The presidential debate and the future of American cybersecurity

Cybersecurity is becoming less of an individual problem and more of an issue that entire states need to deal with. Due to the importance of this issue, both presidential candidates were asked in the recent debate to discuss the current state of cybersecurity within the U.S. as well as what they plan to do when they get into the Oval Office. Their responses – as well as their previous actions – could very well foretell the future of America’s cybersecurity efforts.

Both candidates need to study up

During the debate, moderator Lester Holt asked the candidates about their opinions concerning the current state of U.S. cybersecurity. Hillary Clinton was quick to jump on Russia as a major antagonist. In fact, she went so far as to blame Putin himself for the hack levied against the Democratic National Convention. She also took a very hard line against anyone considering a cyberattack against America, saying that the U.S. would not “sit idly by” and allow foreign entities to breach private American data.

That said, Clinton has certainly had trouble with cybersecurity in the past. She set up her own private email server against State Department regulations, which was eventually compromised by a hacker.

Clinton has been hacked before. A hacker was able to gain access to Clinton’s private email server.

Donald Trump was also adamant that America needs to improve its defenses, although his response was slightly different. As Government Technology’s Eyragon Eidam pointed out, Trump brought up the uncertainty of cyberattacks like the one that befell the DNC. When discussing this attack, the candidate said it could have been anyone from Russia to Iran or even “somebody sitting on their bed that weighs 400 pounds.”

While it’s certainly true that America’s enemies are no longer visible on a map, broadly painting hackers as obese people downplays the importance of this issue.

New federal CISO’s job hangs in the balance

Although both of the candidates will continue to duke it out, the current president has decided to take action. President Obama has created the position of federal chief information security officer, and he’s appointed retired Brigadier General Gregory J. Touhill to the post. Touhill has more than 30 years of experience in the U.S. military, much of which was spent within IT. He’s also been awarded the Bronze Star Medal, according to his biography on the Air Force’s website. This position is meant to come up with a uniform cybersecurity plan for federal government organizations.

“The federal CISO is an appointed position.”

While it’s certainly good to see the White House attempting to tackle the widespread security problems present across the government, the federal CISO is an appointed position. This means the current president is allowed to choose who can fulfill the role, which puts Touhill in a tenuous position. The next president will enter office on January 20, 2017, which means Touhill has around four months to implement some changes.

Whether the next president keeps Touhill will depend entirely on who wins. If Trump is voted into office, he’ll most likely want a fresh slate and appoint his own CISO. There’s a good chance that Clinton will do the same – however, she’s probably Touhill’s only hope at job security. He’ll have to make some huge leaps in the next few months if he hopes to impress.

Could a network assessment have saved Southwest from major downtime?

Southwest Airlines has been having a pretty turbulent few weeks. First, starting on July 20, the organization had one of the largest IT outages ever to affect a major airline. Now, two unions associated with the company are demanding that CEO Gary Kelly step down or be fired, according to David Koenig of The Tribune of San Luis Obispo.

Although it was originally estimated that the downtime cost as little as $5 million, one Southwest representative stated that it’s most likely going to be “into the tens of millions.” With so much money being lost to a technical failure, the question remains: How did this happen, and was it preventable?

One router started all the trouble

Koenig reported that all of these IT issues stemmed from a single router. Basically, this piece of equipment failed in an unpredictable way, which eventually led to other systems being knocked offline. Southwest is keeping specific details about this undisclosed, but the scale of this particular outage suggests that the network associated with this router was not properly set up.

“Companies need multiple points of failure to accommodate for a singular outage.”

As their name implies, these devices route information to their intended destinations. Data generally is bounced between multiple locations before arriving where it’s being sent. Generally, this means you have multiple points of failure to accommodate for a singular outage. If it’s true that one router’s downing caused this event, then Southwest most likely had a poorly engineered network. FlightStats stated that around 8,000 flights were affected in this incident, and a single router simply should not have the ability to affect that many planes.

The conclusion to be made here is that Southwest should have tested its network more rigorously. Network assessments are incredibly important in order to determine weak points within a particular IT system, such as how one router could be made accountable for thousands of flights. Simple tests such as these could have easily uncovered this point of failure, allowing Southwest to take actions to mitigate the risks of such a catastrophic outage.

Network assessments can prevent more than downtime

Although downtime is certainly something businesses should work to avoid, it isn’t the only problem that network assessments can unveil. These tests also help companies determine their preparedness in terms of cybersecurity. Perhaps the best recent example of this is the massive heist levied against Bangladesh Bank.

At its most basic, hackers gained access to a global banking system and basically tricked financial institutions into sending money to fraudulent accounts. When all was said and done, the criminals involved in this got away with $81 million, according to Serajul Quadir of Reuters. After some investigation, it was discovered that the bank was relying on $10 network switches for the banking system. On top of that, Bangladesh Bank had no firewall protecting private financial data.

This is one of the biggest heists in history. Hackers got away with millions from Bangladesh Bank.

IT companies are generally surprised to hear when small businesses don’t have firewalls, so the thought of a multi-billion dollar corporation lacking these most basic of cybersecurity tools is simply mind-boggling. To top this off, the heist could have been so much worse. The criminals were originally trying to get closer to $1 billion dollars, but their plans were foiled when they accidentally misspelled the name of a financial institution.

Simple mistakes such as those made by Bangladesh Bank are exactly what network assessments are designed to catch. IT employees at these organizations often need to focus on keeping systems running, and cybersecurity can sometimes take a backseat. As this incident shows, this can often have disastrous results, and companies need to be aware of the consequences of letting something like this go under the radar.

Let ISG Technology help preserve your company’s image

Clearly, missing even the smallest detail in your network’s setup could seriously affect both your company’s finances and its client-facing image. No one wants to put their money in a bank that can’t keep it safe, and consumers certainly don’t want to spend money on an airline that has a history of leaving passengers stranded. As such, it might be time to have your company’s IT infrastructure checked out by an experienced professional.

ISG Technology’s experts have spent years investigating and solving some of the most complex network problems out there, and we can help make sure your company’s name isn’t dragged through the mud. If you’d like to find out how you can benefit from a free consultation, contact one of our representatives today.

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Colocation – 8 Terms to Know

8 Factors Graphic.jpgColocation continues to evolve every year as needs for storing mission critical information change. For many companies, balancing profitability of IT with constant repairs, downtime, and continuously improving security has become overwhelming. As such, colocation is in demand, simply because it makes good business sense.

When determining if colocation is the best solution for your company and how it aligns with your company’s long-term strategy, you may come across a few new terms. To help you during the discovery process, we created the following list of 8 key colocation terms that you can share with your team:

1. Hybrid Colocation – the act of storing data both on and off-site.

2. Rack Space – the amount of physical space you will need to house your servers off-site.
3. Cabinet Space – a cabinet is the term commonly used to reference one full rack (42-47 U).  Half and full racks as well as space by the unit can be rented at most colocation facilities to house your company’s servers.
4. Cage Space – provides an added layer of physical security.  The additional layer of protection provides you with the peace of mind that no one will have access to your highly sensitive date.
5. Uptime – refers to the availability of your servers and is often measured in a percentage.  A data center’s estimated uptime is categorized by tiers.  Tiers range from 1-4 or 99.61% – 99.99% expected uptime.  What is your uptime?
6. N+1 Redundancy – have an independent back-up in case of failure to assure that your data remains available.  A common example includes: back-up generators.
7. Service Level Agreement (SLA) – a contract outlining what level of service the provider will deliver and what consequences there will be for not abiding by those commitments.  Addresses: performance, reliability, and support.
8. SSAE 16 SOC II – a detailed auditing report created by the AIPCA, is designed specifically to evaluate a data center’s security, availability, processing, integrity, confidentiality, and privacy.  It also replaces the use of SAS 70.

To learn more about Colocation, download our free white paper: 4 Factors to Consider with Colocation.

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ISG Offers Veeam Cloud Connect Replication

ISG Technology Expanding Partnership With Veeam
ISG Technology’s Cloud Services business unit, which provides cloud and hosted solutions for small-to-midsized companies throughout the Midwest and beyond, is pleased to announce yet another expansion of its Cloud & Service Provider Gold partnership with Veeam®, innovative provider of solutions that deliver Availability for the Always-On Enterprise™. In addition to its status as a provider of cloud backup repositories using Veeam Cloud Connect, ISG Technology now also supports Cloud Connect Replication. What this means for Veeam clients is that VMs can be replicated to the ISG Cloud via standard Internet connection, providing an offsite cloud environment to assist in executing Disaster Recovery Plans.

ISG Technology continues to provide enterprise-class solutions that help clients meet long-term business objectives through technology. According to Matt Brickey, Vice President of ISG’s Cloud & Hosting Solutions, “Our relationship with Veeam provides a winning scenario – both for ISG and for our clients. Developing Veeam-powered solutions enables us to provide large-scale, multi-tenant Backup-as-a-Service and DR-as-a-Service products while ensuring the best combination of simplicity and value for our clients.”

If you are interested in hearing more about cloud backup and replication opportunities – whether you own your own Veeam licensing or you would like to explore a fully hosted solution – contact your Account Executive or a Cloud Specialist at cloud@isgtech.com.

Lessons learned from the Bangladesh Bank hack

Years ago, bank robberies were a very physical affair. Criminals donned ski masks and shot automatic weapons in the air, shouting for tellers to step away from the silent alarm buttons. That said, it would appear thieves have decided that this is just a little too much work. Hacking banks in order to steal money allows for the same reward without having to deal with a hostage negotiator.

In fact, the most recent cyberattack levied against Bangladesh Bank shows just how lucrative these schemes can be. The hackers involved in this scenario made away with around $81 million, which is more loot than any ski-masked thug could ever carry away. However, perhaps the most interesting part of this whole debacle is that this is nowhere near what the culprits originally intended to get. Investigators have discovered that the original plan was to take close to $1 billion when all was said and done, according to Ars Technica.

Unfortunately for the individuals involved, a simple typo wrecked what could have been the biggest criminal act of all time. A transaction meant for the Shalika Foundation was spelled as “Fandation,” which tipped employees off that something was afoot. Regardless, this is still a massive undertaking that demands intense review.

“Bangladesh Bank isn’t completely free of blame.”

How did they get in?

To understand how this whole scheme began, it’s important to comprehend how Bangladesh Bank sends and receives funds. Institutions like this rely on SWIFT software, which basically creates a private network between a large number of financial organizations. This lets them send money to each other without having to worry about hackers – or so the banks thought.

Gaining access to the transactions within this network was basically impossible, unless someone were to be able to compromise a bank’s internal IT systems. This is exactly what the criminals did.

However, Bangladesh Bank isn’t completely free of blame here. The only reason that hackers were able to gain entry was because the financial institution was relying on old second-hand switches that cost about $10 each. Considering how much was at stake, pinching pennies in such a crucial department seems incredibly irresponsible in hindsight. What’s more, the bank didn’t even have a firewall set up to keep intruders out.

Once hackers bypassed this low level of security, they were given free rein to do as they pleased. Accessing Bangladesh Bank’s network allowed them to move on to SWIFT, as the cheap switches didn’t keep these two separate. However, the really interesting part of this whole criminal act was how they took the money without anyone noticing.

Why weren’t they discovered sooner?

In order to make off with the cash, the criminals had to access a piece of software called Alliance Access. This is used to send money, which allowed the hackers to increase transactions in order to make a profit. However, Alliance Access also records transactions. This was a big problem for the thieves, as they couldn’t make money if someone knew they were stealing it.

To fix this, the hackers simply inserted malware that disrupted the software’s ability to properly regulate the money that was being moved. On top of that, this malicious code also modified confirmation messages about the transactions. This allowed the criminals to continue to operate in obscurity, racking up millions of dollars without anyone being the wiser. In fact, they would have gotten close to $1 billion if one of these altered reports didn’t have a spelling error.

A small error cost these hackers hundreds of millions. The hackers could have made so much more money if they’d checked their spelling.

However, understanding so much about how Bangladesh Bank’s system worked has pointed investigators to the notion that this was an inside job. In fact, The Hill reported that “people familiar with the matter” know that a major suspect is a person who works at the bank. No one has been named yet, but getting an employee in on the job certainly makes sense.

Network assessments are a must

Regardless of whether or not this turns out to be an inside job, the fact still remains that Bangladesh Bank was incredibly vulnerable to a hack like this. Relying on cheap network switches is bad enough, but not having any sort of firewall is a major hazard that modern institutions simply cannot allow.

This is why every company should consider receiving a network assessment from ISG Technology. Our skilled experts know how to spot glaring vulnerabilities such as these, and can suggest fixes to ensure the security of private data.

White Paper: 4 Factors To Consider With Colocation

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Colo WP ThumbnailThe global colocation market will see a compound annual growth rate of 12.4 percent through 2020, so if you are doing your research on colocation providers, you’re in good company. For a growing number of businesses, colocation provides a lot of benefits:

  • Easy upgrade from an on-site “server room” into a professional data center
  • Reduced initial and ongoing expense to build, power, cool and backup an on-site data center
  • Support from professionals in managing maintenance and upgrades
  • Backup of critical data for disaster recovery efforts

Learn how to make a business case for colocation. Get info on how to select a colocation provider, including questions to ask for businesses subject to compliance regulations. ISG is SSAE 16 Type 2 SOC 2 audited for security, availability, privacy, processing and performance.

White Paper: Tech For Community Banks

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community-banksIn the face of regulatory changes and cybersecurity threats, IT plays a more critical role than ever for community banks. This free report will teach you how to not just survive, but how to thrive, with technology as a main driver. Topics covered include:

  • Key trends in regulation and market forces driving change
  • How video conferencing can improve the client experience
  • The latest developments in cybersecurity and what you need to prepare
  • Disaster Recovery and Business Continuity: are you ready?

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Click this fun animation to see how ISG supports IT teams with managed services and infrastructure solutions. Our experts help you manage innovation projects such as shared storage, virtualization, disaster recovery, security, mobility and UC collaboration projects.

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