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The Monitor

Keeping you ahead of the curve with timely news & updates.


2019 W-2 Phishing Scams Threaten U.S. Employers

Phishing Blog Image

Fraudsters haul in more info by casting nets into payroll departments instead of a single line to one taxpayer

Tax season always puts a spotlight on the latest scams designed to trick taxpayers into giving up their cash or sensitive identity information to cyber thieves. Unfortunately, scammers have been going after employers to get confidential employee information, and like other significant e-mail phishing scams, this one can be hard to detect and can result in significant damage to your business and employees. Here’s what you need to know to protect yourself and the colleagues who trust your business with their tax information.

Phishing for W-2s in 2019

Phishing ImageThe most common (and effective) scheme seeks to get a batch of sensitive tax data about employees via what appears to be a routine request from an executive for an electronic file with all employee W-2 info in it. Because it seems routine and seemingly comes from management, unsuspecting payroll or human resources employees often provide the information without a second thought. The data can be in the hands of the fraudsters in a matter of hours and the business might not realize that the hack has occurred for weeks.

How to Guard Against W-2 Phishing Scams

There are several steps you can take to make your business less susceptible to this type of attack, including:

  • Raise awareness. Anyone in your company who has access to sensitive tax information of any sort should be educated on day 1 and reminded often that someone attempting to steal these records could target them at any time. Employees who handle this kind of information on a daily basis can never lose sight of the damage it could do if accidentally shared outside the company.
  • Create review processes. If you don’t have them already, institute strong review controls over W-2s and any other tax information. These could include:
    • Verbal or written confirmation of any request for W-2s or other forms. Most importantly, train your people to confirm the request via a medium other than the one through which it was originally made. If the request came in an e-mail, call or speak face-to-face with the person making the request. If it’s a high-level executive and the employee feels uncomfortable challenging the person, have the confirmation request route through a supervisor or department head.
    • Supervisor review for any sharing of W-2 or tax information with anyone. Train your people to understand that any communication of tax information must be authorized in advance, even if it is only an internal request.

What to Do If You Are Phished for W-2s

These scams have become so prevalent that authorities have created a special process for reporting them. If your business learns that employee W-2 information has been compromised, you should:

  • Email dataloss@irs.gov to notify the IRS of a W-2 data loss and provide contact information. In the subject line, type “W2 Data Loss” so that the email can be routed properly. The business should not attach any employee personally identifiable information data.
  • Email the Federation of Tax Administrators at StateAlert@taxadmin.org to get information on how to report victim information to the states.
  • Notify employees. The employee may then take steps to protect themselves from identity theft. The Federal Trade Commission’s www.identitytheft.gov provides guidance on general steps employees should take.

Get Assistance from the Cybersecurity Experts at DataSure24

New call-to-actionTo learn more about protecting your business from W-2 phishing scams and other cyber-threats in 2019, we’re available for a no cost or obligation cybersecurity consultation. So, if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact us at 716.600.3724. We’ll discuss your situation and concerns, and help you identify best practices for protecting your confidential employee information.

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Dark Web Protection for Businesses: 3 Reasons Why Your Company’s Credentials are Being Sold, Bought and Used on the Dark Web

Dark web crop

The Dark Web makes buying and selling of company data and credentials almost risk free

It’s very likely that today, right now as you read this, your company’s credentials are being marketed and sold on the dark web. This could be your fault caused by untrained employees duped into releasing information, or your credentials might be part of a much larger data capture form a third party – like a bank or credit card company – that got hacked to the tunes of millions and millions of data entries including yours.

Exactly how are criminals using your information, what types of gains do they hope to realize and what can you do to prevent or defend against abuse of your credentials?         

Layers of the Web

Within the world of the internet there are three different areas or layers of the web:

  • Surface WebSurface Web

The Surface web is the area of the internet that most people use on a day to day basis. This area of the web can be indexed by search engines. That means the pages on the surface web can be found by Google, Yahoo, Bing etc.  As of Sunday, February 24, 2019 the surface web consists of at least 5.15 billion pages

  • Deep Web

The deep web is like the surface web but has one main difference, it cannot be indexed. You spend a lot of time in the deep web, most likely without even knowing it. Examples of deep web sites/pages are internal company networks, databases, certain government websites, email and cloud service accounts, banking sites, and most sites you can only get onto using a username and password.

  • Dark Web

The deepest and most obscure of the three areas is the dark web which is a layer of information and pages accessed through “overlay networks.” Special software is required to access this content because most of it is encrypted.

What Criminals on the Dark Web Hope to Get from Your Business

In the encrypted pages of the Dark Web, you can find almost anything, from legitimate and illegitimate social networks and chat sites, to solicitations for hitman, to black-market organizations selling guns, drugs and pornography − all while maintaining anonymity.

The dark web is one of the few spots on the internet that “true anonymity” is achievable. I put true anonymity in quotations because it is hard to say whether people on the dark web are truly anonymous or just hidden extremely well.

Using tools such as TOR on top of a VPN anyone can get very close to being truly anonymous, making the buying and selling of data and credentials almost risk free. That’s why the dark web is thought to be a safe home for criminals/organizations who are marketing and selling your company’s information for one of the following purposes:

  1. Financial Gain

Financial gain is a driving factor for many hackers and organizations. Hackers will gather very large amounts of credentials from multiple organizations and sell them for 2-3 dollars on the dark web. This doesn’t sound very rewarding but is some cases these cyber criminals are selling 50 million or more credentials. The amount of total sales going on within the dark web is unknown although some sources estimate it to be more than $500,000 in sales a day.

  1. Fun

There is a community of people who consistently access the dark web who belong to underground forums, social networks, and chat rooms that can be particularly dangerous for your company’s brand or reputation. They’re not motivated by buying or selling your company’s data – they’re motivated by creating chaos and the challenge of doing it for fun, just to prove they can.

When breaches are originated by these “fun seekers”, they usually give the credentials/information away or sell millions for a very small amount of money, like  a Russian hacker that goes by the alias “The Collector” who last year, sold  272 million credentials for less than one dollar.

  1. For a Social Purpose or Cause

Some cyber criminals are idealists trying to expose injustice, some are hacktivists trying to take down corrupt governments and religious groups, and some have political motives.

An example of a social purpose driven data breach is the Ashley Madison data breach from 2015. Ashely Madison was a commercial website billed as enabling extramarital affairs. A group called “The Impact Team” stole more than 60 gigabytes of company data, including user details like real names, home addresses, search history and credit card transaction records. The group then released the information on the dark web to expose and publicly shame those who participated.

How to Mount a Cybersecurity Defense and Dark Web Protection Action Plan for Your Business

Read our blog post: Cyberattack Strategies: Going on the Offense Against Cyberattacks

I don’t want to leave you with the impression that everything going on within the dark web is illegal, because it’s not.

New call-to-actionHowever, that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared to develop and mount a strong Cybersecurity Defense and Action Plan to monitor, prevent, respond and remediate data breeches.

New call-to-actionThe first and most critical step of that dark web protection plan is to perform a scan of the dark web to see if, where and how your company’s credentials are being compromised. We’re pleased to offer a free scan of the dark web to this end, which can be initiated by clicking on the button.

If you have more immediate concerns, contact us via form, here, or call me at 716.600.3724 today.

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Assessing Your Company’s Cybersecurity Strengths and Weaknesses: A Guide for CEOs

CEO Cyber

6 questions You Need to Ask Your IT Team About Your Company’s Cybersecurity Defense

Many executives make the mistake of thinking that if their cybersystems are working right, their business must be maintaining adequate information security programs. If airlines used the same logic for their planes, they would only perform repairs when something failed. In most cases, that would be too late to save the plane or the passengers.

Like an airplane, your information security systems need to be checked before, during and after every use in order to identify the minor glitches that can lead to catastrophic failure under stress. They also need to be pulled out of service from time to time so they can be checked and overhauled more thoroughly.

Six Cybersecurity Questions CEOs Should be Asking

New call-to-actionMost executives don’t have the technological experience to analyze systems on their own, but there are questions you can ask your team in order to gauge the effectiveness of your current information security strategies. They include:

  • Do we have an information security program?

This may sound crazy, but some businesses do manage to get by with just a collection of different security practices that don’t link together to form a solid wall around your data. If you ask this question, the answer should describe a network of interconnected hardware, software, and employee training and awareness protocols that form a cohesive defense, not a list of standalone items like passwords and anti-virus software.

  • What is the organization’s information security framework?

Most programs are based on an information security framework, which is basically a checklist of best practices readily available from places like the National Institutes of Standards and Technology (NIST). Is your IT Department and cybersecurity team using a checklist and reporting results to you?

  • Have we done an information security assessment? If so when, and what were the results?

An assessment is basically a review of your current information security program using the framework checklist. On an ongoing basis, your systems should get a thorough review, and you should get a thorough briefing, to make sure that your company’s cybersecurity defenses are adequate to address the latest threats.

  • What is our information security commitment? Does our information security budget commitment match our threat level?

Cybersecurity budget numbers will drive what your business can do within the budget period. If your assessment shows that information security is lacking, what resources are available to improve it?

In an upcoming blog post, I’ll be discussing cybersecurity budgeting in greater detail, but to give you a bird’s eye view of what spending looks like on a worldwide basis, look at the following data from Gartner, Inc.

The takeaway? Spending has increased by about 23% over the past 3 years.

CHART

  • What is our information security training?

Information security training needs to work at two levels. You need your information security staff to learn constantly about the new threats that businesses face. But a business’ information protection efforts are only as strong as its least wary employee. Everyone who touches a keyboard linked to your servers, even people who use private devices on your Wi-Fi network, can expose your digital assets to breaches, viruses and ransomware.

All those users need to stay on the lookout to prevent an attack, and you need to know how your IT team is bringing employees to the battlefield when it comes to protecting your company and its customers from hackers.

  • What is our plan for an information security failure?

These days, no information security plan is complete until it acknowledges the possibility that it can be breached and includes instructions for people to follow if that happens. Customers are much more willing to forgive a breach when a business shares accurate information about it quickly and helps to minimize the damage done.

Review your company’s plan with your IT and cybersecurity team, and if necessary, engage the services of a cybersecurity consultant to help you prepare for a response to a breach to your customer’s data and your reputation.

Put a Cybersecurity Assessment, Remediation and Action Plan in Place

With the information gained from a self-assessment, many executives wonder what their next step should be.

Above all, do SOMETHING.

Many organizations paralyze themselves trying to choose between good options when the most important thing they need to do is move forward. For example, say a business performs a security assessment and determines that their password protocols are weak. To strengthen protocols, it could either require longer passwords with a wide variety of characters that remain stable over time or it could allow less rigorous passwords but require that they be changed frequently. Either option is a positive step. But every day that the business delays implementation with discussions about which is best is a step backward.

When you’re ready to do something, here’s a suggested order for addressing your information security concerns:

  • First, protect against the major vulnerabilities.
  • Next, implement changes that address multiple weaknesses. Some improvements can address several red flags on your checklist at once.
  • Fix the easy stuff. Some changes can be as quick as instructing all employees to change their passwords this week. If vulnerabilities have been identified in connections to the network from offsite, a temporary ban on telecommuting could prevent a situation from getting worse while you work on a more permanent fix.

Contact the Cybersecurity Experts at Datasure24

New call-to-actionWe can help you assess your cybersecurity program’s current strengths and weaknesses, and develop managed security, disaster recovery, and security awareness training.

For more information about maintaining and improving the day-to-day information security functionality of your business’ systems, contact DataSure24 at 716.600.3724 or connect with us here.

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How Much Should We Be Budgeting for Cybersecurity in 2019?

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Cybersecurity budget benchmarks and guidance

As you might imagine, we get asked this question a lot.

And our response often surprises people because the answer isn’t some formula that says “x percent of your budget should go to cybersecurity.”

We respond by pointing out that the question isn’t just “How much should you budget for cybersecurity,” but instead, “How should you budget for cybersecurity?” and “What should you budget for?” The important factor isn’t so much the amount you spend so much as it is the need to spend it wisely.

How Should a Company Budget for Cybersecurity in 2019?

When you’re trying to figure out how much to budget for cybersecurity, here are three factors to keep in mind:

Assessment is key. You can’t solve a problem if you don’t understand what it is. Every business today is legitimately concerned about its cybersecurity, but very few understand the strengths and weaknesses of their current structure, policies and processes, and by extension, how to spend wisely to shore up weaknesses. We see companies that make their situations worse by buying a security “solution” that doesn’t solve any of their existing problems or redress weaknesses, and in some cases, create new problems.

“Magic Bullets” are neither. This is the natural follow-up to the assessment item above. There is no software or hardware or combination of the two that will solve every cybersecurity problem. If it did exist, it would be outdated tomorrow. There is no substitute for finding a combination of hardware, software, training and support that focuses on the day-to-day operational security of your business in an environment where new threats arise every day.

You can’t set it and forget it. The days when cybersecurity amounted to a firewall or an encryption program that could be installed and forgotten about are over. Protecting the sensitive data of your business and your customers is a constant battle. To give you some idea of how much this aspect of cybersecurity has grown in recent years, one of the standards that we use to measure the effectiveness of cybersecurity is a checklist of 600 items. Just a few years ago, only 50 of those items had to be continuously modified to earn certification under the standard. Today, 450 items, a full 75 percent of the items necessary to pass the test, must be continuously monitored in order to be considered effective.

Cybersecurity Budget Benchmarks

A recent study from IT marketplace connector Spiceworks shows how a variety of businesses are divvying up their cybersecurity budgets to maximize the value of each dollar spent.

Over half of the IT professionals surveyed stated that employee security training tools are the most effective solution to prevent security incidents, followed by breach detection and anti-ransomware solutions. Each employee needs to understand how vulnerable your business is to an accidental click in a phishing e-mail, and each of your IT people needs to understand his or her role in constantly maintaining and updating whatever security solutions you choose.

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Figure 1: From Spiceworks "2019 Annual Report on IT Budgets and Tech Trends: Future Workplace Tech"

Employee awareness and training is usually at the top of our list when looking at cybersecurity budgets. The easiest way for a hacker to penetrate your business is though employees being duped into giving cyber thieves access to company files.

It’s also interesting to note where companies will be increasing their overall IT budgets in 2019.

The Spiceworks study reveals that relative to overall IT spending, about two-thirds a plan to increase their IT spending to upgrade outdated IT infrastructure. It’s interesting to note, however, that 56% intend to increase the IT budget for “increased security concerns”.  

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Figure 2: From Spiceworks “2019 Annual Report on IT Budgets and Tech Trends: Budgets"

These two factors are far from mutually exclusive—in fact, they’re almost symbiotic. If your business is among those considering hardware upgrades, it’s important to remember that the new infrastructure will have to integrate effectively with your overall information security strategy and framework .

Contact the Cybersecurity Experts at Datasure24

New call-to-actionIn short, effective spending effectively for cybersecurity is about how you use your money, not just how much money you use. Your budget needs to:

  • Include an assessment of your needs,
  • Understand the interaction between software, hardware and the people who use them, and
  • Fund the monitoring and maintenance of whatever solution you choose.

Keep these three items in mind and you’re more likely to get the full benefit of the money you spend on cybersecurity.

We can help you assess your cybersecurity program’s current strengths and weaknesses, and provide budgeting guidance that will enable you to spend smarter and create a better security program.

For more information about budgeting and planning for cybersecurity upgrades, please contact DataSure24 at 716.600.3724 or connect with us here.

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Cyberattack Strategies: Going on the Offense Against Cyberattacks

Offense Playbook

7 plays that should be in your cybersecurity playbook to better protect your company from hackers and cyberthieves

Cybersecurity graphic-1I talk to a lot of small and medium size business owners who seem resigned to the fact that sometime, somewhere and somehow their computer systems and network is inevitably going to be attacked.

They’re waiting for the shoe to drop in the form of ransomware, stolen customer personal account information, asset appropriation, or even brazen grabs for intellectual property made available through missteps made by gullible employees. 

It’s extremely likely, for example, that right at this very moment without your knowledge, information from or about your company in the form of stolen passwords, credit card numbers, and personal information is being traded on the Dark Web.

Installing and managing a robust cybersecurity defense strategy after the fact is not a solution. There’s not a lack cybersecurity facts, figures and statistics available that should drive small and medium size business owners to sleepless nights and fears of writing big checks to cyber consultants and software companies.

Do you really need to raise your hand and surrender, or can you go on the offensive with a cyber attack strategy and pitch a shutout?  

Going on the Offensive Against Cyberattacks

Truth be told, there will never be a way to secure a 100% guarantee that your company won’t be exposed to cyber risk or attack, but rather than ignore the situation or wait for the inevitable, it is time to consider going on the offensive.

Going on the offensive means installing layers of cybersecurity products, services and technologies that deliver 24x7x365 monitoring and robust barriers that stop or even defeat attacks in real-time. It means keeping abreast of threats and the technologies available to deal with those threats. It means a well-educated and responsible workforce. It also means developing, installing and monitoring plans, processes and technologies acting in concert with one another, rather than as unrelated standalone capabilities.

Today, integrated cybersecurity defense is the new cybersecurity offense.

A Playbook for a Cybersecurity Defense Strategy

Your Cybersecurity Playbook must be able to deal in the time continuum - the present (24x7 security monitoring), future (vulnerability scanning) and past (Dark Web scanning & reporting). Here are seven ways that can serve as a foundation for your organization’s offense strategies against cybercriminals:

  • Cybersecurity Strategy Play 1: Have a security assessment conducted and a penetration test completed on a regular basis to expose internal and external risks
  • Cybersecurity Strategy Play 2: Create and execute a remediation plan to address issues found in the assessments and penetration tests
  • Cybersecurity Strategy Play 3: Ensure that your business has a robust backups solution in place in addition to a disaster recovery plan to mitigate data loss and ransomware impacts
  • Cybersecurity Strategy Play 4: Identify a tool set for 24x7x365 managed continuous security monitoring to identify attacks happening in real-time
  • Cybersecurity Strategy Play 5: Purchase an annual security awareness training program subscription for all of your employees to participate in
  • Cybersecurity Strategy Play 6: Do regular scans of the Dark Web to identify your exposure. You can do this fee of charge, with the compliments of DataSure24 here.
  • Cybersecurity Strategy Play 7: Create, install and do regular, periodic updates of a disaster recovery and response plan for your company.

Let Us Help You Develop, Install and Manage a Cybersecurity Playbook for Your Company

New call-to-actionThe cybersecurity experts at DataSure24 stand prepared to render assistance, consultations, services and products to help you protect your computers and network.

We provide Managed Security services, including vulnerability scanning and intrusion detection, as well as Disaster Avoidance/Recovery solutions for protecting data, maintaining availability and minimizing cyber-attacks. We also provide a variety of Security Training Awareness programs and services for making your employees a critical part of your company’s cybersecurity defense systems.

If you are concerned about your company’s ability to fend off a cyberattack, complete and submit the form, call me at 716.600.3724 ex 225 and schedule a no cost/ no obligation review of your situation, today.

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