What is Managed EDR Security?

What is Managed EDR Security?

Summary of Key Points

  • Managed EDR provides proactive endpoint security, surpassing traditional antivirus methods
  • Key features include behavioral monitoring, threat hunting, incident triage, rapid response, cloud-based management, scalability, and integration with existing security systems.
  • Its significance lies in enhancing endpoint visibility, addressing vulnerabilities from BYOD and weak passwords, ensuring compliance, and mitigating cyber threats effectively.

All of us have sensitive data that we don’t want to get into the wrong hands. It doesn’t matter if you’re a small business owner or you’re managing a multinational corporation. As long as there are data sets that could be used by bad actors to make money off of you, protecting that data will remain a critically important precaution. 

Managed EDR is one of the most sophisticated means of protecting your data today. This type of security service addresses the shortcomings of antivirus and anti-malware software that we’ve all used over the past few decades and takes a more proactive approach to protecting your sensitive files and data.

Utilizing EDR services in any form provides a powerful line of defense against unauthorized access to your data, but utilizing a managed EDR service takes much of the burden off your shoulders. Once you understand what EDR is and how it can protect your organization from possible threats, it becomes clear just how valuable an investment it is.

What is EDR?

EDR stands for Endpoint Detection and Response. EDR focuses on monitoring and protecting endpoints against outside threats. This is important in that endpoints are among the most vulnerable targets for attackers looking to gain unauthorized access and compromise your data. EDR allows system administrators to identify those potential threats in a timely manner and take the necessary steps to remediate them.

What are endpoints?

Endpoints refer to the devices we use every day to conduct our business, including smartphones, tablets, desktop and laptop computers, virtual environments, and servers. The fact that these devices can be prone to vulnerabilities caused by user error and poor security practices makes them primary points of attack for hackers and cybercriminals. 

Traditional methods of endpoint protection like antivirus software only detect compromised files after a breach has already occurred. EDR, on the other hand, identifies threats through known behavioral patterns and preemptively protects your data against unauthorized access. 

How does EDR work?

EDR protects your data by monitoring multiple reference points, such as memory, running processes, network activity, and common attack rule sets. It continually collects and analyzes data in real time, giving stakeholders time to neutralize the threat before an attack occurs. By continuously monitoring these activities, EDR can allow us to neutralize the threat before it has a chance to access our files and compromise our data.

All that said, EDR software is not a standalone threat protection product. It is intended to complement other security solutions and make them more effective. The best protection is provided through multiple layers of security solutions, and EDR systems are a powerful ally.

What is Managed EDR?

If managing an EDR software yourself sounds like a large job, it is. If you aren’t technically inclined or don’t have experience in the field, managing EDR software yourself will be incredibly time consuming. Even if you know what you’re doing, it’s unlikely you have the bandwidth to tackle this project alone. For consumers who want their EDR services managed, MDR is a fantastic option.

Managed EDR, or MDR, stands for managed endpoint detection and response. It provides all the benefits of EDR but with a dedicated staff with years of experience in threat hunting, monitoring user activity, and sifting through information to identify threats. MDR takes the strain off your in-house teams and provides significant value at a reduced cost. 

Sourcing the right managed EDR provider

When shopping for an EDR provider, it’s important that you know what you’re looking for. A comprehensive solution should revolve around a number of key features. This list contains some of the most desirable features in any managed EDR service. The more boxes you can check with your provider, the more layers of protection you’ll get for your organization’s data.

Behavioral Monitoring and Analysis

Behavioral anomalies are often the first sign that something is amiss. Humans thrive on habit, and that results in predictable behavioral patterns in everyday activities. When behaviors deviate distinctly from the norm, it’s something security experts always want to be aware of. Consistent EDR monitoring and analysis of user behaviors not only helps generate a behavioral baseline but also provides great insight when any deviations appear.

Threat Hunting

If your EDR solution simply sits back and waits for threats to show their heads, your organization will find itself at a disadvantage when it comes to stopping those threats and remediating any damage. A good EDR solution will actively hunt for threats, known and unknown. 

Threat hunting is conducted by expert security analysts who analyze data for any threats that the software may have missed. As threats evolve and become better at evading detection, leveraging the expertise of experienced analysts becomes more important than ever.

Incident Triage

A fast response is necessary to minimize the damage done by any perceived threat. Managed EDR solutions with incident triage features are able to prioritize the most severe threats for more in-depth review. This allows security teams to address the most pressing and dangerous issues first, protecting organizations from the most damaging threats.

Rapid Response Times

If a breach does occur through an endpoint, response must be quick and thorough. The more quickly we are able to remedy the breach, the more likely it is that we can minimize the damage done. Any good EDR technology with full endpoint visibility and context mapping will allow for an incredibly rapid response.

Cloud-based solution

Protecting your data with a cloud-based solution allows for more efficient use of time and resources. Rather than configuring and managing each endpoint individually, cloud-based EDR solutions provide unified management of the system as a whole. This approach streamlines the process and makes scaling simple. This will prove to be invaluable as your organization grows.

Scalability

As your needs evolve down the line, it’s important that you have an EDR solution that is able to scale to meet those needs. Each additional employee can potentially contribute multiple endpoints to your network, and each of them will require the same level of defense as your current network of devices. Make sure your EDR is ready to take them on.

Integration with your other security platforms

As we touched on briefly, EDR is not a standalone security product that will fully secure your data all by itself. It is a complementary product that works with other security platforms to deliver the most comprehensive threat detection and response possible. Ensuring your managed EDR system integrates seamlessly with your other security platforms will ensure you get the most out of the service.

Why we need endpoint detection and response

As the modern workforce has become more mobile over the past couple of decades, the threats against our many endpoints have only increased. Hackers and cyber criminals exploit weaknesses presented by company policies and human habits to gain access to our networks. Endpoint detection and response services operate under this knowledge to deliver benefits that you can’t get with other types of cybersecurity technology. 

Endpoint visibility

As organizations grow and expand, they may have hundreds or thousands of endpoints attached to their networks. This represents hundreds or thousands of vulnerabilities. Monitoring them is crucial to protecting your data. 

Choosing a managed EDR partner provides total visibility of your endpoints and assets, greatly improving your network security. Both company policies and user behaviors drive the need for greater endpoint visibility.

Many employees use their own devices

A key vulnerability in many endpoints is created through BYOD, or bring your own device policies. BYOD policies allow employees to access the organization’s network and accounts remotely, but it also means they are accessing this information from devices that may not be set up with the necessary threat protection to keep information safe. By monitoring these endpoints with managed EDR, we can give employees the freedom to use their own devices without exposing our sensitive data to hackers.

Poor password practices

Another user-related reason endpoint detection and response has become so critical is the use of weak passwords. Strong passwords are an essential part of protecting against cyber attacks, yet many users still default to passwords that are easy for them to remember and are often easy to guess as well. This represents a significant problem, but we can minimize the impact of that weak link with managed EDR services.

Compliance

Some industries require more stringent security measures be taken than others. When a data breach could expose personally identifiable information or put people at significant risk, maintaining network visibility and protecting that data are especially important. Implementing managed EDR can keep your organization compliant with both regulatory requirements and industry standards.

Explore our managed endpoint security services

VirtualArmour provides a host of network and security products to keep your data safe, including managed EDR. We have been serving the needs of businesses, enterprises, and organizations globally since 2001. That experience fuels the expertise with which we design and deploy our security solutions. If you’d like to learn more or receive a customized quote, reach out to set up a free discovery call.

Benefits of Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)

Benefits of Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)

Summary of Key Points

  • Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR) is a proactive cybersecurity technology that monitors endpoints to protect data and streamline incident response.
  • Key benefits include enhanced network visibility, improved compliance, reduced risk, faster incident response, cost savings, unified management, and scalability.
  • Vital for safeguarding against evolving cyber threats and ensuring data security in remote work environments.

Any business that operates online understands the importance of protecting its data. The more employees we have logging on remotely from a myriad of personal devices, the more opportunity there is for cyber criminals and other bad actors to access our networks. If you’re looking to beef up your level of protection, endpoint detection and response should be at the top of your to-do list.

Endpoint detection and response, or EDR, benefits organizations in a number of ways. From monitoring endpoints to streamlining incident response processes, there is a lot to be excited about. Let’s look at what endpoint detection and response is, as well as some of the top ways that this simple security concept can both increase your data protection levels and save your organization time and money. 

What is EDR?

Endpoint detection and response is an evolved cyber security technology designed to proactively protect your important files and data. Most traditional technologies like antivirus and antimalware software will only alert us once a breach has occurred. EDR services, on the other hand, monitor multiple reference points associated with endpoint activity, alerting system administrators and security teams to anomalies before the threat even has a chance to infiltrate the network.

What are Endpoints?

Basically, we all log on to our organizational networks through endpoints. These endpoints may include cell phones, tablets, personal computers, laptops, or any other device employees might use while performing their work for the organization. Endpoints are top targets for hackers, particularly due to the fact that human behaviors and BYOD policies can make them vulnerable.

BYOD Policies

With the rise of remote workers, many organizations allow employees to use their own devices. These policies are known as BYOD or Bring Your Own Device. Allowing the use of personal devices makes it more difficult for the organizations to control those devices, meaning they aren’t always as well protected as a company device would be without a significant time and resource investment.

Human Behaviors

The way we use our devices also comes into play. If organizations haven’t set up robust security measures on employees’ personal devices or users are using easy-to-guess passwords, this could present potential weaknesses when it comes to data security. Considering the fact that around half of all internet users rely on memorized passwords, login information security is something that needs to be addressed.

By continually monitoring endpoints and the activities surrounding them, EDR benefits organizations by providing advance notice that a threat may be out there, and giving them the tools they need to respond appropriately.

How does EDR work?

EDR solutions monitor multiple reference points, such as memory, running processes, network activity, and common attack rule sets. It continually collects and analyzes endpoint data in real time, alerting analysts to anything that seems amiss, and initiating investigation and response processes. If the threat proves credible, unaffected portions of the network are isolated and the threat is addressed.

This workflow allows us to identify most threats before they become a bigger problem, and in the case of novel threats that operate outside established attack rule sets, allows us to investigate how the attack occurred and quickly respond.

EDR software is not considered a standalone threat protection product, however. EDR benefits are most apparent when used to complement other security solutions. The best protection is provided through multiple layers of security solutions, and EDR systems are a powerful ally. 

How EDR Benefits Organizations

If you’ve already got a security system in place, you may wonder why you would need to add EDR to that system. As a complementary product, EDR benefits organizations like no other single security product can. Here are some of the top benefits of endpoint security that have organizations around the globe choosing EDR solutions to protect their sensitive data.

Increased Network Visibility 

Protecting against threats is difficult when we don’t have visibility into the weak spots in our defenses. EDR monitors and logs detailed endpoint information, vastly improving network visibility. Through continually monitoring user activity, processes, and application activity at organizational endpoints, EDR benefits network visibility like few other security products can.

Improved Compliance

Exposing data to hackers can spell disaster for any organization, but when your data contains personally identifiable information, the repercussions can multiply. Many industries that utilize this kind of data have their own compliance standards that every organization must adhere to, such as the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) and General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR). EDR benefits organizations by helping to keep them compliant with these standards.

Reduced Risk

Active threat hunting, as opposed to sitting back and waiting for an attack to occur, results in reduced risk to organizations and their data. By actively monitoring endpoints in real time and hunting for threats, we are able to quickly detect and respond to threats, reducing the likelihood that those threats translate into attacks that can cost companies big bucks and reputational points.

Reduced False Positives

Some security products alert users every time they see a perceived threat. This can feel overwhelming if many of those alerts prove to be false positives. This type of overreporting is dangerous because it can lead to complacency. 

EDR solutions investigate and analyze threats to make sure they are credible prior to alerting your security team. This can lead to significant time savings. If a threat does prove to be credible, EDR benefits us by reducing response times.

Fast Incident Response Times

Responding to attacks through traditional methods can take a long time. Countless hours are spent identifying the cause of the breach and isolating the rest of the system to keep it protected. EDR significantly reduces response times through a combination of automated processes and manual analysis.

By logging every activity at each endpoint, analysts have all the information they need to quickly identify the cause of the breach and prevent compromised data throughout the rest of the network. Of all the benefits of EDR, this one may provide the biggest benefit when it comes to cost savings.

Cost Savings

Dealing with security incidents can get expensive quickly. Not only do we have to identify how the incident occurred, but we must repair any damage that was done. Not only that, but we may also incur fines or penalties as a result of data breaches. Proactively hunting threats and protecting against attacks reduces risk and can deliver big cost savings in the long run.

Unified Management

Utilizing cloud-based solutions like EDR benefits organizations through simplified, unified network management. Managing each endpoint manually burns a lot of time and resources and opens the door to possible mistakes and mismatched settings. By managing them through a centralized, cloud-based system, we ensure that every endpoint on the network has the same configuration.

Scalability

This is another EDR security benefit directly tied to the cloud. As we add more employees and endpoints to our networks, having a scalable security solution becomes an absolute necessity. Cloud-based EDR solutions provide a simple way to add and remove endpoints as necessary, reducing the need for manual changes.

Explore our Endpoint Detection and Response Services

VirtualArmour offers a host of network and security products to keep your data safe, including managed EDR solutions. We have been serving the needs of businesses, enterprises, and organizations globally since 2001. That experience fuels the expertise with which we design and deploy each of our security solutions. If you’d like to learn more about EDR benefits or receive a customized quote, reach out to set up a free discovery call.

Cybersecurity & the Legal Industry: What You Need to Know (& Protect)

Cybersecurity & the Legal Industry: What You Need to Know (& Protect)

Summary of Key Points

  • Legal organizations store and handle large volumes of sensitive client data, making them particularly likely to be targeted by cybercriminals.
  • Legal firms and other organizations in the legal sphere require carefully crafted policies that carefully consider their unique and specific needs.
  • Cybersecurity insurance (also called cyber liability insurance) can help defray the costs associated with cybercrime if your customer data or technological systems be targeted by cybercriminals.

Technology has become a fact of life in the business world, and the legal sphere is no exception. With unique cybersecurity considerations, strict codes of ethics that must be adhered to, and a technological landscape that can sometimes make security feel like an afterthought, legal organizations of all stripes, including law firms and the SaaS companies that serve them, need to take extra precautions to ensure all sensitive data is secure and all regulatory and ethical guidelines are being adhered to.

See also:

Lawyer sitting in front of scales with digital symbols in front of him
Via Adobe Stock.

Legal Organizations Have Unique Cybersecurity Considerations

Legal organizations store and handle large volumes of sensitive client data, making them particularly likely to be targeted by cybercriminals. When a lawyer is hired, one of the first things they do is gather large amounts of sensitive client data, including occupation, personal finance details, criminal disclosure information and other sensitive data such as abuse material or violent crime scene evidence.

If this highly sensitive information is unintentionally disclosed via a data breach or through a more targeted attack such as phishing, victims of crime may find themselves revictimized, compounding their trauma. Failure to safeguard sensitive data can also cause severe reputational damage, impacting the firm’s future.

Unfortunately, robust cybersecurity policies and practices are still not universal among law firms. According to a 2021 American Bar Association Report, only 53% of surveyed firms have policies in place to manage the retention of data and other information held by the firm, and only 36% of firms have an incident response plan in place. Furthermore, 17% of firms have no policies in place at all, with 8% stating they didn’t even know about cybersecurity policies.

When it Comes to Cybersecurity Policies in the Legal Sphere, There’s No One-Size-Fits-All

While more general organizations may be able to meet their needs with a copy-and-paste approach to implementing a cybersecurity policy, legal firms and other organizations in the legal sphere require carefully crafted policies that carefully consider their unique and specific needs. While large firms with generous cybersecurity budgets may have the people power and funds to invest in state-of-the-art cybersecurity infrastructure and well-trained in-house cybersecurity teams, smaller firms may not have the same resources at their disposal. As such, smaller organizations often choose to partner with trusted Managed Security Services Providers (MSSPs), who possess the technical and security knowledge needed to craft a comprehensive and robust policy.

SaaS: What You Need to Know to Serve Your Legal Clients Effectively

SaaS (Software as a Service) companies that serve legal firms and other organizations in the legal sphere need to be cognizant of the unique regulatory and ethical requirements such organizations face. A SaaS company that can offer the high level of data security required to handle sensitive legal information and who is equipped to meet the regulatory and ethical requirements legal organizations are governed by is more likely to wake up to an inbox full of client inquiries than an organization that takes a more general approach.

If your SaaS organization is looking to entice legal clients, you should consider tailoring your product offerings to meet their unique needs and ensure your organization is equipped to address their specific security concerns.

Digital Lock mockup
Via Adobe Stock.

Safeguarding Sensitive Data in a Legal Setting

Like financial institutions and health care settings, legal organizations such as law firms handle high volumes of highly sensitive personal data that needs to be heavily safeguarded. However, while there is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all approach to developing a robust cybersecurity posture, there are some basic steps all organizations should be taking to best safeguard their data.

If your organization has experienced or is currently experiencing a cybersecurity incident, please contact our team of experts immediately and consider reviewing our educational article: Hacked? Here’s What to Know (& What to Do Next).

Conduct a Risk Assessment

You can’t solve a problem you don’t know exists. All organizations should begin by conducting a thorough risk assessment, including a vulnerability scan. A risk assessment evaluates your existing infrastructure for vulnerabilities and threats, giving you a better sense of the risks you face. A comprehensive risk assessment will also include recommendations for mitigating identified risks.

Once your initial risk assessment is complete, it is important to remain vigilant. Risk assessments should be conducted regularly and after any major system changes or upgrades to ensure that any new vulnerabilities can be quickly identified and addressed.

As part of your risk assessment, you may also want to consider investing in a pen test. Pen (penetration) testing involves hiring an ethical hacker to stress test your organization’s cybersecurity defenses, searching for gaps and vulnerabilities that they can exploit to gain access to sensitive data and systems. Once the test is complete, the hacker sits down with your team and reviews their findings, including recommendations for addressing your current cybersecurity shortfalls. Pen testing is particularly useful because it gives you a chance to view your security posture from the point of view of an attacker and can help uncover vulnerabilities and other shortcomings so they can be addressed before cybercriminals are able to exploit them.

Develop a Tailored Cybersecurity Policy & Incident Response Plan

Once your initial risk assessment has been completed, you can begin developing a tailored cybersecurity policy, including an incident response plan. Cybersecurity policies are becoming more common, with The American Bar Association’s 2022 Cybersecurity Survey reporting that 89% of respondents have one or more policies governing technology use in place (up from 83% in 2021 and 77% in 2020). However, only 76% of respondents have an email policy in place, and only 63% have a computer acceptable use policy, including 60% for internet use, 59% for remote access use, and 53% for business continuity and disaster recovery.

The same 2022 survey also found that only 42% of respondents have an incident response plan in place, including 72% of firms with over 100 attorneys, 46% of medium-sized firms (10-49 attorneys), and a mere 9% of solo respondents.

These statistics are concerning in a world where technology permeates nearly every aspect of business, including the legal sphere. A well-developed cybersecurity policy is critical for ensuring that all software and hardware used by your organization is capable of safeguarding sensitive client data and is being used in ways that promote, rather than hinder, your cybersecurity posture.

An incident response plan is equally important in a world where, sadly, it is less a question of if an organization is hacked but when. A well-crafted incident response plan offers detailed instructions for your team regarding detecting, responding to, and recovering from a cybersecurity incident. Please consider reviewing our Guide to Creating an Effective Incident Response Plan for practical, expert-driven advice on how to draft and implement an incident response plan.

Consider Cybersecurity Insurance

Cybersecurity incidents can be costly, and not just in terms of a firm’s reputation. In addition to the loss in productivity an incident such as a ransomware attack can produce, organizations often find that the costs associated with recovery and mitigation can quickly add up, easily overwhelming smaller firms with more modest budgets.

Cybersecurity insurance (also called cyber liability insurance) can help defray the costs associated with cybercrime if your customer data or technological systems be targeted by cybercriminals. Your exact coverage will vary depending on your insurance provider and other factors, but most policies typically cover legal costs and damages such as:

  • Incident response costs: This includes the cost of access to a 24/7/365 cyber incident response team and the costs associated with hiring a dedicated team to help you manage and coordinate your incident response after an incident.
  • Legal, forensic, and incident management costs: This includes the cost of any legal advice required from other firms, as well as notification fees, crisis management services, and, if applicable, credit monitoring services for affected clients.
  • Social engineering coverage: Some plans may cover cases where an employee was tricked into providing access to a system or sending funds to fraudsters.
  • System business interruption: This includes losses sustained due to system outages, which can curtail or even halt productivity.
  • System damage and restoration costs: This includes replacing or repairing damaged equipment and restoring any software damaged during the incident.

For more information about cybersecurity insurance, please consider reviewing our article What is Cybersecurity Insurance (& Does Your Business Need It?)

Invest in Ongoing Cybersecurity Training

A lack of employee training can undermine even the most detailed, robust, and comprehensive cybersecurity posture. All partners and employees should receive comprehensive cybersecurity training as part of your organization’s onboarding process. This training not only sets the tone that cybersecurity is important to your organization but can also help team members understand why cybersecurity is important and why their actions can either safeguard or expose sensitive client information.

Legal organizations should also consider offering all team members regular refresher training to help keep best practices top of mind and ensure that all changes and updates to your cybersecurity policy and incident response plan are communicated in a timely manner. This also provides an opportunity for team members to ask any questions they may have about your policy or offer any insights they might have regarding your current cybersecurity posture.

As part of your ongoing training, you may wish to consider staging tabletop exercises. Tabletop exercises are analogous to cybersecurity fire drills: Your team is presented with a hypothetical cybersecurity incident and tasked with responding. Tabletop exercises allow team members to leverage your current incident response plan, testing both its efficacy and their own skills. Once the exercise is complete, you can then review your team’s performance and address any shortfalls while also gathering valuable feedback regarding any gaps or deficiencies in your current cybersecurity posture.

Partner with Cybersecurity Experts who Understand Your Unique Security Considerations

As any good lawyer knows, not everyone can be an expert in everything. By partnering with an MSSP that understands your unique security considerations as a legal organization, you can rest assured that your security is in good hands and free up your team members to focus on your business. A good MSSP will employ a wide variety of cybersecurity and IT experts and monitor your network 24/7365 for suspicious activities. They can also help you develop tailored employee training guides and help you ensure your current cybersecurity posture and incident response plan are able to meet your needs.

VirtualArmour offers a wide variety of cybersecurity services, including managed open XDR, managed SIEM, endpoint detection and response, managed infrastructure and firewall, vulnerability scanning, and SOC as a service. We also offer comprehensive packages based on your level of need, including essential core services, premium services, and consulting-level services.

mans hands typing on a keyboard with super imposed text on the image
Via Adobe Stock.

Common Cyber Risks & Mitigation Tactics

Cybersecurity risks can exist where you least expect them. To help keep your team, and your data, safe, this next section will discuss several common cyber risks and offer practical advice regarding appropriate mitigation tactics.

Virtual Meetings

Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, video conferencing software has become increasingly mainstream and is often used in judicial and legal settings alike. Incidents of Zoom bombing, where malicious parties interrupted and disrupted Zoom calls, were distressingly common and disrupted at least one virtual court case. While Zoom has since rolled out end-to-end encryption in response to these incidents, it is still not enabled by default. As such, all law firms, courts, and other legal organizations and entities must ensure that this feature is enabled for all remote legal proceedings and client meetings.

Legal organizations should also consider adopting other security controls, including requiring participants to register before calls and requiring authentication, in order to help ensure private proceedings, meetings, and other forms of communication remain private.

Remote Teams

The sudden shift to remote work brought with it some growing pains, and while most organizations that continue to allow employees to work from home have smoothed out the most serious wrinkles, some security gaps may remain.

If attorneys or other team members are going to be accessing sensitive client data from outside the office, you should consider investing in secure connections and VPNs (Virtual Private Networks).

Secure connections refer to connections that have been encrypted using one or more security protocols. This ensures that all data flowing between two or more nodes is secure, preventing unauthorized third parties from accessing sensitive data and preventing this data from being altered or viewed by unknown parties. To help ensure security, secure connections require users to validate their identities.

On the other hand, VPNs leverage public internet connections to create private networks by masking your IP (Internet Protocol) address. By obscuring the user’s activities from outside view, a VPN user’s online actions become virtually untraceable, making this technology ideal for team members handling sensitive client data.

Decentralized Client Data

Decentralizing client data storage is the digital equivalent of not putting all of your eggs in one basket. Rather than storing all sensitive data in a single encrypted location, data is split into multiple pieces, each of which is encrypted and stored in a different location. Encryption has long been a vital part of any cybersecurity posture, but like any tool, it is imperfect. Encryption rests heavily on encryption key management, and its efficacy depends on choosing a key randomly and never reusing encryption keys. Encryption efficacy also depends on correct implementation, leaving room for error.

However, by decentralizing your client data and encrypting it, you can make it all but impossible for cybercriminals to reconstruct the data unless they can gather all the pieces before they are discovered. Even if a cybercriminal is able to gain access to sensitive data, the information they get may be either unusable (due to how it has been split up) or limited in scope since only a few clients may be impacted. This makes the attack both easier to contain and easier to recover from and minimizes potential damage to clients.

The Cloud

The cloud is a collection of web-based applications that allow users to remotely access programs via the internet, in contrast to the traditional approach of purchasing a program, installing it on your computer, and running it locally. While the cloud has revolutionized how many organizations approach work, it has also brought with it new security vulnerabilities that need to be addressed. For example, a misconfigured cloud could leave your organization vulnerable by allowing unauthorized third parties to intercept, view, or even alter sensitive data. Because the cloud is specifically designed with data sharing and accessibility in mind, it can be difficult to ensure that only authorized users are able to access data. A common example is link sharing, where any party with a link can access, even edit, steal, or delete data. This lack of control over where your data is stored can also leave you vulnerable to other forms of data loss, including data lost via a natural disaster that destroys physical servers or human error. In order to counteract this risk, functional and tested data recovery and backup processes need to be in place, and security needs to be baked into every network layer to best safeguard sensitive client data.

One of the main advantages of the cloud is the ability to access your organization’s data from anywhere, which is, unfortunately, both a boon and a security risk. Cybercriminals often target cloud-based networks because they are more easily accessed from the public internet. However, if team members are accessing sensitive data from their own devices, they may not have the same level of security as you do internally. As such, organizations that rely on a BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) policy rather than providing team members with laptops, smartphones, and tablets should take steps to minimize security risks. For more information and practical advice on how to achieve this goal, please consider reviewing our article Keeping Your Network Secure in a “Bring Your Own Device” World.

Using the cloud also means relying on a third party to handle your data, limiting your organization’s visibility and control over your infrastructure and trusting that your cloud provider takes security as seriously as you do. As such, if you choose to leverage the cloud, you should vet potential providers carefully and make sure their security posture meets your high standards. You should also explicitly ask how threat notifications and alerts are managed so that you can ensure your team is notified as soon as possible if an incident does occur.

Secure Communications

Your email servers should also be assessed for vulnerabilities. This is particularly important since email is a common way organizations share sensitive files both internally and with authorized third parties such as clients.
There are several steps you should be taking at the organizational and personal levels to improve email security. This includes:

Developing Strong Password Guidelines

By insisting that users adopt strong passwords, you can help make it more difficult for cybercriminals to access team members’ emails illicitly. To help you design a strong password policy, NIST (the National Institute of Standards and Technology) offers password guidelines in section 5.1.11. Memorized Secret Authenticators of their Digital Identity Guidelines.

Implementing Two-Factor Authentication Requirements

Two-factor authentication (also called multi-factor authentication) adds an extra layer of security by requiring users to enter their password before sending an authentication prompt to their personal device, which they then have to accept. Not only does this make breaking into an employee’s email more difficult since the cybercriminal would also need physical access to their phone, but it can also serve to alert team members if someone is trying to break into their account.

Scanning All Incoming Attachments

Anti-virus software may seem basic, but it still plays an important role in any robust cybersecurity posture. Anti-virus and anti-malware tools can be used to scan all incoming emails and flag suspicious attachments, which can help prevent team members from inadvertently downloading viruses or granting unauthorized users access to sensitive data.

Staying Off Public Wi-Fi

We’ve discussed the dangers of public Wi-Fi in our article Airports are a Hacker’s Best Friend (& Other Ways Users Expose Themselves to Risk), but it bears repeating here. Unless you know that a publicly accessible network is safe to use, the best course of action is to avoid connecting to it. One tactic cybercriminals use is to set up plausible or innocent-sounding public Wi-Fi networks, which are often named to closely resemble legitimate networks (think Coffee-Shop-Guest, which makes users think the network is owned by the coffee shop they are currently visiting). When unsuspecting users connect to the network, their traffic is intercepted, compromising both the user’s and your organization’s security.

Investing in an unlimited data plan can remove the need to search for free Wi-Fi, but this is one of those cases where the mantra “when in doubt, go without” strictly applies.

Keeping Your Personal & Business Email Separate

Not everyone needs to have your business email, and in fact, it is better from a security perspective if they don’t. By limiting your work-assigned email address to work-only tasks, you can reduce the chances of that address being leaked to cybercriminals. As such, it is always a good idea to have both a personal email address and a work email address. That way, if your personal email address is compromised when you sign up for that interesting-looking newsletter, you aren’t potentially handing over sensitive information.

Depending on how much you rely on your email for networking and other professional, but not strictly-internal-work-related, activities, it may even be beneficial to set up an email address specifically for professional networking purposes to print on your business card so that you can keep your work-issued email address on a strictly need-to-know basis.

Logging Out When You’re Done

Even if you are absolutely sure that the device you are using is secure, it’s good practice to log out of your email when you are done. That way, if you lose your phone or your laptop is stolen, and the cybercriminal is able to guess your device’s password, you aren’t inadvertently handing over access to your email as well.

Keeping an Eye Out for Phishing Attacks & Other Suspicious Activities

Phishing attacks are a type of social engineering attack used to steal user data such as login credentials, payment card information, or PII (personally identifiable information) or trick unsuspecting users into installing malware by clicking a link or opening an infected file.

Phishing typically relies on text-based forms of communication such as email, SMS (text messaging), or other messaging apps and involves a cybercriminal pretending to be someone you are already primed to trust (such as your boss, a colleague, or an employee from your bank) and tricking you into performing an action you otherwise wouldn’t perform. For more information about phishing scams and steps you can take to avoid them, please consider reading our article Phishing Attacks are Evolving: What You Need to Know to Keep Your Company Safe.

Workers are also more likely to fall for social engineering attacks if they work remotely. This is because more official communication (such as a directive from your boss) happens over text-based channels such as email or the phone as opposed to in person. This makes it easier for cybercriminals to mask their identity and offers ready-made excuses such as asking you to hop on a video call while keeping their own camera off because of “poor internet connectivity”, preventing you from visually verifying who you are speaking to.

For more information about how to recognize potential social engineering attacks and what steps you can take to safeguard your organization, please consider reviewing our article In a Remote World, Social Engineering is Even More Dangerous.

Conclusion

Law firms and other organizations that interact with or are part of the legal sphere interact with vulnerable individuals regularly and handle high volumes of highly sensitive personal information. As such, they have a high ethical and regulatory bar to clear when it comes to safeguarding client information that requires a tailored approach to cybersecurity.

Safeguarding your digital assets can be difficult in an increasingly connected world that often values connectivity and ease of use over security, but you don’t have to handle it all alone. By partnering with an MSSP that understands your organization’s unique security needs, you can thoroughly assess your current security posture, implement an incident response plan, develop targeted employee training, and take other critical steps to secure your network and your data.

For more information on how to get started improving your security posture, please contact our team today.

Cyber Warfare: How the Rules of Conduct Are Changing

Cyber Warfare: How the Rules of Conduct Are Changing

Summary of Key Points

  • Cyber warfare is similar to cybercrime, but it typically involves nation-states (rather than rival corporations or independent hacker groups).
  • Cyber warfare is not currently subject to agreed-upon rules of engagement, which means that organizations in any vertical could potentially become targets.
  • Managed Security Services Providers can help you assess your current posture, identify potential weaknesses, and help you fortify your defenses.

Safeguarding your organization’s digital assets used to feel as simple as hiring a few security guards and making sure all your employees knew to lock up correctly at the end of the day. However, with the internet now crucial to many critical business functions, a robust cybersecurity posture is no longer a want but a need.

As the war in Ukraine has demonstrated, even the nature of war is changing: While fighting was once constrained to the physical world, conflicts are increasingly unfolding on a digital front as well.

See also:

Binary overlaying world map
Via Adobe Stock.

What is Cyber Warfare?

Like cybercrime, cyber warfare involves a cyber attack or series of attacks launched by one party and targeting one or more other parties. However, unlike traditional cybercrime, cyber warfare typically involves nation-states (rather than rival corporations or independent hacker groups) targeting other nation-states or organizations within those rival states to sow confusion and destabilize their enemies.

Cyber warfare may involve:

  • Stealing state secrets (including classified research)
  • Disrupting civil infrastructure
  • Interfering with rival military forces

Stuxnet: The World’s First Digital Weapon

However, cyber warfare is not only a tool of nation-states; it can also be used by terrorist organizations or other non-state actors seeking to further a hostile nation’s goals, including stealing national secrets or damaging critical infrastructure. A well-known example of cyber warfare is Stuxnet, which first surfaced in 2010. U.S. and Israeli intelligence forces used a worm to disrupt uranium refinement OT (Operations Technology) systems across Iran. As a result of the attack, 20% of Iran’s uranium refinement centrifuges, which it uses to create its nuclear arsenal, were destroyed.

Many cybersecurity experts consider Stuxnet to be “the world’s first digital weapon“, and this attack prompted many serious discussions about the fact that, unlike traditional warfare, whose rules of engagement are laid out explicitly in the Geneva Conventions, cyber warfare is not currently governed by any similar constraints.

As such, while specifically targeting a hospital for bombardment during a conflict is considered a war crime, attacking a hospital’s digital infrastructure using cyber warfare is not currently subject to similar rules of engagement.

The War in Ukraine May Signal the Dawn of a New Era for Cyber Warfare

According to many experts, the ongoing war in Ukraine marks a turning point in the history of cyber warfare. Russia’s invasion of Ukraine relies on both traditional military tactics and cyber warfare, which involves using digital tools to sow confusion, disseminate propaganda, damage infrastructure, dismantle government software, and carry out destructive espionage and attacks.

Microsoft’s 2022 Digital Defense Report found that 90% of Russia’s attacks during 2022 targeted NATO member countries, and 48% of those attacks targeted private IT firms based in member countries. As the war continues, Russian state hackers and state-backed organizations will likely continue to use cyber warfare to target Ukraine’s energy, transport, and digital infrastructures, potentially signaling the dawn of a new era in which civil organizations and even private companies are specifically targeted during times of war.

What Makes Cyber Warfare Different From Hacking & Other Forms of Cybercrime?

Cyber warfare is often defined as conducting military operations by virtual means, whereas cybercrime is typically motivated not by military gain but by criminal financial gain, a desire to steal corporate secrets, as a form of activism, or to gain fame or notoriety. Both types of cyber attacks differ from cyber terrorism, defined as using computer technology to engage in terrorism.

In essence, it is what motivates each of these actions that define which category a cyber attack falls under. Cyber warfare is primarily motivated by a desire for military gains, while cyber terrorism is primarily motivated by political ideology, and cybercrime is primarily motivated by a desire for personal gain (either in the form of financial gains or fame). However, the definitions of each of these attacks are not cut and dry, and some types of attacks may fall under multiple categories. Examples include a country engaged in cyber warfare spreading political propaganda to improve their international image and demoralizing their enemies or cyber terrorists engaging in ransomware attacks to fund their operations.

Digital grenade
Via Adobe Stock.

Should My Organization be Concerned About Cyber Warfare?

When it comes to cybersecurity, it is always better to be over-prepared than underprepared. While organizations in some verticals, such as finance, manufacturing, utilities, and healthcare, should take extra precautions due to their increased chances of being targeted, the fact that cyber warfare is not currently subject to agreed-upon rules of engagement, which means that organizations in any vertical could potentially become targets.

Safeguarding Your Organization

This section will discuss what steps all organizations should take to best prepare themselves to face a potential cyber warfare attack.

If your organization has been targeted, please contact our team of experts immediately and consider reading our educational article Hacked? Here’s What to Know (& What to Do Next).

Create an Incident Response Plan

The first thing any organization should do to strengthen their security posture is create an effective incident response plan (IRP). The purpose of an IRP is to provide instructions to your workers on how to identify, respond to, and recover from, a cyberattack.

Your IRP should be a living document that is updated regularly and include:

  • A mission statement
  • Clearly defined roles and responsibilities
  • A list of cybersecurity or cyber warfare incidents that your team is likely to encounter
  • Up-to-date emergency contact information for all relevant parties

For more information on creating an incident response plan, please consider reviewing our educational guide: Guide to Creating an Effective Incident Response Plan.

Familiarize Yourself With Common Forms of Cyberattack

Cyberattacks come in a variety of forms, and what may be unheard of yesterday may become commonplace tomorrow. By keeping up with the latest news in the cybersecurity world, you can help ensure your organization is prepared when disaster strikes.

Common forms of cyberattack include:

  • Brute-Force attacks
  • Phishing and social engineering
  • Credential stuffing
  • Cryptojacking
  • Data breaches
  • DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) attacks
  • DNS hijacking (also called DNS redirection or DNS poisoning)
  • Drive-by attacks
  • Exploits
  • Malware (including ransomware)
  • Supply chain attacks

For more information on these forms of attack and what motivates attackers, please consider reading our educational articles: Terms & Phrases Used in the Managed IT & Cybersecurity Industries and The Modern Hacker: Who They Are, Where They Live, & What They’re After

Keyboard keys lit up with binary code
Via Adobe Stock

Strengthen Your Digital Fortifications

Securing your network and other digital assets may be daunting, but your MSSP (Managed Security Services Provider) can help you assess your current posture, identify potential weaknesses, and help you fortify your defenses. As part of this process, you should:

Secure Your Network

Something as simple as a well-designed firewall can help significantly improve your defense posture. However, while an ordinary, one-size-fits-all firewall is better than no firewall at all, a managed firewall can provide better protection and more information.

A managed firewall is designed to help you keep tabs on all network activities and send out an alert if it encounters anything suspicious. A managed firewall can also be tailored to meet your organization’s unique security needs and help ensure unauthorized users are kept off your network.

Keep Your Software Up to Date

Something as simple as a software update can mean the difference between a successful attack and a thwarted one. When software companies discover vulnerabilities or problems in their products, they develop and release patches, small snippets of code designed to address the situation.

However, your organization is only protected by security patches if they are installed. Cyber warfare actors and cybercriminals are also more likely to target recently patched software since they know that not all organizations are diligent enough to install the patches immediately.

Protect Your Endpoints

Even the strongest fence is useless if you leave the gate open. If they aren’t properly protected, endpoints such as laptops, tablets, and smartphones can allow unauthorized users to access your network. Safeguarding your endpoints is particularly important in BYOD (Bring Your Own Device) settings, where employers don’t have direct control over all network endpoints.

To improve your security posture, you should ensure that all endpoints that have access to your network use multi-factor or two-factor authentication, have appropriate security software installed, and that all software is kept up to date to ensure you can benefit from all new security patches.

Implement Secure Password Guidelines

Something as simple as implementing secure password guidelines can mean the difference between a secure network and a vulnerable one. To help ensure all team members are using robust passwords, you may want to develop a password policy based on section 5.1.1.1 (Memorized Secret Authenticators) of the NIST’s password guidelines.

Limit Permissions

Access to sensitive areas of your network, such as your security settings and financial records, should be granted on a need-only basis. By not granting more expansive permissions than an employee needs to do their job, you can limit the number of individuals within your organization who have access to sensitive data.

By curtailing access, you can help ensure that if a team member’s username and password become compromised (because, for example, they fell for a phishing scam), those credentials are statistically less likely to grant unauthorized users access to sensitive information. As part of this process, you should also ensure you have a clear offboarding procedure in place for revoking former team members’ credentials so that both former employees and potential cyberattackers can’t use inactive credentials to gain unauthorized access.

Back Up Your Data Regularly

If you are targeted by a ransomware or other type of malware attack, your data may become corrupted or lost. As such, having the ability to roll back to a recent backup can help you avoid service disruptions or other problems. However, any data generated after the last backup is unlikely to be recovered if an incident occurs, which is why it is important to back up all data regularly.

Invest in Regular, Ongoing Security Training

Defending your organization against cyber warfare is everyone’s responsibility. Even the best plan is only useful if everyone understands what it is, why it’s important, and how to implement it effectively. After all, even the most studious and diligent team member won’t be able to follow your cybersecurity and cyber warfare protocols if they don’t know what they are.

To help keep your team in fighting shape, all workers from the CEO downward should receive comprehensive cybersecurity training as part of your onboarding process and undergo regular refresher training. To help ensure your training is effective, all team members should:

You may wish to consider running tabletop exercises as part of your training. Like fire drills, tabletop exercises are designed to give employees a chance to test their cybersecurity and cyber warfare defense knowledge in a safe environment. Team members are presented with a hypothetical scenario, such as a ransomware attack, and then instructed to work as a team and, with the help of your incident response plan, respond to the attack.

Once the scenario is complete, your team can sit down with your Managed Security Services Provider or in-house security team and evaluate their performance while also identifying any deficiencies in your IRP so they can be addressed. Regularly scheduled tabletop exercises can help keep digital security top of mind and ensure all workers are familiar with any changes or updates to the plan.

Stress-Test Your Defenses

Just like the best way to find out if a boat is leaking is to put it in the water, the best way to find out if there are any holes in your security posture is to put it to the test. Pen (penetration) testing involves hiring an ethical hacker to stress-test your security posture by searching for vulnerabilities and then attempting to exploit them to gain access to your network. Once the test is complete, the hacker will sit down with your team and explain what they did, what vulnerabilities they were able to discover and exploit, and what steps they suggest you take to address these security deficiencies. This information can then be used to improve your security posture through actions such as improving your cybersecurity and cyber warfare training, addressing hardware or software deficiencies, or updating company security policies.

Cyber warfare has become a serious threat, and that threat is only predicted to grow. Investing in a robust cybersecurity posture can help safeguard your digital assets and hinder the efforts of cyber warfare attackers targeting your country. Please contact our team today to learn more about which steps your organization should be taking to improve your security.

Social Engineering 101 (& How to Protect Your Data)

Social Engineering 101 (& How to Protect Your Data)

Summary of Key Points

  • Social engineering differs from other cybersecurity threats by targeting people instead of directly attacking digital assets.
  • Common social engineering tactics include baiting, quid pro quo, phishing, spear phishing, pretexting, and tailgating. One or more of these tactics are involved in approximately 50% of all data breaches.
  • You can protect yourself and your organization from social engineering by creating a detailed cybersecurity policy, using multi-factor authentication, and frequently updating passwords. It’s also a good idea to consider endpoint detection and response or SOCaaS solutions—both of which VirtualArmour provides.

Social engineering is involved in an estimated 50% of all data breaches, making it a significant threat to organizations and their data. But what exactly is modern social engineering, how is it most likely to target you, and how can you successfully rebuff social engineering attempts?

The team here at VirtualArmour has up-to-date knowledge of the cyber threats currently faced by organizations of all kinds, so we’re here to help you understand the risks of social engineering and the best ways and cybersecurity tactics to keep your data safe from these attacks. Read on to learn everything you need to know about stopping social engineering in its tracks.

See also:

What Is Social Engineering?

Social engineering is an umbrella term that describes various tactics aimed at getting victims to commit security errors, thereby compromising sensitive data to which they have access. Unlike attacks that exclusively target technology, social engineering attacks manipulate the psychology of human beings to circumvent their judgment, often by creating a false sense of anxiety or urgency.

Robocalling is an easy example of social engineering, where fraudulent pre-recorded messages impersonating authorities (like government offices or financial institutions) request personal information such as credit card data or login credentials, accompanied by vague threats of legal action or imprisonment if the request is not carried out immediately. This is a form of phishing—a category of social engineering that we’ll explain in more detail later in this article.

User on laptop with icons for email and social media to represent common social engineering risks

Via Adobe Stock.

Where Are Organizations Most Vulnerable to Social Engineering?

Because social engineering uses people as the gateway to access technology, it’s most commonly carried out across endpoints via apps used for communication. Common examples include:

  • Text messages
  • Phone calls
  • Emails
  • Social media platforms (like Facebook and Instagram)
  • Messaging apps (like WhatsApp or Signal)
Hook with keys on it over keyboard to symbolize social engineering attacks

Via Adobe Stock.

What Are the Most Common Current Social Engineering Tactics?

Knowing how modern social engineering attacks manifest is the first step to recognizing and repudiating them. Here are a few of the most common kinds:

  • Baiting: this tactic falsely promises the victim something of value (often for free or at an implausibly discounted price), in exchange for a seemingly innocuous action—like clicking a “survey link” to get a free gift card, when the link actually takes the visitor to a spoofed login page that captures their username and password, then provides them to the threat actor.
  • Quid Pro Quo: this technique is similar to baiting, but usually involves the offer of a service in exchange for information. One common example is when a threat actor contacts a potential victim and impersonates an IT provider, offering to solve an alleged “problem” by providing free software—which is actually malware or ransomware.
  • Phishing: one of the most widely used forms of social engineering by far, phishing involves the threat actor assuming a false identity (often a bank, boss, or government agency) and requesting information that the victim would normally provide to the impersonated party.
  • Spear Phishing: this technique goes a step beyond basic phishing by targeting a specific victim with details (usually stolen) designed to lend legitimacy to the attack. One example might be an email where the threat actor impersonates your boss and uses stolen information to reference work details only they would reasonably know before making a request for personal information—in order to convince you the request is genuine.
  • Pretexting: these social engineering schemes involve a story (or pretext) that makes an attempt to steal information look more plausible. Pretexting is often a key part of phishing scams—one classic example being the infamous “Nigerian Prince” scams that became world famous at the end of the 2010s.
  • Tailgating: one of the simplest forms of social engineering (but nonetheless effective in many cases), tailgating involves waiting until an authorized party has accessed a device or area where information is stored, then following them before the window of entry closes. This could be as straightforward as following a staff member of a company’s IT department into the server room to create a backdoor after the target has unlocked the door with their keycard or biometric scan.

Best Practices for Protecting Your Organization from Social Engineering

Here’s a list of what you can do to keep your organization and sensitive data safe from social engineering attempts:

Create a Detailed Cybersecurity Policy

Enshrining rules for protecting your organization’s data will make your personnel less likely to make errors in judgment when faced with social engineering attempts. This should include a checklist for recognizing suspicious communications, a detailed protocol for physically accessing spaces or devices where privileged information is stored, and a response plan to mitigate the damage any successful social engineering attempts can cause.

Use Multi-Factor Authentication for Endpoints

Having authorized personnel verify their identity more than once when accessing sensitive data creates failsafes. For example, a threat actor may be able to gain a username and password by successfully targeting an employee with a phishing email, but may be rendered unable to exploit those credentials if 2FA also requires them to log in using a code sent to the employee’s mobile device.

Change Passwords Often

Part of your organization’s cybersecurity policy should involve updating passwords on a regular basis—and requiring strong new passwords that haven’t been used before. This reduces the window of opportunity for threat actors to use any credentials they’ve managed to steal in social engineering attacks.

Person in suit on laptop with lock icon to symbolize improved cybersecurity and reduced social engineering vulnerability

Via Adobe Stock.

Keep Your Data Safe from Social Engineering

The main reason social engineering is so dangerous is that it can affect anyone—which is why organizations of all kinds need to treat it as a serious threat and take steps to protect their data.

In addition to taking the steps above, it’s smart to invest in endpoint detection and response tools that can make access points to your data harder to compromise with malware or stolen credentials. Ongoing cybersecurity support from a team of third-party experts offering SOCaaS solutions can also provide your organization with the resources to respond to data breaches quickly and effectively.

To learn more about protecting yourself, your organization, and your data from social engineering and other cyber threats, contact VirtualArmour. Our team of experienced cybersecurity pros will be happy to recommend strategies for moving you toward a zero-risk IT environment.