Article | August 9, 2023
As of May 2023, 39% percent of workers in the UK work from home at some point during their week. Whilst understandable, the hybrid-working environment continues to pose more risks to organisations and their data.
As more devices are accessed beyond the confines of the corporate network, businesses must account for the inherent risks presented by insecure or non-existent endpoint control. As users of these devices have more administrative control, and without the constant presence of IT services, the door is left open for increased phishing, ransomware and malware attacks. A daunting 88% of data breaches are now caused by employee error. Just earlier this month, the genealogy company 23andMe confirmed that its data had been compromised in an attack from hackers who claimed to have accessed millions of data points from accounts by taking advantage of users login credentials.
The problem with this is that the users are not the root of the issue. The concern comes not only from employees, but from the number of endpoints being accessed from multiple locations, and the lack of control over the access and privileges that these devices have.
A frightening statistic revealed in a study from Forbes, showed that 23% of UK and US small businesses used no form of endpoint security, and that a further 57% simply believe they won’t be targeted by cyber-attacks. The reason this is so concerning is that cybersecurity companies have reported a 20% increase in victims of such attacks just in the last year. These attacks not only put company and customer data at risk but can also result in a strain on IT services and leave users without the systems and tools essential for productivity.
Preventing unlimited access
One of the ways that attacks break through endpoints and escape into an organisation's network is by exploiting local admin rights on end-users' workstations. Those local admin rights are handy for the user. For example, they can install a new printer driver or update an application plug-in without calling the IT help desk. But they can also be abused to install malware or configure the computer to make an attack easier.
It could be easy to remove those local admin rights or the shadow user account on the workstations with those elevated permissions. But that will frustrate end-users and increase the load on the help desk.
The key issue here, is the concept of privilege. Users often need the privilege to elevate their devices by running an administrator account in order to gain access to, and update applications. Unfortunately, this greatly increases risk as these elevated administrator accounts are much more attractive to hackers for this exact reason - their access to more lucrative data.
It has been reported that 70% of all data breaches are targeted at privileged accounts, which is especially alarming when taking into account the fact that 90% of IT security professionals have said that their organisations’ users have more privilege than is necessary.
The issue for many companies arises in finding the balance between the users’ access to local admin rights and their productivity. More open access to the admin rights makes things easier and convenient for the users but opens the door to security risks with more endpoints to target.
A study by the Ponemon Institute showed that 73% of organisations believed that threats to their endpoints had significantly increased, and that a staggering 80% of organisations that had been compromised by cyber-attacks did not know what type of attack they had been subjected to. The need for a more effective and efficient security measure is clear.
Endpoint privilege management (EPM) oversees and governs the privilege of network devices. It completely removes the need for users to have administrator accounts on the devices they use, whilst still enabling them to have elevated access to certain applications. EPM only elevates approved applications and provides the users with a clear audit list of those which have been approved.
Privilege to protect
Whilst not a universal fix, the implementation of EPM, for example, can help alleviate the risks and reinforce a culture of security within organisations.
It is understandable to be cautious when faced with words and phrases such as “approved applications” or “removing administrator rights”, but EPM is not about limiting your users’ experience or productivity. EPM does not forbid or remove access to applications. The IT team can grant approved users’ permission to run specific applications with elevated permissions for a limited period, to carry out specific actions.
Users can then access what they need to, while IT retains visibility over all actions in case activity needs to be stopped, or incidents need to be investigated at a later date. If permissions need to be granted on an individual basis, for each user and application, IT will be buried under an avalanche of requests – so EPM tools will allow rules and policies to be created and then applied at scale.
Users can do the work they need with few calls to the Help Desk. IT gets fewer interruptions and can focus on more valuable work. Auditors can see who had access to which applications and logs show the actual users, not an arbitrary administrator account.
Endpoint privilege management is vital to any organisation's cybersecurity strategy, not only to manage and control access to sensitive data and resources but minimise the chance of a data breach. EPM also plays a crucial role in ensuring compliance with industry standards and regulations to avoid the legal liabilities that may ensue should a breach occur.
Article | September 6, 2023
The EU NIS cyber security regulations are evolving for 2024 – and if you’re not currently aware of how they’ll apply to your organisation, now is the time to get up to speed with the likely requirements. Not only is the directive being tightened, but an extended range of healthcare and related organisations will be added to the list of ‘critical entities’ that must comply. These include certain medical device manufacturers, pharmaceutical companies, and organisations that carry out R&D.
The Network and Information Systems (NIS) standards were set up in 2016 to protect essential services – such as water, energy, healthcare, transport and digital infrastructure – from online cyberattacks. The updated legislation, NIS2, will have stricter rules and reporting requirements, and higher penalties for non-compliance.
They will apply to medium-sized and large businesses that operate within one or more EU countries. Those based only in the UK can’t sit back, however, as the original NIS regulations will still apply as part of British law. What’s more, a UK version of the rules is coming very soon, and it’s likely that the framework will closely resemble the EU’s.
What will the requirements cover?
There are a number of cyber risk management measures that all organisations that come under the scope of NIS2 will be required to put in place. For instance, they will need to conduct regular security assessments and risk analyses, adopt incident response and handling plans, and appoint a chief information security officer (CISO), among other obligations.
The new directive will streamline and strengthen incident reporting requirements. Entities must notify regulators of any incident that has compromised data, or had a significant impact on the provision of their services, for instance by causing severe operational disruption or financial loss.
Applying information system security policies and business continuity plans will form part of the obligations, as will conducting cyber security testing, and training for all staff. The use of multi-factor authentication (MFA) and encryption, where appropriate, will also be mandated.
There is plenty of focus within the directive on the cornerstones of cyber security best practice – in particular the proper control of administrator-level account credentials, privileged access, and endpoints, all of which are prime targets for attackers.
Under NIS2, organisations are being separated into ‘critical’ and ‘important’ entities. It’s important to determine which category yours will fall under, as requirements are different for each.
The third party threat will also be addressed in NIS2 through the pulling in of managed service providers (MSPs) to the list of ‘critical entities’, with the aim of keeping digital supply chains secure. MSPs are often granted privileged access to clients’ corporate systems and networks, which creates security risks.
What are the consequences of non-compliance?
Organisations that come under the regulations’ purview will be subject to random checks, regular security audits, on-site inspections and off-site supervisions.
For those found to be in breach, sanctions could include warnings, temporary suspension of certain activities, and temporary prohibition to exercise certain managerial functions. Financial penalties could be as high as 10 million Euros or 2% of an organisation’s global turnover – whichever is higher.
What steps should healthcare organisations take now?
Organisations should take action to establish whether the EU or UK NIS2 regulations will apply to them and what their responsibilities will be. Having identified any gaps in existing cyber security processes, policies and practices, they must determine what changes need making to address them.
As a priority, they must review their incident response plans, and incident management and reporting procedures. It’s also a good idea to begin assessing the security posture of partners and third parties in the supply chain, and incorporating relevant security requirements into contracts.
Given the framework’s focus on protecting privileged admin accounts, organisations should implement controls that will limit the number of staff members who hold these powerful credentials. Implementing privileged access management (PAM) will allow IT to control who is granted access to which systems, applications and services, for how long, and what they can do while they’re using them.
Preparing for the introduction of the EU NIS2 regulations should be considered as more than just a compliance exercise. By meeting the strengthened requirements, healthcare organisations will be building a foundation of resilience that protects them, their customers, and the essential services they provide.
Enterprise Security, Network Threat Detection
Article | July 13, 2023
The subject of how information security impacts different industry sectors is an intriguing one. For example, how does the finance industry fare in terms of information security compared to the health sector, or the entertainment business? Are there some sectors that face greater cyber-threats and risks than others? Do some do a better job of keeping data secure, and if so, how and why?A new study of credit management professionals has revealed that improving the quality of data and decision-making will be a top priority for the credit industry in the next three years. The research, from Equifax Ingnite in collaboration with Coleman Parkes, takes a deep dive into the views of credit management pros across retail, banking, finance and debt management/recovery sectors.
Article | February 12, 2020
During 2019, new privacy laws were introduced, and many current laws evolved in the United States and across the global landscape. With the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) in full effect, we saw expensive fines levied upon companies that fell victim to data privacy breaches. As we move into a new year, probably the biggest takeaway from 2019 is that being proactive and having a data privacy strategy in place is important to help mitigate the risk of a data privacy breach. The regulatory landscape continues to evolve as states and countries actively pass new expanded requirements for privacy and cybersecurity regulations. While laws in the U.S., like the California Consumer Privacy Act (CCPA), are getting significant attention, many other states and countries are actively amending their breach notification laws to include tighter restrictions.