms. Businesses that fail to adhere to the law face having to pay up to €20m in fines.

Such a sum of money would be damaging for most firms, but reputational damage would be more catastrophic to companies. Consumers put their faith in firms that conduct good data practice.

Businesses must be more transparent at disclosing not only policies and terms and conditions, but exactly how the data will be used. They need to be more specific in terms of what data is being collected and detail the intended use. Many companies are asking customers for their permission to harvest data, but opt-in mechanisms are vague.

Consumers are becoming more aware about data privacy concerns, mainly because of news headlines. A key example is the Facebook and Cambridge Analytica debacle.

Data protection is a constant operation

Many businesses are failing to implement appropriate mechanisms to protect this information.

Personal data is considered to be one of the most sensitive categories of data an organisation has access to, and perhaps it is the most valuable. As the value of personal data increases, so should the controls needed to protect it.

Personal data should be processed only with clear consent given by the data owner, with a transparent agreement and an organisation-wide focus on preventing data theft or misuse.

To identify misuse, firms should constantly analyse their businesses procedures and operations to ensure they are compliant with the latest data protection safeguards. Firms should not assume that once they have installed or developed a system to protect customer data, they have nothing else to do.

With the GDPR compliance deadline looming, UK organisations should be in the final stages of educating their workforce and deploying the appropriate technology to manage the large swathes of information they hold.

As masses of devices continue to connect to the internet, it is clear companies will have access to an ever-growing amount of data. If they put the right data protection and management mechanisms in place, they can gain a lot of potential from customer information. But without sufficient safeguards, the risks will keep on growing and firms could find themselves in all sorts of trouble.

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Majority of SME businesses firms unprepared for cyber phishing attacks

57% of SME small businesses are unprepared for a cyber phishing attack, despite the fact that 78% have been hit by a cyber security attack that started that way, a report shows.

57% of SME small businesses are unprepared for a cyber phishing attack, despite the fact that 78% have been hit by a cyber security attack that started that way, a report shows.
Most cyber attacks can be traced back to a phishing email, but more than half of small businesses are unprepared to deal with email-based attacks, research has revealed

Security teams reported that they are struggling to respond to the number of suspicious emails being received, according to the latest European phishing response trends report by phishing defence firm Cofense.

Other key findings of the small business report include that the top security concern is phishing and email-related threats, with 41% of respondents saying their biggest anti-phishing challenge is poorly integrated security systems.

The UK reports the most suspicious emails each week across Europe with 23% reporting more than 500, followed by the Netherlands (22%), France (20%), Germany (18%) and Belgium (16%).

With phishing and email-related threats being the main security concern of the European-based survey respondents, the report said it is critical that businesses have an effective strategy to counter the attack vector, which is fully integrated with broader security solutions.

According to Cofense, it is paramount that phishing simulations are like the real thing and encourage reporting which, in turn, can not only stop a malicious email compromising an enterprise’s network, but can also give the incident response team a head start.

“The analysis of email-based attacks gives us extremely valuable insight into the security posture of European organisations,” said Rohyt Belani, co-founder and CEO of Cofense. “What we’re really looking at here is addressing human susceptibility and building human resiliency to work in concert with technology to combat security threats facing Europe.”

Cyber Security Phishing Dangers

  • More than one million new phishing sites created each month.
  • Phishing is no longer just a consumer problem, say experts. The scams are hurting companies’ reputations and bottom lines.
  • Email is the number one entry point for data breaches, which includes targeted email attacks such as business email compromise and spear phishing.
  • Targeted malware attacks and social engineering schemes such as phishing and whaling pose a growing security threat because cyber criminals are getting help from unwitting users.

Cyber attacks, particularly those on a scale that can siphon billions of euros from the financial system, involve a complex web of both victims and potential access points for cyber criminals to elevate the severity of an attack.

Phishing attacks, despite being among the most well-known cyber security attack vectors, are still consistently fooling companies and private individuals.

Phishing presents such a concern because it is the “spark that ignites a long line of malicious activity, creating a pipeline of infected systems and accessible data for threat actors to leverage in further criminal campaigns.

Small businesses need to engage with stringent educational campaigns around these issues across all levels of the organisation.

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Most UK Britons concerned about personal data sharing

More than half of UK consumers (57%) are worried that about how much personal data they have shared online.

More than half of UK consumers (57%) are worried that about how much personal data they have shared online.

Britons also feel that the data they share is not being used to benefit them, with 48% saying businesses benefit the most and 63% saying the organisation holding the data should be responsible for protecting it, according to a poll of more than 2,000 UK consumers commissioned by identity management firm ForgeRock.

Only a third (36%) of consumers say they would be likely to share personal data to get a more personalised service, with over half (53%) saying they would not be comfortable for their personal information to be shared with a third party under any circumstances. Just 15% say they would be likely to sell personal data to an organisation or business.

At the same time, UK consumers underestimate how much personal information is available online, with 46% saying they do not feel they know how much data is available about them online, 19% saying they think Twitter has access to data on users’ political affiliations, 31% believing Instagram has access to location data on its users, 48% thinking Facebook holds information on whether they have children, and 20% believing Facebook does not have access to any personal data about its users, despite the fact that social networks have access to this data on a large number of their users.

One in three would take legal action and 24% would contact the police about their personal data being shared.

British consumers are also clear that there would be consequences for any company sharing their data without their consent, with 58% saying they would stop using a company’s services completely if it shared data without their permission, 49% would remove or delete all the data held on them by that company, 44% would advise their family and friends against using the company, and 30% would request financial compensation.

Growing concerns about data sharing

With the EU’s General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) set to give consumers much more control over their personal data and how it is used, the survey report said it is crucial that members of the public understand their rights and how their data is being used and shared.

The ForgeRock survey suggests there are growing concerns about data sharing, which businesses and regulators should address. Some 63% of UK consumers say they know little or nothing about their rights regarding personal data and 64% have never heard of or know nothing about GDPR.

Banks and credit card companies are most likely to be seen as trusted holders of personal data, the survey shows, with 82% of consumers reporting that they trust these organisations to store and use personal data responsibly. Amazon also performed well, with over three-quarters (78%) of consumers saying they trust the ecommerce company to manage personal data.

Social media platforms performed less well, with 63% of Britons saying they trust social networks to treat personal data in a responsible manner.

There is a clear correlation between the organisations consumers trust with their data and how in control they feel, the report said, with Amazon (60%), banks and credit card companies (58%) and mobile phone operators (51%) ranked as the organisations that give users most control over their data. Just 51% of UK consumers said they feel in control of the data that is shared with social media platforms.

In contrast, social media companies offer consumers experiences without any financial payment – instead they pay in data. If companies were more transparent about how their business models rely on purchases, attention or data, consumers would have a much stronger understanding of what their privacy risks are and could tailor their behaviours and trust levels accordingly.

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Small businesses face unprecedented volume of cyber attacks

Small businesses are facing the highest levels of cyber attacks in both number and sophistication as automated swarm attacks increase.

Small businesses are facing the highest levels of cyber attacks in both number and sophistication as automated swarm attacks increase.

A cyber threat report reveals an average of 274 exploit detections per firm were recorded in the last quarter of 2017, up 82% from the previous quarter, according to Fortinet’s latest global threat landscape report.

The Fortinet report shows that the number of malware families also increased by 25% and unique variants grew by 19%, indicating not only growth in volume, but also an evolution of the malware.

Also, automated and sophisticated “swarm attacks” are accelerating, the report said, making it increasingly difficult for organisations to protect users, applications and devices.

As small businesses become more digital, the report warned that cyber criminals are taking advantage of the expanding attack surface to carry out new disruptive attacks, including swarm-like assaults that target multiple vulnerabilities, devices and access points simultaneously.

The combination of rapid threat development and the increased propagation of new variants is increasingly difficult for many organisations to counter, the report said.

The researchers found that encrypted traffic using HTTPS and SSL (secure sockets layer) grew to a high of 60% of total network traffic, but the report noted that although encryption can help protect data in motion as it moves between core, cloud and endpoint environments, it also represents a real challenge for traditional security technology that has no way of filtering encrypted traffic.

Three of the top 20 attacks identified in the quarter targeted internet of things (IoT) devices and exploit activity quadrupled against devices such as Wi-Fi cameras. None of these detections was associated with a known or named vulnerability, which the report said is one of the troubling aspects of vulnerable IoT devices.

Unlike previous IoT-related attacks, which focused on exploiting a single vulnerability, the report said new IoT botnets such as Reaper and Hajime can target multiple vulnerabilities simultaneously, which is much harder to combat.

The data shows ransomware is still prevalent, with several strains topping the list of malware variants. Locky was the most widespread malware variant and GlobeImposter was second.

The report highlighted an increase in sophisticated industrial malware, with the data showing an uptick in exploit activity against industrial control systems (ICS) and safety instrumental systems (SIS). This suggests these under-the-radar attacks might be climbing higher on attackers’ radar, the report said, citing an attack dubbed Triton, which has the ability to cover its tracks by overwriting the malware itself with garbage data to thwart forensic analysis.

Because these platforms affect vital critical infrastructures, they are enticing for threat actors, the report said, adding that successful attacks can cause significant damage with far-reaching impact.

The report also pointed out that steganography, which embeds malicious code in images, also appears to be resurgent.

The Sundown exploit kit, the report said, uses steganography to steal information, and although it has been around for some time, it was reported by more organisations than any other exploit kit, and was found dropping multiple ransomware variants.

The threat data in the quarter’s report reinforces many of the predictions made by the Fortinet FortiGuard Labs global research team for 2018, which forecast the rise of self-learning hivenets and swarmbots.

The report predicted that the attack surface will continue to expand, while visibility and control over today’s infrastructures diminish. To address the problems of speed and scale by adversaries, the report said organisations need to adopt strategies based on automation and integration.

“Security should operate at digital speeds by automating responses as well as applying intelligence and self-learning so that networks can make effective and autonomous decisions,” the report said.

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Poor data handling is effecting business sales

The failure to protect customer data is creating sales problems for businesses.

The failure to protect customer data is creating sales problems for businesses.

According to a survey by security firm RSA some 90% of respondents said they were concerned about their personal data being lost, manipulated or stolen.

Monetary theft (74%), identity theft (70%) and having embarrassing or sensitive information made public (45%) were the biggest data security concerns. More than a third (36%) also fear being blackmailed with stolen private images or messages.

Some 84% of UK respondents and 81% of Italians listed security information as a concern, both higher than the global average, while German respondents expressed the most concern about genetic data, US respondent were the most concerned about location data.

As a result, 78% said they try to limit the amount of personal information they share and 49% have falsified information online in an attempt to protect themselves,

More importantly from a business point of view, 62% of consumers said they would blame the company involved above anyone else, even the hacker had exposed their personal data.

With 78% saying a company’s reputation relating to its handling of customer data made an impact on their buying decisions.

In fact, an average of 69% said they have or would boycott a company that showed a lack of regard for protecting customer data, with 82% of UK respondents saying they do so.

Some 60% of all respondents said if they hear that a company has been selling or misusing data without consent they will avoid handing data over to them, and 58% said if they know a company has been mishandling data they are less likely to buy services from them.

RSA said “With more than half (54%) of respondents less likely to buy from a company they know has been mishandling data, and 62% inclined to blame the company above anyone else if data is lost, it’s clear consumers are ready to vote with their feet against organisations that fall short of their expectations.”

“The financial and reputational damage of a data breach in 2018 could be devastating.”

The research further underlines the business benefit of ensuring customers’ data and privacy is protected. More than half (53%) of respondents said they were more likely to shop with a company that could prove it takes data protection seriously.

Consumers clearly understand the value of their personal data and, while there may rightly be occasions for caution, they are willing to part with it under the right circumstances.

After the compliance deadline for the European Union’s (EU’s) GDPR on 25 May 2018, RSA Security predicts that organisational privacy and data protection failings will become even more transparent because businesses will be forced to disclose any breach of the regulation.

Under this microscope, the security firm recommends that organisations must think of the wider business impact of privacy and data protection, while also understanding how to work within the GDPR to their advantage.

The research report points out that the GDPR will affect all companies that handle EU citizens’ data, including US cloud providers and businesses in post-Brexit Britain.

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ICO fines Carphone Warehouse £400K over data loss

Carphone Warehouse has received one of the highest fines by the ICO after putting it’s clients’ personal data at risk.

Carphone Warehouse has received one of the highest fines by the ICO after putting it's clients' personal data at risk.

The UK privacy watchdog – the Information Commissioner’s Office (ICO) warns that more stringent data protection laws will apply from 25 May 2018, with potentially much greater fines.The Information

According to the ICO, the personal data at Carphone Warehouse was exposed in a cyber attack because of the company’s failure to protect the data from unauthorised access.

The compromised customer data included names, addresses, phone numbers, dates of birth, marital status and, for more than 18,000 customers, historical payment card details.

The records for some Carphone Warehouse employees, including name, phone numbers, postcode and car registration, were also exposed.

In determining the monetary penalty, the ICO considered that the personal data involved would significantly affect individuals’ privacy, leaving their data at risk of being misused.

Information Commissioner Elizabeth Denham said that a company as large, well resourced and established as Carphone Warehouse should have been actively assessing its data security systems and ensuring that systems were robust and not vulnerable to such attacks.

“Carphone Warehouse should be at the top of its game when it comes to cyber security, and it is concerning that the systemic failures we found related to rudimentary, commonplace measures,” said Denham.

Following a detailed investigation, the ICO identified multiple inadequacies in Carphone Warehouse’s approach to data security and determined that the company had failed to take adequate steps to protect the personal information.

Using valid login credentials, intruders were able to access the system via an out of date version of WordPress software.

The incident also exposed inadequacies in the organisation’s technical security measures. The ICO said important elements of the software in use on the systems affected were out of date and the company had failed to carry out routine security testing.

The ICO said its investigation had revealed a serious contravention of Principle 7 of the Data Protection Act 1998, which requires appropriate technical and organisational measures to be taken against unauthorised or unlawful processing of personal data and against accidental loss or destruction of, or damage to, personal data.

According to Denham, the real victims are customers and employees whose information was open to abuse by the malicious actions of the intruder.

“The law says it is the company’s responsibility to protect customer and employee personal information,” she said. “Outsiders should not be getting to such systems in the first place. Having an effective layered security system will help to mitigate any attack – systems can’t be exploited if intruders can’t get in.

“There will always be attempts to breach organisations’ systems and cyber attacks are becoming more frequent as adversaries become more determined. But companies and public bodies need to take serious steps to protect systems and, most importantly, customers and employees.”

From 25 May this year, the law will get more stringent as the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) compliance deadline is reached, the ICO said.

Data protection by design is one of the GDPR’s requirements, the regulator said, and must be in every part of information processing, from the hardware and software to the procedures, guidelines, standards and polices that an organisation has or should have.

Companies and public bodies should ensure strong IT governance and information security measures are in place, tested and refreshed to comply with the provisions of the law, the ICO said.

Failure to comply with the GDPR requirements will put companies at risk of fines of up to €20m or 4% of their global annual turnover.

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Cyber 139 wishes You a Safe and Secure New Year

Cyber 139 wishes You a Safe and Secure New Year in 2018

Cyber 139 wishes You a Safe and Secure New Year in 2018
With 2018 now here we hope that you have had a Merry Christmas and a great festive break and hope that you are looking forward to a safe and secure year ahead.

Digital identity needs to be cyber security priority in 2018

Protecting digital identities and protecting employees are key cyber security challenges for 2018.

Protecting digital identities and protecting employees are key cyber security challenges for 2018

The issues of protecting digital identity, gaining data visibility and protecting employees are key cyber security challenges for 2018 according to the cyber security 2018 predictions report by security firm FireEye.

“The idea that you can get someone’s date of birth, and their Social Security number and steal their identity and do fraudulent tax refunds, or try to get a loan or credit card – that has to change,” FireEye said.

“This has to happen. Otherwise, every five months, we’re going to have another huge data breach,” they warned.

In addition to the imperative of finding a better way to manage identity, RedEye said it was also important to find a way of dealing with international privacy.

On the topic of nation state actors in the cyber realm, RedEye considers Iran the most interesting country to watch, rather than Russia, China or North Korea.

RedEye said while Iran started “acting at scale” in 2017, the extent of that activity was not really known. “We don’t know if we are seeing 5% of Iran’s activities, or 90% – although I’m guessing it’s closer to 5% – but they’re operating at a scale where, for the first time in my career, It feels to me that the majority of the actors we’re responding to right now are hosted in Iran, and they are state sponsored,” they said.

On the topic of cloud security, RedEye claimed better visibility was of paramount importance. I know that a lot of people are depending on the cloud, and we need visibility.

“Many of these cloud providers are providing it, but we don’t always have security operations that can take advantage of that visibility and see what’s happening,” he said.

An area many companies are still overlooking, RedEye said, is protecting employees from cyber attack.

He said companies needed to consider whether hackers could access corporate accounts through hacking employees’ private accounts, or if they could make it appear as though they have hacked the enterprise.

“There are hackers out there who will hack an employee at a company, and they will post any document they can get, and they will say they hacked the company even if they haven’t. It’s a reputational thing – while it’s hard to gauge the public response to these types of incidents, right now many companies are being deemed irresponsible or negligent or compromised when they are none of those things,” he said.

RedEye said all security professionals should be thinking about what employees are doing when they go home, how they can be secured, how they can be helped, what policies are needed and how those policies could be enforced.

They advised that all organisations moving into the cloud should know everything that is going on.

While there are bound to be new, interesting attacks in 2018, organisations should be preparing for modified versions of current attacks

“For instance, do you have places where documents are getting uploaded and then going into your back office? That’s a good place to ensure there is some high-grade detection, beyond an antivirus scanner. Because you essentially have unauthenticated input going directly into the key parts of your organisation.”

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Cyber security skills shortage can be addressed

The shortage of cyber security skills can be addressed according to the information security professional training and certification body (ISC)2

The shortage of cyber security skills can be addressed according to the information security professional training and certification body (ISC)2

There could be up to 1.8 million information security related roles unfilled worldwide by 2022, according to the latest Global information security workforce study from (ISC)2, but the organisation believes there are ways to address this potential shortfall.

“It makes no sense that we have employment issues for veterans and other communities on the one hand, and information security jobs being unfilled on the other,” according to John McCumber, director of cyber security advocacy at (ISC)2.

In this newly created role of advocacy for the information security profession, McCumber is engaging with the governments on issues such as workforce development and supporting information security professionals in the work they do.

McCumber, who has been working in information security in military, national security and civilian roles for the past 30 years, argues that in the light of the fact that there are jobs for people coming out of trade schools, there is no reason that aspects of cyber security cannot be turned into trades.

“By treating cyber security as a trade, it will enable school leavers to get some basic skills without having to do a four-year course and to provide valuable services in well-paid jobs in the cyber security field,” he said. “There are a lot of productive jobs in the cyber security field that do not need a four-year degree.”

The training is aimed at enabling veterans to join the (ISC)2 associate membership programme, which provides them with the experience required to qualify for various information security certifications.

“By enabling veterans to get certified as information systems security professionals, systems security practitioners and cloud security professionals, we are able to connect them with well-paying jobs,” said McCumber.

McCumber predicts that cyber security jobs will also begin changing in future as new technologies enable organisations to automate a lot of their cyber attack responses.

“Things like penetration testing are also likely to be automated with advances in so-called artificial intelligence, so (ISC)2 is working with information security professionals to position themselves for the new world of work and show organisations how they can help them understand their cyber risk and provide an objective way of managing that risk,” he said.

“As a result, that projected 1.8 million cyber security skills gap will not look as insurmountable in two to three years’ time,” he said.

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Ransomware up nearly 2,000% in two years as cyber mafia hit business

Cyber attacks on businesses in 2017 grew in frequency, sophistication and malice – a report on the new age of organised cyber crime finds.

Cyber attacks on businesses in 2017 grew in frequency, sophistication and malice - a report on the new age of organised cyber crime finds.

The new generation of cyber criminals increasingly resembles traditional mafia organisations, requiring a new approach to dealing with it, according to a report by security firm Malwarebytes.

Cyber criminals have the same professional organisation as mafia gangs of the 1930s, but they also share a willingness to intimidate and paralyse victims, the report shows.

Malwarebytes’ analysis also shows that, in spite of acknowledging the severe reputational and financial risks of cyber crime, many business leaders greatly underestimate their vulnerability to such attacks.

The report calls for businesses and consumers to fight back by acting as “vigilantes” through greater collective awareness, knowledge sharing and proactive defenses. This includes a shift from shaming businesses that have been hacked to engaging with them and working together to fix the problem.

Businesses must also heighten their awareness of cyber crime, and take a realistic view towards the likelihood of attack.

The vast impacts of these attacks, the report said, mean that cyber crime must be elevated from a tech issue to a business-critical consideration.

Malwarebytes’ data demonstrates the urgent need for such a shift in approach by highlighting the capacity of these fast-maturing gangs to inflict greater damage on businesses.

The new cyber mafia, the report said, is accelerating the volume of attacks, with the average monthly volume of attacks in 2017, up 23% compared with 2016. In the UK, the report said 28% of businesses had experienced a “serious” cyber attack in the past 12 months.

Ransomware attacks detected by Malwarebytes show that the number of attacks in 2017 from January to October was 62% greater than the total for 2016.

In addition, detections are up 1,989% since 2015, reaching hundreds of thousands of detections in September 2017, compared with fewer than 16,000 in September 2015. In 2017, ransomware detections rose from 90,351 in January to 333,871 in October.

“The new mafia, identified by our report, is characterised by the emergence of four distinct groups of cyber criminals: traditional gangs, state-sponsored attackers, ideological hackers and hackers-for-hire,” said Marcin Kleczynski, CEO of Malwarebytes.

Malwarebytes argues that the growth of cyber crime and a lack of clarity over how best to police it is damaging victim confidence, with those affected by cyber crime often too embarrassed to speak out.

This is true for consumers and businesses alike, the report said, and can have dangerous ramifications as firms bury their heads in the sand instead of working to reduce future incidents.

The report suggests that the answer lies in engaging and educating the C-suite so that CEOs are as likely as IT departments to recognise the signs of an attack and be able to respond appropriately.

“CEOs will soon have little choice but to elevate cyber crime from a technology issue to a business-critical consideration,” he said.

“Rather than sit back and minimise the blow from cyber crime, individuals and businesses must take the same actions that previous generations of vigilantes once did against the fearsome syndicates of their day: fight back,” the report said.

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