Data-Centric Protection: The Challenges for Managed Security Services in 2015


June 2, 2015
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The ebb and flow of the workplace is ever-changing. Streams of incoming and outgoing data, which are generated, shared and propagated in various sequencing platforms, have resulted in escalating security challenges for managed security service vendors.

The ability to navigate today’s security-related threats and vulnerabilities can bog-down and divert IT resources. This challenge is further intensified by the shifting demands of the workplace, such as the need for omnipresent connectivity, bandwidth-hungry applications, the proliferation of smartphones and other mobile devices, which have all transformed the business world. This diversifies and amplifies the volume, velocity and variety of IT assets that need to be managed. The propagation of viruses, malware and spyware can compromise and undermine the integrity of your servers, networks and IT infrastructure. Providing secure channels to communicate and exchange information are amongst the principal challenges that managed security services providers, network engineers and SMBs have to face. The nature of cyber-threats is multifaceted and MSPs need to align themselves with proactive, hardened security strategies that will help bolster and fortify against IT breaches.

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What differentiates the frequency and scope of today’s threats from previous years? In essence, it can be boil-down to two things, the type of incoming threats and where they originate from. The newly-formed threats can usually trace their origins to those coming from within application-based environments. This marks a watershed from the nature of previous security breaches, which usually originated from network layers. The malicious attacks can come from external quarters or can be created in-house, in the forms of phishing, spyware and Trojans. The dualistic points-of-entry by which viruses can compromise the integrity of your system forces IT to re-strategize on their current and future security policies and continue to have a leg-up.

In order for information technology providers to successfully combat both forms of attacks, safeguards must be integrated that will help curb the spread of personnel who unintentionally enable the transmission of malicious code, as well as implement safeguards that patch-up vulnerabilities, enable self-healing and bolster system resiliency on all fronts. The paradigm shift, from channelling all security energies to preventative measures has transformed infrastructural requirements.

From a numbers standpoint, four out of five attacks still come from an external source, while 20% are initiated from within the organization. In order for organizations to keep-up, they need to seriously look at their vulnerabilities and be transparent and honest about them. The reality is that most organizations are not evolving at the same rate of sophistication as viruses, which are programmed-to-mutate and become more resilient in light of this. It is not just businesses that need to step-up and accept the IT security challenges, close to 35% of IT providers fail to deliver status reports to clientele and address cyber security risks. This failure to communicate has meant that most businesses do not want to funnel more money into present and future IT security initiatives. Advances have to be made by both SMBs and MSPs to counter these security risks and improve their security protocols.

For IT managed security services’ vendors and network engineers, the trick for IT is to strike the right equilibrium and ensure that strengthening security layers does not come at the cost of slowing-down productivity. When IT overlaps, and goes beyond the call of duty, it can tie-up valuable resources into inefficient tangles and have the same things being done over-and-over again. In IT, things should be redundant as far as backup is concerned not pouring in valuable resources to do the same or similar things when there is no need. Granulated policies should be nestled within each other, and reinforce one another, not overlap and conflict. It is prudent to implement sophisticated and modern security solutions, such as software, which allows to keep tabs on system users, seamlessly fortify security perimeters through via automated updates and patches, and track usage rates. These solutions have a user-friendly administrative dashboard that offer user-intuitive functionalities that allows IT to configure permission settings and control those who has access to your systems and networks.

If you’re using an older security model or solution, it is important to note that once the security perimeters have been penetrated, it may be next-to-impossible to restore and remediate your systems. The newer solutions come with built-in analytics that come with not only advanced administrator capabilities but offers real-time status updates and usage rates. You can categorize “good” and “bad” traffic and tag anything you feel is malicious. Newer solutions are always recommended, not only because they are backed by next-generation technologies to meet the progressive viruses that are being created and manufactured in the digital world, but because they factor-in the nature of today’s interconnected world. The world is borderless and data streams are constantly criss-cross from one platform to another without much regulatory valves in place to control them. Network operators and IT engineers are grappling with the costs-and-benefits of various systems and ensuring that it meets your budgetary limits. This article outlines and delves into some important considerations that small-to-medium sized business should fully consider before blueprinting an IT security strategy. We will discuss the soundness of certain strategies and which one will prolong and optimize the lifecycle and vitality of your systems.

What to Consider

There are a series of factors that need to be considered when deciding on the best course of action when it comes to hardening your IT security. Various safeguards must be considered and a security strategy must be comprehensive in scope and must align with the overall business goals of the organization that IT providers are partnering up with.

Malicious Software

Radical, progressive malware is commonly spread through emails by rouge distributors and is incredibly hard for orthodox, standard security solutions to pick-up. What makes email-based malware the preferred channel to send malicious software, is that most email systems do not have a sophisticated built-in protection and detection mechanism. Malware becomes stealth-like. After the malware is able to successfully pass security perimeters, the malware can effectively dismantle security perimeters, compromise those files and leak-out information to third-parties. Users usually help kick-start the dissemination of the malware by downloading e-mail attachments. Once it is downloaded on your system, the application will often run in your background. Malware can work either slowly and will most likely be hidden, or damages your files in an aggressive manner. Malware can harm more than just your computer. Certain malware are built to ruin your reputation, by spamming your email lists and sending information to unauthorized parties. Most small-and-medium sized enterprises do not consider how disastrous malware can be, and it is a pain-staking process to fix and remedy the damage that malware is able to inflict in a short period of time.

Sticking to Guidelines

Businesses are now, more than ever, being audited for compliance purposes. In almost all industries, both private and public, regulatory regimes are tightening their belt and expecting more compliance and are raising the bar. Businesses are legally bound to ensure that they adhere to codes. Certain industries – such as financial, medical, banking and legal sectors – are especially required to protect their data at all costs. If businesses are flagged or penalized for non-compliance, they will sometimes be decommissioned or their reputation will be irrevocably strained. Oftentimes, the central principle that guides these regulations is the protection of data. The only way for businesses to protect their digital data is to ensure that their IT security and networks are protected through enterprise-grade, next-generation security measures.

Social Media

A new frontier for data breaches have emerged the last few years. With the advent of Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter, businesses are now more inclined than ever to protect their data as they can quickly leak-out to social network channels and receive more eyeballs than ever before. This will have disastrous ramifications. To expel employees or staff members from accessing social media will have negative consequences on morale, hiring and undermine your marketing efforts. Most organizations have a viable social media department now that tracks, monitors and reports on usage and what is company information is being shared.

Prohibiting Applications

The prohibition of high-risk peer-to-peer file sharing internet services, such as BitTorrent, in the workplace is prudent. These utility-based portals allow for the exchange of files and oftentimes, a lot of these files are illegal (copyright infringements) and sometimes are packed with hidden viruses. They serve no utility for businesses because they are full of pirated and illegal software that businesses should not be installing either way. SMBs should buy licenses from software providers. The prospects for security breaches are high when it comes to P2P applications and should be discouraged and enforced. There is also a new disturbing trend which exacerbates security challenges. Many legitimate applications are now meant to go through convention security defenses and can unstring and deconstruct your security perimeter.

Overcoming Security Challenges

It is important that IT managed security services providers and network technicians integrate a holistic, comprehensive approach that combines both trailed-and-tested technologies with enterprise-grade and cutting-edge security policies. An angle that is often overlooked when considering an action plan to harden IT security, is the unintentional threats that insiders, like staff, pose to the integrity of your IT infrastructure. Becoming cognizant of this assumption ensures that your security protocols will be hardened because most security policies almost exclusively focus on seriously limiting the ability for outsiders to penetrate your security layers. It is crucial that SMBs, with direction, guidance and consultation from IT providers, can build and uniquely blend inward-looking and outward-looking security policies together.

Looking Outside

To limit users and ensure that they are not breaching security lines is critical. With the advent of software assisting operational tasks and workflow in every way possible, application policies are now essential. Conventional methods like firewalling via IP, can no longer safeguard your business because viruses and malware are dynamic and will breach your security quarters. The new security requires sophisticated answers to today and tomorrow’s challenges.

New security policies, in the context of addressing external security threats, should focus on application visibility and control and malware detection. The new security threats are focused more on applications and less on the network. The explosion of cloud computing has accentuated this because more end-users are logging-onto the cloud more than ever. Hackers and malicious parties will use tactics like brute force attacks, which focus on breaking-down your security perimeters by persistently guessing passwords / login credentials and overwhelming your systems. One way to ensure that a brute force attack is not being waged against you is to monitor and track your application usages and identify who is using them. There is a new wave of technology that is able to give you deep insight into the traffic and identity of users and many have self-healing capabilities where they can remove malicious code. While signature-based scanning is still crucial, sandboxed-based code analysis are just as important to deter would-be hackers from trying to deploy resources to take-down or steal from your systems.

Looking Inside

User-based access controls allow for a number of high-grade security protocols that will transform and harden your security layer and deter would-be hackers from trying to infringe on your company assets. Programs like BYOD (bring your own device) help you set limit users by setting up the device exactly the way you want on a per-user and per-device basis. All access and usage controls can be set.

IT can also provide visitors and non-staff users with restricted levels of access. To gauge the success of this program, you can set up a monitoring nodes that will store and share its findings. To ensure that end-point compliance is up to standards, an automatically, pre-built anti-malware and anti-virus engine can be added onto a built-in compliance ecosystem that helps harden your security lines. In case one of the company-owned devices are stolen, through an administrative dashboard you can disable and disconnect that service seamlessly. The ability to do such a thing has to be deployed on company-owned devices on a real-time basis can boost your security maneuverability.

The boom of cloud computing presents a myriad of security challenges that need to be addressed by IT managed security services providers. A huge number of IT resources are allocated to protecting the data that goes in-and-out of the cloud platforms. Cloud providers have a tough balancing act as they have to ensure that the security protocols that they implement, in multitenant data centers, do not infringe on the ability to provide environments where their clients can be productive and innovative. The issue of virtualization further convolutes the IT security conundrum. Virtual machines that are housed in the same environment and belong to one company can conflict with one another and undermine one another, not only by decreased productivity but by help encroach each other and result in incompatibility issues. This may leave it highly vulnerable to outsiders who are trying to digitally break-in. The way to off-set this security risk is to utilize virtual security devices that are readily deployable by top-tier IT firms.

Managed Security Services

Fidelity IT Solutions that operates in Toronto and San Francisco provide managed security services and have a team of engineers and security specialists that will strengthen your IT security.

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