While employees often do things such as open email attachments that they shouldn’t, fail to update software and apps, or visit websites that have been compromised, these aren’t the only ways someone can get to your data through your staff. Let’s look at a few more serious data security mistakes your employees should be trained to avoid.
Common Data Security Mistakes
- Password problems – Start with the concept of using passwords that are not secure. Not only should things like 12345 be avoided—and your IT team should make sure passwords like that can’t be used—but “personal-type” passwords should also be avoided. For example, it’s not a huge reach for a hacker to learn personal info about an employee, and then try the person’s birthdate or anniversary as a password. Besides these things, employees should be instructed to effectively protect passwords by never sharing them, even with another employee. Having a list of passwords on a mobile device, or even on a piece of paper under the keyboard, are also terrible ideas.
- Cloud computing – First of all, there’s nothing wrong or not secure about using cloud computing for The problem begins when employees feel they can share private company information through cloud file-sharing services that are not designed for business, and are thus less secure.
- Losing data/devices – Any time that data is removed from the office on a device like a laptop or a phone or even on something like a thumb drive, loss becomes an issue. Something as simple as leaving a smartphone at a restaurant can lead to theft. And once a thief finds private corporate information on the device, what is to stop him from trying to increase his payday by selling the information before selling the device?
It all comes back to proper training. Your employees need to know how to create strong passwords and manage them properly. They need to understand the difference between a secure way to send a file and a way that is inviting trouble. And they need to understand the importance of protecting devices with sensitive information on them, especially if such devices are taken out of the building.
Sometimes your worst security threat is an untrained or careless staff. A well-maintained online security setup can easily be overcome by a hacker if an employee makes a simple mistake. Let’s go over some of those common data security mistakes that lead to many of the data breaches that companies suffer today.
Common Data Security Mistakes
- Opening an email attachment – No matter how many times management may have told employees to be careful about emails from people they don’t know, this is still one of the most common issues. The fact is that sometimes the sender isn’t a stranger. If a friend’s email gets hacked, cyber criminals can send everyone in that person’s address book a malicious link. A message from a friend arrives with the title, “You’ve got to see this!” or something else that is innocuous. The employee clicks the link, and the damage is done. Employees need to be trained to question links, even from someone they know, if they were not expecting the message.
- Putting off updates – The computer says it needs to restart for new updates to take effect. However, the staff member is in the middle of a project and delays the restart. Days pass. The problem is that the update was for a security issue, and now that employee’s computer is a hacker’s way into your network because the exploit is still useable. You must train employees to apply updates as soon as they are available.
- Pornography, pirating, and other shady websites – If a visited website is compromised, it doesn’t take long for a computer to become compromised. Obviously, these are the kinds of websites employees should not be using on company time or company devices. Unfortunately, employees may also work from personal devices and save login credentials. It’s not a long stretch to have those credentials stolen if shady websites are being accessed on the same device. Train your employees to save logins only on their work devices, and to use such devices only for work.
These are just three of the most common data security mistakes made by employees. We will consider more in future articles.
The digital world is shifting toward artificial intelligence (AI). We want voice searches and digital assistants to be more human-like—and that means artificial intelligence. While the idea that someday there will be a robot apocalypse is the work of science fiction; however, there are legitimate concerns that make AI a difficult thing to accomplish. Here are a few of those worries.
Artificial Intelligence Have a Single-Minded Focus
One of the primary things that always come up in fictional AI storylines is the concept that robots take over the world to save it from humans, or to save humans from themselves. It demonstrates an interesting point. Even a machine that is programmed with a degree of AI will still struggle to weigh decisions like a human does. For example, a cleaning robot will not have the same sentimental attitude toward your trophy collection, and may knock it to the ground to get to all of the dust on the mantle. How do you program a robot to care about your things in the same way as you do?
They Are Rewarded for Shortcuts
True artificial intelligence would require a machine to have a sense of satisfaction in accomplishing its assign tasks. The problem is: how do you stop the robot from taking on the human attitude of looking for shortcuts to get to the reward? Will a cleaning robot (bot) feel just as good if it tosses your clothes under the bed and your kid’s toys in the closet as doing the actually cleaning? What if the robot goes truly rogue and starts messing things up just to clean and complete an assignment?
Like a human, a machine programmed with AI will want to explore possibilities and expand horizons. What if your cooking robot decides to experiment with an ingredient that in theory will taste good, but in reality, is deadly? The droid may be programmed to never intentionally poison someone, but what if it was an accident in an effort to create a new and exciting dish?
These are just a few of the concerns that developers have as they work on AI for future automated helpers. For now, about the worst things a digital assistant can do is to give you bad directions or a recommend a crummy restaurant.
When it comes to treatment of disease, early detection is vital. However, this is a catch-22 when related to patient files because of privacy issues. You want to be able to look at the data and know which screenings are the most appropriate, but you legally can’t disclose much of the relevant data to a team of statisticians. Mathematicians are trying to give you a way around this.
Keeping Patient Files Anonymous
The first step in maintaining privacy is altering patient data so that the patient is anonymous. This may sound like it defeats the purpose, but there are computer programs that can use the changed data just as effectively as the real data. While the data is no longer attached to an individual in any significant way, it is still relevant for the sake of observing trends and looking at summaries of statistics.
Researchers are working hard to ensure that the changed data does not result in statistics that have been altered. The computer system looks at the answers to yes and no questions like:
- Is the patient overweight?
- Does the patient smoke?
- Is there a family history of illness?
Then it turns this data into geometric patterns. Now, while disguised as shapes, the data is still there for the computer to see, while the patients remain anonymous. How does this help a practice to treat patients?
The data can be collated, and statistics can be determined. At the same time, no one ever sees the name of a particular patient while doing data entry or figuring up the statistics. In this way, patients are protected, but health care providers still get much-needed data to determine the importance of various types of screening and other preventative measures.
Computers and the Health Care Industry
Patient privacy is a vital aspect of the health care industry despite the fact that we live in a digital age of information sharing. You need an agency to help you navigate the line between storing data and protecting data. After all, you want to be able to provide patients with the best possible care while submitting to the law.
As we can clearly see, Microsoft has discovered the importance of moving forward while not leaving behind the things that made Windows the most popular operating system in the first place. With Windows 10, Microsoft incorporated many of the beneficial aspects of 8 that worked well on Windows phones and tablets, but now has returned many of the things we love from the previous desktop versions. We also finally get to enjoy Cortana without having to be on a mobile device. But Microsoft isn’t done yet.
Why the Start Menu Is So Important
The one thing that made Windows 8 unusable to many longtime fans of the operating system was the drastic Start menu change. It basically wasn’t there at all. In Windows 10, we get to enjoy the old menu with some new additions.
Right next to your Start menu on a Windows 10 desktop is Cortana. You don’t even have to open a browser to search. You can type in the taskbar box or just speak to Cortana if you enable the speech option. You can even set reminder notices for meetings and projects that you have to work on, and Cortana will alert you so you don’t need little reminder notes all over the office.
Apps Are Good
Whether you are using Windows 10 on a mobile or desktop device, you have access to the growing number of apps for Windows devices. This addition helps to streamline the operating system and make it workable across devices rather than requiring a completely unique operating system for mobile and desktop.
Plus, Microsoft has stepped up its web browser usability, replacing the virtually unusable Explorer with Edge. Edge is particularly useful on touchscreen devices, although using the drawing tool with your mouse to edit directly on the screen can be fun too.
Is This Operating System the Final Iteration of Windows?
There are rumors that Windows 10 may be the final version of the operating system and that future updates and enhancements will just be additions to Windows 10. Whether or not that is the way Microsoft intends to go, and how long it will last, remain to be seen.
When it comes to malware, there may be none more malicious and devious than ransomware. Ransomware effectively locks a computer and holds the contents for ransom, requiring the owner to pay a fee in order to regain access.
How Serious Is It?
Ransomware can do anything from permanently locking a computer to actually deleting all of your data if you try to get around the malware without paying the ransom. But before you reach for your credit card, there are important reasons to avoid paying the ransom, and far better ways to protect your company or recover your data.
What This Means for Businesses
If someone in your office wanders into unsavory internet territory and gets ransomware downloaded on your system, it can bring your entire organization to a grinding halt. Paying the ransom is worthless. There is no guarantee that the malware is not still in the system just waiting to spring up and take more of your money in the future. And you probably shouldn’t give account info to someone who is clearly a criminal. So what can you do to protect your company?
Prevention—The Best Policy
First of all, the best way to keep your business safe is to avoid ransomware at all costs. This means:
- Educating employees about what constitutes appropriate internet use on company devices.
- Keeping software, apps, and operating systems updated at all times so that the exploits hackers use are not available.
- Keeping firewalls and antivirus in place to protect your network.
- Keeping data backed up in the cloud, so that loss of a device does not stop workflow.
- Training staff to avoid clicking email links that they are not 100% certain about.
Stopping Ransomware Is a Team Effort
It takes everyone on the staff to recognize the dangers of the internet and avoid them. Another important thing that needs to be instilled is that if ransomware should somehow get on a machine, the employee should immediately report it rather than paying the ransom in an effort to brush things under the rug and avoid possible consequences.
What If It’s Too Late?
Don’t give up hope yet. A talented IT agency may be able to help recover your data—and an IT team will cost you far less than the ransom most hackers put in place.
One of the areas where companies have to protect themselves against threats of data breaches would be external sources. However, these external cyber threats can come from many different places. Knowing your enemy can help you to protect your business from loss.
Let’s discuss the various backers and types of external cyber threats.
Categories of External Cyber Threats
While this is not a comprehensive list, most external cyber threats will fit into one of the categories listed below:
- Government-Backed – Remember that a lot of nations do not like the U.S., and attacking businesses (even small businesses) is seen as a way to disrupt the economy. Therefore, some foreign governments actually sponsor hackers.
- The Activist – Some hackers view themselves as activists (leading to the term hacktivist). These individuals may be acting solely or as a group, and usually have a specific political agenda. As a result, they like to focus on attacks that will gain attention for their cause.
- Organized Crime – No, we’re not talking about some kind of online mafia. However, there are groups of hackers that work together specifically for money-making purposes. This category is most likely to target businesses and other organizations, like schools or medical facilities. They want credit card and bank account info or anything else that can result in a quick and lucrative score.
- The Opportunist – Many hackers, especially those acting on their own, are opportunists. Once they identify a company they can exploit, they go after unprotected sites. These hackers are the reason it is so important to load all of those security updates as soon as it becomes available.
- The Man Inside – This one may combine external and internal threats. If you have a disgruntled employee, he or she may be willing to sell login credentials to the highest bidder. This compromises your system and allows the employee to “stick to the man.”
Can you identify which of the above threats are most likely to threaten your company? How are you protecting yourself? You may find that the only way to gain peace of mind is to hire a cyber security company.
The term “dynamic visibility” is gaining momentum as studies are observing the effects of technology on the privacy of individuals. It is important to remember that digital surveillance is not 100% to blame. We also have to consider the sheer amount of free information that people divulge through technology. Consider some of the ways we willingly give up some of our privacy when it comes to our devices.
How Our Privacy Is Shared
Apps like Waze allow us to share our location at all times. Facebook and other social apps result in the sharing of tons of personal data. Even dating app profiles record information that should be considered a huge invasion of privacy—and yet people willingly give up that information in an attempt to be digitally matched up with the right person.
Research was performed using an Android app. The study focused on one particular part of Israel where smartphone use is the highest. The app included surveys taken on the phone that gathered info that was willingly shared, but it also tracked the location and phone usage of those who downloaded the app. This simulated the amount of information that people give up both voluntarily and through app allowances.
The study revealed that an astonishing 73% of responders were willing to give up their actual location while filling out a survey. It was also made clear that people were much more willing to give up both their location as well as other personal information when they were taking a survey in a public place rather than at home.
The fact that people seem more willing to give up personal info when asked questions in public is an intriguing phenomenon that encourages further study.
At the same time, this study serves as a warning to all those who are genuinely concerned about privacy. Be sure to consider what information each app on your phone gathers. Many track location and some do so even when the app is not in use. At the same time, consider what information you give away freely via social media, dating accounts, and online surveys. You never know who may be watching.
When it comes to cyber threats, most security focuses on external threat assessment. We often ask what may happen next, and then respond reactively, rather than performing an internal data security audit and proactively taking steps to shore up defenses.
Examine Your Network to Improve Data Security
Here are a few things you should know about your own network that will help you keep it more secure.
- Know Your Data – Regardless of what of data or how much information your system stores, you need to take inventory in order to assess First all, what type of information do you need to protect (company files, employee info, customer info, financial data, R&D, etc.). Second, know the location of the data. Is it stored locally, in the cloud, or both? Do you have offsite backups? What data is the most critical?
- Know Your Software – Every system that is installed in your network should be there for a reason. Eliminate unused software. Keep all loaded software up to date and configured properly for maximum security.
- Profile Configurations – Know everyone who has a login to your systems. Require strong passwords, and educate employees on how to avoid phishing attacks that can steal employee credentials and give hackers an in to your system.
While these are not the only 3 elements of a security audit, the important takeaway is to regularly audit in-house security methods to be sure that everything possible is being done to avoid a cyberattack. When you know the threats that exist in-house and shore up those defenses, you are in a better position to evaluate external threats to your organization.
Sometimes it can be important to have an objective eye. This means calling for a data security audit from an external source, preferably a company experienced with the type of data you need secured, as well as the systems that your company uses. Such a security company can then offer viable solutions to eliminate cracks in your organization’s digital security measures.
In the present world of data breaches and the financial consequences that come with them, it is more important to your business than ever to be protected.
When it comes to evaluating external threats to your company’s data, narrowing down the primary attacks can be difficult. So what can you do to pinpoint the most likely sources of a cyberattack? The first step is taking stock of what your company has to lose.
How to Spot External Threats
If you know the type of data in your network and where it is located, that will make it easier to determine direct external threats to your data. Threat Intelligence is the name given to this type of evaluation. By discovering what your data’s greatest threats are, you can be prepared to repel the most likely attacks.
One thing you can be certain of is that cyber criminals are always looking for tools that can provide a way around standard security measures. So while you need to take the standard precautions, these alone are rarely enough. As security companies develop new antivirus programs, anti-malware tools, and firewalls, the world of cyber criminals gets to work on developing better attacks that can evade those tools. It’s vital to keep everything up to date. Every time hackers find a way around, security companies update their software, and so the escalation continues.
When a weakness is discovered and exploited, the subsequent attacks are referred to as zero-day attacks. These attacks prove successful until a patch is released to update the vulnerable software or platform. While zero-day attacks were a rarity in the past, this is a common external threat today. The world of cybercrime has an entire system of developers to exploit vulnerabilities, and brokers who act as a go-between to provide these attacks to those who would use them against your company as well as other unsuspecting innocents.
It calls for the proper mix of defensive and proactive behaviors to keep the risk of data loss at a minimum. Your online security team has to be on guard daily to keep your brand from becoming an easy target and the next headline news feature involving cybercrime. When your security team and employees work together to maintain a safe environment, it decreases the likelihood that your organization will need to release the next public apology for experiencing a data breach.