‘The new normal’ – it’s not about working from home, it’s about working from anywhere

Over the next 12 months, most corporate businesses predict only a portion of their workforce will return to their physical offices. With the move to Alert Level 2, a big focus will be on ensuring that employees can work securely, whether at home or anywhere.

Employees need to be empowered to work flexibly, no matter what the circumstance. The ‘new normal’ throws traditional working hours out the door. Yes, it has meant receiving the unexpected or urgent conference call just when you’re trying to juggle your children’s schoolwork or cleaning a mess in the kitchen (and we’ve all experienced this recently). But the upside to this new life is that it has become normal to log in from your device while doing things like waiting for your car to be serviced – what an exciting new generation of multitaskers we have all become.

The new way of working allows both public and private sector organisations to focus on the blockers and gaps that prevent their company from functioning in a remote-first way. Due to a lack of trust, only 56 per cent of managers let their employees work remotely – even when policy allows it. We need to work to a high trust, low compliance model as opposed to low trust, high compliance.

The remote-first model. Why should we care about the implications it may have on our workforce?

For management, this establishes a whole new set of expectations around how a successful team can function without physically sitting at their desks, including how many hours they work and even how success is defined. In order to build trust in your remote team, a focus on productivity and outcome-based KPIs (key performance indicators) should be applied.

There is also an implication for human resource (HR) and people teams. You’ve given your employees the freedom to work remotely but what about the opportunities it brings for those now seeking jobs internationally? It’s no longer about sourcing the best person for the job who can physically make it to the office; it is about sourcing the best talent from anywhere. In the new digitally connected world, will we see companies source talent from places such as the US and the UK? In which case, will we start to see an increase in contract-based work? Will employers cope with this new layer of complexity or sink back to the traditional ways of employing those who are within driving distance of the office?

With the new opportunities that working from home has given us, perhaps we will start to see a decrease in large office spaces and a focus on modernising our meeting rooms with the latest tech. This means that wherever you are logging in from, you can still collaborate seamlessly and, most importantly, have an equal opportunity to access content and resources to help decision-making. Finally, a remote workforce should be a secure workforce. With many employees connecting via home networks, it is important that business leaders consider the protection of their front-line staff.

Read our ‘Survive to Thrive’ digital recovery framework to find out more about how you can adopt a remote-first model..

Become SD-WAN secure: your top considerations

Your organisation is ready to begin its migration to SD-WAN. You have determined what kind of solution best fits your current situation. But how do you know that what you’ve chosen doesn’t compromise the cybersecurity environment of your business?

We’ve shortlisted the top security considerations to be aware of when evaluating this last and critical part of your decision-making process.

  1. You’re exposed – do you know where?

It’s not uncommon for organisations to have slim budgets and stretched resources. Undertaking an audit of your network will illustrate clearly where your vulnerabilities lie. You can effectively prioritise them reducing the overall risk to your organisation as you embark on new initiatives.

  1. What are the in-built security features of your solution?

Out-of-the-box solutions are perfect for quick and easy deployment but don’t assume that the built-in security features fully cover you. A multi-layered approach is recommended. And again, being aware of the gaps in the solution’s security will ensure you effectively select supporting technologies to fill them.

  1. Configure your pre-configured zero touch solution

Building on the theme of assumptions, it would be foolish to simply deploy a zero-touch solution. Consider running a proof of concept or a lab with your vendor or service provider to ensure that the pre-configurations are in line with your network, security policies and controls. This both reduces risk and interrupting business operations.

  1. Ensure you speak the same language

User data is the crown jewel we are all working to protect. It’s crucial to think about the controls you put in place around data plane security (the user traffic on your network, which needs to be encrypted).

Again, vendors include their ideal encryption methods but that might not be enough. Encryption is in a constant state of change, so you need to diversify your approach; don’t simply check a box. Not to mention, if you are switching from one vendor to another, ensure the coded language of your policies and controls are the same. If it isn’t, you need to factor in a step in your migration plan that both translates and tests the new tech.

There is no silver bullet solution, but a considered risk-first approach transforms your cybersecurity posture into a business transformation enabler, and sets your network up for improved performance, increased visibility, and seamless scalability. Watch your business grow with peace of mind.

Key considerations when embracing digital transformation

It is a truth universally acknowledged that digital transformation and innovation is paramount in the pursuit of competitive advantage. Employees are demanding change; end user experience is crucial, and data and analytics reign supreme. So why is success so hard to achieve, and why is the prospect of it so daunting?

McKinsey reports that less than 30 per cent of digital transformations succeed and the hard truth is that digital transformation isn’t an easy or measurable process. Organisations put lofty objectives in place and use complex technology to achieve them, when realistically the technology should be the output of the transformation strategy, not the conduit.

When approaching or planning digital transformation, we need to be clear on the ‘why’ before the ‘what’. In other words, rather than being inwardly focused, we should instead be looking at the outcomes we wish to deliver and not the means by which we achieve them. In order to gain competitive advantage, we should be asking what customer outcome we are striving to achieve. Customer experience first, last and always.

There are some key considerations that should provide a framework before embarking on any digital transformation.

The first cab off the rank? Get the right people.

It is important that digital and tech savvy leaders are employed: those who will really drive and understand the vision of the transformation, how it will improve the customer experience, and what is required internally to achieve it. These may not be C-Level executives, but rather those who are intrinsically involved in the day to day processes that keep the wheels of the business turning. Then they need to be empowered to make the right decisions and dedicated as a resource to the change effort.

These leaders must thoroughly understand the capabilities of the workforce so they can continue to give them the right tools to do their jobs efficiently. The leaders engage and foster relationships with all centres of knowledge within the organisation within all departments, connecting both digital and traditional processes. Rolling out a whole new system that nobody is familiar with will have a massive impact on productivity. Engaging and collaborating with employees may uncover critical paths for streamlining process. From internal stakeholders/employees to customers, the whole eco-system should be aware of the vision, and what part they play in the process. The strategy needs to have synergy with all those moving parts. It is a cultural, not a technical, shift.

Digital transformation should not be viewed merely as a technology change; rather that the technology deployed should be part of the strategic decision. It assists with the evolving business culture by streamlining processes and so determines the customer experience. If an initiative is to be launched, everyone should have buy-in on their part in the journey. They should also thoroughly understand what the overarching journey is.

But what of the current legacy systems? Digital transformation is not a one size fits all. Whatever is working in the current environment should be evaluated, as some skills and capabilities may be integral as part of the journey. It may be counterintuitive to rip those out to head into a brave new world. Full digitisation could affect the peripheral business, and several key skills from the ‘old way’ could be integral part in forging the new future. Double down on those skills. A clear strategy will build and extend the current skillset with a view to meeting the future ideal.

And just how is the success of the transformation measured? Again, this should be hardwired into the transformation strategy. If customer experience is king, then success can be measured in several ways depending on the end goal. Digital proficiency, Net Promoter Score and revenue are good markers, but a shift in the way the business thinks will be the primary indicator. The customer gains value as the path they use to purchase products becomes slick and seamless. The business reaps the benefits with better customer retention and profit as it adapts to the needs of their customers.

Digital transformation is an ongoing initiative and must be treated like a movable feast. Irrespective of the goal set initially, leaders and implementers should be prepared to pivot and change at any juncture. Technology moves fast, and a successful transformation will allow for ways to improve customer experience along the way. If it is built into the DNA of the business, then everyone involved will consider it their job to improve the experience.

If focus remains on the vision, on the ‘why’ – the customer experience – you are more likely to end up in the minority of those who will achieve a successful transition.

Partnering for Azure cloud success

The adoption of cloud has been nothing short of meteoric – organisations have been embracing it en masse to stay relevant and to inch ahead of their competition. Cloud is both a catalyst and enabler; public cloud pledging speed to market, heightened security, lower costs, automated self-service delivery, and more innovation. Its promise isn’t static, though; it is constantly changing, and – as it does – so does its complexity. In the scramble to reap its benefits, most have opted for the road most travelled and consumption has largely been through a DIY approach. The result? Many just aren’t using cloud services in the right way. 

Moving to the cloud should enable your business by improving service and reducing cost. Managed correctly the cloud should unlock these much-lauded benefits as well as drive and encourage the acquisition of the latest technologies. When it is badly managed, technical debt, and cost, can spiral out of control. So how should businesses keep pace and harness the full value of the cloud?

As cloud continues to evolve, it is important to choose a partner to help you manage the service, with a strategy aligned to your business needs, goals and direction – one who will really promote growth as the product matures. While a smooth deployment is critical initially, it is essential to look beyond that. Your organisation will need to be supported throughout the lifecycle of the cloud application. Many partners are failing to deliver this crucial ongoing insight.

If your business isn’t being supported by a partner that addresses your fears about the cloud – be it business risk, security, governance, cost creep or on-going management – now is the time to find one that will. Your managed service provider should be more than just a vendor, they will be your strategic partner – assisting with the ever-changing requirements within your digital ecosystem.

The Azure Expert Managed Services Provider programme highlights and promotes only the most capable partners. We are proud to be one of them. Far from being just another certification, this is a recognition of the talent and skill of our cloud experts, proving our ability to pivot and adjust based on your desired business outcomes, regardless of the workload or application. It proves our expertise to unlock the benefit of these technologies and certifies us as influencers of modern and future strategies for digital transformation. We are focused on cloud success and this, coupled with our robust structure and longevity in the market, gives you the peace of mind that you are in a safe pair of hands. We know that there is a better way to leverage Azure, and we can help you reveal its true value.

Datacom’s Beacon on Azure solution delivers a whole ecosystem of managed services on Azure; a myriad of managed and transformational service blocks to create a custom solution to suit each user’s pace of adoption. With visibility of spend and the ability to add, scale and remove managed services to your business requirements. It is an unerringly tech-first stratagem, with the capability to scale at pace. These blocks contain both managed and transformation services, and boast some impressive tools in their armoury.

Managed service blocks include:

  • Azure back-up (and maintenance of crash consistent back-up service)
  • Maintenance of network security group configuration and Azure application gateway
  • Maintenance of VPN/ express route connection configuration
  • Azure ExpressRoute and cloud user/hybrid cloud user management.

Transformation service blocks include:

  • Cloud software development and integration
  • Cloud foundations, network and security
  • Professional consulting.

The cloud juggernaut isn’t going to stop. It is gaining momentum and you need to jump on board if you don’t want to be left for dust. You need someone to help you drive the thing – eyes wide open – to avoid the potholes and obstacles on the way. Let us navigate for you; we’re going in your direction.

Beacon on Azure will help you to unlock the true power of Microsoft Azure to better navigate your cloud transformation journey. Contact us to find out how.

Managing your way to success with Beacon on Azure

The rate of change in technology is accelerating. It is unprecedented, it is unpredictable, and in this – the brave new world of technology revolution – it can be a challenge to keep up with the play. With so many technologies emerging, and so rapidly, the expectations on those who both provide and enable them is greater than it ever has been.

In order to keep step with soaring customer expectations, organisations are taking huge steps to embrace and employ new technologies. The cloud has become a major force – its platforms standing at the pinnacle of digital transformation. Certainly now, with the rapid escalation of COVID-19 worldwide, businesses are clamouring to improve their core operations by leveraging its power. While many have maintained a robust remote structure for years, this has largely been limited to only a few restricted employees. Now entire business units and functions are required to operate in a fully remote mode and interactions are digital rather than physical. The flexibility and agility of cloud solutions are a perfect fit.

While the ability to move faster and hack value is well documented, the reality is that when it is badly managed, the cloud can blow out budget and increase technical debt. An evolving cloud system can be difficult for an IT department to manage, particularly with an accelerated and unprecedented surge in usage. An inability to curbsprawl and initiate effective management practicesoften tarnishes the gilt. In order to keep operational and performance targets on track and within budget, businesses must develop a deep understanding of the interdependencies of the various moving parts of their IT infrastructure. Then policies must be implemented, without compromising on security.

Managed appropriately, a cloud environment offers stakeholders a comprehensive view of all assets – including software and cloud services – which encourage its efficient, effective use. A robust cloud management platform presents to businesses the ability to firmly grasp a complex and fast changing environment: spending and historical trends can be tracked and monitored, security vulnerabilities can be uncovered, data can be secured, and inefficiencies highlighted.

A cloud management platform helps to manage cloud resources, using a combination of software, automation, policies, governance, and people to determine how the cloud services are made available. Beacon on Azure, Datacom’s managed services offering on Azure, enables all users to access the information they need – when they need it. All stakeholders have a central location from where they can view and understand exactly what is being used in their subscriptions. This ensures that every resource being used is optimised, reducing the amount of wasted spend.

Beacon on Azure is pivotal in managing the security status and vulnerability of your IT assets. Backed by clever application management, wide Azure expertise, innovation, and a security first approach, the platform ensures delivery of a consistent set of rules to make certain that the right levels of control are in place. Monitoring is essential for any organisation leveraging the cloud, both in terms of security and performance. If a business monitors early, data can be used to troubleshoot problems and implement repairs swiftly. Monitoring, alerts and governance are built into each Azure subscription and environment deployed. Log and performance data are aggregated in near real-time and customised reports are generated. This allows for a consistent set of rules to ensure the right level of control is in place.

Many businesses don’t have either the budget or appropriate resources for a dedicated cloud team. Our Co-Pilot programme offers a Datacom Azure expert on hand, not only to provide guidance, but also valuable insights on ways Azure should be consumed. In addition, Level 1 and Level 2 support is provided for Microsoft Cloud Solution Provider customers.

Presenting information into meaningful and contextual information, Beacon on Azure allows businesses to track spend limits, analyse usage patterns and manage their costs effectively.

Beacon on Azure will help you to unlock the true power of Microsoft Azure to better navigate your cloud transformation journey. Contact us to find out how.

Not a tech whiz? How you can manage Azure like a pro

Most smart organisations are already harnessing the considerable power of cloud to glean competitive advantage. Not only are their operating costs lower, but their productivity is amplified as they are analysing data to deftly identify business opportunities and potential commercial threats. 

These are the businesses that are building environments capable of rapid, integrated and automated development, empowering them to step up to the fore and disrupt their industries with powerful new solutions. Failure to join the revolution presents a palpable and deadly threat. Those who are harnessing cloud effectively already will be the first to reap its rewards.

Given the exponential shift to cloud, departments other than IT are spending money on technology. They are identifying more intelligent software and applications to increase business efficiencies and to give them the critical edge against their competitors. Experimenting with, or seeking out, the relevant technology is therefore no longer just the remit of IT. Every position is a technical role and, to stay both relevant and significant, each decision maker must become tech-savvy to nimbly navigate the rapidly growing ecosystem of applications, security tools and networking systems. While it is true that everything within the cloud can be automated, these leaders will still need to manage and monitor the tools involved to enable them to unlock its real and actual value. 

With a lack of technical support and expertise available to them in-house, visibility is key to these leaders. Lack of clarity can hinder efforts to track or diagnose application performance issues, delay the detection and solution of security vulnerabilities, and fail to monitor and deliver against service-level agreements. Without the right insight into services – and how any variations can impact pricing – the business can quickly accumulate unseen and unbudgeted expenses.

Visibility of cost is crucial, and the lack thereof is often cited as a major concern. Cloud costs can sometimes be difficult to estimate, often due to the perceived complexity of the cloud infrastructure. Exceeding consumption forecasts, as well as cloud mismanagement, can lead to a significant unbudgeted spend. Knowing where and how to begin the journey towards cloud cost governance can be a real challenge. Understanding what services are being used, what they cost, how they are used, and how they are being accounted for, is a demanding undertaking, particularly with no single management platform where all stakeholders can access the information they need.

Sound overwhelming? It doesn’t need to be.

Beacon on Azure, Datacom’s community of managed services, gives Azure cloud users the choice and broad expertise they need to seize cloud’s real worth. It enables key stakeholders to view, understand and manage their Azure cloud applications on one dashboard, in one place. This single pane of glass allows users to correlate and visualise data across multiple sources (and user-defined business dimensions) in near real-time. With 24/7 alerts, monitoring and governance – as well as Level 1 and Level 2 service desk support included – the end user is firmly in control. By removing the complexities of managing the cloud, and allowing customisation through service blocks, they can add-on multiple other offerings to build a tailored cloud service catalogue, specific and tailor-made to their business.

With the ability to add, remove and scale the service according to individual requirements, Azure users can leverage its full scope and possibility, with the confidence of being supported by the breadth of expertise of the Datacom team. All of this is delivered with minimal personal effort, so even the most tech-shy organisations can become tech-confident in no time. 

Beacon on Azure will help you to unlock the true power of Microsoft Azure to better navigate your cloud transformation journey. Contact us to find out how.

Contact Tracing for COVID-19 for businesses in New Zealand

As New Zealand enters an extended period of managing the impact of COVID-19, effective contact tracing will be critical to the success of our efforts to contain the spread. There are two primary goals to contact tracing:

  • Stop the spreading of the disease through timely containment
  • Where spreading has occurred, identify potentially infected people.

As the nation changes alert levels and the protocols that need to be observed, businesses need flexible systems so they can adapt. These systems incorporate people, processes, resources and information systems.

The uncertainty of the situation and the constraints of the alert levels will continue to have a pronounced effect on people. Any contact tracing system needs to be sensitive to these factors if it’s going to achieve optimal compliance.

This discussion paper outlines an approach that businesses can take to strike a balance between robust contact tracing systems and disruption to business activity.

NOTE: This discussion paper is intended for businesses that do not normally operate under high consequence Health and Safety conditions. Businesses such as hospitals, construction sites, forestry, transport, etc., need to incorporate health and safety requirements that extend beyond the scope of this document.

Structure

Businesses are complex organisations. At its simplest level, contact tracing for a business is maintaining records of who was where, and when. The business activity is the ‘why’ they are interacting. This provides a basic structure to frame up the design of contact tracing systems:

A flow diagram to represent the design of a contact tracing system.

Workplace Contact Tracing

By defining zones for workplaces, it is possible to implement different contact tracing procedures appropriate to each zone or location. A circulation zone may have rules that mitigate the need to contact trace because close contact is avoided. A dedicated work zone may only be occupied by named personnel, and meeting zones may require detailed record keeping.

Some system factors to consider are:

  • Sign In/Out/Registration on site – perimeter identity and access management
  • Perimeter procedures – advising new/changed policies and protocols on entry. Consider options such as contactless proximity cards, contactless motion opened doors, voice interfaces, digital signage, and facial recognition to eliminate physical contact with kiosks, pens, doors, lift buttons etc.
  • Location Alert Level Policies – organise policies into alert level descriptions, to simplify communications and understanding
  • Oversight and incident reporting – assign personnel to be responsible for monitoring and handling of incident reporting
  • Onsite Surveillance options:
    • Passive systems such as
      • Wireless Access Point device tracking
      • Security Camera and Video Analytics monitoring (observing occupancy, crowd and individual policy compliance)
      • Access Card log monitoring – Active Directory Security Group activity logging
    • Active systems such as
      • Bluetooth beacon monitoring systems
      • Self-trace mobile applications, SaaS tools, bespoke systems.

Workforce Contact Tracing

Businesses have a duty of care for their staff when they are working for the business. Business activity often occurs in places that are not managed by the business. Contact tracing from this perspective requires a workforce monitoring approach.

Some system options to consider are:

  • Check In/Out: confirm location/destination, wellbeing, receive important notices about the location
  • Notification – mechanisms to report suspected COVID-19 infection, spreading, or risky behaviour
  • Activity tracking – record of meetings and locations. Record of location changes and times
    • Passive monitoring of systems such as calendar schedules, timesheets, job scheduling
    • Active monitoring systems such as self-tracing mobile applications, business specific online registers/forms, SaaS tools.

Public Contact Tracing

Where a business is operating in an area where people movement is typically unmanaged, there are unique challenges to contact tracing. Fundamentally, if a business is responsible for a space and it cannot enforce policy or identify occupants, it is unable to operate at that location under COVID-19 constraints. To overcome this, businesses can erect barriers with perimeter controls to create managed zones, or leverage workforce systems such as location/proximity beacons to enable people tracing.

Some system options to consider are:

  • Self-Trace
    • Bluetooth Beacon logging – capture details of Beacons encountered
    • QR/NFC perimeter registering. Restricting access enables sign in/sign out tracking
  • Location Surveillance
    • camera recording/AI pattern recognitions of social clusters (closer than 2m, for more than 10 minutes)
    • Triangulation/Vector recording: Wifi/cell tower device logs (device ID, router location, time entered, time exited, signal strength spot measures).

Investigation support

High trust approaches can work, even with less than ideal compliance.

The main goal of tracing contacts is to quickly inform the investigation after an infection or cluster has been identified. This enables investigators to identify close contacts as quickly as possible and reduce the time contagious people are circulating. Where compliance to protocols is difficult to enforce, having more than one point of observation (tracing people, monitoring locations) can yield a high coverage level.

A square diagram to compare workforce compliance and workplace coverage.

Approach

Contact tracing systems and practises can serve a few purposes:

  1. Identify potential spreading and contain within a workforce, workplace, or public place
  2. Support investigation efforts by authorities
  3. Enforce and observe compliance with protocols
  4. Reduce business impact

The approach is to establish the systems necessary to enact contact tracing, rather than just taking the actions that need to be performed. Systems can be adapted as requirements change, whereas an actions-oriented approach will require constant allocating of resources and reinvention to adapt.

Principles first – save lives first, then save livelihoods. Save profits last.

Systems can be performed manually or automated. Some guiding principles to urgent systems design:

  • Assign authority to make decisions
  • Start with a low maturity model and rapidly evolve. Only automate systems that have low errors/exceptions
  • Experiment to resolve uncertainty. Consensus takes too long.

Notes

People will typically encounter others in one of four places:

  • In their home
  • In a managed workplace
    • Workplaces will have physical separation, hygiene protocols and require some level of contact tracing in place that will enable them to operate under different Alert Levels
  • In an unmanaged space (e.g. public place).
    • These spaces present real challenges to contact tracing, as they are designed to serve social gathering in an open way. Spaces that are unable to meet contact tracing will likely remain closed if contact tracing is required
  • In Transit from one place to another.
    • Travelling typically happens as pedestrians, in private vehicles or public transport. For public transport providers with contactless payment systems have a level of record keeping that can support Contact Tracing
    • Pedestrians are unlikely to encounter close contact clusters (close together for more than 10 minutes)
    • Public Transport providers may be able to achieve a level of contact tracing through existing contactless payment systems.

To perform adequate contact identification, an investigator needs to be able to qualify the following risks:

  • Transmission risks
    • Time and place of potential spreading: when and where have probable or confirmed infected people been
  • Infection Risks
    • If there are times and places where transmission was possible, what was the risk of others getting infected?
      • Close contact: e.g. closer than 2m for more than 10 minutes
      • Casual contact: at the same place and time, but not identified as a close contact
      • Surface contact: identify surfaces that may have been contaminated (door handles, food service, shared equipment, etc).

Rapid deployment

In a crisis, rapid response is crucial to the outcome. A system is only useful if its operational and being used. To enact changes to a business that involves everyone requires special attention to communications to get the message out as fast possible. Another key factor is decision making. It can be impractical to use traditional business decision making and communication approaches to implementing contact tracing systems. They are typically oriented to other needs, such as de-risking investment or optimising operations.

One way to leverage the existing organisation and resources is to overlay COVID-19 specific roles and responsibilities, with a simple three step process:

  1. Organise
    • Define roles and responsibilities, identify support system requirements, define workforce and workplace controls
  2. Activate
    • Stand up systems, communicate changes to workforce, experiment to resolve any uncertainties
  3. Operate
    • Ensure some level of oversight is in place to make sure contact tracing is operating and being used.

Start

This discussion paper is intended to provide some structure and process to forming, implementing, and operating a successful contact tracing system for a business. This is only useful if a business makes a start and moves quickly.

The nature of situation means mistakes are inevitable. Unlike business as usual, these are not failures. These mistakes are learning opportunities – a partially effective contact tracing system today that can be improved tomorrow will become a fully effective system.

There has never been a time like this in our living memory, so everyone is learning as we go. Share ideas and thoughts with staff, customers, and suppliers. We share a common goal.

An artistic representation of a COVID-19 framework.

So you’ve been breached: how to avoid the same security mistakes

Suffering a data breach has almost become a rite of passage for many organisations. With such a complex and dynamic array of threats across the digital landscape, it has become nearly impossible to prevent 100 per cent of security incidents and data breaches from occurring. 

For those organisations who have suffered a data breach, the first question is normally: how did this happen? Finding the answer to that question helps to answer an even more important one: how do we prevent this from happening again? 

Unfortunately, the sheer variety of security threats means that protection from one doesn’t necessarily mean protection from another. There are some steps, however, that can help you emerge from a security incident with a more robust and mature security posture. 

Step 1 – Finding out what happened 

Beyond helping you to prevent a similar data breach, your organisation is likely required to report the details of a data breach to regulators. For organisations that hold data on EU citizens, the EU’s General Data Protection Regulations (GDPR) require a breached entity to provide full details of the breach within 72 hours. While New Zealand currently has voluntary notification, the government is pushing forward with legislation that resembles Australia’s Notifiable Data Breaches scheme. 

Of course, this easier said than done when Ponemon research reveals that it takes an average of 197 days to discover a data breach in the first place. In the event of a data breach, your incident response team should set out to understand: 

  • Which datasets were breached? 
  • Who is affected? 
  • Who has access to those datasets? 
  • What protection is in place currently? 

Step 2 – Measuring your current security posture 

Before you can begin implementing new security measures, you need to understand exactly what needs protection. By conducting thorough data discovery and classification processes, you can establish exactly where and how your most sensitive data is being stored. 

From this point, you can begin assessing your current security tools in relation to the level of risk that each data set carries. Some lower risk data won’t require the same level of protection as sensitive customer data for example. 

Step 3  Create an incident response team 

Your ability to recover and respond to a data breach or security incident is almost as important as your ability to prevent a breach. Creating an incident response team will allow you to assign roles and establish a careful process for limiting the damage of future breaches. 

Part of the will involve assessing the necessary skill sets of your current team and identifying skill gaps for recruitment, or for engaging with a managed security services provider. Once assembled, your incident response team can routinely test your incident response plans for a variety of scenarios, enabling you to greatly reduce the fallout from a breach or attack. 

Step 4 – Adopt a zero-trust security posture 

If a breach is inevitable, a zero-trust security posture allows you to assume that no one with data access is 100% trustworthy. Although it may sound draconian, this approach ensures you have security solutions that segment and monitor use access and protect data itself. 

Part of a zero-trust security approach is the need to focus on endpoint security so that every device connecting to your network and applications is protected. While user awareness training is vital for limiting social engineering attacks such as phishing, having inbuilt security features on each device is the only way to stay completely secure. 

For organisations who want to ensure their end users are always secure, particularly with a large remote workforce, HP EliteBooks, powered by Intel® processors, are equipped with the most advanced device security on the market.  

  • HP Sure Sense – Harnesses the power of deep-learning AI to identify and quarantine never-before-seen attacks
  • HP Sure Click – Protect from websites and attachments with malware, with hardware-enforced security
  • HP Sure Start Gen5 – Firmware attacks can completely devastate your PC – stay protected with this self-healing BIOS. 

To understand the full cost of a data breach, download our infographic which is designed to quickly and easily guide you through the key facts and figures around the implications of a breach.

The 5 w’s of phishing

It’s known as one of the oldest and still one of the most prevalent forms of cyberattack. This is because phishing largely relies on a vulnerability we can never completely get rid of: human error.

It deploys the same basic tactic that scammers have been using for decades – faking the identity of an individual or business to get victims to divulge sensitive information, or to send money. Phishing has evolved since the early days of the internet and is now a catch-all term for a variety of attacks.

For you to understand these attacks in all their forms, here is the ‘who, what, where, why and when’ of phishing to help you protect your business.

Who is usually targeted in a phishing attack?

The targets of phishing attacks vary, but the traditional model was to spam as many people with the same scam email and see who took the bait. This has become less effective over the years as we’ve all grown accustomed to spotting scam emails when they appear.

Spear phishing involves targeting individuals with specific content related to them, such as an unrequested ‘forgotten password’ email from their favourite online retailer. Attackers may work for weeks in advance to learn as much as they can about their targets before then sending personalised scam emails to trick the individual into revealing confidential information. The most famous spear phishing attack was the targeting of Hillary Clinton’s campaign officials during the 2016 US presidential election.

Whaling takes the fishing puns to its logical conclusion. The ‘whales’ in a phishing context are senior executives and even CEOs. However, the difference here is that the scam emails appear to come from the CEO. This is an effective form of social engineering as employees are incredibly unlikely to deny a request for information from their boss.

What do attackers want?

In the majority of cases, attackers are after financial gains, either directly or indirectly. They may just head straight for credit card details, or they might use access to servers and mail to gather information that can be sold. According to Verizon’s 2019 Data Breach Investigation Report, 88 per cent of phishing attacks are financially motivated and 10 per cent are espionage efforts.

Where do phishing attacks come from?

This is difficult to say definitively. In the early days of phishing emails, they were easy to spot due to their relatively poor use of grammar. Phishing attacks these days are much more sophisticated, and when we consider the enormous budgets behind state-based espionage, an attack can come from literally anywhere in the world. The introduction of phishing kits has also lowered the skill barrier for attackers to spoof website domains for capturing credentials.

Why are phishing attacks still so effective?

Phishing attacks are the most common form of what are broadly known as social engineering attacks. All of these attacks use our own psychology against us, as is the case with baiting, which involves tempting us to click on malware infected media, or scareware, which bombards users with fake threats and alerts until they hand over their credentials. Each scenario is difficult to prevent because people aren’t robots and we’ll always respond to stimuli in very human ways.

When will we ever learn to spot phishing attacks?

The good news is that our awareness is far better than it was in the early days of the internet, when mysterious foreign princes could fool us into handing over our life savings for a lucrative diamond investment opportunity. But there is still a long way to go, particularly when we consider phishing attacks are still the first-choice method of cyber attackers.

All of this demonstrates that cybersecurity awareness training is more essential than ever if we want to keep our organisation’s sensitive data secure, especially our customer data. If our employees don’t have the knowledge or awareness on how to prevent phishing attacks, then no amount of money spent on enterprise security software will change how vulnerable businesses remain.

Datacom can partner with you to help you avoid the potentially catastrophic costs of a phishing attack. Our experienced team is here to help you evolve your people and processes through both targeted and organisation-wide cybersecurity awareness training modules. Speak to us today to discuss how we can help you become more resilient against a growing array of threats.

The A to Z of cybersecurity

New Zealand businesses recorded over four thousand cybersecurity incidents last year, including 53 per cent more scams and fraud reports compared to 2018. This resulted in businesses losing NZ$16.7m.

Cybersecurity is more important than ever. With new forms of attacks appearing every year, and so many security solutions on the market, it can be difficult to keep up with all of the different terms in play.

If you need to know your malware from your ransomware, we’ve put together a glossary of essential terms you need to understand in order to protect your organisation.

Antivirus – A good introduction to both our glossary and the world of cybersecurity. Antivirus software is designed to prevent, detect and remove malware. If your computers aren’t running reputable antivirus software already, then you’ve got real problems.

Botnet – A group of computers or internet-connected devices that are collectively compromised and used to perpetuate DDoS attacks (see below), or to steal data and generally wreak havoc.

Cybersecurity awareness – These are vital training modules that ensure your employees are aware of the many cyber threats to your business, including phishing (see below) and other social engineering attacks.

DDoS (Distributed Denial of Service) – In a DDoS attack, a botnet inundates an application, system, or website with internet traffic, making it impossible to stop the attack simply by blocking a single source. These devastating attacks can bring down even the most well-protected banking and government services.

Encryption key – An assortment of letters, number and symbols that is purposefully created by algorithms to disarrange and rearrange data, so that each key is random and distinctive.

Firewall – A firewall acts as a defence for your device. Depending on your security settings, firewalls manage and assess what information your device receives, and filters and blocks suspicious attempts from other users through apps to access your device.

Hacktivist – These are attackers who hack or force their way into computers and networks, often for political or disruptive reasons. ‘Anonymous’ is the most well-known hacktivist group for their DDoS attacks on governments and other large organisations.

Insider threats – Whether your employees intend to be or not, from the CEO all the way down, each member of staff can be considered an insider threat to your organisation’s security. Cybersecurity awareness and user monitoring are essential to maintain your company’s safety.

Keylogger – A malicious tool that records what is typed (a keystroke) on a keyboard. Keyloggers are used to capture passwords, secret question responses, and any other sensitive information.

Logic bomb – This is a nasty piece of code in a virus or piece of malware that will set off a malicious function in software when certain conditions are met, such as beginning to delete important files.

Malware – A catch-all term for any type of code that has been designed specifically to cause harm in a system. This includes viruses, spyware, trojan horses, logic bombs and ransomware, among many others.

NIST framework – The US Government’s National Institute of Standards and Technology. The NIST framework is considered cybersecurity best-practice, including its model which promotes the need to ‘identify, detect, protect, respond and recover’.

Phishing – One of the oldest tricks in the cybersecurity handbook. Phishing involves fraudulently claiming to be an individual or business in order to gain sensitive information or financial gain. These attacks are a common form of social engineering and are usually carried out via phishing emails.

Quarantine – A function of your antivirus software that involves storing files that may contain malware in isolation for either further examination or deletion.

Ransomware – An increasingly popular form of malware that holds data or applications hostage on computers through advanced encryption. A demand for payment is then sent before attackers will release control of the captured data.

SIEM (Security Information and Event Management) – A group of systems, software and managed services that provide real-time analysis of security alerts generated by applications and network hardware, while automatically identifying systems that are out of compliance with security policies.

Trojan horse – A common form of malware where a malicious payload is imbedded inside a seemingly normal file. When this file is opened, the malicious threat is automatically unleashed into the system.

UEBA – User and entity behaviour analytics is a growing field of software that monitors user activity data and analyses using threat intelligence to identify behaviours that could be malicious. These applications are implemented to lower the risk of insider threats.

Virus – A well-known form of malware that attaches itself to a host file as a parasite. When this file is accessed, the virus is activated and it begins to infect other objects. The majority are engineered to infect the Windows operating system (OS), and some viruses are also designed to ensure they are impossible to detect 

Worm – Similar to viruses in that they’re a form of malware that focuses on replication and distribution, however worms are different as they’re a self-contained malicious program. While not necessarily malicious themselves, a worm can be designed to spread other types of malware.

Zero-day vulnerability – These are previously unknown bugs or flaws in software that provide a potential backdoor entrance for attackers. By targeting these flaws, attackers can release devastating malware before the flaw can be patched.

With so much to learn about cybersecurity, you need a partner to help you stay one step ahead of the threats your organisation faces. Datacom can help you create a robust cybersecurity strategy that includes security management (via SIEM), phishing solutions, cybersecurity awareness training, and vulnerability assessments. Contact us today to learn how we can help you evolve your people, processes and technology to become more resilient.