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How MSPs Can Reduce Their Security Risk

While technology improves our lives in so many ways, it certainly isn’t free from drawbacks. And one of the biggest drawbacks is the risk of cyberattacks—a risk that’s escalating every day.

To reduce the increasing risk of cyberattacks—to your customers and your MSP business—it’s essential to put protocols in place to strengthen your internal security (we often refer to this as ‘getting your house in order’) and protect your clients. The truth is, your customers automatically assume that security is integrated into the price of their contract. That means you need to educate them on the subject, or risk falling short of their (potentially unrealistic) expectations.

What’s more, this is a prime opportunity to offer additional services—and increase revenue.

“You don’t want to deliver security services and not have the client invest in those services,” explains George Mach, Founder and CEO of Apex IT Group. “It would impact your MSP in a negative way.”

In our Path to Success Security Spotlight, I sat down with George Mach to discuss how you can define, identify, and reduce your level of risk, and boost revenue as a result. Here are just a few of our tips.

Understand Your Risk

The first step to reducing risk and providing Security-as-a-Service is understanding the current state of your MSP’s security.

“If you don’t know your own gaps or have good security hygiene in your own MSP, it’s really hard to deliver world-class security services to your client,” Mach says.

As an MSP, you have access to a wealth of sensitive information about your clients, including their passwords, addresses, and names. As such, it’s crucial that your MSP is fully protected. Even the smallest data breach could cause your clients to lose trust in you—damaging your reputation and costing you their business.

Trust, Train & Protect Your House

To protect your MSP (and by extension, your clients), Mach recommends following three simple steps.

First, make sure that you only hire trustworthy people. Of course, it isn’t always easy to spot a wolf in sheep’s clothing, but there are a few measures you can take to safeguard your organization against harmful presences. During the hiring process, this could include conducting a background check and verifying a candidate’s education and employment history. You can also consider creating new onboarding policies and asking employees to sign agreements that go on file, holding them accountable to specific standards.

Secondly, it’s important to train everyone at your organization about how to detect potential scammers—including staff in non-technical positions. As part of this training, you may also want to conduct a security skills assessment and record that it has taken place. That way, should the worst happen and a client decides to sue following a security breach, you can prove the measures your company took to try and prevent it—helping protect your reputation.

“The goal is to be in a defensible position if something were to happen,” Mach says.

Thirdly, it’s essential to enforce technical, physical, and administrative controls at your organization. Firewalls and endpoint protection are a must. Investing in swipe cards or biometric scanners can also help you strengthen your protection by helping you identify every person who enters your building. And to reduce your legal risk, don’t overlook the importance of nondisclosure agreements (NDAs) and business associate agreements (BAAs).

Follow the Framework

Once you’ve increased security at your MSP, you can start thinking about how to offer Security-as-a-Service. Following the protocols outlined in the National Institute of Standards and Technology’s (NIST) Cybersecurity Framework is a good place to start. These protocols are: identify, protect, detect, respond, and recover.

By following these protocols, your company can turn secure protection into a competitive advantage. But that’s only possible if you communicate it properly to your clients.

Throughout conversations with your clients, it’s crucial to gain an understanding of their security priorities and the metrics they use to determine their success. Once you’ve identified these factors, you can establish risk thresholds that are closely aligned with your client’s risk tolerance.

Benchmarking your clients’ level of risk against industry standards and using a weighted scoring system to rank it from high to low can make it easier to communicate the value of your services to them—and the impact you’ll have on their business.

Measure Risk Reduction—Then Market It

You can use two approaches to measure risk reduction.

The quantitative approach, which is more technical, considers a server’s asset value, its exposure factor (which takes into account how often the server is left unattended and whether that server is in a protected environment), and the loss expectancy, which is related to the rate of occurrence of various risks. Taking all these factors into account, you can more accurately price your services—and your clients can make a more informed decision about whether to live with the risk or do something to mitigate it.

The qualitative approach is less complex. It uses available data to calculate the likelihood of a risk. You can then suggest countermeasures to ensure protection.

Whichever approach you choose, explaining your findings and suggested solutions in layman’s terms and backing up your claims with evidence helps to build trust with your clients.

It’s this trust that will persuade clients to invest in your security service—and remain satisfied customers for years to come.


This article was provided by our service partner : Connectwise

DNS Security – Your New Secret Weapon in The Fight Against Cybercrime

It’s time to use the internet to your security advantage. Did you know more than 91% of malware uses DNS to gain command and control, exfiltrate data, or redirect web traffic?

But when internet requests are resolved by a recursive DNS service, they become the perfect place to check for and block malicious or inappropriate domains and IPs. DNS is one of the most valuable sources of data within an organization. It should be mined regularly and cross-referenced against threat intelligence. It’s easier to do than you might think. Security teams that are not monitoring DNS for indications of compromise are missing an important opportunity.

Don’t believe us? New analysis shows widespread DNS protection could save organizations as much as $200 billion in losses every year. Check out the full report  The Economic Value of DNS Security,” recently published by the Global Cyber Alliance (GCA). According to their findings, DNS firewalls could prevent between $19 billion and $37 billion in annual losses in the US and between $150 billion and $200 billion in losses globally. That’s a lot of bang for your buck. If organizations around the globe were to make this simple addition to their security stack, the savings could add up into billions of dollars.  Translation: an easy way to prevent one-third of total losses due to cybercrime.

About Cisco Umbrella

Cisco Umbrella uses the internet’s infrastructure to stop threats over all ports and protocols before it reaches your endpoints or network. Using statistical and machine learning models to uncover both known and emerging threats, Umbrella proactively blocks connections to malicious destinations at the DNS and IP layers. And because DNS is a protocol used by all devices that connect to the internet, you simply point your DNS to the Umbrella global network, and any device that joins your network is protected. So when your users roam, your network stays secure.


This article was provided by our service partner : Cisco Umbrella

Why Simplified Security Awareness Training Matters for MSPs and SMBs

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.


This article was provided by our service partner : webroot.com

Dragonblood

WPA3 flaws may let attackers steal Wi-Fi passwords

The new wireless security protocol contains multiple design flaws that hackers could exploit for attacks on Wi-Fi passwords

WPA3, a new Wi-Fi security protocol launched in June 2018, suffers from vulnerabilities that make it possible for an adversary to recover the password of a wireless network via “efficient and low cost” attacks, according to a new academic paper and a website dedicated to the flaws.

As a reminder, the third iteration of the Wi-Fi Protected Access (WPA) protocol is designed to enhance wireless security, including by making it well-nigh impossible to breach a WiFi network using password-guessing attacks. This safeguard – which is courtesy of WPA3’s ‘Simultaneous Authentication of Equals’ (SAE) handshake, popularly known as Dragonfly – could even ‘save people from themselves’, i.e. in the far-too-common scenario when they choose easy-to-break passwords.

Not so fast, according to Mathy Vanhoef of New York University Abu Dhabi and Eyal Ronen of Tel Aviv University & KU Leuven. Their research found that the passwords may not be beyond reach for hackers after all, as the protocol contains two main types of design flaws that can be exploited for attacks.

“Unfortunately, we found that even with WPA3, an attacker within range of a victim can still recover the password of the Wi-Fi network,” they write, noting that, in the absence of further precautions, this could in some cases pave the way for thefts of sensitive information such as credit card details. The vulnerabilities – which were identified only in WPA3’s Personal, not Enterprise, implementation – are collectively dubbed ‘Dragonblood’.


‘Dragonblood’ logo

One type of attack, called the ‘downgrade attack’, targets WPA3’s transition mode, where a network can simultaneously support WPA2 and WPA3 for backward compatibility.

“[I]f a client and AP [access point] both support WPA2 and WPA3, an adversary can set up a rogue AP that only supports WPA2. This causes the client (i.e. victim) to connect using WPA2’s 4-way handshake. Although the client detects the downgrade-to-WPA2 during the 4-way handshake, this is too late,” according to the researchers.

This is because the 4-way handshake messages that were exchanged before the downgrade was detected provide enough information to launch an offline dictionary attack against the Wi-Fi password. The attacker ‘only’ needs to know the network’s name, aka Service Set Identifier (SSID), and be close enough to broadcast the rogue AP.

Meanwhile, the ‘side-channel attack’ targets Dragonfly’s password-encoding method, called the ‘hunting and pecking’ algorithm. This attack comes in two flavors: cache- and timing-based.

“The cache-based attack exploits Dragonflys’s hash-to-curve algorithm, and our timing-based attack exploits the hash-to-group algorithm. The information that is leaked in these attacks can be used to perform a password partitioning attack, which is similar to a dictionary attack,” said Vanhoef and Ronen, who also shared scripts intended to test some of the vulnerabilities they found.

“The resulting attacks are efficient and low cost. For example, to brute-force all 8-character lowercase passwords, we require less than 40 handshakes and 125$ worth of Amazon EC2 instances,” they wrote.

Additionally, the two researchers also found that WPA3’s built-in protections against denial-of-service (DoS) attacks can be trivially bypassed and an attacker can overload an AP by initiating a large number of handshakes.

All’s not lost

Vanhoef and Ronen said that they collaborated with the Wi-Fi Alliance and the US CERT Coordination Center (CERT/CC) to notify all affected vendors in a coordinated manner.

The Wi-Fi Alliance acknowledged the vulnerabilities and said that it is providing implementation guidance to affected vendors. “The small number of device manufacturers that are affected have already started deploying patches to resolve the issue”, according to the certification body for Wi-Fi compatible devices.

Meanwhile, Vanhoef and Ronen noted that “our attacks could have been avoided if the Wi-Fi Alliance created the WPA3 certification in a more open manner”. For all its flaws, however, WPA3 is an improvement over WPA2, they concluded.

Notably, Vanhoef was one of the researchers who in 2017 disclosed a security loophole in WPA2 known as ‘Key Reinstallation AttaCK’ (KRACK).


This article was supplied by our service partner : Eset.com

CyberSecurity

A Cybersecurity Checklist for Modern SMBs

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 cyberattackstarget 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.


This article was provided by our service partner : webroot.com

The Rise of Information Stealers

As noted in a previous blog post, mining malware is on a decline, partly due to turmoil affecting cryptocurrencies. Ransomware is also on a decline (albeit a slower one). These dips are at least partly the result of the current criminal focus on information theft.

Banking Trojans, hacks, leaks, and data-dealing are huge criminal enterprises. In addition to suffering a breach, companies might now be contravening regulations like GDPR if they didn’t take the proper precautions to secure their data. The ways in which stolen data is being used is seeing constant innovation. 

Motivations for data theft

Currency

The most obvious way to profit from data theft is by stealing data directly related to money. Examples of malware that accomplishes this could include:

  • Banking Trojans. These steal online banking credentials, cryptocurrency private keys, credit card details, etc. Originally for bank theft specialists, this malware group now encompasses all manner of data theft. Current examples include Trickbot, Ursnif, Dridex.
  • Point of Sale (POS). These attacks scrape or skim card information from sales terminals and devices.
  • Information stealing malware for hijacking other valuables including Steam keysmicrotransactional or in-game items

Trade

Data that isn’t instantly lucrative to a thief can be fenced on the dark web and elsewhere. Medical records can be worth ten times more than credit cards on dark web marketplaces. A credit card can be cancelled and changed, but that’s not so easy with identity. Examples of currently traded information include:

  • Credit cards. When cards are skimmed or stolen, they’re usually taken by the thousands. It’s easier to sell these on at a reduced cost and leave the actual fraud to other crooks.
  • Personal information. It can be used for identity theft or extortion, including credentialschildren’s data, social security information, passport details, medical records that can be used to order drugs and for identity theft, and sensitive government (or police) data

Espionage

Classified trade, research, military, and political information are constant targets of hacks and malware, for obvious reasons. The criminal, political, and intelligence worlds sometimes collide in clandestine ways in cybercrime. 

As a means of attack

While gold and gemstones are worth money, the codes to a safe or blueprints to a jewellery store are also worth a lot, despite not having much intrinsic value. Similarly, malware can be used to case an organisation and identify weaknesses in its security setup. This is usually the first step in an attack, before the real damage is done by malware or other means. 

“In late 2013, an A.T.M. in Kiev started dispensing cash at seemingly random times of day. No one had put in a card or touched a button. Cameras showed that the piles of money had been swept up by customers who appeared lucky to be there at the right moment.” –From a story that appeared in the New York Times

Just another day in the Cobalt/Carbanak Heists 

Some examples of “reconnaissance” malware include:

  • Carbanak. This was the spear-tip of an attack in an infamous campaign that stole over €1 billion ($1.24 billion) from European banks, particularly in Eastern Europe. The Trojan was emailed to hundreds of bank employees. Once executed, it used keylogging and data theft to learn passwords, personnel details, and bank procedures before the main attacks were carried out, often using remote access tools. ATMs were hacked to spill out cash to waiting gang members and money was transferred to fraudulent accounts.
  • Mimikatz, PsExec, and other tools. These tools are freely available and can help admins with legitimate issues like missing product keys or passwords. They can also indicate that a hacker has been on your network snooping. These software capabilities can be baked into other malware.
  • Emotet. Probably the most successful botnet malware campaign of the last few years, this modular Trojan steals information to help it spread before dropping other malware. It usually arrives by phishing email before spreading like wildfire through an organisation with stolen/brute-forced credentials and exploits. Once it has delivered its payload (often banking Trojans), it uses stolen email credentials to mail itself to another victim. It’s been exfiltrating the actual contents of millions of emails for unknown purposes, and has been dropping Trickbot recently, but the crew behind the campaign can change the payload depending what’s most profitable. 

“Emotet is an advanced, modular banking Trojan that primarily functions as a downloader or dropper of other banking Trojans. Emotet continues to be among the most costly and destructive malware affecting state, local, tribal, and territorial (SLTT) governments, and the private and public sectors.”- An August 2018 warning from the American DHS

  • Trickbot/Ryuk. Trickbot is a banking Trojan capable of stealing a huge array of data. In addition to banking details and cryptocurrency, it also steals data that enables other attacks, including detailed information about infected devices and networks, saved online account passwords, cookies, and web histories, and login credentials. Trickbot has been seen dropping ransomware like Bitpaymer onto machines, but recently its stolen data is used to test a company’s worth before allowing attackers to deploy remote access tools and Ryuk(ransomware) to encrypt the most valuable information they have. The people behind this Trickbot/Ryuk campaign are only going after big lucrative targets that they know they can cripple.

What are the current trends?

Emotet is hammering the business world and, according to our data, has surged in the last six months of 2018:

Data recorded between 1 July and December 31, 2018. Webroot SecureAnywhere client data.

Detection of related malware surged alongside these detections. Almost 20% of Webroot support cases since the start of December have been related to this “family” of infections (Emotet, Dridex, Ursnif, Trickbot, Ryuk, Icedid).

What can I do?

  • Update everything! The success of infections such as WannaMine proved that updates to many operating systems still lag years behind. Emotet abuses similar SMB exploits to WannMine, which updates can eliminate.
  • Make sure all users, and especially admins, adhere to proper password practices.
  • Disable autoruns and admin shares, and limit privileges where possible.
  • Don’t keep sensitive information in plain text.

This article was provided by our service partner : Webroot

Patch Management Practices

Patch Management Practices to Keep Your Clients Secure

Develop a Policy of Who, What, When, Why, and How for Patching Systems

The first step in your patch management strategy is to come up with a policy around the entire patching practice. Planning in advance enables you to go from reactive to proactive—anticipating problems in advance and develop policies to handle them.

The right patch management policy will answer the who, what, when, why, and how for when you receive a notification of a critical vulnerability in a client’s software.

Create a Process for Patch Management

Now that you’ve figured out the overall patch management policy, you need to create a process on how to handle each patch as they’re released.

Your patch management policy should be explicit within your security policy, and you should consider Microsoft’s® six-step process when tailoring your own. The steps include:

Notification: You’re alerted about a new patch to eliminate a vulnerability. How you receive the notification depends on which tools you use to keep systems patched and up to date.

Assessment: Based on the patch rating and configuration of your systems, you need to decide which systems need the patch and how quickly they need to be patched to prevent an exploit.

Obtainment: Like the notification, how you receive the patch will depend on the tools you use. They could either be deployed manually or automatically based on your determined policy.

Testing: Before you deploy a patch, you need to test it on a test bed network that simulates your production network. All networks and configurations are different, and Microsoft can’t test for every combination, so you need to test and make sure all your clients’ networks can properly run the patch.

Deployment: Deployment of a patch should only be done after you’ve thoroughly tested it. Even after testing, be careful and don’t apply the patch to all your systems at once. Incrementally apply patches and test the production server after each one to make sure all applications still function properly.

Validation: This final step is often overlooked. Validating that the patch was applied is necessary so you can report on the status to your client and ensure agreed service levels are met.

Be Persistent in Applying the Best Practices

For your patch management policies and processes to be effective, you need to be persistent in applying them consistently. With new vulnerabilities and patches appearing almost daily, you need to be vigilant to keep up with all the changes.

Patch management is an ongoing practice. To ensure you’re consistently applying patches, it’s best to follow a series of repeatable, automated practices. These practices include:

  • Regular rediscovery of systems that may potentially be affected
  • Scanning those systems for vulnerabilities
  • Downloading patches and patch definition databases
  • Deploying patches to systems that need them
Take Advantage of Patching Resources

Since the release of Windows 10, updates to the operating system are on a more fluid schedule. Updates and patches are now being released as needed and not on a consistent schedule. You’ll need to let your team know when an applicable update is released to ensure the patch can be tested and deployed as soon as possible.

As the number of vulnerabilities and patches rise, you’ll need to have as much information about them as you can get. There are a few available resources we recommend to augment your patch management process and keep you informed of updates that may fall outside of the scope of Microsoft updates.

Utilize Patching Tools

You don’t want your technicians spending most of their time approving and applying patches on individual machines, especially as your business grows and you take on more clients. To take the burden off your technicians, you’ll want to utilize a tool that can automate your patch management processes. This can be accomplished with a remote monitoring and management (RMM) platform, like ConnectWise Automate®. Add-ons can be purchased to manage third-party application patching to sure up all potential vulnerabilities.

Patch management is a fundamental service provided in most managed service provider (MSP) service plans. With these best practices, you’ll be able to develop a patch management strategy to best serve your clients and their specific needs.


This article was provided by our service partner : connectwise.com

Password Constraint Research

Password Constraints and Their Unintended Security Consequences

You’re probably familiar with some of the most common requirements for creating passwords. A mix of upper and lowercase letters is a simple example. These are known as password constraints. They’re rules for how you must construct a password. If your password must be at least eight characters long, contain lower case, uppercase, numbers and symbol characters, then you have one length, and four character set constraints.

Password constraints eliminate a number of both good and bad passwords. I had never heard anyone ask “how many potential passwords, good and bad, are eliminated?” And so I began searching for the answer. The results were surprising. If you want to know the precise number of possible 8-character passwords there are if all of the character sets must be used, then the equation looks something like this.

A serious limitation of this approach is that it tells you nothing about the effects of each constraint alone or relative to other constraints. (I’m also not sure if there were supposed to be four consecutive ∑s or if the mathematician was stuttering.)

We choose to use a Monte Carlo simulation to analyze the mathematical impact of the various combinations of constraints. A Monte Carlo simulation uses a statistical analysis approach that provides a close approximation of the answer, while also providing the flexibility to quickly and easily measure the impact of each constraint and combination of constraints.

A look at minimum length limits

To start, let’s look at the impact of an eight-character length constraint alone. There are 95^8 possible combinations of 8 characters. 26 uppercase letters + 26 lowercase letters + 10 numerals + 33 symbols = 95 characters. For a length of 8 characters, we have 95˄8 possible passwords.

If a password must be at least 8 characters long, then there are also about 70.6 trillion otherwise viable passwords you are not allowed to use (95+(95^2 ) +(95^3 ) +(95^4 ) +(95^5)+(95^6 )+(95^7)). That’s a good thing. It means you can’t use 95 one character passwords, 9,025 two character passwords, and so on. Almost 70 trillion of those passwords you cannot use are seven characters long. This is a great and wholly intended effect of a password length constraint.

The problem with a lack of constraints is that people will use a very small set of all possible passwords, which invariably includes passwords that are incredibly easy to guess. In the analysis of over one million leaked passwords, it was found that 30.8 percent passwords eight to 11 characters long contained only lowercase letters, and 43.9 percent contained only lowercase letters and numbers.  In fact, to perform a primitive brute force attack against an eight-character password containing only lower case letters, it’s only necessary to try about 209 billion character combinations. That does not take a computer very long to crack. And, as we know from analyzing large numbers of passwords, it’s likely to contain one of the most popular ten thousand passwords.

To beef up security, we begin to add character constraints. But, in doing so, we decrease the number of possible passwords; both good and bad.

Just by requiring both uppercase and lowercase letters, more than 15 percent of all possible 8-character combinations have been eliminated as possible passwords. This means that 1QV5#T&|cannot be a password because there are no lowercase letters. Compared to Darnrats,which meets the constraint requirements, 1QV5#T&|is a fantastic password. But you cannot use it. Superior passwords that cannot be used are acceptable collateral damage in the battle for better security. “Corndogs” is acceptable, but “fruit&veggies” is not. This clearly is not a battle for lower cholesterol.

As constraints pile up, possibilities shrink

If a password must be exactly eight characters long and contain at least one lower case letter, at least one uppercase letter and at least one symbol, we are getting close to one-in-five combinations of 8 characters that are not allowable as passwords. Still, the effect of constraints on 12 and 16 character passwords is negligible. But that is all about to change… you can count on it.

Are you required to use a password that is at least eight characters long, has lower and uppercase letters, number and symbols? Just requiring a number to be part of a password removes over 40 percent of 8-character combinations from the pool of possible passwords. Even though you can use lowercase and uppercase letters, and you can use symbols, if one of the characters in your password must be a number then there are far fewer great passwords that you can use. If a 16 character long password must have a number, then 13 times more potential passwords have become illegal as a result of that one constraint than the combined constraints of lower and uppercase letters and symbols caused. More than one-in-four combinations of 12 characters can no longer become a passwords either.

You might have noticed that there is little effect on the longer passwords. Frequently there is also very little value in imposing constraints on long passwords. This is because each additional character in a password grows the pool of passwords exponentially. There are 6.5 million times as many combinations of 16 character pass words using only lowercase letters than there are of eight character passwords using all four character sets. That means that “toodlesmypoodles” is going to be a whole lot harder to crack than “I81B@gle”

Long and simple is better than short and hard

People tend to be very predictable. There are more symbols (than there are in any other characters set. Theoretically that means that symbols are going to do the most to make a password strong, but 80 percent of the time it is going to be one of the top five most frequently used symbols, and 95 percent of the time is will be one of the top 10 most frequently used symbols.

Analysis of two million compromised passwords showed that about one in 14 passwords start with the number one, however for those that started with the number one, 75 percent of them ended with a number as well.

The use of birthdays and names, for example, make it much easier to quickly crack many passwords.

Password strength: It’s length, not complexity that matters

As covered above, all four character sets (95 characters) in an eight character password allow for about 6.634 quadrillion different password possibilities. But a 16 character password with only lowercase letters has about 43.8 sextillion possible passwords. That means that there are well over 6.5 million times more possible passwords for 16 consecutive lowercase letters than for any combination of eight characters regardless of how complex the password is.

My great password is “cats and hippos are friends!”, but I can’t use it because of constraints – and because I just told you what it is.

For years password experts have been advocating for the use of simple passphrases over complex passwords because they are stronger and simpler to remember. I’d like to throw a bit of gasoline on to the fire and tell you, those 95^8 combinations of characters are only  half that many when you tell me I have to use uppercase, lowercase, numbers, and symbols.

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Asset Management

Don’t Ignore Security Activity That Could Help the Most

We tend to think of security as the tools—like email scanning, malware, and antivirus protection—we have in place to secure our network. But did you know that the process of asset management helps you minimize the threat landscape too?

Management of software and hardware has historically been treated as a cost-minimizing function, where tracking assets could be the difference between driving or reducing value, from an organizational perspective. However, even the best security plan is only as strong as its weakest link. If IT administrators are unaware where assets reside, the software running on them, and who has access, they are at risk.

Understanding the device, as well as the data, is what matters here. Having an in-depth knowledge of the network of devices and their data is the first step in protecting it. Often, organizations have the tools in place to support and maintain the device, but once in place on the network, it can be easy to set it and forget it until it need repair, replacement, or up for review. Conducting asset management on a regular basis should be a fundamental function for your security plan and can strengthen the security tools you already have in place. Remember, asset management has to be continuous for it to be truly effective.

When you’re conducting continuous asset management you can always answer the following questions should an incident occur:

  • What devices are currently connected to the internet?
  • How many total systems do you have?
  • Where is your data?
  • How many vendors do you have?
  • Which vendors have what kind of your data?

Companies struggle with consistent and mature asset management because they often don’t have the time or dedicated resources to stay on top of it. However, an IT asset management program can add value by reducing costs, improving operational efficiency, determining full cost, and providing a forecast for future investments. Oversight and governance help to solidify policies and procedures already in place.

ConnectWise Automate® complements and strengthens security tools and processes by significantly improving the ability to discover, inventory, manage, and report. Additional tool sets–like antivirus and malware protection—can be added to help further protect data and reduce operational risk.

recent study of the Total Economic Impact of ConnectWise showed, “Organizations estimated that they could shorten engineers’ involvement by 60%, thus cutting the cost of hardware maintenance by $1.2 million.”


This article was provided by our service partner : Connectwise.

Unsecure RDP Connections are a Widespread Security Failure

While ransomware, last year’s dominant threat, has taken a backseat to cryptomining attacks in 2018, it has by no means disappeared. Instead, ransomware has become a more targeted business model for cybercriminals, with unsecured remote desktop protocol (RDP) connections becoming the favorite port of entry for ransomware campaigns.

RDP connections first gained popularity as attack vectors back in 2016, and early success has translated into further adoption by cybercriminals. The SamSam ransomware group has made millions of dollars by exploiting the RDP attack vector, earning the group headlines when they shut down government sectors of Atlanta and Colorado, along with the medical testing giant LabCorp this year.

Think of unsecure RDP like the thermal exhaust port on the Death Star—an unfortunate security gap that can quickly lead to catastrophe if properly exploited. Organizations are inadequately setting up remote desktop solutions, leaving their environment wide open for criminals to penetrate with brute force tools. Cybercriminals can easily find and target these organizations by scanning for open RPD connections using engines like Shodan. Even lesser-skilled criminals can simply buy RDP access to already-hacked machines on the dark web.

Once a criminal has desktop access to a corporate computer or server, it’s essentially game over from a security standpoint. An attacker with access can then easily disable endpoint protection or leverage exploits to verify their malicious payloads will execute. There are a variety of payload options available to the criminal for extracting profit from the victim as well.

Common RDP-enabled threats

Ransomware is the most obvious choice, since it’s business model is proven and allows the perpetrator to “case the joint” by browsing all data on system or shared drives to determine how valuable it is and, by extension, how large of a ransom can be requested.

Cryptominers are another payload option, emerging more recently, criminals use via the RDP attack vector. When criminals breach a system, they can see all hardware installed and, if substantial CPU and GPU hardware are available, they can use it mine cryptocurrencies such as Monero on the hardware. This often leads to instant profitability that doesn’t require any payment action from the victim, and can therefore go by undetected indefinitely.

secure password

Solving the RDP Problem

The underlying problem that opens up RDP to exploitation is poor education. If more IT professionals were aware of this attack vector (and the severity of damage it could lead to), the proper precautions could be followed to secure the gap. Beyond the tips mentioned in my tweet above, one of the best solutions we recommend is simply restricting RDP to a whitelisted IP range.

However, the reality is that too many IT departments are leaving default ports open, maintaining lax password policies, or not training their employees on how to avoid phishing attacks that could compromise their system’s credentials. Security awareness education should be paramount as employees are often the weakest link, but can also be a powerful defense in preventing your organization from compromise.


This article was provided by our service partner : webroot.com