Business + Partners

Shoring Up Your Network and Security Policies: Least Privilege Models

Why do so many businesses allow unfettered access to their networks? You’d be shocked by how often it happens. The truth is: your employees don’t need unrestricted access to all parts of our business. This is why the Principle of Least Privilege (POLP) is one of the...

Online Gaming Risks and Kids: What to Know and How to Protect Them

Online games aren’t new. Consumers have been playing them since as early as 1960. However, the market is evolving—games that used to require the computing power of dedicated desktops can now be powered by smartphones, and online gaming participation has skyrocketed....

Thoughtful Design in the Age of Cybersecurity AI

AI and machine learning offer tremendous promise for humanity in terms of helping us make sense of Big Data. But, while the processing power of these tools is integral for understanding trends and predicting threats, it’s not sufficient on its own. Thoughtful design...

A Cybersecurity Guide for Digital Nomads

Technology has unlocked a new type of worker, unlike any we have seen before—the digital nomad. Digital nomads are people who use technologies like WiFi, smart devices, and cloud-based applications to work from wherever they please. For some digital nomads, this means...

Shoring Up Your Network and Security Policies: Least Privilege Models

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

Why do so many businesses allow unfettered access to their networks? You’d be shocked by how often it happens. The truth is: your employees don’t need unrestricted access to all parts of our business. This is why the Principle of Least Privilege (POLP) is one of the most important, if overlooked, aspects of a data security plan. 

Appropriate privilege

When we say “least privilege”, what we actually mean is “appropriate privilege”, or need-to-know. Basically, this kind of approach assigns zero access by default, and then allows entry as needed. (This is pretty much the opposite of what many of us are taught about network access.) But by embracing this principle, you ensure that network access remains strictly controlled, even as people join the company, move into new roles, leave, etc. Obviously, you want employees to be able to do their jobs; but, by limiting initial access, you can minimize the risk of an internal breach.

If you haven’t already, now is the perfect time to take a look at your network access policies. After all, it’s about protecting your business and customers—not to mention your reputation.

Listen to the podcast: Episode 6 | Shoring Up Your Network Security with Strong Policies to learn more about implementing the Principle of Least Privilege and other network security best practices.

Navigating the difficult conversations around access control

It’s no surprise that employees enjoy taking liberties at the workplace. In fact, Microsoft reports that 67% of users utilize their own devices at work. Consequently, they may push back on POLP policies because it means giving up some freedom, like installing personal software on work computers, using their BYOD in an unauthorized fashion, or having unlimited usage of non-essential applications.

Ultimately, you need to prepare for hard conversations. For example, you’ll have to explain that the goal of Principle of Least Privilege is to provide a more secure workplace for everyone. It’s not a reflection on who your employees are or even their seniority; it’s about security. So, it’s essential for you, the MSP or IT leader, to initiate the dialogue around access control––often and early. And, at the end of the day, it’s your responsibility to implement POLP policies that protect your network.

Firewalls and antivirus aren’t enough 

There’s a common misconception in cybersecurity that the firewall and/or antivirus is all you need to stop all network threats. But they don’t protect against internal threats, such as phishing or data theft. This is where access policies are necessary to fill in the gaps.

Here’s a prime example: let’s say you have an employee whose job is data entry and they only need access to a few specific databases. If malware infects that employee’s computer or they click a phishing link, the attack is limited to those database entries. However, if that employee has root access privileges, the infection can quickly spread across all your systems.

Cyberattacks like phishingransomware, and botnets are all designed to circumvent firewalls. By following an appropriate privilege model, you can limit the number of people who can bypass your firewall and exploit security gaps in your network.

Tips to achieve least privilege

When it comes to implementing POLP in your business, here are some tips for getting started:

  • Conduct a privilege audit. Check all existing accounts, processes, and programs to ensure that they have only enough permissions to do the job.
  • Remove open access and start all accounts with low access. Only add specific higher-level access as needed.
  • Create separate admin accounts that limit access. 
    • Superuser accounts should be used for administration or specialized IT employees who need unlimited system access. 
    • Standard user accounts, sometimes called least privilege user accounts (LUA) or non-privileged accounts, should have a limited set of privileges and should be assigned to everyone else.
  • Implement expiring privileges and one-time-use credentials.
  • Create a guest network leveraging a VPN for employees and guests.
  • Develop and enforce access policies for BYOD or provide your own network-protected devices whenever possible.
  • Regularly review updated employee access controls, permissions, and privileges.
  • Upgrade your firewalls and ensure they are configured correctly.
  • Add other forms of network monitoring, like automated detection and response.

Securing Your Business First: Learn How ADR Can Help

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

Entrepreneur Jim Rohn once said, “Time is more valuable than money. You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.” I think anyone involved in running a business can relate to this statement, but it carries a particularly deep meaning to those of us who deal with cybersecurity.

When it comes to cyberattacks, even the most minor malware infection can create costly delays and downtime, and the damages from data loss or business disruption can be financially devastating. Dealing with the consequences of denial-of-service attacks, ransomware, and data breaches shouldn’t be an accepted part of your agenda. 

You need to protect your business first. That means having a strong lineup of cyber-defense tools that don’t just mitigate threats, but actually put time back in your day. The key to success is to stop threats before they stop you. One of the most important pieces of that puzzle is the tools you use, particularly to achieve automation.

Learn more about protecting your business first with ADR and other cyber-defense best practices by checking out our Lockdown Lessons podcast series.

What are EDR, MDR, and ADR, and what’s the difference?

I am the first to admit that the cybersecurity world throws around far too many acronyms, and the definitions are not abundantly clear. (I’m definitely guilty of this, myself.) So let’s break down some of the endpoint-related jargon you may have heard lately.

Endpoint Detection and Response (EDR)

Endpoint detection and response (EDR) technology gathers large volumes of data from endpoints and provides security analysts with large amounts of information to help detect and mitigate cyber threats. These solutions significantly improve endpoint visibility, threat remediation, and can even assist with threat hunting. But to take full advantage, a staff of trained security analysts are necessary––and with today’s skills gap, this model does not make sense for the majority of SMBs and MSPs.

Today, EDR is beginning to morph into “enterprise detection and response.” The endpoint telemetry data it produces forms part of a more holistic approach to network security. 

Managed Detection and Response (MDR)

In recent months, cloud-based security service providers have been leveraging EDR data and compensating for the cybersecurity skills gap through managed detection and response (MDR). 

Working around the clock, MDR acts as a security analyst by providing automated threat detection, response, and remediation. It protects the entire network––not just endpoints––and provides the time, commitment, and cybersecurity skills necessary to fully detect, mitigate and resolve issues. The unfortunate truth here is that, for many smaller businesses, MDR is just too expensive. They may need to explore different partnership models or leverage managed services from their vendors.

Automated Detection and Response (ADR)

For businesses and managed service providers without dedicated cybersecurity resources and an ample budget, automated detection and response (ADR) may be the perfect answer. When other solutions become overwhelmed by the vast quantity of incoming malware, ADR leverages AI and machine learning to not only stop threats, but also to proactively predict and prevent them. As a result, this type of solution can actually put time back in your day.

As the cybersecurity landscape evolves and the skills gap continues to grow, MSPs and SMBs must onboard solutions that automate their defenses and offer the missing cybersecurity intelligence that only ADR provides.

ADR: the Next-Gen Evolution of Cybersecurity

As you are probably aware, modern attacks continue to increase in complexity, become more targeted, and are often automated at scale. They can also move unpredictably and laterally, as we have seen with Island Hopping (i.e. the act of compromising one company by infiltrating its affiliates, partner network, and/or supply chain.)

I know that many of you experience challenges that can make your business or clients vulnerable to attack, including:

  • Broad attack surfaces
  • Limited security expertise
  • Lax or inadequate access controls
  • Data loss, email spam, and phishing vulnerabilities
  • Insufficient understanding of compliance

The best way to combat these types of vulnerabilities is to leverage the power in prediction to stop attacks before they happen, and to quickly and automatically remediate threats that do get through. This is where ADR provides a new way to think about cybersecurity.

Currently, your cybersecurity or IT team needs to manage multiple tasks across multiple systems, which requires in-depth knowledge of computer systems and cybersecurity threats. Consequently, response time is often slow. With ADR, tasks are automated, and threats are investigated, validated, and remediated in the background––greatly boosting your operational efficiency and effectiveness.

As the threat environment continues to evolve, you will need to keep pace and ADR changes the security equation by improving the accuracy of detection and speed of response, saving you a lot of time and hassle—not to mention money.

Why MSPs Should Expect No-Conflict Endpoint Security

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

“Antivirus programs use techniques to stop viruses that are very “virus-like” in and of themselves, and in most cases if you try to run two antivirus programs, or full security suites, each believes the other is malicious and they then engage in a battle to the death (of system usability, anyway).”

“…running 2 AV’s will most likely cause conflicts and slowness as they will scan each other’s malware signature database. So it’s not recommended.”

The above quotes come from top answers on a popular computer help site and community forum in response to a question about “Running Two AVs” simultaneously.

Seattle Times tech columnist Patrick Marshall has similarly warned his readers about the dangers of antivirus products conflicting on his own computers.

Click here to see 9 top endpoint protection competitors go head to head to see who’s most efficient.

Historically, these comments were spot-on, 100% correct in describing how competing AV solutions interacted on endpoints. Here’s why.

The (Traditional) Issues with Running Side-by-Side AV Programs

In pursuit of battling it out on your machine for security supremacy, AV solutions have traditionally had a tendency to cause serious performance issues.

This is because:

  • Each is convinced the other is an imposter. Antivirus programs tend to look a lot like viruses to other antivirus programs. The behaviors they engage in, like scanning files or scripts and exporting information about those data objects, can look a little shady to a program that’s sole purpose is to be on the lookout for suspicious activity.
  • Each wants to be the anti-malware star. Ideally both AV programs installed on a machine would be up to the task of spotting a virus on a computer. And both would want to let the user know when they’d found something. So while one AV number one may isolate a threat, you can bet AV number two will still want to alert the user to its presence. This can lead to an endlessly annoying cycle of warnings, all-clears, and further warnings.
  • Both are hungry for your computer’s limited resources. Traditional antivirus products store static lists of known threats on each user’s machine so they can be checked against new data. This, plus the memory used for storing the endpoint agent, CPU for scheduled scans, on-demand scans, and even resource use during idling can add up to big demand. Multiply it by two and devices quickly become sluggish.

Putting the Problem Into Context

Those of you reading this may be thinking, But is all of this really a problem? Who wants to run duplicate endpoint security products anyway?

Consider a scenario, one in which you’re unhappy with your current AV solution. Maybe the management overhead is unreasonable and it’s keeping you from core business responsibilities. Then what?

“Rip and replace”—a phrase guaranteed to make many an MSP shudder—comes to mind. It suggests long evenings of after-hours work removing endpoint protection from device after device, exposing each of the machines under your care to a precarious period of no protection. For MSPs managing hundreds or thousands of endpoints, even significant performance issues can seem not worth the trouble.

Hence we’ve arrived at the problem with conflicting AV software. They lock MSPs into a no-win quagmire of poor performance on the one hand, and a potentially dangerous rip-and-replace operation on the other.

But by designing a no-conflict agent, these growing pains can be eased almost completely. MSPs unhappy with the performance of their current AV can install its replacement during working hours without breaking a sweat. A cloud-based malware prevention architecture and “next-gen” approach to mitigating attacks allows everyone to benefit from the ability to change and upgrade their endpoint security with minimal effort.

Simply wait for your new endpoint agent to be installed, uninstall its predecessor, and still be home in time for dinner.

Stop Wishing and Expect No-Conflict Endpoint Protection

Any modern endpoint protection worth its salt or designed with the user in mind has two key qualities that address this problem:

  1. It won’t conflict with other AV programs and
  2. It installs fast and painlessly.

After all, this is 2019 (and over 30 years since antivirus was invented) so you should expect as much. Considering the plethora of (often so-called) next-gen endpoint solutions out there, there’s just no reason to get locked into a bad relationship you can’t easily replace if something better comes along.

So when evaluating a new cybersecurity tool, ask whether it’s no conflict and how quickly it installs. You’ll be glad you did.

5 Must-Haves When Working Outside the Office

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

When you’re running a business, it’s important to stay connected, whether you’re in the office or not. Modern technology has made this easier than ever, ensuring you can answer emails and stay on top of tasks in hotels, coffee shops, wherever. Social media influencer and serial entrepreneur Gary Vaynerchuk has even said, “The airplane is disproportionately the place where I get the most tangible amount of work done.” 

But if you’re going to get anything done outside the office or on the road, there are a few essentials to have on hand. Here are five must-haves to make sure you are prepared and productive.

#1 Protect Your Devices and Your Data

No, this is not at the top just because you’re reading this on a security blog. Anytime you’re accessing the internet in a hotel, coffee shop, or other public space, your data and devices are at risk. While security may not be at the top of your list of concerns, a whopping 58% of data breaches happen to SMBs, and 60% of those who are attacked fold within 6 months.

This is why security, at the very least endpoint security, should be your number one consideration when working on the go. But not all endpoint security solutions are created equal.

Explore fast and effective endpoint security designed for business.

Modern endpoint security is cloud-based, lightweight (won’t slow your device down), and is powered by 24/7 threat intelligence to make sure you are protected against all known threats. In fact, some do what is known as “journaling” when they encounter an unknown threat so if it is deemed malicious, every action the malware took can be rolled back, step by step.

It’s also worth considering implementing a VPN to secure your connection to your office software and data as well as secure your communications with colleagues. Public WiFi is a favorite target of malicious attacks, including man-in-the-middle attacks, so the more you can anonymize your activity, the better.

#2 Stay Connected

When you’re on the road, there’s no guarantee that you’ll have reliable WiFi. Coffee shop WiFi can vary depending on how many people are using it, and hotel WiFi often costs money. To make sure you can always stay connected to high-quality WiFi, you’ll want to invest in a mobile WiFi device, which will work much better than using your smartphone as a hotspot. Plus, using a mobile WiFi device will help save your phone battery and will free it up for any phone calls you need to make. 

In addition, by using your own WiFi hotspot, you will avoid some of the security risks that come from using public WiFi

#3 Stay Charged

The last thing you want when working on the go is for your devices to run out of battery. Of course, you must remember to bring your basic laptop and smartphone chargers. However, you might not always have convenient access to an outlet. In which case, you’re going to want to bring a portable charger. Smartphones and laptops have different battery needs so you might want to get a portable charger for each.

Here is a list of the top portable chargers for smartphones and another for the top power banks for your laptop.

#4 Stay in the Zone

If you’re out of the office, chances are it might be more difficult to find some peace and quiet. Because of this, you’ll want to make sure you have a good set of headphones to help you get in the zone. 

If you’re choosing headphones, you’ll need to consider whether you want to go with over-the-ear or in-ear models. Over-the-ear models tend to have higher sound quality and better noise canceling features, but there are a variety of high-quality earbuds these days that may be easier to travel with. Whichever you go with, they’ll be useless without productivity-enhancing music to go along with them.

study published on the psychology of music found that those who listened to music completed their tasks more quickly and experienced better creativity. If you want to make your own playlist, it’s largely accepted that classical and other instrumental types of music work best for productivity. However, there are a variety of curated work playlists already in existence that you could use.

#5 Travel with the Right Bag

Now that you have your laptop, smartphone, chargers, portable batteries, headphones, and WiFi hotspot, you’ll need a way to carry it all around. But not just any bag will do. Since you’re traveling, you’ll want something that is compact, organized, and comfortable to carry, even if it’s heavy.

While the briefcase is a classic, it is not very efficient and can be cumbersome when also trying to carry coffee or talk on the phone. Backpacks are definitely the way to go if you want to carry everything comfortably while keeping your hands free. Just make sure to choose a bag made of durable materials with adequately wide and cushioned straps. The last thing you want in a bag is one you wince at the thought of carrying again after a long day.

Smishing Explained: What It Is and How to Prevent It

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

Do you remember the last time you’ve interacted with a brand, political cause, or fundraising campaign via text message? Have you noticed these communications occurring more frequently as of late?

It’s no accident. Whereas marketers and communications professionals can’t count on email opens or users accepting push notifications from apps, they’re well aware that around 98% of SMS messages are read within seconds of being received

Click here to see how 9 top endpoint security products perform against 15 efficiency benchmarks in the 2019 PassMark Report

As with any development in how we communicate, the rise in brand-related text messaging has attracted scammers looking to profit. Hence we arrive at a funny new word in the cybersecurity lexicon, “smishing.” Mathematical minds might understand it better represented by the following equation:

SMS + Phishing = Smishing

For the rest of us, smishing is the act of using text messages to trick individuals into divulging sensitive information, visiting a risky site, or downloading a malicious app onto a smartphone. These often benign seeming messages might ask you to confirm banking details, verify account information, or subscribe to an email newsletter via a link delivered by SMS.

As with phishing emails, the end goal is to trick a user into an action that plays into the hands of cybercriminals. Shockingly, smishing campaigns often closely follow natural disasters as scammers try to prey on the charitable to divert funds into their own pockets.

Smishing vs Vishing vs Phishing

If you’re at all concerned with the latest techniques cybercriminals are using to defraud their victims, your vocabulary may be running over with terms for the newest tactics. Here’s a brief refresher to help keep them straight.

  • Smishing, as described above, uses text messages to extract the sought after information. Different smishing techniques are discussed below.
  • Vishing is when a fraudulent actor calls a victim pretending to be from a reputable organization and tries to extract personal information, such as banking or credit card information.
  • Phishing is any type of social engineering attack aimed at getting a victim to voluntarily turn over valuable information by pretending to be a legitimate source. Both smishing and vishing are variations of this tactic.

Examples of Smishing Techniques

Enterprising scammers have devised a number of methods for smishing smartphone users. Here are a few popular techniques to be aware of:

  • Sending a link that triggers the downloading of a malicious app. Clicks can trigger automatic downloads on smartphones the same way they can on desktop internet browsers. In smishing campaigns, these apps are often designed to track your keystrokes, steal your identity, cede control of your phone to hackers, or encrypt the files on your phone and hold them for ransom.
  • Linking to information-capturing forms. In the same way many email phishing campaigns aim to direct their victims to online forms where their information can be stolen, this technique uses text messages to do the same. Once a user has clicked on the link and been redirected, any information entered into the form can be read and misused by scammers.
  • Targeting users with personal information. In a variation of spear phishing, committed smishers may research a user’s social media activity in order to entice their target with highly personalized bait text messages. The end goal is the same as any phishing attack, but it’s important to know that these scammers do sometimes come armed with your personal information to give their ruse a real feel.
  • Referrals to tech support. Again, this technique is a variation on the classic tech support scam, or it could be thought of as the “vish via smish.” An SMS message will instruct the recipient to contact a customer support line via a number that’s provided. Once on the line, the scammer will try to pry information from the caller by pretending to be a legitimate customer service representative. 

How to Prevent Smishing

For all the conveniences technology has bestowed upon us, it’s also opened us up to more ways to be ripped off. But if a text message from an unknown number promising to rid you of mortgage debt (but only if you act fast) raises your suspicion, then you’re already on the right track to avoiding falling for smishing.

Here are a few other best practices for frustrating these attacks:

  • Look for all the same signs you would if you were concerned an email was a phishing attempt: 1) Check for spelling errors and grammar mistakes, 2) Visit the sender’s website itself rather than providing information in the message, and 3) Verify the sender’s telephone address to make sure it matches that of the company it purports to belong to.
  • Never provide financial or payment information on anything other than the trusted website itself.
  • Don’t click on links from unknown senders or those you do not trust
  • Be wary of “act fast,” “sign up now,” or other pushy and too-good-to-be-true offers.
  • Always type web addresses in a browser rather than clicking on the link.
  • Install a mobile-compatible antivirus on your smart devices.

Thoughtful Design in the Age of Cybersecurity AI

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

AI and machine learning offer tremendous promise for humanity in terms of helping us make sense of Big Data. But, while the processing power of these tools is integral for understanding trends and predicting threats, it’s not sufficient on its own.

Thoughtful design of threat intelligence—design that accounts for the ultimate needs of its consumers—is essential too. There are three areas where thoughtful design of AI for cybersecurity increases overall utility for its end users.

Designing where your data comes from

To set the process of machine learning in motion, data scientists rely on robust data sets they can use to train models that deduce patterns. If your data is siloed, it relies on a single community of endpoints or is made up only of data gathered from sensors like honeypots and crawlers. There are bound to be gaps in the resultant threat intelligence.

A diverse set of real-world endpoints is essential to achieve actionable threat intelligence. For one thing, machine learning models can be prone to picking up biases if exposed to either too much of a particular threat or too narrow of a user base. That may make the model adept at discovering one type of threat, but not so great at noticing others. Well-rounded, globally-sourced data provides the most accurate picture of threat trends.

Another significant reason real-world endpoints are essential is that some malware excels at evading traditional crawling mechanisms. This is especially common for phishing sites targeting specific geos or user environments, as well as for malware executables. Phishing sites can hide their malicious content from crawlers, and malware can appear benign or sit on a user’s endpoint for extended periods of time without taking an action.

Designing how to illustrate data’s context

Historical trends help to gauge future measurements, so designing threat intelligence that accounts for context is essential. Take a major website like www.google.com for example. Historical threat intelligence signals it’s been benign for years, leading to the conclusion that its owners have put solid security practices in place and are committed to not letting it become a vector for bad actors. On the other hand, if we look at a domain that was only very recently registered or has a long history of presenting a threat, there’s a greater chance it will behave negatively in the future. 

Illustrating this type of information in a useful way can take the form of a reputation score. Since predictions about a data object’s future actions—whether it be a URL, file, or mobile app—are based on probability, reputation scores can help determine the probability that an object may become a future threat, helping organizations determine the level of risk they are comfortable with and set their policies accordingly.

For more information on why context is critical to actionable threat intelligence, click here.

Designing how you classify and apply the data

Finally, how a threat intelligence provider classifies data and the options they offer partners and users in terms of how to apply it can greatly increase its utility. Protecting networks, homes, and devices from internet threats is one thing, and certainly desirable for any threat intelligence feed, but that’s far from all it can do.

Technology vendors designing a parental control product, for instance, need threat intelligence capable of classifying content based on its appropriateness for children. And any parent knows malware isn’t the only thing children should be shielded from. Categories like adult content, gambling sites, or hubs for pirating legitimate media may also be worthy of avoiding. This flexibility extends to the workplace, too, where peer-to-peer streaming and social media sites can affect worker productivity and slow network speeds, not to mention introduce regulatory compliance concerns. Being able to classify internet object with such scalpel-like precision makes thoughtfully designed threat intelligence that is much more useful for the partners leveraging it.

Finally, the speed at which new threat intelligence findings are applied to all endpoints on a device is critical. It’s well-known that static threat lists can’t keep up with the pace of today’s malware, but updating those lists on a daily basis isn’t cutting it anymore either. The time from initial detection to global protection must be a matter of minutes.

This brings us back to where we started: the need for a robust, geographically diverse data set from which to draw our threat intelligence. For more information on how the Webroot Platform draws its data to protect customers and vendor partners around the globe, visit our threat intelligence page.

Context Matters: Turning Data into Threat Intelligence

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

1949, 1971, 1979, 1981, 1983 and 1991.

Yes, these are numbers. You more than likely even recognize them as years. However, without context you wouldn’t immediately recognize them as years in which Sicily’s Mount Etna experienced major eruptions.

Data matters, but only if it’s paired with enough context to create meaning.

While today’s conversations about threat intelligence tend to throw a ton of impressive numbers and fancy stats out there, if the discussion isn’t informed by context, numbers become noise. Context is how Webroot takes the wealth of information it gathers—data from more than 67 million sources including crawlers, honeypots, as well as partner and customer endpoints—and turns it into actionable, contextual threat intelligence.

Read about the importance of data quality for a threat intelligence platform in our latest issue of Quarterly Threat Trends.

What defines contextual threat intelligence?

When determining a definition of contextual threat intelligence, it can be helpful to focus on what it is not. It’s not a simple list of threats that’s refreshed periodically. A list of known phishing sites may be updated daily or weekly, but given that we know the average lifespan of an in-use phishing site to be mere hours, there’s no guarantee such lists are up to date.

“Some threat intelligence providers pursue the low-hanging fruit of threat intelligence—the cheap and easy kind,” says Webroot Sr. Product Marketing Manager Holly Spiers. “They provide a list of IP addresses that have been deemed threats, but there’s no context as to why or when they were deemed a threat. You’re not getting the full story.”

Contextual threat intelligence is that full story. It provides not only a constantly updated feed of known threats, but also historical data and relationships between data objects for a fuller picture of the history of a threat based on the “internet neighborhood” in which it’s active.

Unfortunately, historical relationships are another aspect often missing from low-hanging threat intelligence sources. Since threat actors are constantly trying to evade detection, they may use a malicious URL for a period before letting it go dormant while its reputation cools down. But because it takes more effort to start from scratch, it’s likely the actor will return to it before too long.

“Our Threat Investigator tool, a visualization demo that illustrates the relationship between data objects, is able to show how an IP address’s status can change over a period of time, says Spiers. “Within six months, it may show signs of being a threat, and then go benign.”

What are the elements of context?

Over the course of a year, millions of internet objects change state from benign to malicious and back numerous times as cyber criminals attempt to avoid detection. And because threats are often interconnected, being able to map their relationships allows us to better predict whether a benign object has the potential to turn malicious. It also helps us protect users from never-before-seen threats and even predict where future attacks may come from.

That’s where the power in prediction lies—in having contextual and historical data instead of looking at a static point in time.

Some elements that are needed to provide a deeper understanding of an interwoven landscape include:

  • Real-time data from real-world sources, supplemented by active web crawlers and passive sensor networks of honeypots designed to attract threats, provide the necessary data for training machine learning models to spot threats
  • An ability to analyze relationships connecting data objects allows threat intelligence providers to make a connections as to how a benign IP address, for example, may be only one step away from a malicious URL and to predict with high confidence whether the IP address will turn malicious in the future.
  • Both live and historical data helps in the development of a trusted reputation score based on behavior over time and common reputational influencers such as age, popularity, and past infections.

Seeing the signal through the noise

Context is the way to turn terabytes of data into something meaningful that prompts action. Having the power to be able to dig into the relationships of internet objects provides the context that matters to technology vendors. For consumers of contextual threat intelligence, it means fewer false positives and the ability to prioritize real threats.

“Working with real-world vendors is key,” according to Spiers. “The reach of contextual threat intelligence and number of individuals it touches can grow exponentially.”

Webroot DNS Protection: Now Leveraging the Google Cloud Platform

Reading Time: ~ 2 min.

We are  excited to announce Webroot® DNS Protection now runs on Google Cloud Platform (GCP). Leveraging GCP in this way will provide Webroot customers with security, performance, and reliability. 

Security

Preventing denial of service (DoS) attacks is a core benefit of Webroot DNS Protection. Now, the solution benefits from Google Cloud load balancers with built-in DoS protection and mitigation, enabling the prevention of attack traffic before it ever hits the agent core. 

“The big thing about Google Cloud is that it dynamically manages denial of service (DoS) attacks,” said Webroot Sales Engineer Jonathan Barnett. “That happens automatically, and we know Google has that figured out.”

Click here to learn why businesses need DNS protection.

Performance

With this release, Webroot DNS Protection now runs on the Google Cloud’s high-redundancy, low-latency networks in 16 regions worldwide. That means there’s no need for a Webroot customer in Australia to have a DNS request resolved in Los Angeles, when more convenient infrastructure exists close by.  

“Google Cloud provides the ability to scale by adding new regions or new servers whenever necessary as load or need determines, nationally or internationally,” said Barnett. “This allows us to provide geolocation-appropriate answers for our customers, maximizing performance.”

Reliability

Because of GCP’s global infrastructure footprint, Webroot can quickly and easily provision more of Google’s servers in any region to ensure latency times remain low. 

And because those regional deployments can be programmed to auto-scale with spikes in traffic, even drastically increasing loads won’t increase wait times for requests.

According to Barnett, “Even if Webroot were to take on a large number of customers in a short time period, say with the closing of a deal to offer DNS solutions to an enterprise-level client with a number of subsidiaries, our environments would automatically scale with the additional load.”

One more note on the release 

Another key feature of the April DNS agent update regards switching communications from port 53, which is typically associated with DNS requests, to port 443, which is more commonly associated with SSL certificates.

The reason for this change is that, given port 443’s relevance to routine requests like banking sites and those accepting payment information, it is rarely constrained, modified, or controlled. This will reduce the need to configure firewalls or make other admin adjustments in order for Webroot DNS Protection to function as intended. 

It’s good to be in good company

With Webroot DNS Protection now leveraging the GCP will power your network-level protection. Fewer outages, latency, and bottlenecks. Ready to experience Webroot DNS Protection for yourself? Try it free for 30-days here. 

The Importance of the MSP Sales Process

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

I’ve been in this business a long time, and I can honestly say that many MSPs lack a concrete sales process structure. That’s pretty worrisome because, let’s face it, you have to have a plan in order to succeed at just about anything. Imagine you’re an engineer working on server maintenance or a network infrastructure build—you wouldn’t do that without a plan, would you? Your sales strategy should be handled no differently. 

Dos and Don’ts for your Sales Process

First, let’s talk about some don’ts. Avoid taking a call and immediately giving a quote over the phone, as well as going straight to the customer site to conduct ad hoc assessments and sales presentations in the same breath. To build value, you need to stretch this into multiple touches, by which I mean multiple meetings. Sure, that’s more work for you up front, but it’s crucial for establishing trust with the client. You need to open and sustain a dialog about their needs so you can tailor a unique solution for them, without diving right into a pitch. By leading with careful consideration and attention to their needs, you can begin building a lasting relationship and, eventually, bring them a better offering.

Here’s how I recommend you structure your process.

Schedule an on-site strategy session with your client.

Meeting with a prospect face-to-face will demonstrate your investment in a trust relationship. Now, you have to listen to them. Don’t lead with a pitch. Let them tell you what their problems are, pay close attention to them as they express their needs, and take note of all their pain points.

This is also the ideal opportunity to truly grasp of whether the demands are excessive or unreasonable for your capabilities. Each relationship you enter into with clients is a partnership that comes with shared responsibilities. Be more than a fulfull/deliver shop. 

Perform an in-depth assessment and discovery.

You need to discover everything that’s on the client’s network and assess exactly where they stand. Don’t do this on the same day as that initial meet; schedule a second one. Take the extra time between the meetings to prepare more specific questions that will delve more deeply into the needs your prospect expressed. This will help show the client that you’re invested in their unique challenges.

When you come back, bring an engineer or assistant with you. You need someone with you who can interview different staff members and find out about the specific issues they face. Ask basic questions to understand how the employees feel about where the company’s IT stands, like: What kind of issues are you having?; What do you see wrong with your computer network?; How could your network be improved?; and What things would you like to see change? 

As you’re doing your assessment and discovery, make sure to bring cybersecurity into the discussion. Managed cybersecurity is often a poor experience, so this is your chance to feel out how else you can alleviate their pains (and set yourself apart from their current provider.) 

And, finally, book the third meeting. 

Make the pitch.

Ideally, your third meeting would be at your location. If there’s some reason you can’t do it in your own shop, take the prospect off-site for lunch at a restaurant that has private meeting rooms. Essentially, you want to avoid doing the presentation in their office, where they can easily get interrupted.

In this case, it will pay to be overly prepared. Again, if you listened closely, the prospect would’ve already told you what to focus on to help them succeed. Use that knowledge to craft the right message to deliver during this meeting. 

Start by walking through the pain points they and their employees revealed. Talk over anything else you found in your discovery/assessment that could be improved. Have an itemized list, and then ask them if they agree with all the issues you’ve found.

Once you get agreement, then you can go into your sales pitch and present them with a well-tailored offering that can actually solve their challenges and help them grow. 

Ultimately, by listening to your prospect, exhibiting an understanding of their needs, and demonstrating your level of commitment to providing value and nurturing the relationship itself, you’ll be well on your way to building a meaningful, successful business partnership.

Download my Multi-Million Dollar MSP Sales Process that will guide you through the above steps like a pro. The last few pages of the document include links to helpful templates as well as worksheets for you to hit the ground running on this process.   

Keep crushing it!

What Defines a Machine Learning-Based Threat Intelligence Platform?

Reading Time: ~ 4 min.

As technology continues to evolve, several trends are staying consistent. First, the volume of data is growing exponentially. Second, human analysts can’t hope to keep up—there just aren’t enough of them and they can’t work fast enough. Third, adversarial attacks that target data are also on the rise.

Given these trends, it’s not surprising that an increasing number of tech companies are building or implementing tools that promise automation and tout machine learning and/or artificial intelligence, particularly in the realm of cybersecurity. In this day and age, stopping threats effectively is nearly impossible without some next-generation method of harnessing processing power to bear the burden of analysis. That’s where the concept of a cybersecurity platform built on threat intelligence comes in.

What is a platform?

When you bring together a number of elements in a way that makes the whole greater or more powerful than the sum of its parts, you have the beginnings of a platform. Think of it as an architectural basis for building something greater on top. If built properly, a good platform can support new elements that were never part of the original plan.

With so many layers continually building on top of and alongside one another, you can imagine that a platform needs to be incredibly solid and strong. It has to be able to sustain and reinforce itself so it can support each new piece that is built onto or out of it. Let’s go over some of the traits that a well-architected threat intelligence platform needs.

Scale and scalability

A strong platform needs to be able to scale to meet demand for future growth of users, products, functionality. Its size and processing power need to be proportional to the usage needs. If a platform starts out too big too soon, then it’s too expensive to maintain. But if it’s not big enough, then it won’t be able to handle the burden its users impose. That, in turn, will affect the speed, performance, service availability, and overall user experience relating to the platform.

You also need to consider that usage fluctuates, not just over the years, but over different times of day. The platform needs to be robust enough to load balance accordingly, as users come online, go offline, increase and decrease demand, etc.

Modularity can’t be forgotten, either. When you encounter a new type of threat, or just want to add new functionality, you need to be able to plug that new capability into the platform without disrupting existing services. You don’t want to have to worry about rebuilding the whole thing each time you want to add or change a feature. The platform has to be structured in such a way that it will be able to support functionality you haven’t even thought of yet.

Sensing and connection

A threat intelligence platform is really only as good as its data sources. To accurately detect and even predict new security threats, a platform should be able to take data from a variety of sensors and products, then process it through machine learning analysis and threat intelligence engines.

Some of the more traditional sensors are passive, or “honeypots” (i.e. devices that appear to look open to attack, which collect and return threat telemetry when compromised.) Unfortunately, attack methods are now so sophisticated that some can detect the difference between a honeypot and a real-world endpoint, and can adjust their behavior accordingly so as not to expose their methods to threat researchers. For accurate, actionable threat intelligence, the platform needs to gather real-world data from real-world endpoints in the wild.

One of the ways we, in particular, ensure the quality of the data in the Webroot® Platform, is by using each deployment of a Webroot product or service—across our home user, business, and security and network vendor bases—to feed threat telemetry back into the platform for analysis. That means each time a Webroot application is installed on some type of endpoint, or a threat intelligence partner integrates one of our services into a network or security solution, our platform gets stronger and smarter.

Context and analysis

One of the most important features a threat intelligence platform needs is largely invisible to end users: contextual analysis. A strong platform should have the capacity to analyze the relationships between numerous types of internet objects, such as files, apps, URLs, IPs, etc., and determine the level of risk they pose.

It’s no longer enough to determine if a given file is malicious or not. A sort of binary good/bad determination really only gives us a linear view. For example, if a bad file came from an otherwise benign domain that was hijacked temporarily, should we now consider that domain bad? What about all the URLs associated with it, and all the files they host?

For a more accurate picture, we need nuance. We must consider where the bad file came from, which websites or domains it’s associated with and for how long, which other files or applications it might be connected to, etc. It’s these connections that give us a three-dimensional picture of the threat landscape, and that’s what begins to enable predictive protection.

The Bottom Line

When faced with today’s cyberattacks, consumers and organizations alike need cybersecurity solutions that leverage accurate threat telemetry and real-time data from real endpoints and sensors. They need threat intelligence that is continually re-analyzed for the greatest accuracy, by machine learning models that are trained and retrained, which can process data millions of times faster than human analysts, and with the scalability to handle new threats as they emerge. The only way to achieve that is with a comprehensive, integrated machine-learning based platform.

Cloud Services in the Crosshairs of Cybercrime

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

It’s a familiar story in tech: new technologies and shifting preferences raise new security challenges. One of the most pressing challenges today involves monitoring and securing all of the applications and data currently undergoing a mass migration to public and private cloud platforms.

Malicious actors are motivated to compromise and control cloud-hosted resources because they can gain access to significant computing power through this attack vector. These resources can then be exploited for a number of criminal money-making schemes, including cryptomining, DDoS extortion, ransomware and phishing campaigns, spam relay, and for issuing botnet command-and-control instructions. For these reasons—and because so much critical and sensitive data is migrating to cloud platforms—it’s essential that talented and well-resourced security teams focus their efforts on cloud security.

The cybersecurity risks associated with cloud infrastructure generally mirror the risks that have been facing businesses online for years: malware, phishing, etc. A common misconception is that compromised cloud services have a less severe impact than more traditional, on-premise compromises. That misunderstanding leads some administrators and operations teams to cut corners when it comes to the security of their cloud infrastructure. In other cases, there is a naïve belief that cloud hosting providers will provide the necessary security for their cloud-hosted services.

Although many of the leading cloud service providers are beginning to build more comprehensive and advanced security offerings into their platforms (often as extra-cost options), cloud-hosted services still require the same level of risk management, ongoing monitoring, upgrades, backups, and maintenance as traditional infrastructure. For example, in a cloud environment, egress filtering is often neglected. But, when egress filtering is invested in, it can foil a number of attacks on its own, particularly when combined with a proven web classification and reputation service. The same is true of management access controls, two-factor authentication, patch management, backups, and SOC monitoring. Web application firewalls, backed by commercial-grade IP reputation services, are another often overlooked layer of protection for cloud services.

Many midsize and large enterprises are starting to look to the cloud for new wide-area network (WAN) options. Again, here lies a great opportunity to enhance the security of your WAN, whilst also achieving the scalability, flexibility, and cost-saving outcomes that are often the primary goals of such projects.  When selecting these types of solutions, it’s important to look at the integrated security options offered by vendors.

Haste makes waste

Another danger of the cloud is the ease and speed of deployment. This can lead to rapidly prototyped solutions being brought into service without adequate oversight from security teams. It can also lead to complacency, as the knowledge that a compromised host can be replaced in seconds may lead some to invest less in upfront protection. But it’s critical that all infrastructure components are properly protected and maintained because attacks are now so highly automated that significant damage can be done in a very short period of time. This applies both to the target of the attack itself and in the form of collateral damage, as the compromised servers are used to stage further attacks.

Finally, the utilitarian value of the cloud is also what leads to its higher risk exposure, since users are focused on a particular outcome (e.g. storage) and processing of large volumes of data at high speeds. Their solutions-based focus may not accommodate a comprehensive end-to-end security strategy well. The dynamic pressures of business must be supported by newer and more dynamic approaches to security that ensure the speed of deployment for applications can be matched by automated SecOps deployments and engagements.

Time for action

If you haven’t recently had a review of how you are securing your resources in the cloud, perhaps now is a good time. Consider what’s allowed in and out of all your infrastructure and how you retake control. Ensure that the solutions you are considering have integrated, actionable threat intelligence for another layer of defense in this dynamic threat environment.

Have a question about the next steps for securing your cloud infrastructure? Drop a comment below or reach out to me on Twitter at @zerobiscuit.

Why Simplified Security Awareness Training Matters for MSPs and SMBs

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

In a recent report by the firm 451 Research, 62 percent of SMBs reported having a security awareness training program in place for their employees, with half being “homegrown” training courses. The report also found that most complained their programs were difficult to implement, track, and manage.

Like those weights in the garage you’ve been meaning to lift or the foreign language textbook you’ve been meaning to study, even our most well-intentioned efforts flounder if we’re not willing to put to use the tools that can help us achieve our goals.

So it goes with cybersecurity training. If it’s cumbersome to deploy and manage, or isn’t able to clearly display its benefits, it will be cast aside like so many barbells and Spanish-language dictionaries. But unfortunately, until now, centralized management and streamlined workflows across client sites have eluded the security awareness training industry.

The Importance of Effective Security Awareness Training

The effectiveness of end user cybersecurity training in preventing data breaches and downtime has been demonstrated repeatedly. Webroot’s own research found security awareness training cut clicks on phishing links by 70 percent, when delivered with regularity. And according to the 2018 Data Breach Investigation Report by Verizon, 93 percent of all breaches were the result of social engineering attacks like phishing.

With the average cost of a breach at around $3.62 million, low-overhead and effective solutions should be in high demand. But while 76 percent of MSPs reported using some type of security awareness tool, many still rely on in-house solutions that are siloed from the rest of their cybersecurity monitoring and reporting.

“MSPs should consider security awareness training from vendors with cybersecurity focus and expertise, and who have deep visibility and insights into the changing threat landscape,” says 451 Research Senior Analyst Aaron Sherrill.

“Ideally, training should be integrated into the overall security services delivery platform to provide a unified and cohesive approach for greater efficacy.”

Simple Security Training is Effective Security Training

Security awareness training that integrates with other cybersecurity solutions—like DNS and endpoint protection—is a good first step in making sure the material isn’t brushed aside like other implements of our best intentions.

Global management of security awareness training—the ability to initiate, monitor, and report on the effectiveness of these programs from a single pane of glass across all of your customers —is the next.

When MSPs can save time by say, rolling out a simulated phishing campaign or training course to one, many or allclient’s sites across the globe with only a few clicks, they both save time and money in management overhead, and are more likely to offer it as a service to their clients. Everyone wins.

With a console that delivers intuitive monitoring of click-through rates for phishing campaigns or completion rates for courses like compliance training, across all client sites, management is simplified. And easily exportable phishing and campaign reports help drive home a client’s progress.

“Automation and orchestration are the force multipliers MSPs need to keep up with today’s threats and provide the best service possible to their clients,” says Webroot SVP of Product Strategy and Technology Alliances Chad Bacher.”

So as a growing number of MSPs begin to offer security awareness training as a part of their bundled services, and more small and medium-sized businesses are convinced of its necessity, choosing a product that’s easy to implement and manage becomes key.

Otherwise, the tool that could save a business from a breach becomes just another cob-webbed weight bench waiting for its day.

To learn about security training that’s effective, efficient, and easy to use, read about our new Webroot® Security Awareness Training release.