May 19, 2020

10 security mistakes that should stay in 2019

Technology
Strategy
Cybersecurity
Andy Pearch
5 min
10 security mistakes that should stay in 2019

Cyber attacks are inevitable, regardless of the size of a business or the sector it operates in. Cyber criminals will try their luck with any business connected to the internet. But as Andy Pearch, Head of IA Services, CORVID explains, there are steps that businesses can take to keep them as safe as possible from danger. As we stand in the last quarter of 2019, it's time for businesses to address 10 common security mistakes.

1. Assuming an attack won’t happen

Any business could be attacked. It’s important for businesses to prepare their IT estate for compromise, so in the event of an attack, they’re able to limit the damage that can be done to their operations, finances and reputation. There’s an assumption that cyber security is a problem to be dealt with by the IT department but in reality, every user is responsible. The more aware users are of the risks, the more resilient a business can become.

2. Poor password management

Passwords aren’t going away any time soon, but there are additional measures that can be taken to avoid them being compromised. Use strong, unique passwords and ensure all users do the same – the NCSC’s guidance encourages using three random words. Additionally, implement two-factor authentication (2FA) on internet-facing systems and all remote access solutions, and for privileged users and requests to sensitive data repositories. For both professional and personal life, making use of a password manager requires remembering only one strong, unique password instead of lots of them.

3. Inadequate backup

If the IT estate is compromised and data lost, can it be retrieved? Implement a rigorous backup regime to ensure business-critical data can be recovered if the business is attacked. Store this backed up data in multiple secure locations, including an ‘offline’ location where infected systems can’t access it. Regularly test that backups are being done correctly and that data restoration procedures work as intended.

4. Reactive rather than proactive strategies

Some attacks bypass firewalls and anti-virus programmes, so businesses need to proactively hunt their systems for signs of compromise that haven’t been picked up by these traditional methods. The longer an adversary sits on a network undetected, the more damage they can do. Email is the single biggest attack vector, so implement the same level of proactive security for the email client too. Firewalls and email security solutions can block known malicious senders and strip certain types of file attachments that are known to be malicious before they have the chance to reach a user's inbox.  

5. Generic user privileges

Users should only be permitted access to the information they need to do their job. Limit the number of privileged user and admin accounts. For IT admins, adopt a least-privilege approach and consider using a privileged access management solution to restrict access throughout the network. The more users who have access to privileged information, the more targets there are for cyber criminals, and the more likely they are to succeed as a result.

Additionally, all accounts should be monitored for unusual activity. If a user is accessing files or drives they have no reason to be interacting with or have never interacted with before, such activity should prompt a review. Keep a record of all accounts each user has access to, and remove their permissions as soon as they leave the company.

6. Poorly configured, out of date systems

Environments that are not configured securely can enable malicious users to obtain unauthorised access. It’s therefore imperative to ensure the secure configuration of all systems at all times. Regular vulnerability assessments should be scheduled to identify weaknesses in the IT infrastructure that would leave an organisation open to exploitation. The results should be used to define detection and response capabilities and ascertain if an outsourced managed security provider is needed. To avoid allowing malicious access through unpatched vulnerabilities, apply security patches regularly and keep all systems and applications up-to-date.

7. No remote working policy

If users in the business work on the move or from home, it's important to have policies in place that will protect any sensitive corporate or personal data in the event of a mobile device being lost, stolen or compromised. Many corporate mobile devices – laptops, phones and tablets – not only contain locally saved sensitive data but are also connected to the company's internal network through VPNs and workspace browsers, giving attackers a direct route to the heart of a business. To enforce secure remote working practices, employ a suitable and robust enterprise mobile management solution and policy, applying your secure baseline and build to all devices.

8. Inconsistent monitoring

By not monitoring their systems, businesses could be overlooking opportunities that attackers won’t miss. Continuously monitor all systems and networks to detect changes or activities that could lead to vulnerabilities. Consider setting up a security operations centre (SOC) to monitor and analyse events on computer systems and networks.

9. Creating an incident response when it’s too late

There is a simple answer for businesses that don’t have an incident response plan: write one! Make it specific and ensure it accurately reflects the company’s risk appetite, capabilities and business objectives. Being adequately prepared for a security breach will go a long way towards minimising the business impact. This incident response plan should be tested on a regular basis, using a variety of different scenarios, to identify where improvements can be made.

10. Putting users as the first line of defence

Humans make mistakes, and no amount of training will negate that. Most users can’t be trained in complex IT processes, simply because they’re not IT experts. It’s unrealistic and unfair to expect otherwise. Invest in cyber security solutions that remove the burden of being on the frontline of email security defence, allowing users to get on with their day jobs.

Conclusion

These ten cyber security mistakes might be common, but they don’t have to be accepted as the norm. By taking the first step of assuming that all organisations are vulnerable to an attack, businesses can consequently focus on putting cyber security strategies in place that are proactive and consistent and that use technology to keep the business resilient against a backdrop of a constantly evolving cyber landscape.

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Jun 18, 2021

GfK and VMware: Innovating together on hybrid cloud

GfK
VMware
3 min
VMware has been walking GfK along its path through digital transformation to the cloud for over a decade.

GfK has been the global leader in data and analytics for more than 85 years, supplying its clients with optimised decision inputs.  

In its capacity as a strategic and technical partner, VMware has been walking GfK along its digital transformation path for over a decade. 

“We are a demanding and singularly dynamic customer, which is why a close partnership with VMware is integral to the success of everyone involved,” said Joerg Hesselink, Global Head of Infrastructure, GfK IT Services.

Four years ago, the Nuremberg-based researcher expanded its on-premises infrastructure by introducing VMware vRealize Automation. In doing so, it laid a solid foundation, resulting in a self-service hybrid-cloud environment.

By expanding on the basis of VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management, GfK has given itself a secure infrastructure and reliable operations by efficiently operating processes, policies, people and tools in both private and public cloud environments.

One important step for GfK involved migrating from multiple cloud providers to just a single one. The team chose VMware.

“VMware is the market leader for on-premises virtualisation and hybrid-cloud solutions, so it was only logical to tackle the next project for the future together,” says Hesselink.

Migration to the VMware-based environment was integrated into existing hardware simply and smoothly in April 2020. Going forward, GfK’s new hybrid cloud model will establish a harmonised core system complete with VMware Cloud on AWS, VMware Cloud Foundation with vRealize Cloud Management and a volume rising from an initial 500 VMs to a total of 4,000 VMs. 

“We are modernising, protecting and scaling our applications with the world’s leading hybrid cloud solution: VMware Cloud on AWS, following VMware on Google Cloud Platform,” adds Hesselink.

The hybrid cloud-based infrastructure also empowers GfK to respond to new and future projects with astonishing agility: Resources can now be shifted quickly and easily from the private to the public cloud – without modifying the nature of interaction with the environment. 

The gfknewron project is a good example – the company’s latest AI-powered product is based exclusively on public cloud technology. The consistency guaranteed by VMware Cloud on AWS eases the burden on both regular staff and the IT team. Better still, since the teams are already familiar with the VMware environment, the learning curve for upskilling is short.

One very important factor for the GfK was that VMware Cloud on AWS constituted an investment in future-proof technology that will stay relevant.

“The new cloud-based infrastructure comprising VMware Cloud on AWS and VMware Cloud Foundation forges a successful link between on-premises and cloud-based solutions,” says Hesselink. “That in turn enables GfK to efficiently develop its own modern applications and solutions.

“In market research, everything is data-driven. So, we need the best technological basis to efficiently process large volumes of data and consistently distill them into logical insights that genuinely benefit the client. 

“We transform data and information into actionable knowledge that serves as a sustainable driver of business growth. VMware Cloud on AWS is an investment in a platform that helps us be well prepared for whatever the future may hold.”

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