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Context Matters: Turning Data into Threat Intelligence

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...

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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.

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 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.”

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

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.

A Cybersecurity Checklist for Modern SMBs

Reading Time: ~ 5 min.

The landscape of digital security is rapidly shifting, and even the largest tech giants are scrambling to keep up with new data regulations and cybersecurity threats. Small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs) are often left out of these important conversations, leaving themselves — and their users — vulnerable. In an effort to combat this trend, Webroot conducted a survey of more than 500 SMB IT leaders in the UK, revealing common blind spots in SMB cybersecurity practices. As businesses around the globe grapple with similar change, our Size Does Matter: Small Businesses and Cybersecurity report offers insight and guidance for companies regardless of geography. 

The biggest takeaway? We turned to Webroot’s Senior Director of Product Strategy Paul Barnes for his thoughts.

“The damage from data loss or downtime often means substantial financial and reputational losses, sometimes even leading to a business no longer being viable. A key learning for all small businesses should be to stop hiding behind your size. Instead, become educated in the risks and make your security posture a differentiator and business driver.”

When you’re putting together a cybersecurity checklist, you’ll need to do one thing first: check your preconceived notions about SMB cybersecurity at the door. Your business is not too small to be targeted. The data you collect is both valuable and likely vulnerable, and a costly data breach could shutter your business. More than 70% of cyberattacks target small businesses, with 60% of those going out of business within six months following their breach. With both the threat of hackers and the looming possibility of increased GDPR-style data regulatory fines, your small business cannot afford to be underprepared.

The first step to a fully realized cybersecurity program? An unflinching look at your company’s resources and risk factors.

“Understand what you have, from a technology and people perspective, and the risks associated with loss of data or operations, whether through externally initiated attacks or inside threats,” advised Barnes. “This will allow you to plan and prioritise next steps for protecting your business from attack.”

For established SMBs, this type of internal review may seem overwhelming; with so many employees already wearing so many hats, who should champion this type of effort? Any small business that is preparing to modernize its cybersecurity protocols should consider bringing in a managed service provider (MSP) to do an internal audit of its systems and to report on the company’s weaknesses and strengths. This audit should serve as the backbone of your cybersecurity reform efforts and — depending on the MSP — may even give you a security certificate that can be used for marketing purposes to differentiate your brand from competitors.

With a strong understanding of your company’s strengths and weaknesses, you can begin to implement an actionable cybersecurity checklist that will scale as you grow, keeping your business ahead of the data security curve. Each SMB’s checklist will be unique, but these best practices will be integrated into any successful cybersecurity strategy.

Continuous Education on the Latest Threats

A majority of small to medium-sized businesses rely on software systems that are constantly evolving, closing old security gaps while potentially opening new ones. With a tech landscape in constant flux, one-off security training will never be enough to truly protect your business. Comprehensive employee training that evolves alongside cybersecurity threats and data privacy regulations are your company’s first line of cybersecurity defense. Include phishing prevention practices in these trainings as well. Although seemingly old hat, phishing attacks are also evolving and remain one of the largest causes of data breaches globally. Continuous training of employees helps build a culture of security where they feel part of the team and its success. 

Regular Risk Assessment and Security Audits

Just as one-off training is not sufficient in keeping your staff informed, a one-off audit does nothing to continuously protect your company as it grows. Depending on your industry, these audits should take place at least annually, and are the best way to detect a security flaw before it is exploited. Factors such as the sensitivity of the data your business houses, and the likely impacts of a successful breach—your risk profile—should guide decisions regarding the frequency of these security audits.

Disaster Response Plan

Having a prepared disaster response plan is the most effective way to mitigate your losses during a data security breach. Backup and recovery tactics are critical components of this plan. It should also include a list of security consultants to contact in order to repair the breach, as well as a communications plan that notifies customers, staff, and the public in accordance with data protection regulations. An MSP can work with your company to provide a disaster response plan that is customized to your business’ specific needs.

Bring Your Own Device

Never scrimp on mobile security. Many companies now tolerate some degree of bring-your-own-device (BYOD) policy, giving employees increased convenience and employer accessibility. But convenience is a compromise and, whether it be from everyday theft or a malicious app, mobile devices are a weak point in many company’s security. Including mobile security guidelines like automatic device lock requirements, strong password guidelines, and failsafe remote wipe access in your BYOD policies will save your company money, time, and heartache.

Layer Your Security

Finally, ensure your business has multiple layers of defense in place. Accounting for endpoint devices is no less critical than it’s always been, but businesses are increasingly learning that networks and users need protection, too. DNS-layer security can keep employees from inviting risky sites onto your network, and security awareness training will help your users recognize signs of an attack. No one solution is a panacea, but tiered defenses make a business more resilient against cybercrime.

Survey says: We don’t have time for this

One of the largest impediments to SMBs adopting these modern cybersecurity protocols is the perceived time cost, with two-fifths of IT leaders surveyed by Webroot stating they simply do not have the time or resources to fully understand cybersecurity threats. The uncomfortable truth is that, if you can’t find the time to protect your data, a hacker whodoes have the time is likely to find and exploit your security gaps. But there is a silver-lining, the smaller size of an SMB actually allows for a certain level of agility and adaptiveness when implementing cybersecurity policies that is inaccessible to tech giants.

“SMBs can no longer consider themselves too small to be targets. They need to use their nimble size to their advantage by quickly identifying risks and educating employees on risk mitigation, because people will always be the first line of defense,” said Barnes.

You’ll find additional benefits beyond the base-level protection a comprehensive cybersecurity plan provides. As 33% of SMBs surveyed by Webroot say they prefer not to think about cybersecurity at all, demonstrating that your company is ahead of the problem can be a powerful way to distinguish your business from its competitors. With consumer data privacy concerns at an all-time high, a modern cybersecurity checklist may be one of the best marketing tools available. The best way to stay ahead of cybersecurity threats is to stay informed. Read the entire Size Does Matter: Small Businesses and Cybersecurity report for an in-depth look at how your SMB contemporaries are handling data protection, and stay up-to-date with Webroot for additional cybersecurity reports and resources.

MSPs: Your Security Vendor Should Integrate with More Than Just Your RMM and PSA

Reading Time: ~ 2 min.

For many MSPs, integrating their security solution with their remote monitoring and management (RMM) and professional service automation (PSA) platforms is essential for doing business. Together, these platforms help lower the cost of keeping up with each client, ensuring profitable margins for a healthy, growing business.

For true providers of IT services—MSPs that sell services rather than licenses and take a holistic approach to client IT health—RMM and PSA integrations are critical for keeping track of hundreds or even thousands of unique endpoints and automating recurring operations for numerous clients.

Like many of the other features of our security solutions, our RMM and PSA integrations are custom-built with the needs of MSPs in mind. They’re designed to help MSPs create the most efficient, well-oiled versions of their businesses possible so that service is prompt, solutions are effective, and profit is preserved.   

Here’s what you should expect from your RMM and PSA security integrations:

  1. Faster rollouts- One of the core benefits of RMM-assisted deployments, expect rollouts to new endpoints to be fast and hassle-free with well-designed integrations. New endpoints should be easy to set up with protection turned on in just a few clicks.
  2. Simplified management- Efficiency is key to profitability. So a centralized dashboard displaying what’s running, what’s broken and how, infection statuses, endpoints requiring attention, and more helps increase the number of endpoints a single technician can manage, boosting efficiency and, ultimately, profitability. 
  3. The data you need- The best RMM and PSA integrations make it possible to get the data you need to run a successful business. Whether it’s per-client data for calculating a client’s cost to you, information on policy settings for sites and endpoints, or additional reporting delivered to clients to promote peace-of-mind, having access to allof your data empowers decision-making. 

Integrations don’t have to end there

Integrating disparate products can be a laborious, time-intensive process. For that reason, many security vendors are reluctant to coordinate too closely with customers to automate functions unique to their businesses. But it doesn’t have to be that way. 

Advanced plugins and tools allow for complete customization of dashboards, reporting, and data tracking. Each can be customized to track the metrics most useful to the organization. Critical processes, like issuing periodic reports, can be fully automated. This can be extremely beneficial when it comes to communicating with customers. Weekly or monthly reports demonstrate that, despite a lack of any major security incidents, it wasn’t for lack of trying on the part of cybercriminals. 

More than simply allowing different business platforms to talk to one another, integration plugins can be used for running commands and performing actions. This includes creating, modifying, or deleting licenses, removing duplicate endpoints, or quickly creating new console sites. 

Insist on better integrations

So when considering which cybersecurity vendor offers the most for your MSP, consider not only whether the solution allows you to communicate with your RMM and PSA platforms, but also how deeply. Does the vendor have a dedicated integrations team? Do they offer tools for the customization of business-specific reporting? Can essential, recurring business processes be automated?

The answers to the questions above will help you determine how much value RMM and PSA integrations add for your business. In a market where margins can be razor thin and built-in efficiencies can make or break the bottom line, the answers may make all the difference.

Top 5 Things SMBs Should Consider When Evaluating a Cybersecurity Strategy

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

SMBs are overconfident about their cybersecurity posture.

A survey of SMBs conducted by 451 Research found that in the preceding 24 months, 71% of respondents experienced a breach or attack that resulted in operational disruption, reputational damage, significant financial losses or regulatory penalties. At the same time, 49% of the SMBs surveyed said that cybersecurity is a low priority for their business, and 90% believe they have the appropriate security technologies in place. Clearly, SMBs are not correctly evaluating cybersecurity risk.

Many of us can relate – each day we ignore obvious signs that point to a reality that is in direct contrast to our beliefs. For example, as each year passes, most of us get a little slower, muscles ache that never ached before, we get a bit softer around the middle, and we hold our reading material farther away. Yet, we are convinced we could take on an NBA player in a game of one-on-one or complete the American Ninja Warrior obstacle course on the first try. 

While it’s unlikely that most of us can make the improvements needed to compete with elite athletes, the same can’t be said for enterprise cybersecurity. The journey is not an easy one given the security talent vacuum, a lack of domain understanding at the executive level, and the complexity of implementing a long-term, metric-based strategy. But, if you are an SMB struggling to run up and down the proverbial court, here are five things you should consider when building a better security practice:

1.   Experienced staff are valuable, but expensive, assets. 

Although enterprise cybersecurity is a 24/7/365 effort requiring a full roster of experienced professionals, many SMB cybersecurity teams are underequipped to handle the constant deluge of alert notifications, let alone the investigation or remediation processes. In fact, only 23% of survey respondents plan to add staff to their security teams in the coming year. For many SMBs, the security staffing struggles may get worse as 87% reported difficulties in retaining existing security professionals. To fill this gap, SMBs are increasingly turning to MSPs and MSSPs to provide the expertise and resources needed to protect their organizations around the clock.

2.   Executives understand what is at stake, but not what action to take. 

As the threat landscape becomes more treacherous, regulatory requirements multiply, and security incidents become more common, executives at SMBs have become more acutely aware of the business impact of security incidents – most are feeling an urgency to strengthen organizational cybersecurity. However, acknowledging the problem is only the first step of the process. Executives need to interface with their internal security teams, industry experts and MSPs in order to fully understand their organization’s risk portfolio and design a long-term cybersecurity strategy that integrates with business objectives.

3.   Security awareness training (SAT) is low-hanging fruit (if done right). 

According to the 451 Research Voice of the Enterprise: Information Security: Workloads and Key Projects survey, 62% of SMBs said they have a SAT program in place, but 50% are delivering SAT on their own using ‘homegrown’ methods and materials. It should be no surprise that many SMBs described their SAT efforts as ineffective. MSPs are increasingly offering high-quality, comprehensive SAT for a variety of compliance and regulatory frameworks such as PCI-DSS, HIPAA, SOX, ISO, GDPR and GLBA. SMBs looking to strengthen their security posture should look to partner with these MSPs for security awareness training.

4.   Securing now means securing for the future. 

The future of IT architecture will span both private and public clouds. This hybrid- and multi-cloud infrastructure represents a significant challenge for SMBs that require a cybersecurity posture that is both layered and scalable. SMBs need to understand and consider long-term trends when evaluating their current cybersecurity strategy. With this aim in mind, SMBs can turn to MSPs and MSSPs with the experience and toolsets necessary for securing these types of complex environments. 

5.   A metrics-based security approach is needed for true accountability. 

In a rush to shore up organizational security, SMBs might make the all-too-common mistake of equating money spent with security gained. To be clear: spending not backed by strategy and measurement only enhances security posture on the margins, if at all. To get the most bang for each buck, SMBs need to build an accountable security system predicated on quantifiable metrics.Again, this is an area where SMBs can partner with MSPs and MSSPs. This serves as an opportunity to develop cybersecurity strategy with measurable KPIs to ensure security gains are maintained over time. MSPs can help SMBs define the most applicable variables for their IT architectures, whether it be incident response rate, time-to-response or other relevant metrics.

The strategic reevaluation of organizational security is a daunting task for any organization, but given the risks SMBs face and their tendency to be underprepared, it is a necessary challenge. These key points of consideration for SMBs embarking on this critical journey underscore the importance of building an accountable and forward-looking security system and highlight the ways in which SMBs can work alongside MSP or MSSP partners to implement the right cybersecurity system for their organizations. I hope this will be the wake-up call all SMBs need to unleash their inner cybersecurity all-star.

If you’re interested in learning more about how other SMBs are approaching cybersecurity, read my report Security Services Fueling Growth for MSPs.

What’s Next? Webroot’s 2019 Cybersecurity Predictions

Reading Time: ~ 5 min.At Webroot, we stay ahead of cybersecurity trends in order to keep our customers up-to-date and secure. As the end of the year approaches, our team of experts has gathered their top cybersecurity predictions for 2019. What threats and changes should you brace for?

General Data Protection Regulation Penalties

“A large US-based tech company will get hammered by the new GDPR fines.” – Megan Shields, Webroot Associate General Counsel

When the General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) became law in the EU last May, many businesses scrambled to implement the required privacy protections. In anticipation of this challenge for businesses, it seemed as though the Data Protection Authorities (the governing organizations overseeing GDPR compliance) were giving them time to adjust to the new regulations. However, it appears that time has passed. European Data Protection Supervisor Giovanni Buttarelli spoke with Reuters in October and said the time for issuing penalizations is near. With GDPR privacy protection responsibilities now incumbent upon large tech companies with millions—if not billions—of users, as well as small to medium-sized businesses, noncompliance could mean huge penalties.

GDPR fines will depend on the specifics of each infringement, but companies could face damages of up to 4% of their worldwide annual turnover, or up to 20 million Euros, whichever is greater. For example, if the GDPR had been in place during the 2013 Yahoo breach affecting 3 billion users, Yahoo could have faced anywhere from $80 million to $160 million in fines. It’s also important to note that Buttarelli specifically mentions the potential for bans on processing personal data, at Data Protection Authorities’ discretion, which would effectively suspend a company’s data flows inside the EU.

AI Disruption

“Further adoption of AI leading to automation of professions involving low social intelligence and creativity. It will also give birth to more advanced social engineering attacks.” – Paul Barnes, Webroot Sr. Director of Product Strategy

The Fouth Industrial Revolution is here and the markets are beginning to feel it. Machine learning algorithms and applied artificial intelligence programs are already infiltrating and disrupting top industries. Several of the largest financial institutions in the world have integrated artificial intelligence into aspects of their businesses. Often these programs use natural language processing—giving them the ability to handle customer-facing roles more easily—to boost productivity.

From a risk perspective, new voice manipulation techniques and face mapping technologies, in conjunction with other AI disciplines, will usher in a new dawn of social engineering that could be used in advanced spear-phishing attacks to influence political campaigns or even policy makers directly.

AI Will Be Crucial to the Survival of Small Businesses

“AI and machine learning will continue to be the best way to respond to velocity and volume of malware attacks aimed at SMBs and MSP partners.” – George Anderson, Product Marketing Director

Our threat researchers don’t anticipate a decline in threat volume for small businesses in the coming year. Precise attacks, like those targeting RDP tools, have been on the rise and show no signs of tapering. Beyond that, the sheer volume of data handled by businesses of all types of small businesses raises the probability and likely severity of a breach.

If small and medium-sized businesses want to keep their IT teams from being inundated and overrun with alerts, false positives, and remediation requests, they’ll be forced to work AI and machine learning into their security solutions. Only machine learning can automate security intelligence accurately and effectively enough to enable categorization and proactive threat detection in near real time. By taking advantage of cloud computing platforms like Amazon Web Services, machine learning has the capability to scale with the increasing volume and complexity modern attacks, while remaining within reach in terms of price.

Ransomware is Out, Cryptojacking is In

We’ll see a continued decline in commodity ransomware prevalence. While ransomware won’t disappear, endpoint solutions are better geared to defend against suspicious ransom-esque actions and, as such, malware authors will turn to either more targeted attacks or more subtle cryptocurrency mining alternatives.” – Eric Klonowski, Webroot Principal Threat Research Analyst

Although we’re unlikely to see the true death of ransomware, it does seem to be in decline. This is due in large part to the success of cryptocurrency and the overwhelming demand for the large amounts of computing power required for cryptomining. Hackers have seized upon this as a less risky alternative to ransomware, leading to the emergence of cryptojacking.

Cryptojacking is the now too-common practice of injecting software into an unsuspecting system and using its latent processing power to mine for cryptocurrencies. This resource theft drags systems down, but is often stealthy enough to go undetected. We are beginning to feel the pinch of cryptojacking in critical systems, with a cryptomining operation recently being discovered on the network of a water utility system in Europe. This trend is on track to continue into the New Year, with detected attacks increasing by 141% in the first half of 2018 alone.

Targeted Attacks

“Attacks will become more targeted. In 2018, ransomware took a back seat to cryptominers and banking Trojans to an extent, and we will continue see more targeted and calculated extortion of victims, as seen with the Dridex group. The balance between cryptominers and ransomware is dependent upon the price of cryptocurrency (most notably Bitcoin), but the money-making model of cryptominers favors its continued use.” – Jason Davison, Webroot Advanced Threat Research Analyst

The prominence of cryptojacking in cybercrime circles means that, when ransomware appears in the headlines, it will be for calculated, highly-targeted attacks. Cybercriminas are now researching systems ahead of time, often through backdoor access, enabling them to encrypt their ransomware against the specific antivirus applications put in place to detect it.

Government bodies and healthcare systems are prime candidates for targeted attacks, since they handle sensitive data from large swaths of the population. These attacks often have costs far beyond the ransom itself. The City of Atlanta is currently dealing with $17 million in post-breach costs. (Their perpetrators asked for $51,000 in Bitcoin, which the city refused to pay.)

The private sector won’t be spared from targeting, either. A recent Dharma Bip ransomware attack on a brewery involved attackers posting the brewery’s job listing on an international hiring website and submitting a resume attachment with a powerful ransomware payload.

Zero Day Vulnerabilities

“Because the cost of exploitation has risen so dramatically over the course of the last decade, we’ll continue to see a drop in the use of zero days in the wild (as well as associated private exploit leaks). Without a doubt, state actors will continue to hoard these for use on the highest-value targets, but expect to see a stop in Shadowbrokers-esqueoccurrences. Leaks probably served as a powerful wake-up call internally with regards to access to these utilities (or perhaps where they’re left behind). – Eric Klonowski, Webroot Principal Threat Research Analyst

Though the cost of effective, zero-day exploits is rising and demand for these exploits has never been higher, we predict a decrease in high-profile breaches. Invariably, as large software systems become more adept at preventing exploitation, the amount of expertise required to identify valuable software vulnerabilities increases with it. Between organizations like the Zero Day Initiative working to keep these flaws out of the hands of hackers and governmental bodies and intelligence agencies stockpiling security flaws for cyber warfare purposes, we are likely to see fewer zero day exploits in the coming year.

However, with the average time between the initial private discovery and the public disclosure of a zero day vulnerability being about 6.9 years, we may just need to wait before we hear about it.

The take-home? Pay attention, stay focused, and keep an eye on this space for up-to-the-minute information about cybersecurity issues as they arise.

Cyber Monday: Big Savings, Big Risks

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.

What business owners and MSPs should know about the year’s biggest online retail holiday

It’s no secret that Black Friday and Cyber Monday are marked by an uptick in online shopping. Cyber Monday 2017 marked the single largest day of online sales to date, with reported sales figures upwards of $6.5 billion. Data from Webroot charted a 58 percent increase in traffic to shopping sites on that day. And while Black Friday originated as a day to tussle with your neighbors for deals in person, online retailers like Amazon and eBay wouldn’t be left out and have begun offering their own deals.

What’s less often discussed is the corresponding rise in cybercrime that accompanies these online retail holidays. Webroot noted a surge in phishing and fraud sites of 203 percent between November 19 and December 5, with the number of such sites peaking on Cyber Monday. Instances of spyware and adware also rose 57 percent during the busy holiday shopping period, again peaking on Cyber Monday.

The Problem with Cyber Monday

For business owners and those in IT, Cyber Monday likely means lost productivity as employees bargain hunt at work rather than actually work. (It’s interesting to note that, according to CNET, the first Cyber Monday in 2005 was intentionally made to fall on a weekday so workers could browse shopping sites on faster computers.) As our data shows, more than just a few hours of lost productivity are at stake.

Employees expose business owners to greater risks of phishing scams, ransomware, and other types of attack that could significantly lengthen downtimes for all employees, or even shutter a business completely. According to a Better Business Bureau study on cybercrime, more than half of businesses would cease to be profitable within a month if a ransomware attack were to lock them out of essential data.

What’s a Business Owner to Do about Cyber Monday?

Whether you’re a business owner or provide IT services, you’re likely to see employees or clients indulging in deals this Cyber Monday. But there are strategies for limiting your risk on November 26. As with much of cybersecurity, you can manage your policy for online shopping based on what you consider acceptable levels of risk.

With network-level protection it’s possible to block access to any sites categorized as “shopping,” while still whitelisting trusted domains. Our research shows Amazon, the Apple iTunes Store, and Walmart rounded out the top three most visited shopping sites last Cyber Monday, so employers may want to consider whitelisting those sites specifically, while still blocking less reputable ones. Webroot offers DNS protection with the ability to filter according to more than 80 categories, including gambling, adult content, and weapons, as well as shopping. Set a policy to block the shopping category this Cyber Monday, with your own tailored exceptions and presto, problem solved.

There are also other, less prohibitive strategies for protecting employees and clients, too. Tools like Webroot’s Web Classification and Reputation services forecast the risks of visiting more than 27 billion URLs, which can help user determine if that deal really is a little too good to be true. IP Reputation Services make a similar determination based on an IP’s risk score.

Real-Time phishing protection and hands-on phishing simulations can go a long way toward improving security, too. The surge in these types of attacks represents cybercriminals focus on the weakest element of a company’s IT security: the end users themselves. Catching phishing attacks before they’re clicked and teaching users to be vigilant about threats by using custom phishing templates are paramount to your business’s security posture.

So there are a variety of methods for limiting disruption from online shopping in the workplace, so business owners and managed service providers shouldn’t let Cyber Monday come and go without preparation. Employees will almost certainly be on an online hunt for deals and cybercriminals know it.

Focus on security now, before a user’s big savings end up costing you.

Reducing Risk with Ongoing Cybersecurity Awareness Training

Reading Time: ~ 3 min.Threat researchers and other cybersecurity industry analysts spend much of their time trying to anticipate the next major malware strain or exploit with the potential to cause millions of dollars in damage, disrupt global commerce, or put individuals at physical risk by targeting critical infrastructure.

However, a new Webroot survey of principals at 500 small to medium-sized businesses (SMBs), suggests that phishing attacks and other forms of social engineering actually represent the most real and immediate threat to the health of their business.

Twenty-four percent of SMBs consider phishing scams as their most significant threat, the highest for any single method of attack, and ahead of ransomware at 19 percent.

Statistics released by the FBI this past summer in its 2017 Internet Crime Report reinforce the scope of the problem. Costing nearly $30 million in total losses last year, phishing and other social engineering attacks were the third leading crime by volume of complaints, behind only personal data breaches and non-payment/non-delivery of services. Verizon Wireless’s 2018 Data Breach Investigations Report, a thorough and well-researched annual study we cite often, blames 93 percent of successful breaches on phishing and pretexting, another social engineering tactic.

Cybersecurity Awareness Training as the Way Forward

So how are businesses responding? In short, not well.

24 percent of principals see phishing scams as the number one threat facing their business. Only 35 percent are doing something about it with cybersecurity awareness training.

One of the more insidious aspects of phishing as a method of attack is that even some otherwise strong email security gateways, network firewalls and endpoint security solutions are often unable to stop it. The tallest walls in the world won’t protect you when your users give away the keys to the castle. And that’s exactly what happens in a successful phishing scam.

Despite this, our survey found that 65 percent of SMBs reported having no employee training on cybersecurity best practices. So far in 2018, World Cup phishing scams, compromised MailChimp accounts, and opportunist GDPR hoaxers have all experienced some success, among many others.

So, can training change user behavior to stop handing over the keys to the castle? Yes! Cybersecurity awareness training, when it includes features like realistic phishing simulations and engaging, topical content, can elevate the security IQ of users, reducing user error and improving the organization’s security posture along the way.

The research and advisory firm Gartner maintains that applied examples of cybersecurity awareness training easily justify its costs. According to their data, untrained users click on 90 percent of the links within emails received from outside email addresses, causing 10,000 malware infections within a single year. By their calculations, these infections led to an overall loss of productivity of 15,000 hours per year. Assuming an average wage of $85/hr, lost productive costs reach $1,275,000 which does not necessarily account for other potential costs such as reputational damage, remediation cost, or fines associated with breaches.

One premium managed IT firm conducted its first wave of phishing simulation tests and found their failure rate to be approximately 18 percent. But after two to three rounds of training, they saw the rate drop to a much healthier 3 percent.1

And it’s not just phishing attacks users must be trained to identify. Only 20 percent of the SMBs in our survey enforced strong password management. Ransomware also remains a significant threat, and there are technological aspects to regulatory compliance that users are rarely fully trained on. Even the most basic educational courses on these threats would go a long way toward bolstering a user’s security IQ and the organizations cybersecurity posture.

Finding after finding suggests that training on cybersecurity best practices produces results. When implemented as part of a layered cybersecurity strategy, cybersecurity awareness training improves SMB security by reducing the risks of end-user hacking and creating a workforce of cyber-savvy end users with the tools they need to defend themselves from threats.

All that remains to be seen is whether a business will act in time to protect against their next phishing attack and prevent a potentially catastrophic breach.

You can access the findings of our SMB Pulse Survey here.

1 Webroot. “Why Security Awareness Training is an Essential Part of Your Security Strategy” (November, 2018)