Category Archives: Security

Disaster Recovery – A Thing Of The Past!

Disaster Recovery – A Thing Of The Past!

Disaster Recovery 

Ok, ok – I understand most of you are saying disaster recovery (DR) is still a critical aspect of running any type of operations. After all – we need to secure our future operations in case of disaster. Sure – that is still the case but things are changing – fast.

CloudTweaks Comic - Disaster recovery

There are really two things forcing us to look at disaster recovery differently across the board. On the one hand the sheer volume of data is rapidly becoming unmanageable. On the other hand – there are really few customer facing services that do not require 100% uptime and are considered mission critical. As a leading IaaS-provider we know that the person running his first e-commerce offering with zero income feels he or she is losing as bad as the large company that might be losing millions per hour when down. The feeling and result is the same no matter what stage you are in running your business. We all feel it is always critical to be up and running.

The first time we realized that DR in its traditional meaning will not work was when we setup OpenStack Swift over 5 nodes in 3 geographical spread data centers intended for volumes in Petabytes. It really only comes down to one aspect. Recovery time. Sure we have large volumes since many years back but we are fast approaching where the time to get things back – becomes too long for it to be a viable solution. The downtime in a full disaster would be too great. Even in the same data centers – should you truly need to get a few Petabytes copied from one set of hardware to another – it will take some time. Too long? Most likely. While there are ways to divide and conquer large data – it is time to think differently.

recovery

Data Points

As the volume of data goes in one direction – the acceptable down time in general – goes the other direction. Down. The solution? Multiple data centers that allows for live-live service with contained restore points locally in each data center.

Logical errors you say? From time to time human errors might force us to be able to restore from an older version. No doubt restore points are a must regardless of how you build your service. Those can many times be done in more contained parts of each solution. They can be done locally in the same DC where local networks allow for greater speed. With a live-live solution running over two or more data centers you can do maintenance with much less risk of having to take the service down – regardless of the situation.

Ask yourself – all that data that I am shooting to a different data center for DR – when did you do a full scale test to see how long it would be to restore 100 TB or more? Is it not time to go live – live over multiple data centers for all of your critical services? If you are running your services in the cloud – schedule full tests and make sure you contingency plans are up-to-date because when disaster strikes – they are what stands between you and true business disaster.

By Johan Christenson

Cloud Pinup: Threat Stack – Provides Added Security

Cloud Pinup: Threat Stack – Provides Added Security

Threat Stack

Leading cloud security company Threat Stack has launched an exciting new service ‘Oversight’ that promises to add a highly-effective layer of automated security monitoring services. Oversight aims to provide real-time and continuous monitoring of a company’s assets, and to warn customers of potential security threats as they emerge, giving security experts a valuable tool to increase response times and response effectiveness.

CloudTweaks reached out to CEO Brian Ahern for his views on the new Oversight service:

brian-ahernThreat Stack is the only public cloud security solution that leverages behavioral modeling inside the workload (server), in conjunction with log file alerts, to identify insider threats, external threats and data loss, while also assisting clients with regulatory reporting requirements. Other signature-based, vulnerability management and log-only solutions provide insufficient context to real threats inside public cloud workloads. Through a combination of our leading security approach with our world-class InfoSec team, the Oversight managed service allows companies to use their human capital to keep the business moving forward while counting on Threat Stack to monitor their cyber risk.

What makes Oversight interesting is its hands off nature. Fact is, hiring security staff, or contracting staff work out to security firms isn’t cheap. Oversight can keep costs low by automating much of the work. Oversight won’t be able to replace security staff for most companies, but it will add an extra, cost-effective layer of security. Threat Stack also gives its Oversight customers access to security professionals at their own company, who can help customize and adjust the Oversight service to make it highly effective.

Oversight works exclusively with Amazon Web Services (AWS). The service works by continuously monitoring a company’s assets and then reporting when threats crop up. You can think of it as a sort of home security system for a company’s web assets. When a problem arises, the alarms go off and the appropriate parties are notified, allowing them to quickly respond to the threat.

dashboard-full

By adding this layer of monitoring, Oversight will make it easier for a company’s security staff to respond quickly and effectively to threats. Rather than having to add more security staff members, Oversight focuses on empowering the security staff a company already has on hand. This will help keep costs low all while increasing performance, which is key for any company operating in a competitive landscape.

Threat Stack’s team consists of numerous industry experts. CEO Brian Ahern has a track record of developing disruptive products and is known industry-wide for his effective and efficient management skills. Ahern’s last role was as the founder and CEO of Industrial Defender, which has since been acquired by Lockheed Martin. CTO Sam Bisbee also brings years of experience, having successfully scaled up SaaS startups, and having served as CXO at Cloudant, which was acquired by IBM. Add in Chris Gervais, the VP for engineering, who likewise has years of experience conducting high level technical development, and Threat Stack’s team clearly has the skills needed to develop their products.

Unsurprisingly, Threat Stack has managed to secure major funding support from a variety of venture firms. Maria Cirino, Managing Partner from .406 Ventures, sits on the company’s board of directors, as does Chris Lynch, a general partner from Atlas Ventures. Threat Stack has also secured partnerships with Amazon Web Services, Redhat, Google Cloud Platform, and Microsoft Azure, among others. Threat Stack is based out of Boston.

By Brian Brinker

The Dark Side Of Wearable Tech Use

The Dark Side Of Wearable Tech Use

Wearable Tech

Wearable technology or gadgets are a category of technological and state-of-the-art devices that can be worn by consumers to monitor and track information with regards to fitness and health. However, while wearable technology is known to have provided many benefits for consumers in the past, recent studies have shown there is a darker side to the technology as well. To understand more about this, let’s take a look at a few downsides of wearable tech use:

Enterprise Security Risks

Technology is ever changing. New gadgets are being introduced and with the inception of Android-powered smartwatches and Apple’s iWatch, it has recently been discovered wearable technology could pose risks for large organizations. In a perfect world, these watches (which are really small GPS-enabled computers) help users receive text notifications and calls on their wrist. But, the downside is these gadgets also have the ability to access enterprise data and applications. Enterprises will be required to regulate their security policies for dealing with employee use of smartwatches that could possibly reveal valuable information about a company.

Wearable Cams = Mass Surveillance

police-wearable-cameras-rialto-axon

(Image Source: money.cnn.com)

Wearable cams are generally used by the police to record video and audio of their interaction with people. They also capture the action around them and the cams can be clipped on an officer’s epaulette, helmet, collar or sunglasses. The key danger of this technology is the ability of law enforcement agencies to edit the collected videos for unfair use or mass surveillance. As a result, wearable cams may put more innocents in than the real criminals!

Vulnerable to Hacking Attacks

Many wearable devices, including pacemakers, insulin pumps, and glucose monitors, these days can be WIRELESS-ENABLED! As a result, this makes them vulnerable to hacking attacks. In 2011, a research by the Black Hat Security showed how attackers could possibly take control of an insulin pump located half a mile away! Therefore, this poses serious risks for the average Joe and Jane, as any person with cruel intentions could potentially hack an insulin pump to give a lethal dose to the user. Another research demonstrated how wireless protocols installed in pacemakers can be hacked by professionals to deliver a fatal 830-volt shock to any person wearing the device.

Serious Privacy Concerns

Smart eyewear, like Epson Moverio BT-200, Google Glass, and Vuzix M100, allow wearers to record and transmit images of the activities of people in their range of vision. As a result, in the future, these gadgets can be used in contact lenses and prescription glasses, making it difficult to spot them, hence posing serious privacy issues. When coupled with a facial recognition software, like FacialNetwork.com’s recently released NameTag application, “a user can simply glance at someone nearby and instantly see that person’s name, occupation and even visit their Facebook, Instagram or Twitter profiles in real-time,” according to the company. So, it isn’t hard to imagine the risks this technology could pose!

Invasion of Privacy

privacy-emails

GPS-enabled, wearable cameras, like Autographers and Narrative Clip, enable users to virtually document every single moment of their lives and upload it to the device maker’s website. As a result, while the cameras do create a detailed journey of a person’s life, they also invade the privacy of others who are being recorded and photographed without their permission.

What steps are manufacturers taking to prevent these mishaps from happening? Well, there has been no news about that yet. But the fact remains there is a darker side to wearable tech you should be aware of to ensure your safety and privacy.

By Brent Anderson

Cloud Pinup: Sqrrl – Using Big Data To Take Big Security Risks

Cloud Pinup: Sqrrl – Using Big Data To Take Big Security Risks

Cloud Pinup: Sqrrl 

How often do massive security hacks make front page news? It’s becoming such a common occurrence that many people barely bat an eyelid when a massive breach is announced, even though the risks for companies, consumers, governments is extremely high. Now, one innovative company “Sqrrl” is utilizing big data to build an advanced security platform that will help big organizations ward off threats.

logo

Increasingly, hackers are going after the biggest companies and organizations, recognizing that one chink in an organization’s armor could give them access to massive amounts of confidential data, money, and other valuable assets. And it’s not just the company’s data that is compromised when a breach occurs. Often customers, business partners, and others are put at risk.

Sadly, most on-the-market security solutions are lagging behind hackers. Fact is, a security expert will have to monitor the entirety of a company’s infrastructure, while a hacker only has to find one tiny weak point to exploit. Watching over a massive online infrastructure is extremely difficult for any team of security experts, let alone a lone individual.

That’s what makes Sqrrl so interesting. The company focuses on big data, and is able to “ingest” and encrypt huge amounts of data. Once the data is ingested, the company can connect and perform linked data analysis to give security experts a quick and easy way to identify important assets, events, and actors. This huge amount of data allows organizations to identify weak points, insider threats, and to conduct forensic analysis, among other things.

SQR_PlatfDiag_v3

By leveraging big data, Sqrrl gives security experts the information they need to combat threats. Big data can help level the playing field by making it easier for security experts to manage and work with the vast amounts of data any organization can generate.

Sqrrl isn’t no garage-based startup. Sqrrl is based out of Cambridge, Massachusetts, and Baltimore, Maryland, giving the company access to the massive amount of intellectual talent in Boston, and also access to the Federal government and numerous security firms based in and around DC. Founded in 2012, the company has already attracted investments from leading VC firms Atlas Venture, Matrix Partners, and Rally Ventures.

terenzoni-headshot

The company is headed by CEO Mark Terenzoni, who holds 20 years of experience in managing tech companies, and knows his way around the IT field. Adam Fuchs, a cofounder and the CTO, is the brains behind the curtain, using his prior experience with the NSA to ensure that Sqrrl is at the forefront of big data security. The rest of the management team is filled with senior lever managers and tech developers, all of whom carry years of industry experience.

Given the growing importance of big data, and its potential applications in the IT security field, Sqrrl is definitely a company worth keeping an eye on. The Sqrrl platform has the potential to emerge as a leading enterprise security platform, helping organization secure their valuable assets and to prevent future hacks.

By Brian Brinker

Who’s Ready For The Cloud, And Can Deliver!

Who’s Ready For The Cloud, And Can Deliver!

Cloud Ready

In my article last month, I discussed how the managed service provider (MSP) industry has been continuously urged to embrace the cloud, but in the end, could they? I answered the questions by describing several impediments and challenges that I believe are preventing MSPs from generating significant revenue and successfully fulfilling their client’s and prospect’s demands for cloud services. And although I painted a bleak picture of the current MSP business model’s ability to adopt cloud services as a viable business choice, I also indicated that other IT business models are more than capable of effectively utilizing cloud services as a revenue source and are threatening to disrupt and supplant managed service providers (MSPs) that built their businesses implementing or hosting IT infrastructure.

managed-services

But before the big reveal, let’s look at some statistical background that is the foundation of this trend. According to a recent Techaisle analysis and published infographic (2015 Top 10 SMB Business Issues, IT Priorities and IT Challenges), cloud computing, social media, mobility solutions and collaboration are the four highest SMB priorities for 2015 – areas not typically or easily serviced by MSPs.

Further, increasing profitability, business growth, reducing operational costs and attracting and retaining new customers are the top four SMB business issues – areas that require the assistance of a “trusted business advisor.” And while managed services were only a mid-level IT Priority, the MSP “darlings” – server virtualization and converged infrastructures – fell to the low end of the list.

Let’s look at the data from another SMB infographic clip supplied by the NJ Institute of Technology:

cloud-smb

Notice the cross-section of business and IT functions that SMBs are focusing cloud technologies on. IT infrastructure / Server technologies are not in the top 10 functions. As the infographic shows, the focused and wholesale adoption of cloud services looks to significantly reduce the IT infrastructure footprints of SMBs, Midcaps, as well as Enterprise companies by directly solving business needs.

Point of evolution for managed service providers

As a result, I believe that managed services are at the beginning of a transition from generalist to specialist firms that will play out over the next few years. The variety and depth of managed services will make it difficult for non-specialists (general IT management firms) to keep pace with IT provider specialists. Look at the SMB and Mid-Market channels, what do you see? Firms are focusing hard on their core competencies, and need IT to be just as agile and focused to build the business. The growth of the cloud is threatening to disrupt many managed service providers (MSPs) who built their businesses implementing or hosting IT infrastructure. So for me, the data is clearly revealing that cloud services has created a point of evolution for managed service providers: they can be infrastructure focused to all their clients and prospects today, but not in 2018. There’s no room for being an expense!

So who can meet the latter trends “head-on” and surpass the current MSP business model while – at the same time – become integral business partners with their clients? 

See Part 2

By Tony Pagano

The Growing Interest In FinTech – So What Is FinTech?

The Growing Interest In FinTech – So What Is FinTech?

What Is FinTech?

FinTech, or financial technology, is a class of businesses that use software to provide financial services. The Wharton FinTech Club offers the following definition:

Fin·Tech noun: an economic industry composed of companies that use technology to make financial systems more efficient.

Generally startups, FinTech companies are typically established with the purpose of shaking up the present financial systems that are less software-reliant. They cover a broad range of industries from peer-to-peer lending (Lending Club) and crowdfunding (Kickstarter) to thematic investing (Motif Investing) and algorithmic asset management (WealthFront), and also function in areas such as data collection (2iQ Research), education lending (CommonBond), cyber security (iDGate), and payments (Xoom), to name a few. The common theme of FinTech companies is their ability to build and implement technology that makes financial markets and systems more efficient.

FinTech Growth

fintech-growth

The Rise of FinTech – New York’s Opportunity for Tech Leadership“, a report by Accenture and the Partnership Fund for New York City, reveals that global investment in FinTech endeavors has tripled to nearly $3 billion in 2013 from approximately $1 billion in 2008. According to Economist, in 2014 FinTech firms attracted $12 billion in investment, and Goldman Sachs estimates revenues in the sector worth $4.7 trillion. Uniquely, this investment seems to be happening in a rather geographically dispersed manner.

FinTech Developments

FinTech companies are reducing fraud, easing payment processes, saving money, and promoting financial planning. Applications of cryptocurrency block chains for problems such as online identity, and leveraging large amorphous social media data sources for better underwriting decision-making, are a few advances being researched and implemented by FinTech companies. However, it should be noted that the financial industry has traditionally been dominated by big firms that are often resistant to change – the big banks being a prime example. This psychological obstacle may prove to be a fundamental challenge, and FinTech companies hoping for widespread adoption of new financial technologies have a lot of work ahead – overcoming institutional apathy and regulations, and both acquiring and retaining public trust.

Remarkable FinTech Startups of 2015

OnDeck

The idea behind OnDeck is to provide small business owners will alternatives to bank loans. It uses a proprietary method to evaluate creditworthiness that improves upon the personal credit checks banks rely on, and this has seen businesses flocking to OnDeck. Furthermore, loans can be processed much faster, within a day, while banks may take weeks to make a decision.

BillGuard

A service that began in 2010 to alert users to hidden bank and credit card charges, the company has expanded into an almost comprehensive spending tracker and fraud monitor. With apps for both iOS and Android, warnings can be pushed to user devices when anomalies are detected, and to date BillGuard claims to have flagged over $60 million in suspicious transactions.

Planwise

This financial decision-making tool has shifted focus exclusively to real estate and mortgage decisions. Offering their listing platform for free, Planwise has had high adoption across the US, and the startup is now ready to battle the major players in the market.

Epiphyte

Epiphyte is a relatively new company that provides software and consulting that helps banks deal with Bitcoin and crypto-currency platforms – a much-needed service considering that Bitcoins are increasingly being deemed an asset class.

By Jennifer Klostermann

Dealing With White-collar Cyberloafers

Dealing With White-collar Cyberloafers

White-collar Cyberloafers

One particular compliance problem with cyber security is how to deal with employees idling in the office and misusing company Internet resources. This can lead to security issues such as worms, viruses, spyware and loss of the reputation for the company network. On some level this kind of problem can be seen to belong to the past early years of networking when white-collar workers were newly equipped with browsers and all the fun they bring along. But the issue of employees taking advantage of company resources, time or other privileges for personal gain has always existed. Now, the introduction of the personal communication equipment into the workplace has once again made the discussion relevant. And a wide array of studies has been published about how to deter cyberloafers.

white-collar

The fact that such studies neglect to pay attention to the prevalence of the issue in the pre-Internet era highlights contemporary concerns about identifying the governance of the networked equipment, whether on a personal, organizational or state level. In a way, the research and the topic itself contributes to the building of modern cyber identities and attachments by the organization, or other self-proclaimed sovereigns, in the cyber-age. This also forms part of the thinking that would transform societies and organizations from industrial entities into mere service networks, as it aims to establish organizational governance for a phenomena which was not developed for the organization but imposed from outside.

The Machinery of Business

machinery-business

Some studies have highlighted the positive aspects of personal use of communication technologies in the workplace, mostly for recreational purposes and as an important means for personal recovery (Ivarsson, Larsson 2012). However, this notion presumes the stressful nature of the work, thus building upon the old industrial idea that sees people as mere resources in the machinery of business. While other studies on the subject concentrate more on the issue of ensuring compliance (thus recognizing and imposing the authority of the organization), Ivarsson aims to highlight the idea that the use of personal communication equipment in the office is part of the overall process of change in our understanding of the nature of work. Aiming to limit and forbid its usage is therefore like forbidding people to have a cup of coffee or taking a holiday every now and then.

Holiday

Ivarsson represents the school of thought that considers changing workplace culture, but also changes in organizations and the business environment as a whole. In fact, he concludes by suggesting that the need to govern the personal use of networked resources should be put into context. For example, the nature of the work needs to be balanced against the need to protect against harmful effects of having access to hostile network resources, or even the possibility of illegal activity.

When considering the nature of cyberloafing, or other employee misbehaviours, one must reflect on the structure of the organization, its relation to society as a whole, and its represented ethical and moral values. As other studies have pointed out, idling might be a result of unjust behaviour on the part of the organization itself. If employees have no agency, or the means to just leave, they must find a way to protest silently (Lim 2002, 10.1002/job.161). In these kinds of situations simply punishing employees might not be the way to go.

Sources: IVARSSON, Larsson, J. WORKPLACE RIGHTS, Vol. 16(1) 63-81, 2011-2012

(Image Source: Shutterstock)

By Kristo Helasvuo

Report: Cybercriminals Rely On People To Access Corporate Environments

Report: Cybercriminals Rely On People To Access Corporate Environments

Cybercriminal Report

Users are the weakest link when it comes to cybersecurity, with only 1 percent representing 75 percent of the security risk in a cloud environment, according to a new cloud cybersecurity report released yesterday.

The CloudLock Cyberlab analyzed 10 million users as well as 1 billion files and more than 91,000 applications and found that it isn’t the business of network infrastructure that cybercriminals target, but rather a very small number of users. For this reason it is vital for those developing security programs to study user behavior.

Trends in Cloud Cybersecurity

cloud-report-2015

The CloudLock report examines trends across users, applications and collaboration and reveals that the 80:20 rule or law of the vital few (officially the Pareto Principle) is valid across all three of these primary dimensions.

  • Just 1 percent of all computer and computer network users create three quarters (75 percent) of all cloud cybersecurity risk in organizations by behaving in an “abnormal” manner, whether malicious or unintentional.
  • Organizations were found to collaborate on average with 865 outside parties with a mere 25 of these accounting for three quarters of each organizations’ cloud-based sharing activities. Alarmingly, 70 percent of this sharing is via non-corporate emails that security teams have minimal control over.
  • Just 1 percent of users represent 62 percent of all the applications installed in the cloud, which further increases the high-risk volumes. Another concern is that 52,000 application installations are carried out by users that are highly privileged; the problem being that malicious cybercriminals are known to target privileged accounts.

The 14-page report also reveals that the individuals who make up the risky 1 percent are also responsible for ownership of 57 percent of files; sharing of 81 percent of files; and 73 percent of files that are “excessively exposed.” This means it is crucial for those in charge of security to understand the composition of this 1 percent that is frequently comprised. They are not only the privileged users mentioned above, but also machine-based identities that are designed to allow access to archived data and other privileges, as well as various software architects.

Acknowledging the fact that there has been a long established risk that is linked to unintentional “user-induced exposure in the cloud,” the report points out that cybercriminals have learnt how to exploit these users and not only access corporate and government environments, but also compromise credentials. Furthermore, it found that no industries are immune from these cloud cybersecurity risks: “The bottom line: across all industries, risk can be explained by a small percentage of users.”

Data ownership in the cloud was also found to be disproportionately high, with the top 1 percent of users owning more than half (57 percent) of the organization’s digital assets. This figure rose to 81 percent when the digital assets of the top 5 percent were taken into account. In reality this would mean that simply targeting the few who own digital assets could cause a major data breach that could put a very large percentage of the company’s assets at risk.

So how is the distribution of cloud cybersecurity risk calculated?

cloud risks

According to the report it is a combination of behaviors that is potentially risky, together with usage volumes of users, and corporate security policy violations. And the stats reveal, yet again, that just 1 percent of users are responsible for most cloud cybersecurity risk in any one organization.

  • The top 1 percent create 75 percent of risk
  • The top 5 percent create 90 percent of risk
  • The remaining 95 percent are not much of a risk at all, accounting for a mere 10 percent

This remains the reality, even though most of the users who create risks are not aware of what they are doing (for example “oversharing” the company’s assets). All they have to do to create risk is drag and drop files to public folders, or make a folder public without informing another collaborator that this has been done.

In many circumstances, employee security training will decrease the risk dramatically. For instance, a case study cited in the report shows how a travel industry firm was able to decrease its potentially risky public exposure by 62 percent in a single day, just be analyzing user behavior and then reaching out to their top users.

Another enormous risk lies with third party suppliers that are connected to the company via the cloud. They might be totally honest and reliable, but if they are compromised, their vulnerability can become high risk for the company they are collaborating with. It shouldn’t be surprising to find that the so-called law of the vital few applies in this instance too, with the top 25 external organizations accounting for three quarters of inter-organizational sharing. Additionally, the top 25 applications were found to account for 65 percent of all third-party app installations, many of which were found to be linked not to business itself, but to business functions.

Four Strategies to Help Remedy Risk

Having identified that cloud cybersecurity is disproportionate across users, collaborators or applications, CloudLock suggests four strategies to help remedy risk:

1. First focus on the riskiest users
2. Then focus security on the top 25 collaborators, and then the balance
3. Take action when third party applications are discovered
4. Opt for platforms that offer multi-cloud insights rather than point security solutions

By Penny Swift

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5 Things To Consider About Your Next Enterprise Sharing Solution

5 Things To Consider About Your Next Enterprise Sharing Solution

Enterprise File Sharing Solution Businesses have varying file sharing needs. Large, multi-regional businesses need to synchronize folders across a large number of sites, whereas small businesses may only need to support a handful of users in a single site. Construction or advertising firms require sharing and collaboration with very large (several Gigabytes) files. Financial services…