Is blockchain the antidote to all cybersecurity woes?

Blockchain has been turning heads since it was first unveiled in 2008 to become the backbone of then relatively unknown cryptocurrency, bitcoin. Since then, blockchain and Bitcoin have skyrocketed in public awareness, with the latter becoming the most successful cryptocurrency in history. A large portion of bitcoin's success is due to its blockchain infrastructure, which prevents the duplication of funds (preventing double-spending) and automatically time-stamps every transaction.

The developer (or developers) behind blockchain created the software to be resistant to alteration or hacking, making it one of the more inherently secure systems that companies can use to manage secure infrastructures. Some have heralded blockchain as the ultimate tool to promote cybersecurity and reduce the risk of data breaches.

Then bitcoin, in addition to several other cryptocurrencies, were hacked. According to CNN, the attack erased the equivalent of billions of dollars and sent the value of the affected cryptocurrencies plunging. The incident has many questioning just how secure blockchain is and whether the software was simply a temporary fix, like so many others, against the ever-present threat of cyberattacks.

"Blockchain can give each registered device a specific SSL certificate for authentication."

The case for blockchain
While buzzwords are common in the tech industry, there are several legitimate reasons why blockchain has been celebrated as a secure platform. According to Info Security Magazine, one of blockchain's primary appeals is its decentralized data storage. While users can access blockchain data on a computer or mobile device, the program itself is typically stored throughout the network.

If one access point – or block – is targeted by hackers, then the other blocks will react to it. The attempted cyberattack will likely alter the data on the block in a way that is immediately noticeable by the rest of the chain. This block will then simply be disconnected, isolating the malicious data before it can impact the system.

Another helpful advantage of blockchain is its effectiveness against dedicated denial of service attacks. These cyberattacks target the domain name system, flooding it with so much data traffic that it essentially shuts down. Using blockchain software would allow the DNS to spread its contents to more nodes, reducing the effectiveness of the DDoS attack before it reaches a crippling stage.

Networks using a blockchain infrastructure can also bypass the need for passwords in certain situations. Instead of using the human-oriented password system, blockchain can give each registered device a specific SSL certificate. This mode of authentication is a lot more difficult for outside sources to access, reducing the likelihood of a hack.

Removing dependence on passwords may sound less secure but it is actually seen as an improvement. Employees can be careless with their login information or choose passwords that can be easily deduced by third parties. Eliminating the human factor from authentication actually goes a long way by removing one of the most common exploit points.

However, no system is 100 percent secure.

The McAfee Report
While many companies preach the value of blockchain, global computer security software company McAfee recently released a critical report on the software, stating that industries have every reason to expect cyberattacks. McAfee looked at early blockchain adapters, namely cryptocurrencies, and studied the types of cyberattacks still occurring within these companies.

The report identified four primary attack types: implementation exploits, malware, phishing and general technology vulnerabilities. Certain cryptocurrencies themselves have been used to help the spread of advanced malware, including ransomware. Coin miner malware alone grew by 629 percent in the first quarter of 2018, according to McAfee data.

Cybercriminals have also been using cryptocurrencies to mask their identities, taking advantage of blockchain's secure features to help them evade the law.

Blockchain builds its infrastructure securely, but not in a manner that is invulnerable. Blockchain builds its infrastructure securely, but not in a manner that is invulnerable.

What companies can learn from the cryptocurrency attack
Lastly, however, the attack of the cryptocurrencies themselves should highlight the limitations of blockchain. While the program may be innately secure, it is not an excuse to abandon other forms of caution. Technology is spreading at a rapid pace with information security specialists struggling to catch up.

In short, blockchain should be seen as just another tool and not a cure-all for cyberattacks. Its architecture can be helpful but must be implemented in a thorough, professional manner. Even then, it should also be paired with other programs and employee training to best reduce the risk of cybercrime.

How cloud infrastructure can help the retail sector

Cloud computing has caught on in a big way. A recent report from Right Scale found that 81 percent of the enterprise sector has adopted a multi-cloud system in at least some way. Public cloud adoption rates have continued to climb, as well, with the report noting that 92 percent of users now employ cloud technology (up from 89 percent in 2017). Across the board, cloud networks are gaining usership due to its improved interfacing, less dependence on in-house technical teams and flexible program structure.

However, some industry verticals continue to lag behind. The latest international Bitglass survey found that the retail sector has been slow to adopt cloud infrastructure. Only 47.8 percent of responding retail organizations had deployed the often-used Microsoft Office 365 suite, and Amazon Web Services – the most popular cloud system – was only used by 9 percent.

In short, retail is being left behind, and that lag is a serious problem for the industry – in part because retail is a sector that can profit immensely from successful cloud integration. However, cybersecurity concerns and technical knowledge limitations may be slowing down the adoption rate.

Taking advantage of mobile hardware
Almost everyone has a smartphone, that’s not an exaggeration. According to Pew research data, 77 percent of Americans have this hardware, and that number has been climbing steadily. Since smartphones are becoming cheaper and more user friendly, it is unlikely to think this device will be replaced in the near future.

Because smartphones are so ubiquitous and convenient, consumers are using them for a wide variety of tasks, including shopping. OuterBox found that, as of early 2018, precisely 62 percent of shoppers had made a purchase through their phones within the last six months. Another 80 percent had used their smartphones to compare products and deals while inside a store.

With a cloud infrastructure, retailers can better take advantage of this mobile world. Successful retail locations should consider maintaining at least two online networks – one for customers and another for employees. This setup will prevent bandwidth lag and help keep the consumer away from sensitive information. In addition, creating a mobile experience that is user friendly and seamlessly interwoven with the physical shopping experience is paramount.

Rather than building such a system from the ground up, retailers can take advantage of the numerous infrastructure-as-a-service cloud options available, leveraging a reliable third party rather than an in-house IT team.

Shoppers are already augmenting their experience with external online information. Shoppers are already augmenting their experiences with external online information.

Getting ahead of the latest trends
Data drives business intelligence, this is true in every enterprise sector. In retail, housing the right products can mean the difference between turning a profit and going out of business. However, retailers still using traditional sales reporting will be slow to react to shopping trends, as these reports can take months to compile.

Data analytics is the actionable side of big data. In retail, customers convey valuable information about shopping habits before they even enter the store, but if this data is not being captured, it is essentially useless. Bringing in an encompassing data analytics solution, which can read information such as store purchases, response to sales and even social media reaction, can provide retailers with extra information to make actionable decisions.

“This analysis removes the guesswork about what will sell and which styles will flop on the shelves,” Roman Kirsch, CEO of fashion outlet Lesara, stated in an interview with Inc. “We don’t just know which new styles are popular, we can also identify retro trends that are making comebacks, which styles are on the way out, and that helps us to precisely manage our production.”

Improving inventory management
In addition, data analytics can be paired with a responsive inventory management program. Retail-as-a-service solutions exist and can be used to track stock availability, shipping orders and in-store details. With this software, retail companies can get a real-time image of how well products and even entire locations are performing.

These solutions can prevent item shortages before they occur and give retail chains a greater understanding of performance at every location.

Using inventory management solutions can help retailers maximize their shipping profits. They can ship either directly to the customer or to the retail location most in need. Using inventory management solutions can help retailers maximize their shipping profits. They can ship directly to the customer or to the retail location most in need.

Concerning cybersecurity
Perhaps one of the factors slowing the adoption of cloud technology in the retail sector is cybersecurity. Retail organizations process multitudes of consumer credit information by the day, and the fallout from a data breach can be fatal in this sector. When faced with using cloud technology or in-house data center solutions, retail executives may believe that the safest hands are still their own.

However, this may not be the case. Research firm Gartner predicted that through 2022, 95 percent of cloud security failures will be the customer’s fault, meaning that issues will not come from a software defect but through poor implementation. The firm also concluded that cloud structures will see as much as 60 percent fewer cyberattacks than those businesses with in-house servers.

Cloud infrastructure is secure but must be installed and operated properly. The only thing that retail agencies have to fear when it comes to this new solution is technological ignorance, but many cloud providers and third-party services stand ready to aid in the installation process.

Should companies embrace wearables?

 

Technology has gotten far more mobile within the last decade. The laptop was already allowing employees to maintain productivity on the go, but this device got augmented by the arrival of the commercial smartphone, tablet and, now, wearables. Each new hardware unveiling has increased the amount of work that can be done while mobile. This shift is leading some in the enterprise space to rethink office structure and workflow.

However, should businesses be embracing innovation at this pace? Rapid adoption of any new technology has downsides and, with cybersecurity concerns on the rise, utilizing innovative hardware can have serious repercussions. Since wearables represent the newest hardware and software infrastructure hitting industries, the question becomes: Should companies embrace this technology or exercise caution until it has become more mainstream?

“Mobile workplaces lead to improved employee retention.”

The advantages of workplace mobility
A mobile workplace strategy provides several advantages. Many of these benefits, such as the greater likelihood for increased collaboration among employees, are straightforward. The more data that workers can store on their person, the less they’ll have to retreat to their desks to retrieve information.

Another benefit that may not be so apparent is how mobile workplaces lead to improved employee retention. Workers who sit at their desks all day are likely busy but may not be engaged in the workplace or its culture. This sentiment makes the task just another job, and, eventually, the employee may leave to find another that pays better or offers superior benefits. According to Deloitte data, however, engaged employees are 87 percent more likely to remain at their companies.

Mobile workflow allows workers to get up, be more flexible and do more, all of which can lead to higher levels of productivity and revenue for a business. In some ways, wearables represent the pinnacle of mobile workplace technology. With a device like augmented reality glasses, workers don’t even have to glance down at a screen to see data. This flexibility means employees can update one another in real time with the most relevant data.

How to embrace BYOD  for wearables
It feels strange to say now, but the smartphone did not begin with the iPhone. Blackberries and other enterprise devices existed for years prior to Apple’s launch. However, within less than a decade, Apple and Samsung overthrew the Blackberry and are enjoying immense adoption rates. What’s the reason? People liked using the tech.

Likewise, workers brought this hardware to the office before many organizations had concrete “bring your own device” policies in place. Some businesses still resist given the information security concerns associated with BYOD. However, rejecting BYOD can be just as perilous because many employees will still use personal devices anyway.

The better option is to embrace the mobile nature of this new hardware and work to develop a comprehensive BYOD policy that reflects and monitors every device. According to Tenable, many companies make BYOD available to all (40 percent) or some (32 percent) of employees, so the goal is design a strategy that reflects each employee’s device usage.

Pew Research found that, unsurprisingly, 77 percent of Americans own a smartphone. Another 53 percent own a tablet. Wearables are newer, so their device distribution is much lower. Even relatively common devices like Fitbit have not reached the level of tablets. Wearable glasses have yet to have their “iPhone moment,” where one consumer device connects and enjoys wide commercial appeal.

That said, a lower number of these devices does not mean companies can ignore them. Valuable data can be stored on a smartwatch as easily as it can on a laptop. Companies using BYOD should plan for wearables now before the devices become mainstream, allowing IT teams to create and deploy a strategy that will be safe.

Most wearables are linked to a smartphone, meaning they share the same data library. Most wearables are linked to a smartphone, meaning they share the same data library.

The problematic nature of cybersecurity
Cybersecurity has been struggling to keep pace with the internet of things in general and, unfortunately, wearables are no exception. A product examination conducted by HP Fortify found no hardware with two-factor authentication but noticed that all tested smartwatches stored confidential information that could be used for identity theft. These devices also received limited security updates.

Wearables will likely be driven by the same commercial appeal that spurs other recent technology, meaning that the two factors that will be stressed above all else will be price and usability. While this focus will make employees happy, it can create fits for an IT team or chief information security officer.

To help improve the cybersecurity of these devices, businesses can treat them similar to smartphones by placing them on a different network with less compromising information. Organizations can also look to implement custom multi-step authorization software whenever possible.

Augmented reality glasses often have live feeds meaning that, if hacked, outside sources can see operating data. Augmented reality glasses often have live feeds meaning that, if hacked, outside sources can see worker operations.

Know which wearables can make an impact
Lastly, businesses should not presume that all wearable technology will be viable in an enterprise setting. For instance, AR glasses will need a battery life of at least eight hours to last a full day of work, and smartwatches will have to be durable enough to withstand occasional bumps, even in an office environment.

Before investing in any official company-sanctioned hardware, thoroughly research and test devices to be sure they perform well in a typical environment. Wearables are cutting-edge technology, and many products now are designed for only niche markets rather than the mainstream.

So while companies can adopt wearables now, it makes sense to first have a policy in place. This isn’t the iPhone. Businesses have a chance to get ahead of mass wearable adoption and create policies that make sense rather than reacting to the latest tech trend.

Cybersecurity tips at a glance: Managing IoT devices

As the realm of the internet of things grows, it is important to understand all aspects of the technology’s performance. Companies and industries that see only the benefits open themselves up to data breaches, public embarrassment and even legal action. IoT technology can boost productivity when done right but lead to costly and unnecessary expenses if utilized without proper foresight.

The possible downsides of exercise wearables
Employee wellness is a trend that is sweeping across industries. These initiatives have shown positive results, such as increasing worker morale and promoting healthy behaviors. One study from the Journal of Occupational and Environmental Medicine even found that employee wellness diet programs can reduce health risks.

To this end, exercise wearables, such as Fitbit, appear to make sense. These devices can track heart rate, body temperature, calorie consumption and sleep quality. Many come with a social aspect, as well, allowing co-workers to engage in friendly competition to see who is the most active within the office.

For many industries, these wearables have no real downside. However, employers should know that the data gathered by many fitness wearables can be used to track employee location. This vulnerability has been problematic, especially for those working for the U.S. armed forces. According to The Washington Post, several previously secret military bases were revealed when data gathered by GPS tracking company Strava was made public.

The U.S. army had been using these fitness wearables for their advantages without fully understanding how the technology could be exploited. Most commercial hardware is designed for ease of use and cost affordability. These traits are in part the reason why IoT has famously encountered cybersecurity concerns over the past several years.

For enterprises working with sensitive and classified materials, IoT wearables may have a downside. Outside parties, benign and malicious, can track employee movement, knowing more about workers than may be deemed safe.

Augmented reality glasses can also potentially leak vital secrets, as they see and record all the employee does. Augmented reality glasses can also potentially leak vital secrets, as they see and record all the employee does.

Know where backup data is stored
Many IoT devices provide extra “eyes” on the field. Drones have been performing various types of reconnaissance missions for decades, whether for government contractors or farmers wishing to understand more about their soil. These unmanned aerial vehicles, or UAVs, are built to capture, transmit and store data.

While useful, drones have several serious cybersecurity concerns. They can be intercepted, and if so, their data is easily accessible. This risk is especially a problem for devices that back up information into themselves. A report from Syracuse University indicates that there are concerns that data stored on Chinese manufactured drones could be accessed by their government and would be out of U.S. control.

Using IoT devices has many advantages, but executives must always consider the full picture before implementation.

How cave fish may help prevent IoT jamming

Jamming is a potential crippling blow to internet of things-enabled hardware. It can bring down drones from the sky, disrupt network connections and lead to economic downtime. In the cybersecurity arena, jamming is more commonly known as dedicated denial of service attacks. According to a CORERO DDoS trend report, this method of cyberattack increased by an incredible 91 percent in 2017.

IoT devices are behind this surge in DDoS attacks, as many lack comprehensive cybersecurity protocols and can be easily jammed. While this deterrent is not enough to slow the pace of IoT adoption, enterprises hoping to make use of mass IoT market penetration must be aware of the risks, as well as what is being done to prevent IoT jamming.

Luckily, a recent study published in Optics Express gives some hope against rampant DDoS cybercrime. As with many technological innovations, the potential salvation is inspired by a system that already works inside the animal kingdom.

Studying the Eigenmannia
The Eigenmannia are a species of cave fish that exist in total darkness. Without light, these creatures need another way to hunt, communicate and otherwise "see" within the perpetual darkness. The researchers studying these fish discovered that they emitted an electric field to sense the environment and communicate with other fish.

Because two or more of these animals could emit the field near one another, the species had to have a way to stop the signal from getting disrupted, otherwise the fish couldn't thrive. The scientists learned the Eigenmannia have the ability to alter their signals. This capability is due to a unique neural algorithm in their brain activity. The purpose and function of the field remains in tact, but its frequency is changed just enough to avoid confusion.

This same trait can be harnessed to help create a light-based jamming avoidance response device.

Drones if jammed run the risk of damaging hardware and products. If jammed, drones run the risk of damaging hardware and products.

Creating a jamming avoidance response device
When two IoT devices operating on the same frequency come close to each other, the fields become crossed, and jamming occurs. The closer the two pieces of hardware drift, the more the disruption intensifies.

However, with a JAR device, similar to the natural solution used by Eigenmannia, these IoT components could adjust their frequency, preserving the function of the signal while avoiding jamming. Using a light-based system would enable IoT devices to shift through a wide range of frequencies.

The resulting machine, created by the research team, shows promise.

"This could allow a smarter and more dynamic way to use our wireless communication systems without the need for the complicated coordination processes that currently prevent jamming, by reserving whole sections of bandwidth for specific phone carriers or users such as the military," said team lead Mable P. Fok.

While it won't single-handedly eliminate the threat of DDoS attacks, JAR device usage on a large scale has some advantages. Essentially, it is a low-cost solution for any agency that utilizes a plethora of IoT content. In addition to the aforementioned military use case, health care facilities like hospitals, air traffic control towers and even educational institutions could find immediate value in this technology.

Since a JAR device would likely lower the bandwidth needed for IoT hardware interaction, DDoS attacks could become less expensive. As these attacks continue to become more prevalent, the value of this research will likely increase. Designing IoT devices on software that can shift frequency will reduce costs and, hopefully, a more secure IoT landscape.

How a holistic approach to data analytics benefits cybersecurity

Almost everyone, regardless of industry, recognizes the growing importance of cybersecurity. Cyberattacks are on the rise and growing increasingly varied and sophisticated. According to data collected by Cybersecurity Ventures, the annual cost of cybercrime is estimated to reach roughly $6 trillion by 2021. An effective information security policy is, in many cases, the only thing standing between companies and possible financial ruin.

The danger is especially real for small- to medium-sized businesses. Data from the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission found that only slightly more than a third of SMBs (40 percent) survive for longer than six months after a successful data breach. For these types of organizations, cybersecurity is literally a matter of life and death.

The good news: Many businesses recognize the need for effective cybersecurity strategies and are investing heavily in personnel and software solutions. The bad news: Many of these same companies are only reacting, not thinking about how to best deploy this protective framework. Effective cybersecurity isn’t as simple as applying a bandage to a cut.

It can be better equated to introducing a new nutritional supplement to the diet. The whole procedure is vastly more effective if integrated into every meal. To best use modern cybersecurity practices, businesses must rethink their approaches to corporate data structure. Data analytics is a vital tool in providing the best in information protection.

“Segmenting data spells disaster for an effective cybersecurity policy.”

Siloed data is unread data
As organizations grow, there is a tendency to segment. New branches develop, managers are appointed to oversee departments – in general, these groups tend to work on their projects and trust that other arenas of the company are also doing their jobs. The responsibility is divided and thus, easier to handle.

While this setup may make the day-to-day routine of the business easier on executives, it spells disaster for an effective cybersecurity policy. This division process creates siloed or segmented data pools. While a department may be very aware of what it is doing, it has far less knowledge of other corporate branches.

Many organizations may figure that an in-house IT team or chief information security officer can oversee everything, keeping the company running at full-tilt. However, this assumption is only half-true. While these staff members can and do oversee the vast majority of business operations, they will lack the data to make comprehensive decisions. A report from the Ponemon Institute found that 70 percent of cybersecurity decision-makers felt they couldn’t effectively act because of a surplus of jumbled, incoherent data.

Data analytics, or the study of (typically big) data, provides facts behind reasoning. To gather this information, companies need systems and software that talk to one another. Having the best-rated cybersecurity software won’t make a difference if it can’t easily communicate with the company’s primary OS or reach data from several remote branches.

CISOs or other qualified individuals can make practical, often less-expensive strategies with a clear view of the entire company. Without this type of solution, a business, no matter its resources or personnel, will essentially be operating its cybersecurity strategy through guesswork.

Separated data creates bubbles where information can be misplaced or duplicated, resulting in a slower data analysis process. Separated data creates bubbles where information can be misplaced or duplicated, resulting in a slower data analysis process.

Centralized businesses may miss real-time updates
Businesses face another challenge as they expand. Data collection has, in the past, slowed with remote locations. Before IoT and Industry 4.0, organizations were bound with paper and email communications. Remote branches typically grouped data reports into weeks or, more likely, months.

This approach meant that the central location effectively made decisions with month-old information. When it comes to minimizing the damage from data breaches, every hour matters. Luckily, many institutions can now provide data streaming in real time. Those that can’t must prioritize improving information flow immediately. Cybercrime looks for the weakest aspect within a company and tries to exploit the deficiency.

For data analytics to work properly, businesses need access to the full breadth of internal data. The more consistent and up to date this information is, the better CISOs and IT departments can make coherent and sensible decisions.

Visibility may not sound like the answer to fighting cyberattacks, but it is a crucial component. Companies need to be able to look within and adapt at a moment’s notice. This strategy requires not just the ability to see but also the power to make quick, actionable adjustments. Those organizations that still segment data will find this procedure difficult and time consuming.

As cybercrime becomes an expected aspect of business operations, those who still think in siloed brackets must change their mindsets or face expensive consequences.

4 Financial Industry Cybersecurity Trends for 2018

Without a doubt, cybersecurity is and will continue to be the top concern from financial institutions big and small. In 2017, the IBM X-Force® Research 2016 Cyber Security Intelligence Index study reported that the financial services industry was the most targeted-industry for the second year in a row; experiencing the highest volume of security incidents and third-highest volume of attacks. This is not surprising considering the large amount of personal data, intellectual property and physical inventory, in addition to the massive financial assets that companies in this industry hold. To protect your company, it is important to stay on top of the top cybersecurity challenges financial institutions are currently facing. Read more

Exploring the true value of a CISO

As cybersecurity issues become more prevalent, one position within the corporate ladder is gaining new attention: the chief information security officer. The financial burden of data breaches continues to rise. One recent report from Accenture stated that the average global cost of cybercime reached $11.7 million in 2017. This was a 27.4 percent raise from $9.5 million in 2016.

Along with the rising expenses of cyberattacks, companies have been spending more on protection, primarily on CISOs. Security Current data indicated that the overall average salary for an CISO was $273,033 by end of 2016 and this number is only expected to have increased. As organizations continue to pay more for CISO expertise, the question becomes: What value do CISOs truly bring to the organizations they serve?  

Distilling decision-making to one person
Cybercriminals have certain inherent advantages over the companies they target. For one, their anonymity. Hackers typically research an organization's staff as this aids with spear phishing and other data breach initiatives. By contrast, businesses have no certainty they're even being targeted until they've been attacked.

Another crucial advantage on the side of hackers is that many corporations, especially those small- to medium-sized businesses, don't have CISOs. This means that all cybersecurity policies and initiatives must go through the IT department or other group. When a chief technology officer has to deal with cybersecurity on top of other duties, the initiatives can be slowed, in some cases encountering month-long delays or more.

Cybercriminals are constantly adapting and incorporating new malicious software into their arsenals. In order to keep pace with this rapid innovation, one person within the organization must function as the hacker's opposite, keeping the company cybersecurity policies fluid and responsive. As Helpnet  Security pointed, CISOs must not only be leaders but also serve as the link between innovation and defense. A single, dedicated person can do this much more effectively than a distracted team.

Having a leader creates a clear, authoritative flow for decision making. Having a leader creates a clear, authoritative flow for decision-making.

Presenting a single, unified cybersecurity vision
Likewise, a C-level executive is typically the only class of employee capable of making real, impactful decisions within a corporate structure. Unfortunately, many executives and decision-makers remain uneducated about issues of cybersecurity. A BAE Systems survey found only 42 percent of executives felt they were very or extremely knowledgeable about their company's cybersecurity policies.

In order to create comprehensive, overarching information security standards, businesses need a respected voice in the room who can articulate and educate other executives on the need for cybersecurity initiatives. CISOs have this presence and, unlike CTOs, they are not hindered by distractions that can occur in other business segments. 

"Think in terms of 'when' instead of 'if.'"

Creating and updating corporate response strategy
Experts agree that companies that develop cyberattack response strategies minimize losses and more quickly seal breach points. While it is nice to hope that your organization will never be affected, the far more prudent strategy is to think in terms of "when" instead of "if." When a cyberattack occurs, organizations must have a clear, itemized response plan.

According to Risk Management, the best plans are proactive; changing biannually or even quarterly to adapt to new methods of cyberattack. A comprehensive plan includes steps like workforce education, breach detection tools, consumer alerts and legal recourse tools.

Once a data incursion occurs, the CISO and his or her team must be able to detect it immediately. With cyberattacks, the longer they go unnoticed, the worse they are. Placing a CISO in charge of maintaining and updating this response plan will ensure that it gets done and comes from a point of clear authority.

When a data breach occurs, the last thing that decision-makers want or need is to be arguing about what to do and who should do it.

Allowing the IT team to focus
IT teams within companies are frequently overburdened. In addition to maintaining and updating company software, IT personnel regularly respond to the daily crises of other employees. Every hardware, email or other type of problem distracts IT groups from performing their primary duties.

While typical employees tend not to notice whether or not an operating system is updated, it is these performance checks that ultimately help keep company networks safe from unauthorized access.

Bringing in a CISO allows the IT group more time to focus on their core responsibilities. The CISO may even operate alongside regular IT staff during certain times, however, it is best not to overlap duties too much. CISOs can handle red flags, such as phishing emails and imbedded malware that may otherwise escape detection or occupy IT manpower.

CISOs don't need to be paid a quarter million dollars a year to be valuable. Essentially, they act as a point person in  the realm of cybersecurity, a clear head that can dictate commands and formulate strategy. Too often, companies take a relaxed approach to cybersecurity, which almost always results in lost income and damaged reputation.

For organizations that cannot afford to keep a full-time CISO, other options remain. Cloud solutions tend to be more secure than in-office networks and some managed IT providers offer the same level of oversight and proactive planning. Regardless of who or what is in charge of information security, companies must prioritize all compliance and protection development as crucial issues.

Data Madness: Physical and digital, ensuring that critical data stays safe

With March winding down, it is important to remember the significance of confidential corporate information. Data has been called the new oil, however, as Business Insider pointed out, this is not a great comparison. Unlike oil, more data does not intrinsically mean greater value. The nature of this information greatly matters.

So really, data is more like sediment. Some bits are just pebbles – numerous beyond count and basically interchangeable. However, certain information – like say personal identification information and dedicated analytical data – is immensely valuable. These are the gemstones, the gold, and this data must be protected.

To avoid data madness, or the immense financial and irreparable damage done by lost confidential information, follow these tips to safeguard valuable data:

"Around 23 percent of IT thefts occur in office."

Securing physical data
While many organizations worry about theft from cars, airports or other public places – not enough information is paid to a real danger: the office. According to a Kensington report, 23 percent of IT thefts occur in office. This is nearly 10 percent higher than hotels and airports.

The same report found that over a third of IT personal have no physical protection in place to prevent hardware from being stolen. Only 20 percent used locks to protect hard drives.

While organizations worry about small devices like wearables and smartphones, basic security cannot be overlooked. Companies must take steps to ensure that only employees or approved guests have access to the premises. Even then, not every worker needs universal access. Server rooms and hardware storage should be kept behind additional locks.

IT teams should also be required to keep a thorough inventory of all network-enabled data devices. This will alert the organization quickly should a theft occur. While cybersecurity grabs headlines – the importance of a good, strong physical lock cannot be overstated.

Malicious third parties are not above using simple and primitive tactics.

Protecting digital data
While physical protection is essential, cybersecurity is rising in importance. Gemalto data states that, since 2013, more than 9 billion digital records have been stolen, misplaced or simply erased without authorization. More troubling is the recent increases in data loss. Gemalto also recorded a steady rise data breach occurrence and a dramatic uptick in misplaced or stolen information.

Cybercriminals adapt quickly and their tools are constantly evolving. Deloitte released a report chronicling the increasing tenacity and sophistication of ransomware, a disturbing cyberattack that strips away essential data access from organizations and charges them to get it back. Infamous attacks like WannaCry made headlines last year and unfortunately these incidents are expected to become more common.

When enhancing cybersecurity, take a company-wide approach. Every employee with network access needs to be educated on basic risks. Network administrators should also structure internet connectivity to run on the principle of least privilege. As with the physical server room, not every employee needs access to every file. Permissions should be given sparingly.

Lastly, businesses need a concrete plan if and when a data breach do occur so that they may respond efficiently and swiftly to contain the attack. 

Finding  the point of breach quickly can reduce the damage done by cybercriminals. Finding the point of breach quickly can reduce the damage done by cybercriminals.

The Cloud Advantage
One of the reasons that cloud services are so popular is that they alleviate certain cybersecurity concerns. Many businesses, especially smaller organizations, have budget restrictions, whereas a cloud services provider like Microsoft annually invests $1 billion in cybersecurity, according to Reuters.

Handing off information security concerns to a trusted organization with more resources is a way to help safeguard your data, backing it up so that it will never be lost or stolen by a malicious third party.

Data Madness: The importance of deleting/removing critical data from old devices

You arrive at work and get an immediate call to see the CEO. Upon entering the office, you notice that the CIO and other executives are in the room, as well as several people in suits you don't recognize. Everyone is looking stressed, brows furrowed and heads bent.

Those new people in suits are lawyers planning the company's defense to the major data breach that was just detected. The malicious activity occurred last month and the hacker supposedly used your information.

After frantic moments of head scratching, you remember: You sold your smartphone last month. While it was a personal device, you used it to check office email and it had stored access to the company network password.

While data madness often happens when vital data goes missing, it can also occur when data isn't properly disposed of. Too often, organizations fail to stress the importance of information security at every phase of the hardware's life cycle. Before a machine can be decommissioned, data must first be thoroughly purged and, in some cases, destroyed.

A broken phone can still house perfectly working data. A broken phone can still house perfectly working data.

Sanitizing data vs. deleting data
In some companies, the temptation is to delete data by moving it to the recycling bin and pressing "empty." However, this is not enough. According to Secure Data Recovery, data emptied from the recycling bin is not permanently deleted – at least not right away. The computer simply deletes the pathing and labels the information as "free space," meaning that it can be overwritten by new data.

For all intents and purposes, data deleted from the recycling bin is gone, at least as far as the layperson is concerned. Those with computer programming and specialized skills or software, however, can recover the information and restore it. If you've ever done a search for "data recovery" – you will see that these skills are not in short supply.

Yet companies make this mistake all the time. A survey conducted by Blancco found that almost half of all hard drives carried at least some residual data. The same was true for over a third of smartphones. Files such as emails, photos and sensitive company documents were recovered from these devices. To securely delete files requires a more thorough process.

The University of California, Riverside defines data sanitization as "the process of deliberately, permanently, and irreversibly removing or destroying the data stored on a memory device." Sanitized data drives typically carry no residual data, even with the aid of recovery tools. However, this solution often times requires additional software that will erase and rewrite information multiple times.

Companies have a wide variety of options to choose from when it comes to securing data sanitization software. Microsoft even provides an in-house solution in the form of its tool, data eraser – which has been optimized for PCs and tablets. It's important to remember that different types of data drives will only be compatible with certain software.

Given the sensitive nature of the material in question, companies should only choose data sanitization software from trust organizations.

Recycling bins - like their physical counterparts - are not known for permanently disposing of trash. Recycling bins – like their physical counterparts – are not known for permanently disposing of trash.

When physical destruction may be needed
However, for some kinds of data, sanitization may not be enough. This can be regulated by internal business policy (such as placing employee payroll information as the most sensitive data) or by government laws like HIPAA – which mandate time-effective data destruction.

In this case, the storage device matters more. Hard disk drives, commonly found in computers and servers, are the easiest to destroy as they operate on magnetic fields. A hard drive degausser can permanently alter these fields, leaving the device completely unreadable.

Solid state drives and flash media are more difficult. Their data storage is circuit-based, rendering a degausser ineffective. These drives should be shredded or destroyed by quality equipment expressly designed for the task. Hard drive data can be recovered after improper destruction, even in extreme cases. ComputerWorld reported that data was restored from the wreckage of the Columbia space shuttle tragedy, illustrating the hardiness of certain drives and the effectiveness of professional data recovery tools.

Safely disposing of data is no easy task and innovations like the internet of things have made it more difficult. Cybercriminals may be developing more sophisticated ransomware but they are also still routinely diving in dumpsters and scoping out secondhand stores for improperly deleted data. Make sure your company is taking the necessary steps to avoid data madness.