It’s time to rethink cybersecurity.

For many years, organizations have focused their security efforts on endpoint protection. Firewalls, antivirus software, intrusion detection and anti-spyware tools are all effective to a point, but they are failing to stop the vast majority of threats.

A recent ServiceNow survey of 300 chief information security officers found that 81% are highly concerned that breaches are going unaddressed and 78% are worried about their ability to detect breaches in the first place. IBM’s 2017 X-Force Threat Intelligence Index reported a 566% increase in the number of compromised records in 2016 compared to the previous year. FireEye reported that the average time it takes an organization to detect an intrusion is over 200 days.

Endpoint security measures will only become less effective as the number of endpoints proliferates. Smart phones introduced a whole new class of threats, and the internet of things (IoT) will add billions of endpoint devices to networks over the next few years, many of which have weak or no security.

That’s why cybersecurity, in the words of Cisco CEO Chuck Robbins, “needs to start in the network.” The approach that Cisco is championing recognizes the reality that breaches today are inevitable but that they needn’t be debilitating. The increasing popularity of security operations centers shows that IT organizations are shifting their attention to creating an integrated view of all the activity on their networks – including applications, databases, servers and endpoints – and adopting tools that can identify patterns that indicate a breach. For example, multiple access attempts from a certain IP address or large outbound file transfers may indicate an intrusion, and that activity can be stopped before much damage is done.

Fortunately, technology is evolving to support the network-centric approach. Big data platforms like Hadoop have made it practical and affordable for organizations to store large amounts of data for analysis. Streaming platforms like Apache Spark and Kafka can capture and analyze data in near real-time. Machine learning programs, when applied to large data stores like Hadoop, can continuously sort through network and server logs to find anomalies, becoming “smarter” as they go.

And the cloud presents new deployment options. That’s why security is rapidly migrating from dedicated hardware to cloud-based solutions using a software-as-a-service model. Grandview Research estimates that the managed security services market was worth more than $17.5 billion in 2015, and that it will grow to more than $40 billion in 2021. As organizations increasingly virtualize their networks, these services will become integrated into basic network services. That means no more firmware upgrades, no more site visits to fix balky firewalls and no more anti-malware signature updates.

It’s too early to say that the tide has turned favorably in the fight with cyber-criminals, but the signs are at least promising. It’s heartening to see Cisco making security such important centerpiece of its strategy. Two recent acquisitions – Jasper and Lancope – give the company a prominent presence in cloud-based IoT security and deep learning capabilities for network and threat analysis. The company has said that security will be integrated into every new product it produces going forward. Perhaps that’s why Robbins has called his company, “the only $2 billion security business that is growing at double digits.”

Take a unified approach to Wi-Fi security!

For many organizations, Wi-Fi access is no longer a luxury. Employees need flexible access as they roam about the office, and customers and partners expect to connect whenever they are on site. But providing unsecured access opens a host of potential security problems if access points aren’t rigorously monitored, patched and maintained. As the number of access points grows, it’s easy to let this important maintenance task slip.

Security teams are so busy fighting fires that preventing maintenance is often overlooked. Kaspersky Labs recently analyzed data from nearly 32 million Wi-Fi hotspots around the world and reported that nearly 25% had no encryption at all. That means passwords and personal data passing through those devices can be easily intercepted by anyone connected to the network.

Virtual private networks (VPNs) are one way to keep things secure, but 82% of mobile users told IDG they don’t always bother to use them. The profusion of software-as-a-service (SaaS) options encourages this. Gartner has estimated that by 2018, 25% of corporate data will bypass perimeter security and flow directly to the cloud.

The Wi-Fi landscape is changing, thanks to mobile devices, cloud services and the growing threat of cyber attacks. This means that Wi-Fi security must be handled holistically, with a centralized approach to management and an architecture that integrates both endpoint protection and network traffic analysis. Cisco has spent more than $1 billion on security acquisitions since 2015, and it has put in place the necessary pieces to provide this integration.

Cisco Umbrella, which the company announced last month, is a new approach to securing the business perimeter that takes into account the changing ways people access the internet. Umbrella gives network and security managers a complete picture of all the devices on the network and what they are doing. For example, by combining Umbrella with Cisco Cloudlock Cloud Access Security Broker technology, organizations can enforce policies customized to individual SaaS applications and even block inappropriate services entirely. They can also block connections to known malicious destinations at the DNS and IP layers, which cuts down on the threat of malware. Umbrella can even discover and control sensitive data in SaaS applications, even if they’re off the network.

Cisco’s modernized approach to security also uses the power of the cloud for administration and analysis. Cisco Defense Orchestrator resolves over 100 billion Internet requests each day. Its machine learning technology compares this traffic against a database of more than 11 billion historical events to look for patterns that identify known malicious behavior. Defense Orchestrator can thus spot breaches quickly so they can be blocked or isolated before they do any damage. Thanks to the cloud, anonymized data from around the Internet can be combined with deep learning to continually improve these detection capabilities. Predictive analytical models enable Cisco to identify where current and future attacks are staged. In other words, Cisco’s security cloud gets smarter every day.

Umbrella can integrate with existing systems, including appliances, feeds and in-house tools, so your investments are protected. It’s built upon OpenDNS, a platform that has been cloud-native since its inception more than a decade ago. It’s the bases for Cisco’s security roadmap going forward.

A great way to get started with Cisco Umbrella is by revisiting protection on your Wi-Fi access points. We know Cisco networks inside and out, so let us put you on the on-ramp to the future of network security.

Cryptolocker: How to Clear the Infection

Cryptolocker is a now well-known type of virus that can be particularly harmful to data stored on computer. The virus carries a code that encrypts files, making them inaccessible to users and demands a ransom (as bitcoin, for example) to decipher them, hence their name “ransomware”.

Cryptolocker type viruses infiltrate by different vectors (emails, file sharing websites, downloads, etc.) and are becoming more resistant to antivirus solutions and firewalls; it is safe to say that these viruses will continue to evolve and become increasingly good at circumventing corporate security measures. Cryptolocker is already in its 6th or 7th variation!

Is there an insurance policy?

All experts agree that a solid backup plan is always the best prescription for dealing with this type of virus. But what does a good backup plan imply, what would a well-executed plan look like? The backup plan must be tested regularly and preferably include an offsite backup copy. Using the ESI cloud backup service is an easy solution to implement.

The automated copy acts as an insurance policy in case of intrusion. Regular backups provide a secondary offsite datastore, and acts as a fallback mechanism in case of malicious attack.

What to do in case of infection?

From the moment your systems are infected with a Cryptolocker, you are already dealing with several encrypted files. If you do not have in place a mechanism to detect or monitor file changes (eg a change of 100 files per minute), damage can be very extensive.

  1. Notify the Security Officer of your IT department.
  2. Above all, do not pay this ransom, because you might be targeted again.
  3. You will have no choice but to restore your files from a backup copy. This copy becomes invaluable in your recovery efforts, as it will provide you a complete record of your data.

After treatment, are you still vulnerable?

Despite good backup practices, you still remain at risk after restoring your data.

An assessment of your security policies and your backup plan by professionals such as ESI Technologies will provide recommendations to mitigate such risks in the future. Some security mechanisms exist to protect you from viruses that are still unknown to detection systems. Contact your ESI representative to discuss it!

Roger Courchesne  – Director, Security and Internetworking Practice – ESI Technologies

What’s the link between coaching youth hockey and managing end users?

In the summer, I enjoy doing volunteer work as a soccer coach for kids and teenagers. I do the same in the winter when hockey season begins. I find it challenging to bring different personalities to work as a group towards achieving common goals as a team. Being a coach doesn’t come without training however. And I remember one trainer commenting on being a coach as he said “if a given player isn’t doing what you asked him to, the first question you need to ask is: did I tell him? The second question is: did the player understand? The third: did I explain it well?” He ended up by saying “if your answer is yes to all three questions, then repeat as often as necessary”.

When I found myself with a client’s network manager talking about how sophisticated phishing campaigns have become, I remembered this wise comment about that coach trainer. This network administrator in particular admitted than even his seasoned team of network managers came close to being caught in one of these sophisticated phishing campaigns. It was a well-designed one using their GoDaddy account. It’s only when someone took the time to check the links that they noticed something fishy. The average user might very well have fallen victim of this. With regards to end users, ask yourself: “if a given user isn’t doing what you asked him to with regards to suspicious emails, the first question you need to ask is did I tell him? The second question is did the user understand the potential consequences? Thirdly, did I explain it in terms the average user understands?”  I end up by saying “if your answer is yes to all three questions, then keep repeating as users will forget over time and new users become part of your community”.

Charles Tremblay, Account Manager